Facing Your Fears
Until we find our true identity, we won’t be able to face our greatest fears. The patriarch Jacob had been estranged from his brother Esau for decades, ever since Jacob cheated him out of his birthright and blessing. So, the idea of meeting his twin again was terrifying. Knowing he would see Esau the next day, Jacob tossed and turned all night, wrestling with God. Only after Jacob fully submitted to God’s plan for his life could Jacob then face what he feared most. So, too, with each of us. We must see ourselves the way God sees us before we can face our fears. As the psalmist wrote, “…if it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive…” (Psalm 124:2-3, ESV)
Do Ends Justify the Means?
Do the ends ever justify the means? Haven’t we all done something bad in order to achieve what we rationalized was an ultimate good? This, one of the great tests in life, is at best fuzzy math. In John 11, Jewish leaders expressed their intention to kill Jesus for the good of the nation. Both their end goal and the means to do it were wrong. They would ultimately kill Jesus thinking they were doing God a favor. How many decisions have I embraced that were birthed in deception, resulting in a wrong that I have since deeply regretted. I now clearly see my willingness to allow an end to justify a deceptive means was a serious error in judgment. May we each discern that the steps we take to achieve something, are as important as what we hope to accomplish.
Your Ceiling is Our Floor
A few years ago, as my twin daughters, Deborah and Havilah, were coming into their own as leaders, they shared these memorable words with me. “Dad, your ceiling is our floor.” At first, it took me back. Could they pull it off? How would I feel if they did? Within a few moments after hearing them say it, I’d done the math. Not only would I be delighted for them to exceed every aspect of my life, I was now further commissioned to help them accomplish just that. Years have gone by, and their amazing lives have taken off. With godly husbands and beautiful children, I am most often referred to as Havilah or Deborah’s Dad. It blesses me beyond words as I realize my wife, Suzie and I have lived long enough to experience the joy of our ceiling truly becoming their floor.
Follow Fruit vs. Gifts
God desires that we manifest the fruit of the Spirit: His love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as we minister in the gifts of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) Some people want the fruit of the Spirit but shy away from His gifts. Others get enthused about the gifts and manifest little fruit. We need both and should desire both. James’ epistle touches on a similar dichotomy between faith and works, using this argument: “You show me your faith without works, and I’ll show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18) Here’s a parallel commentary: “You show me your love without gifts, and I’ll show you God’s love with His gifts.” Fruit and gifts aren’t meant to compete with one another; they are meant to be God’s divine compliment. “Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts…” (1 Corinthians 14:1, NRSV)
We can find out what’s in a person’s heart by examining their final words. Christ’s last sentence was very telling. “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34, NLT) As were Stephen’s, the first Christian martyr, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” (Acts 7:60, NLT). Our final words are, likewise, important, not just at the end of our lives, but at the end of every conversation. Do we win the argument, and yet lose a friend? The social mediums are the perfect proving ground for what’s in our heart. Were our final words filled with love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness, or judgment, condescension, condemnation and shame? Is our motive to help or to hurt? Whatever’s in my heart will eventually come out of my mouth. May I continue to guard my heart with all diligence for out of it proceeds my life. (Proverbs 4:23)
Old, Tired Voices
There will always be old, tired voices in our head telling us to follow them instead of following God. In Acts chapter 5, the disciples disobeyed the religious leaders in their day and continued to preach the gospel under penalty of death. The High Priest demanded, “Didn’t we tell you never again to preach about this Jesus?” (Acts 5:28, TLB) At some point, we have to be courageous enough to reject the lies of past lifeless traditions, in exchange for the truth of future life-giving obedience. What old, tired voices are in your head, on the airwaves, and around you, saying, “Didn’t we tell you to do it this way, and say what I say?” But don’t listen to them. Let the still, small voice of God’s Word and Spirit be your guiding light. For, in the end, what God thinks is all that matters.
Commas Instead of Periods
Many times in life we put a period at the end of an experience. We’re done! Or, we think God or someone else must be finished with us as well. Once again, all that’s really happened is we’ve given up too soon. I’ve found that God uses far more commas to punctuate my life experience than periods. With each comma, God’s saying, you’re not done yet, keep believing, keep going forward. Likewise, on other occasions, I place a question mark, dripping with unbelief, on what God wants to put an exclamation point, loaded with faith. I’ve believed the debt is too much, the sickness is too great, I’m too old, too young, too poor, too far gone. Whatever! God is bigger! He is greater! Today, add more commas, and watch the God of happy endings turn your question marks into exclamation points.
Prodigal Son or Running Father
One of Christ’s most memorable stories is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It moves each of us deeply when we consider the heart of a father being willing to accept a rebellious son back into the family with unconditional love. But I was stunned and blessed to learn that in some nations this unforgettable story is not called the “Prodigal Son,” but the “Running Father.” WOW! When I heard that, it took the parable to another level. We don’t have to come into the presence of God as “rejected servants,” but as “fully accepted sons & daughters.” Our storyline doesn’t center our feeble attempt to reach out to God, but His abandoned, all-in love to rescue and accept us. “Come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Returning to Hurt Places
Sometimes, if we are willing to go back to places where we have been hurt, God has surprises waiting for us. Paul the Apostle had been stoned and left for dead in the city of Lystra. But after a while, God put it on his heart to return and see how the believers in Lystra were doing. Because of his willingness to return to a place where people hated him so much that they tried to kill him, it was on this return trip that he met Timothy, a great man of God, who would become a son in the faith to Paul. Are you and I willing to return to places we’ve been hurt, perhaps even to people who have hurt us? If God asks us to, we should go. We may be shocked and blessed to find something or someone special waiting for us there.
Depending Upon God
Do you ever get a little tired of depending upon God? I know I sometimes do. But that’s when I have to reconsider my response to life and remind myself that I will be depending upon God, both now and forever. As the Bible says, “For in Him (in God alone) we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28, KJV) God will never create circumstances where we no longer need Him. This dependency is for our good and is designed to continually draw us into a closer relationship with our Creator. Only then can we become more like Him: which is the very purpose for our existence. As God is the same yesterday, today and forever, so we will be learning to trust in Him and His best for us, for all eternity.
Discovering Who You Are
Our maturity level is determined as much by what attracts us as it does by what distracts us. Only the God of Heaven can reveal our true identity in life. We discover our purpose for God creating us when we worship Him and wash our minds and hearts with His Word. If we don’t find our true self by looking into God’s heart, we will be seduced by the shallow fascinations of this world. Only then will we find that we’ve been chasing after an identity God never intended for us. Today, spend some time worshiping Jesus and let His Spirit and Word wash over your parched soul. You will continue to see who you are really meant to be and find the fulfillment God has always intended for you.
Meeting Perry Como
My twin brother and I were shuffled off to camp for two months every summer from five years old till 14. Our father was immersed in politics. Each night at camp, after lights out, a scratchy phonograph record played the “Our Father” prayer, sung by Perry Como, over loud speakers. It comforted me on hundreds of lonely nights. When I was15, on the verge of becoming an atheist, I was a guest at a private golf course. Walking into a tiny, two-sink restroom, I found Perry Como washing up at the next sink. I was stunned, and so wanted to tell him, “You sang me to sleep 500 nights during my childhood!” But I just couldn’t pull it off. Now, 50 years later, it comforts me to think that God created that special memory in my childhood. Did you see God at work growing up? If not, look again.