Going There

My pastor is currently leading a teaching series entitled “Go There”. Thus, the challenge is to go wherever God leads us, willingly, boldly, lovingly, authentically, truthfully and purposely. As I have pursued this truth deeper, I have been encouraged to discover how practically everyone used by God throughout history seem to share three commonalities as they live and go in faith: 

Associations: We have heard it said that one bad apple can ruin the bunch. Likewise, our associations wherever we go are critically important (Proverbs 24:21). For who we spend our time with greatly impacts our testimonies. Taking it further, can others see a definite association with Jesus Christ in our life, or is it vague at best? Can we clearly be associated as a Christian, and if so, are we willing to stand-out and submit to all that requires of us?

Agitations: Why is it that even when we walk with God, go where He sends us, seek and obey His commands, we still face adversity? Can’t we catch a break? But when we study God’s word, we can clearly see, practically every person used by Him had agitations (1 Peter 4:12). Even Jesus couldn’t escape it. Therefore, there must be something vitally beneficial to our challenges. When we realize this truth and allow God to have His way in our life, we begin to see the opportunities our various irritations create for His glory and our good.  

Advocations: Wherever we go, do we willingly and eagerly share our faith through our lifestyle, actions and words, or would someone have a hard time determining our beliefs? For example, it’s aggravating when the desires of my flesh flare up and I face those same old temptations that cause me to once again focus on me, myself and I. Yet, thankfully, I have learned this is when God’s grace is greater than my flaws and as I seek Him, He grants me the strength to overcome such selfish desires. He reminds me, I don’t have to worry if I have enough, or am enough. For I am His child and He is faithful to meet my every need. This stimulates my gratitude and praise – thus, promoting my advocation of His goodness to others (Romans 10:15).      

Application: “Caring There” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Ultimately, in order to be effective in our witnessing as we go there, we must care there. In other words, what good are deeds without love? For if our hands are to be His hands, He must first transform our hearts. Then, His love and fire propels our feet into action. As mentioned earlier, all of God’s children throughout history have had associations, agitations and opportunities for advocation; and realizing this can help us maximize our opportunities as we dare to go and live for Christ. 

Gone Fishin’

  I recently took my kids fishing at the lake and almost immediately my son hooked a “big one”. Well, it was big enough for him to initially think it was pulling him in the water. However, with encouragement from me, he successfully reeled it in, and after we admired and celebrated his big catch, we let it go.

Afterwards, I couldn’t help but think how this adventure could be used as a teaching and faith building moment for my kids. What I realized was how similar most of us are to my son when it relates to pursuing our various goals in life. For those things we aspire, or go “fishing” for can often be elusive. Second, we have to apply strategy to “catch” them and finally, if and when we do reel them in, we might initially be surprised, feel uncertain, undeserving and even insecure about being able to handle the challenge. This is why having encouragement and support is so important to achieving any goal we have – which can often be narrowed to three foundational aspirations:

For Protection: One of the most basic needs and desires we all aspire for is safety. It’s also one of our greatest privileges (Psalm 78:72). Yet, as we cast our line in pursuit of financial, physical, emotional and/or relational protection, we often times simultaneously jeopardize our success. For example, by not improving our financial IQs, we continue applying poor financial habits that keep our businesses, families and finances vulnerable to potential predators, creditors and litigations. Thus, like my son who was scrambling to reel his catch in due to not possessing the experience and knowledge on how do do so confidently, he almost lost it. Likewise, we must take proactive steps in gaining the experience and expertise necessary to protecting those things we care most about.

For Provision: Possessing the abilities and opportunities to provide for ourselves and others is another grand catch we aspire for. This leads many to pursue advanced education, work long hours and/or hammer their gifts into polished skills that can be applied to provide. There is a great satisfaction in honest hard work. We feel as though we accomplish something and make impact (1 Timothy 5:8). However, there’s also great value in working smarter. My son for example had to tighten his line before he could reel in his prize. For the fish was pulling away despite his effort to reel it in. Largely because the line was loose, but as soon as we tightened it, the fish didn’t stand a chance. Similarly, what areas of our work can we tighten and stop spinning our wheels? Could it be in areas of spending, indulgence and/or distraction? Identifying these hindrances go a long way in aiding our provisions.

For Preparation: We all innately know the value of planning ahead. If we are going fishing, it helps to bring along a tackle box with all the supplies you will need. Likewise, whatever goals we are pursuing, it’s helpful to have a plan. To set out blindly, without a budget, strategy and/or resources is like casting our line in open water without bait. To grow in the various areas of our life, we must plan our time wisely (Proverbs 24:27). This goes for our finances, families, fitness and faith.

Application: “The Big One” – Matthew 6:33
As we set out in pursuit of our dreams and goals, it’s always helpful to know the why behind what we do. For example, the primary reason I take my son fishing is to spend time with him. The fishing is the catalyst and cause that brings us together to talk, teach, bond and share. My goal is to build our relationship, the fishing is a gateway to help do that.  Likewise, answering the “whys” for other goals is equally beneficial. For example, why do we want more money? Why do we want a certain career and why do we work a what we do? The more we understand why we do what we do, or want to do, the more likely we are to align our priorities to help them become a reality. So, what’s the big one? Clearly, it’s our relationship with Jesus Christ. For through Him all things are possible, and He is the Father that can help us align our goals to be Godly desires and aligned under His purposes.

Rebel Ways

  A rebel is defined as someone who rises against authority, or regulation. For example, as a child, I quite frequently rebelled against the law of gravity by racing my bike down hills as fast as I could peddle – without a helmet. The thought of plummeting to the ground never crossed my mind. Today, when I go riding with my kids, I am quick to keep the brakes on to prevent going too fast down hills. What happened to this former rebel? Some might say I grew older and wiser. For clearly, I now understand how falling hurts and the short-term thrill of riding fast down hills isn’t worth the risk of pain and potentially breaking my bones now that I’m in my forties.

Similarly, many of the rebel ways we demonstrated in our youth eventually fade away over time. For we began to realize the damage these actions cause. However, can there be times when rebellion is a good thing? I think so, especially when it comes to conforming to those things destined to kill, steal and destroy our lives and testimonies.

Running: Are there things we run from, or towards in life? For example, do our actions indicate we are running from our responsibilities to provide, protect and pastor over our families in the most impactful ways possible? If so, perhaps a little rebellion to those things could do us some good in reprioritizing our priorities to serve more as building blocks, rather than stumbling stone (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

Working: Does work have to be stifling, stressful and suffocating, or can it actually be both fulfilling and stimulating? Some may rebel against work, and even feel enslaved by it. However, when we realize our work can actually exist as one of the greatest gateways we’ve been given to serve others and reflect the power of Christ, the way we view it, approach and engage it dramatically changes (Matthew 5:16).

Worshipping: As Christians we understand the dangers of idols in our life. For it’s those things that distract us and allure us away from having God as our greatest priority and devotion. This struggle is daily, for the Bible instructs us to be living sacrifices, but what does something that’s alive naturally try to do if it’s about to be sacrificed? Escape! Likewise, we are naturally inclined to do the same. Yet, when we maintain Christ as our priority of worship, higher than our desires for more possessions, positions, and/or promotions, it is no longer our flesh that controls us, but the power of Christ living in us that overcomes (Proverbs 3:6).

Application: “Catching A Cause” – Romans 12:2
In my younger days, I thought it cool to be the “Rebel Without A Cause”. However, I eventually realized that what I thought was cool was actually causing me to rebel against the things of God, rather than the ways of man. In reality, why would anyone want to live out their days without a cause? Rather, to have a purpose is much more meaningful, especially when it comes from God. For this provides us true joy, peace, focus and perspective, despite our circumstances, because we know we have something greater than our troubles and/or triumphs – Christ.

Raining, But Still Playing

Since the death of Prince was announced, various stories about the man have consumed the news outlets. One story in particular however stood out to me. It was when he was set to play the Super Bowl halftime show. The rain that evening was a concern for many as they weren’t sure how Prince would react, or what he would do. Yet, when they approached him about going forward and playing in the rain, he responded with confident assurance. He then went on to play a show that some have argued to be one of the best halftime shows in the history of the Super Bowl.

Clearly, I did not know Prince, or his relationship with Christ, or why he was so confident about playing in the rain, but instead of panicking, or complaining, he played and gave his best. Now, if a popular pop star can react this way to less than ideal circumstances, how much more should we as Christians react to the storms in our life?

Storms: We will all face storms, whether they be financial, physical, relational and/or emotional. It’s how we respond to them that makes all the difference. Will we cower in fear, explode in anger and/or crawl into an abyss of despair, or will we trust God and His promises that no matter how bad the storm may be, He is with us, guiding us and developing us in faith to ultimately turn our storms to our good and His glory (Romans 8:28)?

Sorrows: When sorrow strikes, it can be difficult to keep moving forward. For we feel discouraged and defeated and to put a smile on our face seems nearly impossible. Therefore, how could we possibly get out there in the world and give our best. Yet, this is when we must remember this life isn’t about us. It’s when we take our view off ourselves and refocus our hearts to Christ, we regain perspective, rely on His promises and move forward through His strength (Jeremiah 12:5).

Situations: There will always be less than ideal situations, but if we always expect perfect conditions, we will be constantly disappointed. Perhaps we have difficult people in our lives, feel trapped in a job and/or face seemingly impossible challenges. How we respond is all a matter of perspective shaped by our faith (Psalm 23:4). When we know He is with us, will help us and wants to use our situations to strengthen our witness and expose others to His truth and salvation. We get to face life with a sense of adventure and optimism as we go forth in faith trusting He will work through us and our situations for His glory.

Application: “Play On” – Psalm 16:8
Though the rains will come, we too can confidently take the field and give our best. For all things come from Him and when we surrender our life, which includes our situations, sorrows and storms to Him, we can trust nothing is out of His control. So, when we take the field, we do so in faith and to give Him glory. We lean into His strength and rely on His promises, choosing to trust and obey through this life, rather than allowing fear to have its way. 

Made Better By Our Maker

imageJesus tells us we can believe what we ask for in prayer will happen (Mark 11:24). Yet, if I’m truthful, this is difficult at times. What if what I’m asking for doesn’t happen? Fortunately, this is where our trust in God’s goodness steps in to help. For if we believe God loves us, cares for us and provides what’s best for us, then we can be confident that whatever the answer to our prayer is, it is what must be in order to deliver the greatest good. As a result, He will position our hearts to accept His answer accordingly – whether our prayer was specifically answered as requested, or modified for the better by our Maker:

Believing: When we approach God in prayer, do we believe He hears us and will answer us (1 John 5:14)? When we place unwavering confidence and trust in His answer, whether it be yes, no, not yet, or even silence, we immediately receive a tremendous blessing. We gain the peace of mind and blessed assurance that our request is with Almighty God and regardless of the outcome, it will be best.

Behaving: After we pray, how do we walk away? Do we continue to hold on, worry about and attempt to take matters back into our hands even after we have laid our requests at our Maker’s feet? Our behavior is a key indicator of our trust and faith (James 1:6). When we gain the confidence to approach, petition and trust our God with our prayers, our work, worry and restlessness greatly diminish. This is when writing our prayers in a journal can come in handy. For when we begin to grow squeamish, we can rebuild our confidence by reviewing all the prayers God has already answered and how effectively they were always handled.

Blessing: Once we receive the answers to our prayers, that isn’t the end of the blessing – because now we gain the opportunity to share how God worked in our life. We get to encourage others with our testimonies and as a result, our faith and the faith of others grow even more (Luke 8:39). For God’s blessings are always designed to be shared and multiplied. What can we share today?

Application: “Seek The Blessed Before The Blessing” – Matthew 6:33
Rather than seeking God for His blessings, we receive much more when we simply seek Him and then trust Him with whatever He chooses. When our desire is for Him, we don’t worry about the outcomes, because we already have in Him all we need. Anything He does, as they say, is simply icing on the cake.