God's Guide for Avoiding Recession

Today I read Deuteronomy 13-15 and Galatians 1. As I reflect on what I just read I am struck by the rules that God put in place to really take care of everyone. He put in place the idea of a year of jubilee, that every seven years debts where forgiven and slaves were allowed to go free. Also, people were to give the first tenth of all that they owned to God and every three years to give a portion to the Levites who had not inheritance of their own because they served God. He also commanded them to look out for the poor, even the poor in the land that were not their own to take care of them and give them what they needed. In the “rules” God was establishing, he was making sure everyone was taken care of and no one would go without and the people would be blessed in doing this as long as they continued to serve God and follow what he commanded.

I think about my own day in relation to what God established in Israel and I can see why those rules were so important. People of their own natural accord will only look out for themselves and not just for what they need to survive but for everything they can get to build up some false sense of security. Even if they have tons of money there is always greed for more “just in case.” So people will forget those who are in need because they have their own survival instinct and greed that leads them to turn a blind eye to anyone around them. So God established rules in these three chapters that dealt with the people’s source of security, he gave rules for how they relied on God instead of other gods, gave their money to God and others instead of hoarding it for themselves, and forgave debts and slaves every seven years instead of lording it over people who owed them and keeping people in perpetual debt in order to build their own wealth off of their backs. Today in an economy that is going very bad and things that are sinking fast, people are in a sense of helplessness and striving for anything that has a sense of stability. This whole mess was brought on by people violating the commands God gave to the nation of Israel way back then. People have been worshiping the gods of materialism and doing whatever it takes to get ahead, even if it was unethical and in some cases illegal. They have forgot that everything they have comes from God and began to believe that they could do anything and money would roll in. They also, exploited people and put them into mortgages and other debts that they could never afford in order to make money for themselves all the while setting those people up for a hard fall.

What God established way back then is so applicable today and was only further explained in the New Testament. I a need to make sure I have no other god that gets in the way of my relationship with Jesus Christ. It is only because of him that I have life and breath in my lungs and his principles are eternal. Money and possessions need to be a distant fourth in my life compared to what God has called me to do. I know he has sustained me thus far and he will continue to do so as I seek to follow his guidelines for living.

Lord, help me to be a man who is dependent on you and you alone. Help me to avoid the trap that money and possessions can create in my life. Help me to see that everything I have and all that I am comes from you. Amen.

Seeing the Possibilities Instead of the Obstacles

Today I read Numbers 32-33 and Mark 10. As I sit here reflecting on what God is saying to me in these passages, I am drawn to the idea of what a legacy is made of. In Numbers we see the legacy of the generation before which was wandering in the wilderness because of their lack of faith in God. So they wandered for 40 years until every person 20 years old and older was no longer living before they were allowed to enter the promised land. There is a long list of the places they went during that 40 year period. It must have been something to realize that you were wasting time waiting to die so the next generation could inherit the land you were too afraid to take.

I think about my own life and the things I have been either too scared to do or too lazy to try for the Lord. How much of my lack of action was due to my own fears or doubts? Are there any areas God wants me to take that I have not moved forward and claimed because I doubted my own ability or the success of the thing before I ever put the effort forward? I am a cautious person by nature so I tend to move slowly on things that I perceive as a risk. God has been working with me over the past several years in this area and I can honestly say that I am better at taking risks than I have ever been in my life previous to this. I have had both successes and failures and in each I have learned new things about God’s presence in my life and who I am as His child. I am still alive and nothing catastrophic has happened yet so I know that I am in the palm of his hand. The more I realize that I am serving his purposes and his kingdom, the more I know I can step out in faith because the outcome is up to him.

Lord, help me to be a man of faith who is ready to charge the hill instead of analyzing all the things that could go wrong. I want to be a man who sees the possibilities instead of the obstacles. Thank you for your presence in my life and calling to ministry. Amen.

Walking in Step with the Spirit

Today I read Exodus 35-36 and Acts 10. In Exodus the people are to bring their offerings to God to build the temple of the Lord. God chooses a guy who he fills with all wisdom, knowledge and the Holy Spirit to oversee the project to make sure it meets all the requirements God has. So this guy was given skills that far exceeded his own in order to do the task. In Acts, the Holy Spirit gives Peter a vision and then, when he visits Cornelius the Holy Spirit fills he and his family as Gentiles. It is fascinating how important a role the Holy Spirit plays throughout Scripture and how often we forget about Him and/or take Him for granted.

I know in my own life the Holy Spirit speaks to me more through impressions and thoughts than verbally. I know in my call to ministry I could feel the Holy Spirit’s lead the whole time and I spent a lot of energy trying to run and negotiate so that I could stay in charge of my plan for my life. It was through a series of events, my own fleeces that I threw down that were answered, and impressions that guided me to where I am today in ministry. It is so easy to ignore or stop listening to the Holy Spirit in my life but no matter what I might try, He always seems to get my attention. I need to figure out how to better listen and obey what I know the Spirit is asking me to do and to seek guidance on a more regular basis so that I am not fooling myself into thinking I am doing what God wants me to do when I am really wasting time or doing my own agenda. Why is it so difficult to just listen?

Lord, help me to listen to your Spirit more in my life. Help me to move forward only after I have spent time in prayer and listening. Help me to develop a sensitive spirit that can sense your moving in my heart and life. I want to walk in step with you. Amen.

Seeing God in the Wilderness

Today I read Exodus 1-2, Psalm 88, Luke 21, and Refuel. I am struck this morning by God’s hand in every detail of life. Even in the bleakest moments, God is present and working in and through the circumstances we face. The Israelites went from being taken care of in Egypt to becoming slaves. They cried out to God who heard them and he saved a baby boy from dying a the hands of the Egyptians to raise him in the very house of the people he would overthrow. Yet in the midst of all of that Moses didn’t even know God was preparing him to rescue his people. In fact he was exiled as a murderer and living in the wilderness tending sheep.

In Luke, Jesus gives his disciples a warning about the destruction of the temple and persecution they would face for their faith. The disciples wanted to know when and rather than giving a date (which I think is what they really wanted) he gave them signs to look for. Even with all of that information, they probably still did not know when it would happen and only recognized it looking back.

There is something about this whole notion of trusting God in the wilderness times and letting him prepare us in those dry tough times for what he may have for us in the future. Even though those times are very difficult, there is a peace that settles in that says God’s timing is always perfect so why fight where I am right now? Why not wait and see what he will do in the future? Instead I find I complain many times and don’t keep my focus where it should be. I figure the circumstances are useless and a waste of time and so much more could be done if things would speed up. In those times I only expose my own impatience and my tendency to skim instead of dig deep into the recesses of my heart and soul. Most of the spiritual breakthroughs in my life have come after times in the wilderness and times of waiting. In those times my character is refined to help me grow and be ready for the next plateau. Do I trust God enough to see him in those times?

Lord, help me to see you in the details of life and enjoy your work in my life. Make me your man and guide all my steps. Amen.

God's Timing, God's Plan

Today I read Genesis 47-48, Psalm 10, Luke 19, and Chapter 1 of Refuel. It is amazing how God’s timing and plan never seem to fit what we think it should be or how it is going to happen. In the life of Joseph he never would have thought that it was God’s plan for him to be sold into slavery, spend some time as a servant, get wrongfully accused of a crime, spend time in a dungeon, become the greatest person in Egypt next to the Pharaoh, save his family from the famine, and then have the wrong kid (the younger) get the best blessing from his father Jacob. What an incredible life that he never could have scripted and wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t waited on the Lord and relied on Him and His plan. Even when he tried to orchestrate the older son to get the better blessing, Jacob crosses his hands and gives it to the younger. God doing the unexpected at the unexpected time seemed to be a theme.

Then take Jesus who does the unthinkable by choosing to dine in the house of Zaccheus a known thief of a tax collector and hated by all the people because of his sins of cheating and getting rich off the backs of his fellow Jews and selling out to the Romans. Then Jesus has to teach a parable to help people to see that what they thought about the Kingdom of God was all wrong and they would actually face destruction of Israel before things would ever get better. Again the unexpected and something that did not fit the people’s timing.

Yet in all these things from simple misunderstanding to outright disaster, God brings great results in all cases. Because of Joseph’s situation, God saves his people that he promised to bless and multiply from the death they would have faced in the famine. God uses Ephraim’s line to be the line from which the Messiah comes. Zaccheus ends up changing his life and giving money back with great interest to those he had wronged. Jesus dies on a cross but through is death salvation comes to all people.

I think about my own life and God’s timing. There have been so many times when I have wanted to speed up God. He takes too long in my mind sometimes. I think about this whole marriage thing and wondering when it would be “discovered” by Rick and the rest of the leadership. Event with huge numbers of people in attendance and stories of marriages that had been helped, it seemed like it was unnoticed or seen as my “hobby.” Yet in God’s infinite wisdom, certain things needed to take place first before it was ready to be on the radar. Now to hear Rick say in a meeting of all of the pastors that I am pastor to couples and I would have a space on his new Purpose Driven website to reach out to couples around the world is staggering and beyond what I thought possible. Funny how now I am reeling a bit because that was not what I expected. I was hoping just for some recognition and maybe some pulpit push every once in a while. But now to have the potential of global influence in this area is staggering and quite frankly a little scary for me. I feel like I may not be ready now (I always do that though) at the same time I have a strange sense of God’s leading in all of this. One thing I know for sure is that I need to wait and go along for the ride. God’s timing and plan is always better than my own and my rest, trust and obedience are what I can offer as I go on this ride.

Lord, thank you for watching out for me and giving me the peace that comes from knowing you are in control. When I think of all the things you have done in my life to bring me to this place right now, no matter where it goes, I am humbled and in awe of how you work. Help me to stay dependent on you because I know I can do nothing apart from you. Help me to abide. Amen.

Don't Hurry God

Today I read Genesis 15-17 and Luke 6. I love reading about the biblical characters in the Old Testament and seeing how they lived their lives in the face of all the challenges they faced and with God interacting with them directly. Watching how Abraham responds to God’s covenant and telling Abraham that he will be the father of many nations and that he will have children who will produce a nation at his advanced age is fascinating. I wonder how I might have responded if God told me that kind of news. The thing that really struck me this morning was his wife Sarah’s reaction. She thought she would help the process along by having Abraham marry and sleep with her servant Hagar. It is always easy to play arm chair quarterback and judge how poor a decision she made by not waiting on God and believing that he could and would do what he promised. But I know in my own life there are plenty of times I have tried to speed up God’s plan in the name of ministry or doing what I think is God’s will. I have this problem of not liking to wait. I want to take on a project or task and get it done right away. I am the type of person who needs to keep moving to feel like I am being productive and to keep myself focused and in the game. Because of this, I have the tendency to want to speed up the process and not spend a lot of time waiting. After all if it makes logical sense why not give it a try?

Yet what I have learned over and over again is that God’s timing is perfect. If He truly is in control and believe he is God, then he really doesn’t need my help to make it happen. He sees the whole picture while I only see a small part. It is usually when I try to speed things up or get ahead of God that things don’t go well. I know this and have experienced this yet old habits die hard and I find that I still get impatient or worked up if things don’t proceed on my timetable. As a result I will make mistakes or cause stress to other people I am serving with or dump my frustration on them which then colors their perception of how things are going. I so wish I could be more content and less restless on things like this. I am learning but I know I have a long way to go.

Lord, help me to develop the discipline of waiting on you more. I want to make sure I act when you want me to act and wait when you want me to wait. I want my faith to extend beyond my salvation into the very details of life. Help me to be ok with waiting on you. Amen.