Aug 20, 2014

Has God ever shut a door in your life?

Sometimes God shuts a door in your life.

Or...He makes a donkey speak. Numbers 22

Or...He creates a storm and makes a fish swallow you.  Jonah 1 and 2

Or...He blinds you by a great light.  Acts 9:3

Or...He drops a sheet of animals, reptiles, and birds in front of you.  Acts 10:14

Or...He allows His Spirit to forbid us to do things.  Acts 16:7

God uses all sorts of things to alter our direction.  The scripture is full of stories where God changes the direction of Humans.  Why does He do that? 


When he changes our direction it’s because the direction we were heading wasn’t where He wanted us to go and by His love He wants us to be in His perfect plan.

Sometimes He does this when our heart is not right and our intentions are not pure.  Thank God for these moments.  By His grace and mercy He has saved you from experiencing less than His perfect and good will, even when you wanted and thirsted for what was down that road.  This happens a lot when we get off track.  It’s an act of discipline and grace. 

But that’s not really want I want to focus on today.  What about when He shuts the door when our hearts are right and our intentions are pure?

Sometimes God shuts the door when we are heading a direction for the right reasons...our heart was right, our intentions were pure, but God stepped in to make a change.  Thank God for these moments too!  Because by His grace and mercy He has also saved you from experiencing less than His perfect and good will, even when you wanted and thirsted for what was down that road.  God has something better than what you thought! 

You know, having a right heart and pure intentions don’t always guarantee that you are on the right path to God’s good and perfect plan.  But you can also be on the right path of God’s pure plan with the wrong heart and impure intentions.  The key is to being on the right path with the right heart.   When you are there, know that God has something that will bring Him greater glory than what you originally thought and will serve His purposes in a greater way.

These door closing moments are when our faith is greatly tested.  With a willing and right heart and pure intentions you faithfully began walking down a road only to discover that it was the wrong road. Now, with the same willing and right heart and pure intentions you must also faithfully trust Him to get off that road, no matter the cost.  To stay on that road (even if your reasons seem justified) is to then be on the wrong road now for the wrong reasons.  Our ways aren’t always His ways (Isaiah 55:8) and we have to be willing to adjust our ways when we discover that they aren’t His ways.  Some times this can be heartbreaking, hard, and may not seem fair (especially when He doesn’t shut the same door on others), but in the end it’s always good.

It’s about His perfect and good plan.  Every step that He leads us to take is about His Glory and His Plan.  Obedience and trust get you there.   

Sometimes we just have to remind ourselves that “it’s not about me, it’s not about me, and again it’s not about me.”  We exist to bring Him Glory, to be His hands and feet, to do His work, and to accomplish His purposes.  When God changes your direction be grateful, because He is trying to get you to the right place where you can bring Him the greatest Glory, most effectively be His hands and feet, fully do His work, and to joyfully accomplish His awesome purposes.

Jun 25, 2014

The Burning Coal of Unforgiveness

Matthew 18:23-35
"Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.'  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, 'Pay what you owe.'  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.'  He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.  When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.  Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?'  And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

Forgiveness.  We all need it.  But it’s hard to give.  People require forgiveness.  No matter who you are, no matter how much a person loves you.  This parable shows us just how hard it can be to forgive someone.  If we are honest, all too often this story tells our story.

The forgiveness that Christ has given us is so huge, so undeserved, so costly, so overwhelming.  It’s amazing to me of what Jesus did not require in order to issue his forgiveness of us.

He didn’t wait for an apology.
He didn’t wait for us to feel bad about what we have done.
He didn’t ask us to try to make up for what we have done.
He didn’t give us the silent treatment until we realized that we have done something wrong.
You never heard from Jesus, “it’s gonna take me some time to forgive you, so I may need some space”
The truth is that none of these things could have ever earned even an ounce of forgiveness from God.  To forgive meant that he had to make the first move, he had to suffer the consequences of our foolish and damning sin.  To forgive meant that he had to pay the price.  To forgive meant he had to bear our condemnation and the weight of what we did.  He did everything, he took our sin, our foolishness, our failure, our mistake upon himself so that we could be forgiven.  It was the only way!

With open and scared arms he offers us forgiveness.  The amazing thing is that we did nothing for it, we did nothing to make him do it, we did nothing that convinced him it was a good idea.  Out of his love he gave it.  He made the first move, in fact he made all the moves.  That’s Grace!  And that’s what forgiveness is…grace.

Was it fair?  Not for Jesus.  He got what he didn’t deserve.  And so did we.  That’s Grace.

Hey, it’s the same for us.  Nothing different.  The same thing that Jesus did for us to give us forgiveness is what we must do for others to give them forgiveness.  Grace, pure grace.  THAT’S THE POINT OF THIS PARABLE.  The basic gist of this parable is that forgiven people should forgive.  It goes along with what Jesus said elsewhere, “to whom much is given, much is required.”

This is what I’ve misunderstood for so long and I think this is why we all struggle with forgiveness.  We want people to earn our forgiveness.  We sit on our forgiveness until they make the first or several moves of getting it from us.  Listen, just like you couldn’t earn your forgiveness from God, neither can others earn their forgiveness from us.

Why do we try to make it any different in our circumstances?  We ask, wait, demand for apologies.  We want people to try to make up for their mistakes against us.  We give people the silent treatment so that they will feel bad and try to pull out of you what they did wrong.  The truth of the matter is that this does more damage to us than it does to them.  Unforgiveness hurts the unforgiver more than the one needing forgiveness.

What someone did to us certainly hurts.  No doubt about it.  That’s why forgiveness is a difficult thing to give.  Pain...physical, mental, social, psychological, verbal…it hurts, bad.  We lose things because of others, we suffer consequences because of others' actions, we go through turmoil because of others…an on and on it goes.  Others cause pain to us, and it hurts.  You can not ignore and sometimes it will take the work of God and lots of years to heal the pain.  But do you know what also hurts?  Anger, bitterness, envy, strife, hate, rage, revenge, hard feelings.  You see, withholding forgiveness is like sitting on a burning coal…it burns you more than anyone else.  These things can only be healed with forgiveness.  And until forgiveness is given they will only get more painful, more damaging, and more controlling of your life.  Forgiveness frees you from these things.

We will never more fully understand the freedom there is in Christ until we follow his lead and forgive.  We will never fully understand, display, and experience the love of God until we give forgiveness.  We will never fully understand the amazing freedom there is in our forgiveness until we learn to forgive.  Many of us, as forgiven children of God, are living our lives in bondage not because Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t good enough, but because we aren't willing to give what we’ve received.  Be free.  Be forgiving.

May 28, 2014

The Light of the World

Matthew 5:14-16  "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Christ proclaims that the church is the light of the world.  Through all time light has penetrated darkness, even from the beginning of creation.  Unlike today though, light was not available at the flip of a switch.  In Christ’s day, when the sun went down so did the ability to accomplish almost anything.  Usually the only light available to illuminate in a home was either one lamp stand that held an oil burning lamp or single candle, or a small fire at the center of the house.   Light was scarce anywhere outside the house though.  Obviously flashlights and headlights had not yet been invented so any travel at night was dangerous, especially as one ventured further from the overlooking light of a city.  There are few places in this world today where one can experience the absence of light like those of Jesus’ day did. 

Even though light is abundant it still serves the same purpose it did in Christ’s day, penetrating the darkness.  Christ calls himself “the light of the world” and those who call him Lord possess that light.  The life and presence of a Christian should literally penetrate the darkness of this world.  Simply the humble existence of authentic Christians should make a profound mark upon the world; even cause many of them to turn to Christ.

In a positive way Christ declares the absurdity of hiding one’s light.  It is impossible to conceal a city upon a hill.  Likewise, it would an outrageous idea for one to mask the light of their home.  To Christ it seems equally absurd for someone who has experienced his life changing redemption to remain silent about it.  Yet, so many Christians today do not share a simple testimony of what he has done for them.  In the average Texas church alone it takes forty church members to lead one person to Christ.  The church is simply being disobedient to the commission that Christ proclaimed before he ascended.

The Christian must live in such a way that he or she reflects the character and nature of Jesus Christ.  The phrase “you are the only Jesus some else will ever know” is not far from the truth.  Not only does Christ command that we proclaim the gospel by word but also by lifestyle; “that they may see your good works and give glory to you father who is in heaven.”  Jesus makes it so very easy for his believers to be effective in the world.  All one has to do is humbly live a life of holiness and Christlikeness and share the gospel when the opportunity arises and he or she will be able to penetrate the darkness of this world.

So how do we accomplish this responsibility of being salt and light?  We must primarily be about the business of its call to be ambassadors of Christ.  We must continue, both corporately and individually, to share the message of Jesus Christ.  We must “do the work of an evangelist.”  The sin of silence and omission must be stopped.  One cannot accept and believe what he has never fully heard and understood.  The more people that come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior the easier it will be to preserve Christian morals.  We have been called to shine our light and penetrate the darkness with the gospel.

Furthermore, as salt, we must “rub” ourselves into the earth by being involved in the world’s affairs.  Moral issues are being decided by elected officials every day in local, statewide, and national government.  The Christian voice must be heard.  Christians have the responsibility of preserving this nation as well as all nations from walking down the road away from God and towards immorality.  By voting, participating in the government processes, being well informed on current issues, and running for office the Christian can actively steer the nation towards Christian morality and Biblical standards.

Most importantly the Christian must actively pursue holiness and build his or her relationship with Christ.  To be effective salt of the earth we must maintain our ‘saltiness.’  Moral impurity and compromising theology simply spoil the preserving and purifying power of our witness.  To be able to shine brightly we must remain close to their source of light.  We must continually grow in his or her knowledge and love of Christ.  We must have the mentality that Paul had when he wrote in Philippians 3:8, 12, 14, 18  

Indeed, I count everything as a loss to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own…I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Finally, the church must not be self-centered with the inconceivable blessings God has bequeathed upon the church.  The Dead Sea offers a good illustration of this.  There will never be a fear of the sea lacking a sufficient amount of incoming water because the Dead Sea remarkably has seven tributaries pouring into it.  The very reason why the sea is so rich in inflowing tributaries is because it lies below sea level.  Unfortunately this is blessing is also its curse.  Because of its low elevation nothing flows out of it.  Subsequently, its density is altered, it has an excessive buildup of salt, and contains unhealthy amount of debris.  These conditions among other make it an obsolete wetland for fish, wildlife, and recreation, thus it is called the Dead Sea because no life exists in it.  An excessive amount of life goes in, but none comes out. 

In many ways the church runs the danger of being likened to the Dead Sea.  It is the very seat of the blessings of God; the bride of Christ.  God has spoken revelation through it and to it.  It has, by the grace and power of God, grown to be one of the wealthiest, most powerful, and largest institutions in the known world, even standing the test of time.  God has called and allowed it to be his very salt and light of this earth.

To say the least, God has blessed His church in tremendous amounts.  Like the Dead Sea it has been the recipient of an excessive amount of life.  But is it distributing as much as it receives?  Are we fulfilling the role God has equipped us to fill?  Are we actively preserving this world and its people from corruption?  Are we properly being the shining light of the gospel that should turn men and women to Christ?  Or have we disobediently horded our wealth and blessings and thereby become an obsolete institution that has lost our effectiveness and voice in a lost and dyeing world?  Even though God is the only one who can properly answer these questions, they must be asked.  We must individually Christian must ask ourselves these questions.  God’s call still stands and Christ’s command still remains.  We are still called to be salt and light, the very instrument that proclaims the reconciliation of Christ.

May 22, 2014

The Salt of the Earth

Matthew 5:13 “You are the Salt of the Earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

What does Jesus mean when he proclaims that his disciples are the salt of the earth?  The uses for salt today are very different than its uses during the days of Jesus.  Today the primary use of salt is that of flavoring.  French fries, potato chips, and vegetables just would not taste as good if it were not for salt.  In fact, most American dinner table have salt shakers at their center for quickness, convenience, and just in case of a taste bud emergency.  However, salt had a very different use during the time of Jesus.  Salt was used as a preservative.  Refrigerators, ice chests, or deep freezers did not yet exist, so storing meat for any long amount of time was simply not an option.  However, where they to rub salt into their meat they could preserve its freshness for a while longer so that if would not spoil and be of no healthy use.  This is how Jesus’ disciples would have understood this metaphor of salt and its implication would have been plain to them.  By stating that they were the salt of the earth he was implying that they are to be used as a preservative for this world.

Christ intends the same thing for his followers today that he did for his followers of the first century.  He desires that his followers today will preserve this world from corruption and even impending judgment from God.  To be the salt of the earth literally means that Christians need to “rub” themselves into the meat of the world so that it will not spoil.  It is to proclaim and practice the word of God and preserve the world from straying far from that word.  Paul seconds this calling bestowed upon the believer when he writes,

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…all this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 6:17-20)

God has uniquely given his church the responsibility of being his trumpeting agent of his gospel to the world.  Christ has called his church to be about “building up the body of Christ.”  To give a solid understanding of the importance of fulfilling its call, Paul reminds the Roman church that,

But how are they to call on him in whom that have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news! (Romans 10:14-15) 

One must notice that Christ makes a declarative and descriptive statement when he says that they are the salt of the earth.  He doesn’t say that they are to become the salt of the earth nor that they might at sometimes be the salt of the earth and others times not, rather he simply states that they are.  It is a constant and continual condition that every believer in Christ possesses.  Simply by entering a relationship with Jesus Christ means that you automatically become the salt of the earth.  God has endowed a purpose for the Christian’s life.  It cannot be taken away, nor is it an option.  However, it can be nullified and becomes wasteful. 

Salt is a chemical compound known as sodium chloride.  Sodium chloride is one of the strongest compounds that exists and cannot be separated.  Salt cannot become non-salt.  Jesus certainly chose an excellent metaphor to compare the status of the believer has.  His relationship with Christ cannot be dissolved nor separated.  However, while sodium chloride cannot be separated, it can be contaminated.  Mixture with certain other chemicals can make it a void substance, having no effectiveness, and thereby nullifying its use.  It can as Christ says “lose its taste.”  The Christian, therefore, can lose his or her effectiveness in this world.  As stated early the follower of Christ is to pattern his or her life characteristic of the holiness of Christ.  In his letter to the Roman church, Paul reminds his audience that the believer is to “not be conformed to the pattern of this world.”  Followers of Christ are to be like him, resembling his holiness, love, faith, and character.

Today, many individual of us have nullified our effective witness and salt ministry to the world.  We have chosen not to pursue and grow in our relationship with the Father.  Many are living a lifestyle of disobedience, not much different from many of those of the world.  A Christian easily loses his or her effective witness when they practice and participate the same immoral things nonbelievers do.  Many Christians have allowed themselves to become ignorant of the basics of the faith, not knowing what they believe and why they believe it.  Others have adopted the relativistic and pluralistic philosophies of their postmodern culture, assuming that Christianity has no significant standing or meaning over and above any other religion and worldview.  Many of us have become unsalty as our thinking, lifestyle, worldview, and behavior are no different from one who does not believe in the Christ. 

Many churches and maybe even the church as a whole have compromised their reputation and effectiveness before the world as well.  When the church remains silent on the issues that the bible speaks of as immoral and sinful it begins to lose its saltiness.  Issues such as homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, divorce, pride and power, and sadly sin and sinful nature are ignored in churches and sermons.   When the church diminishes its view of scripture and thereby questions much of the Bible’s validity and significance it becomes no different than the world.  Many churches have allowed immorality to flood their leadership and membership.  Others have organized themselves like local country clubs ignoring the lost and dyeing world and focusing on the self-esteem, health, and wealth of its membership.  Other churches have adopted questionable corporate and business practices in order to make budget and grow membership.  When the church loses its saltiness it becomes an institution that Christ describes as “no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

            Not only can salt just become null when mixed with certain chemicals, but when mixed with other certain chemicals it can become dangerous and toxic, even to the touch.  Sodium chloride is in fact one of the active ingredients that makes up the hydrogen bomb.  No wonder Christ said that bad salt needs to thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.  When the believer compromises his or her lifestyle and beliefs he or she can become harmful and damaging to the cause of Christ.  One of the frequent excuses many nonbelievers sight for not being interest in or attending church is because of all the “hypocrites” in the church.  By compromising ones pursuit of holiness he or she presents a message that Christianity is a weak, shallow, and meaningless religion.

May 15, 2014

There is No Such Thing as an Unanswered Prayer

Have you ever had someone ignore your question?  Maybe they quickly changed the subject.  Maybe they quickly realized they had to go.  Maybe they said, “Let me get back to you.” Or “let me think about it.”  But they never got back to you.  There are a lot of questions that we ask that have yet to be answered, big questions, little questions, important questions, questions that keep us stuck where we are until we get an answer.   Unanswered questions are frustrating and disappointing as they put life on hold.  We have a tendency to think of prayer the same way, that our prayers can go unanswered.  Garth Brooks even sang a song about it:
“Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs
That just because he may not answer doesn't mean he don't care
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered”

Cute song.  Horrible theology. 

I hear a lot of Christians borrow Garth’s ideology often times, even trying to encourage each other with these words.

First off, God is not “the man upstairs.”  He’s not upstairs and He’s not a man at all.  He’s God.  He's the God of Heaven and Earth.  He’s perfect, holy, powerful, compassionate, just, right, good, and loving.  A ‘man’ ignores things, is limited, can’t hear everything, can have his plate too full, can be selfish…God is not like this…He’s not just the man upstairs, He’s Almighty God.

God answers every prayer.

A few verses to consider…

Luke 18:7-8  “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?  Will he delay long over them?  I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.”
Matthew 7:7-8  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
Romans 8:26-28  “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is ethe mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.   And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

I believe these passages reveal several promises from God.  First, He hears every prayer.  Second, He will answer every prayer we pray.  Third, He will answer immediately.  Fourth, His answer is always good.

Garth is right about one thing.  We don't always get the answer we want.  Prayer can be frustrating.  But it’s not God that makes prayer frustrating.  It’s our impatience.   It’s our selfishness.  It’s our lack of faith.  It’s our flesh.  It’s our nearsightedness.  It’s our tunnel vision.  It’s our limited ability and power.  It’s our insubordination to His will and His way.
Don’t make the mistake of accusing a sovereign, all powerful, all knowing, compassionate, loving, and good God of not answering your prayer just because you didn’t get what you wanted, how you wanted it, and when you wanted it.   Trust him.  Know that every prayer we pray is answered immediately.  Just because you don’t know the answer yet, or can’t hear it, or can’t see, or because you are not satisfied with it doesn’t mean He hasn’t answered.

I think God answers every one of our prayers immediately with at least one of the four following answers…

1.       Yes! 

When our requests line up with His good, perfect, and pleasing will the answer is always, “yes!”

2.       No. 

God answers every prayer, but like it or not, His answer is not always “yes!”  Sometimes he says no.  God promises us good.  He will not give you something that will not bring goodness to your life.  Whether you realize it or not you may be demanding that God do something or give you something that is against His good, perfect, and pleasing will for your life.  Listen, you not getting what you want when you want it doesn’t mean that He hasn’t answered your prayer or has ignored you.  He has answered and His answer was no.  Be thankful, because whether you realize it or not, He is protecting you.

You do the same thing with your children.  My kids ask for a lot of things that they do not understand are bad for them.  I tell them no…a lot.  It’s my job as their father not to give them everything they want, but to give them what they need.  This answer is often followed up by the next answer He gives...

3.       You need this instead.

Matthew 7:11 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

God will always give you His best for your good.

4.       Yes, but you’ll need to wait.

His answer is always immediate, but our realization always isn’t.  We can’t always see things like God can.  Sometimes it takes time to see His answer to be materialized our lives, situations, and scenarios.  One thing you can always be sure of, He will always be on time.

To think that God hasn’t answered your prayers is accusing God of not caring, being too busy, and being incapable of dealing with our multitude of issues.  It’s a way of saying prayer doesn’t work all the time.  It’s a way of saying there are sometimes better ways to handle our issues than just waiting around on a God that may or may not answer.  Thinking that God might not answer your prayer will make you eventually think He is incapable of handling what we deal with and that He doesn’t care.  Listen, He cares and He has answered.  Every prayer, every time!

I thank God that He answers every prayer.  He answers every pray according to His will and in His way.  And His answers are always better than my requests.  His answers are always best.

May 7, 2014

Wait for Isaac and Don't Settle for Ishmael

Genesis 16:1-2, 16
"Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar.  And Sarai said to Abram, 'Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.'  And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
…And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael."
A godly man, a great man, a man with a calling from God…a man who made a really bad decision.  A decision that put his future in jeopardy.  A decision that put his family in turmoil.  A decision he made all because he was impatient.
Isaac was God’s plan for Abraham, He had promised him a son.  Abraham believed the promise, but he didn’t know when God would deliver this promise.  Time went by…precious time…time that Abraham didn’t think that he had.  So, like many of us, Abraham caved into his impatience and acted upon it.  He gave into pressure, settled, and Ishmael was born.  Ishmael was the result of Abraham’s impatience.

Abraham was a man just like us.  I love that the bible tells the whole story about the heroes of faith, even when their faith was not so heroic but was weak, impatient, and foolish.  When I read this story I see myself.  I’ve not done exactly what Abraham did, but I’ve done many things that showed just as much weakness, impatience, and foolishness.

Impatience never pays off.  It gets in the way.  It worries us.  Frustrates us.  Consumes us.  When we act upon it, it messes a lot of things up…for us and for others.  I’m an impatient person and truth be told, we all are to a degree.  There are many times in our lives where we’ve all settled for Ishmael and missed out on the blessing of Isaac.

Just like Abraham, God makes to us many promises as His children of faith.  He gives us many opportunities to receive incredible and impossible blessings…blessings like Isaac.  But just like Abraham, our impatience tries to get in the way and threatens to ruin it all and put our future in jeopardy and our family in turmoil.

I’d like to tell you 30 things about waiting for Isaac in your life and hope to encourage you to refuse to settle for Ishmael.
Why do we settle for Ishmael?
1.  We live by the clock and calendar.  We allow our lives to be dictated by deadlines, alarms, schedules, dates, appointments, and agendas of the world.  God's clock and calendar must always trump this world’s and ours.
2.  We hate waiting.  Waiting causes us to look around and search for solutions to fix the wait.  Options and solutions are always out there that seem to promise quick answers and quick fixes.
3.  We worry.  We are worrywarts when we have to wait.   Anxiety on top of anxiety builds.  Pressure upon pressure presses us.
4.  We get desperate.  Desperation tempts us to opt for good things over waiting for great things.  Sometimes we so badly want answers and so desperately want out of a situation that the good and better can divert us from waiting on the great and Godly.
5.  We will always be tempted to listen to people who are just as impatient as we are.  We are impatient and so are others.  We have a problem with faith and so do others.  But, we also need the advice and wisdom of others.  Getting advice and counsel from others is wise, but their counsel can also be flawed.  This creates a confusing situation that will sometimes send your mind and heart on a roaster coaster ride.  We must keep in mind that all people are impatient and that the good advice of others doesn't always constitute as God's advice.  People will advise us, pressure us, draw ultimatums for us...sometimes in the name of faith and love.  Please, do take and consider counsel from's just foolish not to (see Proverbs 12:15), but act based up the council of the Spirit of God and the Word of God.  Remember that human advice can be, well, human…everyone looks in the mirror dimly just like we do (see 1 Corinthians 13:12).
6.  We sometimes mistake progressive action as faith action.  Progressive, bold, and courageous action is not always the action of faith.  God doesn't always lead us to take a 'leap' of faith.  Sometimes He desires us to take a 'walk' of faith, a 'wait' of faith, or a 'lesson' of faith.
Ishmael creates problems
7.  Impatience creates unnecessary drama
8.  Impatience creates unnecessary heartache and headache
9.  Impatience creates inerasable situations
10.  Impatience tempts you to partake in compromising activity and sin
11.  Impatience can consume us and confuse us.  Because we are impatient we are always thinking and analyzing every opportunity and every scenario and every piece of advice and looking for signs.  Impatience will take you over and it will drive you nuts.  Too many hours of sleep have been lost, too many Tylenols, Advil, Ibuprofen have been taken because of the anxiety, worry, and confusion the consuming nature of my impatience has caused.
12.  Impatience is a lack of faith, period.  People will tell you it's understandable, excusable, and justifiable, they are liars.  It is not.  It's selfish, foolish, and arrogant.  It is natural, and we do come by it honestly, but such is the case with all sin.  Acting in impatience is sin and a slap in the face of a faithful loving God who has prepared his best waiting for you.  I’m not good at math but I have learned this equation:  faithlessness + pride + arrogance + selfishness + foolishness + narcissism + lack of trust + rashness + ignorance = impatience.  You say you are being too harsh.  Fine, but understand that I'm pointing the finger at myself first.  Every instance of my impatience has ultimately been because I’ve lacked faith in a Faithful God.
Some Advice on Waiting or Isaac
13.  Trust God.  Give Him the benefit of the doubt.  He’s never fallen short on His promises before and you won’t be the first.  Just trust Him.
14.  Pray and mean "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."   Every impatient person prays the same prayer, but actually means, “thy will be done on earth as it is at McDonalds."
15.  Continually remind yourself of what God has said and what God has promised.  His Word and His voice must always speak louder and heavier than others.  We must always be reminding ourselves of the good Word of God and the good promises of God.  It may not match up to our demanding and hurried timetable, but His Word never returns void, but always succeeds (Isaiah 55:11).  And isn’t his time always better than ours?
16.  Truly wanting God's results will help you wait for God's results.
17.  Learn to discern the still small voice of God from the hurried loud voice of the flesh.
18.  Take one step at a time, one foot at a time.
19.  Follow your heart but lead with your head.
20.  Learn the difference between the work of God verses the work of man.
21.  If it doesn’t line up with God’s Word and God’s way then it’s never right and will always reap compromised results, very often, harmful results.
22.  Put pleasing God above pleasing self and others.

Benefits of Waiting for Isaac
23.  Patience brings Gods's best
24.  Patience grows us
25.  Patience builds our faith
26.  Patience puts us on the ride of a lifetime
27.  Patience honors God
28.  Patience builds a compelling testimony to God’s faithfulness
29.  Patience makes room for the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Impatient people are missing out on the true work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
30.  One last thing about waiting on Isaac
Sometimes we don’t wait.  We settle for Ishmael.  When you do...because you will or you already have…Know that there is grace.  Abundant and sufficient Grace!  God’s grace was sufficient for Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Isaac, and Ishmael.  And if you’ve acted out of impatience His grace will be sufficient for you too.  The door to experience God’s grace in light of our impatience was opened through the Cross.  God desires his will be done.  By his grace He does His will even in spite of the interruption of our will.  Abraham settled for Ishmael, but God forgave him, and still gave him Isaac.  He’ll do the same for you too.  That’s one of the things that is so amazing about Grace.
Be patient. Trust God’s promise, trust God’s timing, and trust God’s way of doing things. 
Wait for Isaac and don’t settle for Ishmael.

Apr 24, 2014

What is Integrity?

Proverbs 10:9  Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.

Cleveland Stroud was the coach of the Bulldogs of Rockdale County High School in Conyers, Georgia boys basketball team in 1987 when he led them to a state championship.  The championship game was a dramatic come-from-behind victory. 

One month after the victory Coach Stroud discovered that a player who was scholastically ineligible had played 45 seconds in the first of the school's five postseason games.  Stroud made school officials aware of the mistake and subsequently the team was deprived of the title and the trophy was taken from the case outside the high school gymnasium, never to be returned.  'We didn't know he was ineligible at the time; we didn't know it until a few weeks ago,' Mr. Stroud said. 'Some people have said we should have just kept quiet about it, that it was just 45 seconds and the player wasn't an impact player. But you've got to do what's honest and right and what the rules say. I told my team that people forget the scores of basketball games; they don't ever forget what you're made of.'"

Integrity is something that can come up missing in a lot of us.  It’s an important ingredient that we have a tendency to periodically leave out in our lives.  I don’t claim to be an integrity expert.  I have my own struggles with it from time to time, but I want to share with you a few things that I think that integrity is.

Integrity is Being You.
Psalm 139:14  for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

God made you.  He gave you the family you have.  The skills you have.  The looks you have.  The brains you have.  The background you have.  The upbringing you have.  The geographical location you have.  Own it.  Love it...He does.

You may not be as funny as some else, or as smart, or as cool, or as wealthy, or as adventurous, or as popular, or as attractive, or as skinny, or as strong, or as ‘important’, or as may not have thousands of facebook ‘friends’ and the paparazzi may not follow you around.  But listen, no one else is just like you.  God only made one of you and he did not make a mistake when he did.

We all have limits.  We all have short comings.  We all have things we would like to change, and things that we ought to change.  But there are some things about ourselves that we can’t change and we shouldn’t try to change.

Be yourself.  Just be yourself.  God made you and he made you the way you are for a reason, for a purpose.  Let him show you how he wants to use you.  The world doesn’t need another someone needs you.

Integrity is doing what you say you will do.
Matthew 5:37  “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”

Most of us know how to make a promise.  But few people know how to keep a promise.  Broken promises are a result of broken integrity.  We break integrity when we make promises that we do not intend to keep.  We break integrity when we make promises we do not have the ability to keep.  We break integrity when we make promises just to make another person feel good.  We break integrity when we forget promises that we’ve made.  Yes, some broken promises are accidental, and all broken promises need to be forgiven, but that does not negate the fact that broken promises leave damage behind.  Broken promises leave people disappointed, hurt, wounded, and scarred for life.  All of us can think of promises that were made to us that were broken.  Don’t be a promise maker if you can’t be a promise keeper.

Integrity is saying what you really did.
1 Samuel 12:2  I have walked before you from my youth until this day.

Integrity means there is no covering up, no manufacturing, no fabricating, and no exaggerating.  As we recall past accomplishments and achievements to friends and acquaintances there is a temptation to paint ourselves more impressive than we really were.  Do you know anyone who as they begin to tell you a story about their past accomplishments and experiences and you automatically don’t believe what they are saying?  I know people like be honest I’ve been guilty of telling stories like this, full of exaggeration and “author’s liberty” hoping to impress someone or to humor someone.  A life built upon exaggeration and lies is like a house built with will come crashing down.  My mother use to always say, “What a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.”  They only thing that can validate a lie is another lie. 

A person with integrity may not be able to impress people with their “incredible experiences” or “impressive accomplishments.”  But do know what is impressive about a person with integrity?  They are real.  And in a world of plastics, frauds, fakes, phonies, and wannabes...real is refreshing.

Real is Reliable.  Real is Honest.  Real is a good friend.  Real is a person you can trust.  Real is someone you can depend upon.

Be honest.  Be real.  Be you.  God’s promise is that if you will, you will “walk securely.”