Oct 02 2008

How did I get here?

Subject: Faith,Guidance,ObedienceRLW3 @ 8:26 am

I want to pick up the theme of trusting God for guidance since that is where I am personally.

This is a difficult subject for me. I am in the midst of a completely new venture. I have left the state that I have lived in for the past 31 years, the only church that I have attended since becoming a Christian 27 years ago, the house that I have built and lived in for the past 19 years and the job that I have done for the past 11 to move to a completely new state and attend a new church. I did this because I thought it to be the will of God.

For the first four months in my new state, I had to travel quite a bit for various reasons. I used the time to reconnect with my wife and children whom I had barely seen for the previous seven months. (if you want to read about it, click on the link “Lord of the Castle”)

For the past two months, I have been looking for employment. After several weeks with no success, I started to trade stocks in an attempt to bring in some money only to be naively blindsided by the current banking crisis.

Each step of the way, I thought that I was doing what the Lord wanted me to do with both my time and my talents. However, here I sit, unemployed, hoping the stock market revives so I won’t have lost our small savings and wondering how I got here.

As it was in the garden, the enemy’s first attack is “Has God said… Did God really tell you to take the actions that you have taken thus far?”

I know that I was not cavalier (put your mouse over the word, right click and look it up) in my attitude when I made each decision. To the best of my ability, I sought to “acknowledge Him in all my ways”. And when I review my choices in hindsight once again, I come to the same conclusion: I did what He wanted me to do.

The voice of doubt and self-accusation, whether my own or the enemy’s, taunts me: “Doesn’t God promise to bless those who obey Him? Then why are you STILL unemployed? Why has your investing FAILED?”

In times like these, my emotions are not trustworthy. Accusations of folly, irresponsibility, being hyper-spiritual, etc. flood my mind and emotions. Having arrived at this place by seeking to do His will, shall I now let my emotions lord it over me?

Thank God, I am not alone.

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.  Romans 15:4 (NKJV)

Read that again…

“…that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

In times like this, the Scriptures truly do become my comfort. I have plenty of examples to show that I am not the first to go through this challenge. They truly do “strengthen…(me) with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy.” (Col. 1:11 NKJV)

Help for my soul is just an arm’s length away.

Jul 09 2008

Commit, roll, cast, toss

Subject: Guidance,HumilityRLW3 @ 12:35 pm

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.  Psalm 37:4-5 (NKJV)

After we have “delighted ourselves in the Lord” and He has put His desires into our hearts, the Holy Spirit exhorts us to “commit our way to the Lord.”

The word translated commit means to “roll”. We are to roll our way onto the Lord. The same idea is communicated by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament:

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.  1 Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV)

The word translated ‘casting’ means to throw upon (lit. or fig.). The same word is used in a natural, physical  application in Luke 19:35.

Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own garments on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. Luke 19:35 (NKJV)

In the same way that they threw their garments on the colt, so we are to cast our cares upon the Lord, to ‘roll’ our way onto the Lord.

Jul 07 2008

Can we get a little more light here?

Subject: Guidance,ObedienceRLW3 @ 9:51 pm

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)

The Holy Spirit compares the word of God to a small portable hand held lamp that was carried while traveling in the dark. It shed enough light to illuminate the next step to make sure that it was safe. This was especially important while crossing mountainous or treacherous terrain. However, it also provided general light on the overall path.

Too often, we are uncomfortable with the dim light that we receive from God. We want the strength of full sunlight making our way unmistakably clear so that we can take whatever steps we want to get there.

However, that is not God’s way. He is always seeking to draw us into situations where we will have to depend on Him. Why does He do that?

Because He loves us. I don’t mean that in a strictly religious or theoretical sense. He wants to be involved with us every step of the way as we go through life. He wants to live life with us. So, He shines on our path so we can get a general idea of where we are headed and see where to put our foot down for the next step.

As we act on the light that he has given us, He will show us the next step.

Jul 05 2008

What is in your hand?

Subject: GuidanceRLW3 @ 12:35 pm

In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good.  Ecclessiastes 11:6 (NKJV)

In the previous verse, Solomon declared that we do not know the works of God. Yet, how much valuable time do we waste trying to “figure out” what God wants us to do before actually doing anything?

The overall implication of this verse is that God intends to do us good. If we are  diligent to obey him fully by sowing our seed and the morning and the evening, we will prosper, one way or the other or perhaps both.

How many of us have unnecessary pain and/or privation because we did not use every resource that God had made available to us? The Holy Spirit is encouraging us to push on every door that is in front of us. As we do, we will discover which one or ones the Lord has unlocked.

Too often we effectively lock doors that the Lord has opened for us because we never bother to try them. We assume that we “know the works of God.” (Eccl. 11:5) Instead of applying ourselves to discover where God is working in our life, either because of our laziness or doubt or unbelief or fear or false humility, we forsake the blessing of God by choosing to sow only in the morning or only in the evening or maybe not at all.

The Holy Spirit is quite clear: “for you do not know which will prosper.” History is full of examples of “great plans that couldn’t fail” doing just that. On the other hand, your have benefited this very day from “accidental” discoveries.

The Holy Spirit’s directive is to act on what we know, to use what He has already given us, just as He did to Moses.

Then Moses answered and said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’ “ So the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A rod.” Exodus 4:1-2 (NKJV)

People would ask me what was I going to do for work when I moved to Kansas City. I really didn’t know. I had a desire to either start or buy a business. That is what I was most excited about.
However, I have never done that before. Additionally, someone had offered me a job. Also, a recruiter had just contacted me.

The truth is that I did not know which would prosper. Therefore, I chose to sow my seed in the morning and again in the evening. I decided to send the recruiter my resume and call the man who offered me the job. I did not know which would prosper but I decided to act on what God had put into my hand.

It took TEN months longer than I planned to finish remodeling my house and then to sell it. Over time, the man who offered me the job stopped returning my calls. The recruiter didn’t seem all that interested after I gave him my resume.

So, what do I have in my hand? I still have this course on buying a business that my wife and I paid for. We paid for it because we thought that it was the right thing to do at the time.

What if my plan on buying or starting a business doesn’t work out? It wouldn’t be the first time that I have “heard God” and ended up with a less than favorable outcome.

However, it IS in my hand. I am going to pick it up and use it! Perhaps God has or will open a door!

Jul 04 2008

What a relief!

Subject: Guidance,HumilityRLW3 @ 11:53 am

As you do not know what is the way of the wind, or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, so you do not know the works of God who makes all things.  Ecclesiastes 11:5 (NKJV)

The Holy Spirit states two natural truths. We do not know or really understand the way of the wind or how bones are formed in the womb. In the same way that we do not understand the two aforementioned wonders, the Holy Spirit tells us that we do not know or understand the works of God.

This is not a rebuke. This is a statement of fact.

His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts. Isaiah 55:8 (NKJV)

He does great things, and unsearchable, marvelous thing without number. Job 5:9 (NKJV)

How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! Romans 11:33 (NKJV)

It is such a relief to know that my lack of specific understanding of what God is doing in my life or wants to do does not mean that I have some serious spiritual defect. I don’t have to understand everything that God is doing in my life. In fact, this Scripture says quite plainly that even when I think I know, I don’t.

While I may not know the works of God, I do know that He loves me and wants to do good to me because He IS good. 

My lack of understanding of what He is doing or how He is going to accomplish His plans for my life is not an obstruction. He is able to guide my steps even when I don’t understand.

Jul 02 2008

The timing is not good!

Subject: Faith,GuidanceRLW3 @ 5:51 pm

He who observes the wind will not sow…  Eccl. 11:4a

The man described in this verse can never find a good time to sow because the wind is blowing. If he sows today, the wind will blow the seed where he did not intend it. Therefore, he should wait for the wind to die down.

Frequently, we, like this man, don’t start new projects because of what might happen. We cannot be certain that our “sowing” will work out the way we have planned. So, we do nothing because something might go wrong. The timing is not quite right. Why? We don’t really know. It just doesn’t “feel” right.

At the root of this behavior and view of life is an erroneous belief that all of our success depends on us. God, who controls the conditions or circumstances, cannot be trusted. Our unbelief prevents us from launching out on the new venture that God has put into our hearts.

…and he who regards the clouds will not reap.  Eccl. 11:4b

If you talk to enough people, you will soon discover that there is never a “good” time to make any change. You can ALWAYS find dark clouds that might soon empty themselves.

People are always talking about the surrounding economic conditions and using it as a justification for inaction. “Well, what’s the market like?” “I’ve heard that we are going into a recession.”

However, if we look, there are always people who prosper during adverse economic conditions. Microsoft was launched in the midst of terrible economic conditions during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Fabulous marriages are being both started and enjoyed right now even though many segments of our culture have accepted and even applaud immorality and divorce.

We also have many examples of people going bankrupt in the midst of a booming economy. There was a time when our culture held marriage in very high esteem yet marriages still failed.

We should be aware of our circumstances and the season that we live in. However, we should not make them our god. The environment doesn’t determine either our success or failure.

If we find ourselves endlessly observing the wind or regarding the clouds, we might do well to question ourselves. We shouldn’t be surprised if we find that the root of all our much “observing” is not “wisdom” but rather fear.

Change represents the unknown. Although the present conditions might be unbearable, we frequently prefer to remain in them rather than face the fear of making a mistake and the uncertainty of change.

Is it really better to live as a slave in Egypt than to venture out into the unknown trusting in the God of heaven to lead us into the land that He has marked out for us?

Jul 01 2008

Life happens

Subject: GuidanceRLW3 @ 9:49 pm

All of this talk about trying to discern God’s will for our lives brings up a very important question. Am I advocating that God’s people stay in their prayer closets until they are sure of God’s will?

Unfortunately, I have done this myself on more occasions than I care to admit. However, Solomon’s writing in Ecclesiastes helped me develop a much more complete perspective on this topic.

If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth; and if a tree falls to the south or the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it shall lie.   Ecclesiastes 11:3

The Holy Spirit basically says that life happens. If the clouds get full, it is going to rain. If a tree falls, then wherever it fell, that is where it is going to stay until someone moves it. Life happens.

There is not much value in trying to figure out why it rained when it rained or why the tree fell where it did. Instead of spending an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out why our circumstances are difficult or contrary, we should just accept them for what they are and figure out our next step. The tree has fallen. It rained…or its going to rain. What am I going to do?

It is our responsibility to “walk by faith.” We cannot walk without taking the next step.

Jun 30 2008

Acknowledge Him???

Subject: GuidanceRLW3 @ 7:48 am

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; :6 in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.  Prov. 3:5-6

As we discussed earlier, one of the most important skills in life is the ability to recognize change and respond properly. Too many people refuse to recognize change. They live in the world as they think that it “should” be.

When we set out on a venture for the Lord and encounter difficult, confusing, contrary or conflicting circumstances, we are tempted to withdraw in unbelief because things did not turn out the way that we thought they would.

However, the Holy Spirit instructs us in the Scripture above to ” in all our ways acknowledge Him”. Keep in mind that this follows His admonition to “trust in the Lord” and His instruction to “lean not on our own understanding.” 

Acknowledge means “to accept or admit the existence of truth of.” (Put your mouse over the word ‘acknowledge’, right click, select “Look up in Dictionary” and you will see for yourself!) Is the Scripture instructing us to give God a spiritual tip of the hat, to just admit or accept that He is real? I do not think so.

The Hebrew word translated acknowledge means a bit more than admit or accepting the existence or truth of. The word is yada. It is the same word used in a very different context in Genesis.

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain…  Gen. 4:1

As far as I know, it takes a little more than acknowledging our wife’s existence to produce a child! Clearly this is more than a passing acknowledgement.

It is an intimate word. Young’s Literal Translation renders this passage as “In all thy ways know thou Him.” We are to “know Him” in all of our ways. The Holy Spirit is directing us to follow Jesus example.

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.   John 5:19

Every step along the way, we should hold the question in our heart: “Lord, is this what you want me to do?”

How can we be sure that we are making the right choice or doing the right thing? I don’t know that we can be absolutely certain. In the same passage where the apostle Paul declared that “we walk by faith, not by sight.” he expressed a realistic goal:

“Therefore we make it our aim…to be well pleasing to Him.”. (2 Cor. 5:9)

Jun 26 2008

That’s right…we don’t understand

Subject: GuidanceRLW3 @ 7:37 am

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; (Prov. 3:5)

I find myself frequently puzzled by the Scriptures. Why did the Holy Spirit tell us to “lean not on our own understanding” immediately after instructing us to trust in the Lord. Is he advocating that we go through life thoughtlessly? 

Some choose to do that and consider themselves intensely spiritual. However, I wonder if they have a little Gnosticism (spirit is good, material is bad) in them.

Well, if He isn’t advocating a mindless approach to life, why did He put these two phrases together?

The fact of the matter is that we are neither equipped nor designed to run our own life. We were created for dependence.

As you do not know what is the way of the wind, or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, so you do not know the works of God who makes all things. (Eccl. 11:5)

O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. (Jer. 10:23)

A man’s steps are of the LORD; how then can a man understand his own way? (Prov. 20:24)

We don’t know everything that affects our life. But God does. However, He generally does not do things the way we think that He should. There is a very good reason for that.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  (Isaiah 55:8)

When we encounter confounding circumstances, if we lean to our own understanding, would our conclusion not be similar to the Israelites? (Exo. 16:3) If Joseph had stopped trusting in the Lord and leaned on his own understanding when he was a slave or in prison, would the story have turned out the same way?

Beloved, God has been at this a long time. He is quite capable of guiding His children through life.

“When a hard piece of work is put into the hand of an apprentice for the first assay of his skill, the beholders are justly afraid of a miscarriage in his young and inexperienced hand; but when the worker is an old master of craft, none are afraid but his cunning hand can act again what so oft it hath wrought to the contentment of all the beholders. Were our God a novice in the great art of governing the world, and of the church in the bosom thereof; had He to this day never given any proof of His infinite wisdom, power, and goodness, in turning about the most terrible accidents to the welfare and joy of his saints; we might indeed be amazed whenever we feel ourselves sinking in the dangers wherein the practices of our enemies oft do plunge us over head and ears; but the Lord having given in times past so many documents of His uncontroverted skill and most certain will to bring about all human affairs, as to His own glory, so to the real good of all that love him, it would be in us an impious and unexcusable uncharitableness to suspect the end of any work which He hath begun.”                                                            Robert Baylie before the House of Commons, 1643

We must trust that He is working His will in us, through us and unto us. Although the way may seem dark at times, we must remember that “we walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; (Prov. 3:5)


Jun 24 2008

What should we do?

Subject: Faith,GuidanceRLW3 @ 9:08 pm

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (Prov. 3:5-6)

When we encounter contrary circumstances, our first response should be to boldly declare our trust in the God of heaven.

But what are to trust in?

  • That He is for us and not against us.

The Israelites refused to believe that God was for them. They accused God of bringing them out of Egypt to kill them. (Exo. 14:12) But they were wrong.

  • That He is presently working in us, actually helping us to both to choose and carry out His will in our lives. (Phil. 2:13) 
  • That He is presently working to complete the good work that He began in us. (Phil. 1:6)
  • That He is constantly and carefully arranging our circumstances to draw us closer to Himself. (Matt. 10:29)
  • That He is using our circumstances to mold us and shape us and fashion us into the image of Jesus. (Rom. 8:29)
  • That He is with us in the midst of the perplexing circumstances. (Heb. 13:5)

We felt the Lord’s presence when we first began our venture. When things grow a difficult, we must not let our circumstances deceive us into believing that He has forsaken us.

  • That is He is good.

Not just good in general. No, that will not do. We can do that while our heart is filled with unbelief. We must believe that He is good to us.

He is our great God that longs to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are loyal to Him. (2 Chron. 16:9) We must not throw away our confidence. (Heb. 10:35-36) We must remember that it is after all, our faith that is being tested. (James 1:2-3)

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