Fight the Good Fight

Fight the good fight of faith. (I Timothy 6:12)

These battles will soon pass, and on glorious shores you will look back with thankfulness for the lessons and the endurance and the perseverance these momentary struggles built into your very soul. You will look back on these battles and you will smile, for they will be done, and they will be behind you. For now, as the battles rage, keeping looking up, fix your eyes on Jesus, and smile, for you know your best days lie ahead.

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Not by Sight

I wanted to share an excerpt from a book I am working on.  This is from a chapter titled “Not by Sight.”  Hope you enjoy it and are encouraged by it…

“Now faith is the assurance or the confirmation, of the things we hope for, being the proof of things we do not see and the conviction of their reality; faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses.” (Hebrews 11:1 AMP) The writer of Hebrews goes on to instruct us that “without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must necessarily believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6 AMP) So it is then, if we do not walk by faith, we cannot take a deeper walk with our Lord. But faith is hard isn’t it?

We want to see and know before we act, so that when we act, we can have confidence and conviction in the outcomes of our actions. But God expects us who walk by faith to walk in such a way that indicates to Him that we know and have conviction that the actions He is leading us in are indeed His good purposes for our lives, so that when we look back and actually see our steps, we will see the great provision and providence of the Mighty Hand of God. This is the proof of what we do not see. We know the One we hope in, that He is good and faithful and that He will never let us go. Never! And we know that this One sees what we do not, and so we put faith in Him to be the One Who sees for us as we walk.

So why is there such a struggle with faith then? It’s our eyes. They get in the way. They only see what is, but they do now see what God sees.

In my own life, my eyes have seen a lost job and what this meant for my family, and fear entered my heart. But God saw an opportunity to teach me to know Him and to trust Him as my provider as He provides for our every need. My eyes saw a pile of debt from a failed business venture, and my heart said, “there is no hope, I will always be a slave to debt.” But God saw an opportunity to teach me how to be a good steward of His great provisions, and how only He can set me free. My eyes saw my 6 year old son, with a serious bone infection in his jaw laying in a bed prepped for surgery, and fear gripped my whole being, and the “what ifs” began to creep into my mind. “What if it’s cancer? What if he dies?” But God saw an opportunity to teach me that He is our great physician and that He would guide the surgeon’s hand and that He would guide the doctor’s treatment because He loves that 6 year old boy more than I can ever grasp or understand. Today, my eyes see my 12 year old son adjusting to his braces, which are necessary to correct for the tooth that fell out of his jaw during that surgery 6 years earlier. And I look back and I see His great provision and His providence and I am confident in and convinced by the One I hope in, know that His eyes see what mine cannot.

These are some of the life lessons that my loving Heavenly Father has so richly used to teach me that my walk with Him is not by sight. So what do your eyes see? Do you see a broken relationship full of pain and sorrow? God sees an opportunity to bring healing and restoration and joy. Do you see a terminal illness that swallows hope like a black hole? God sees an opportunity to display the glory of His eternal sovereignty, and that nothing surprises Him. Nothing! He sees an opportunity to be your strength to persevere, and if He wills, to be your physical healing. But more than this to be the healer of your soul. Do your eyes see emotional pain that is so deep that no drug, no drink, no food, no pleasure, no escape, and no high is ever enough to quench it? God sees an opportunity to give you of Himself so that you will grow to the knowledge and understanding that He is all sufficient.

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Strategic Planning

Successful businesses engage in strategic planning on a regular basis. A leadership team will lay out their plans for the next month, the next quarter, the next year, the next three years, and so on. They do this so that they can set goals and provide vision and direction. Then, once plans have been set into motion, success is measured in the outcomes of those plans. Sometimes the plans come together, and more often than not, the plans need course corrections in order to ensure success. Meetings upon meetings are held, stakeholders come to agreement, and revised plans are set into motion.

The business of our personal lives should follow a similar planning process. Strategic life planning is very important if we hope to live successful lives. But that is easier said than done. Have you ever found yourself trying to get every aspect of your life in perfect order so that you won’t have to worry about tomorrow or next week or next year? Then inevitably something unexpected happens and your perfect plans are not so perfect anymore, and the order that you set into place is suddenly chaos.

Chaos often comes because we forget to consult the Key Stakeholder in our life during the planning process. The Bible gives us instruction about how we should plan. In Proverbs 16:3 we read, “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.” (NIV).  The instruction here is very clear, when we plan we must first commit our plans to the Lord, but what does it mean, “He will establish your plans?” Well, it doesn’t mean that God is waiting to hear your plans so that He knows what to do. I have heard it said that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.

“He will establish your plans” means that God will lead you in the perfect plans He has for you. When we commit our plans to the Lord, we are saying, “God from my point of view, and in the wisdom You have given me, here is what I think I should do. But I acknowledge that you are God, and I am not, and I am committing my ways to You.” When we come to the Almighty, with a humble and sincere heart, He does not laugh. No, I believe His very Spirit is moved and He draws near to us, and He directs our plans with His plans so that His plans become our plans.  And once this transaction occurs, He leads us day by day in the perfect plans that He has for us.

A.B Simpson once observed that “it is very hard to live a lifetime at once, or even a year, but it is delightfully easy to live a day at a time.” Planning is a very good thing. But when we plan, we should always commit our plans to the Lord, allowing Him to direct our steps, day by day. When we do this, it is delightfully easy to live day by day because, we know what ever may come has been committed to the Lord, and we rest in Him and in His perfect plan for our lives, rather than in our less than perfect plans.

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Even at Low Tide, the Ocean is Full

We must not be disappointed if the tides are not always equally high. Even at low tide the ocean is just as full. – A. B. Simpson

I have often wondered why the Lord leads his children to dry places in life…places where it seems that the Lord has somehow taken a part of Himself from us, as if that were possible. It is in these times that our hearts are most tempted with discouragement, our faith most tempted with doubt, and our eyes most tempted to tell our feet where to walk. When these times come, we must remember that the fullness of the Lord is always with us, and we are meant to continually turn to Him.

Even at low tide, the ocean is full.  We are not always called to mount on wings like eagles, nor are we always called to run. There are days when we are simply called to walk. Remember that no matter what season of life the good Lord leads you in to, if you have made Him Lord of your life, at all times His fullness is with you. He never leaves you nor forsakes you. So while emotions may be low, and there are few hints of the warm excitement of the Holy Spirit stirring the heart, still His fullness is in you, and He is whispering, “I love you my child. Why are you so downcast? I love you. Walk with Me…just walk with Me.”

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Come, Eat, Play

There is a story I once read about a little boy who buried his little feet in the soil of his mother’s garden. And when his mother found him there, she said, “What on earth are you doing?” Without pausing, (for he had thought his plan through, as only little boys do), the little boy responded, “Mommy, I am trying to grow to be a man.” To this response she laughed out loud and with a big cheerful smile she said, “My dear child, you can never grow bigger by trying. Come on inside, eat plenty of good food, and enjoy many hours of play, and soon enough, you will grow to be a man without even trying.”

I think there is a good lesson here about how we are meant to grow spiritually. Come, Eat, Play.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NASB)

Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never be hungry…just as the living Father sent Me and I live by the Father, even so [whoever takes Me for his food and is nourished by Me] shall live through and because of Me. This is the Bread that came down from heaven…he who takes this Bread for his food shall live forever.” (John 6:35a, 57-58 AMP)

Jesus said, “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10b, AMP) And in the book of Psalms we are instructed, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4, NASB) Enjoying the life that Jesus gives and delighting yourself in the Lord is the secret fertilizer for growth. How many have come to the Lord and are fed by Him, but then religion seems to get in the way, and growth remains elusive?

You have to play! The promised desires of your heart, means that as you delight yourself in the Lord, as you spend seasons of play and enjoyment with Him and in Him, He will place His desires for your life in your heart. And from this place you will be led in paths of joy and peace and growth. He will grow you in ways that you never imagined. He will grow you in ways that you never believed possible.

So if you desire to grow spiritually, come to Him, be fed by Him, and delight yourself in Him. And most of all, stop trying.

The Bible says it this way, “Cease striving, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10, NASB) As you do this, you just might hear the Father whispering, “My dear child, you can never grow bigger by trying. Come on inside, eat plenty of good food, and enjoy many hours of play, and soon enough, you will grow to be the person I intend you to be without even trying.”

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He Never Says Goodbye

Recently I read a quote that gave me a deeper, yet simple understanding of the great promise from God’s word that He never leaves or forsakes those that belong to Him. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

“Jesus never says goodbye, He stays.” – AB Simpson

When I read this, it occurred to me, in every conversation I have ever had with the Lord, and in every conversation I will have with Him, with every ‘Amen,’ He has never said nor will He ever say goodbye. In every season of sadness and hardship, He is faithful to encourage me, for He never says goodbye. When the troubling waters of life come rushing in like flood, and they are so deep that I begin to think I will never touch bottom again, He is there walking on the waters with an outstretched hand to lift me out of them and carry me through them, for He never says goodbye. When I fail and am brokenhearted before Him, He is so close to me to forgive me and restore me, for He never says goodbye. And in every season of celebration, when life is as is should be, He is there at the table laughing with me as we enjoy each other’s company, for He never says good bye.

I am His, and He is mine. In every step I take in this life, He is right there walking with me, leading me, and guiding me. The psalmist wrote “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11).

In other words, in this life He gives me knowledge of the way I should go so that while on my journey, He is ever leading me to life. But He does not give me knowledge, send me on my way, and say goodbye. No, He never says goodbye. As I go in the way He leads me, He gives me His very presence, and in that place alone, He fills me with joy over and over for all the days of my life. But, He never says goodbye. Finally, when this life fades away, and I move on into eternity, He has promised pleasures which are pure and good and happy and fun forever and ever! We will live with Him forever, and He will never say goodbye. So it is then, in ever season of life, both now and forever, He never says goodbye.

Let us consider the greatness of His faithfulness and rest in this truth and upon these promises, living every day with all of our focus on Jesus so that we rest secure stayed upon the One who always stays with us. The One who never says goodbye.

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Can I Really Trust God?

I think Jerry McGuire said it best, “We live in a cynical world. A cynical world.”

In the midst of this cynical world, do you ever find it hard to trust people? And when you go to church, and you hear someone telling you to trust God, do you think to yourself, “How can I trust a God I can’t see, when I can’t even trust people who I do see?”

As the saying goes, this is the crux of the matter, isn’t it? Can I really trust God? Can I trust Him with my life, and everything that is important to me? Can I trust Him with my family, my job, my finances, and my health? Can I trust Him when I am afraid, when I am frustrated, and when I am overwhelmed? The list goes on and on, but the question is the same? Can I trust God?

I don’t mean to insult anyone with the simplicity of my response, but the answer to every one of these ‘Can I trust’ questions is a resounding YES!

You may be thinking right now, “but how, my problems are too big?” or “I am so afraid.”

“How can I really trust God?”

God has given you everything you need to trust Him, in His Son, Jesus.  Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in Me.” (John 14:1)

He gives us three commands here, three commands that are the key to trusting God in every circumstance.

First, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Troubles are common to every life, and in every life, they are the mortal enemy of trust. Troubles seem to sweep in like a flood, and in the midst of the flood waters, our trust in the Lord is often drowned. But Jesus gives us a command here to not allow that to happen.

What…How?!?

When troubles come, and they will come, choose not to be troubled by them. Don’t look at them, don’t think about them, don’t stress over them, don’t lose sleep over them…whatever it is you do when troubles come, don’t and instead trust God.

This is the second command, “Trust God.” God is so much BIGGER than every trouble this life throws at us. And He loves us so much. He loves us SO much. He has the power to stop every trouble, and one day He will, but for now He allows troubles so that we will learn to trust Him. So the next time troubles come knocking at your door, turn to God and tell Him, “I trust You.”

But you say, “I have tried that, and the troubles still find a way into my soul, and they begin to eat away at me from the inside, until all I can see are the troubles.”

I understand. I’ve been there, and I have learned that this is why Jesus said, “Trust also in Me.”

This is the final command, “Trust Jesus.” There is a divine mystery at work in this final command. When you put your trust in Jesus, and you have received Him and make Him Lord of your life, He enters your heart and gives to you a new life. The Bible says you are a new creation. And from this secret place in your heart, He begins to live His life out through you. It truly is a divine mystery. When troubles come, and you trust in Jesus, He is the One who carries you through and delivers you from trouble. He has made this promise to all who love Him and Trust Him.

“‘Because he loves Me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges My Name. He will call on Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.'” (Psalm 91:14-15)

“I will be with you…I will deliver you…” What great promises from the Lord that we should learn to claim in every storm! There’s an old hymn that my parents used to sing to me when I was afraid to teach me to remember the promises of God and that I truly can trust Him with everything. It is a very simple hymn about how sweet it is to put our trust in Jesus.

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise;
Just to know, Thus saith the Lord.

I think sometimes we make life too complicated, and we forget just how simple life can be when we walk with our Lord in simple trust. Are you trusting Him today? Next time troubles come, and fear and doubt enter your heart, don’t give it any ground. Instead remember His promises, and Trust Jesus!

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Empty Can’t Fill Empty

Have you ever found yourself trying to fill the emptiness within, with the emptiness in the world? I have found myself there more often than I’d like to admit. And every time, I am reminded that empty can’t fill empty. Only fullness can fill emptiness.

When we seek to fill our emptiness with the emptiness offered by the kingdom of this world, sure, we might feel full for a moment, or a day, or even a week, but the end result is always the same, emptiness. So we go back for more and repeat the vicious cycle, and too often, we are worse off at the end of each cycle. Are you are in such a cycle? Do you desire to be set free?

Jesus came to this earth to set you free. (Luke 4:18) And once He sets you free, you are free to receive His fullness. One day when He was teaching He said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

There is a lie about being filled that we too often listen to, and there is secret we need to understand if we are going to truly be filled. The lie goes something like this, “If I turn to Jesus, look at everything I have to give up.” But it’s a lie. The truth is that when you turn to Jesus, you only give up what you already know to be empty. Here is the secret that the lie wants to hide from you, when you turn to Jesus, you no longer have to try to fill empty with empty, because He freely pours out His fullness into your life.

Many times empty pursuits are actually good things, like a good career, a nice home, food to eat, and clothes to wear. Even though these are all good, they become empty when they become the focus. When such things are the focus, we become consumed with them, and we worry about them, which leads us to take our eyes off of Jesus. My friends, anything we do in life that takes our focus off of Jesus, is empty.

So what should we do? One day, when Jesus was teaching about the emptiness that earthly treasures offer, and our basic needs of food, and water, and shelter, He concluded His remarks with this instruction.  “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33). “All these things,” sounds like fullness to me. Let us lay down out empty pursuits in the kingdom of this world and seek first the Kingdom of God.

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Hope Continually

But as for me, I will hope continually (Psalm 71:14a)

The Psalmist made this promise to God because he knew the character of the One he placed his hope in. He knew and understood that the God he hoped in continually was the same God that Paul wrote these words about many years later.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

So if you are up against something today that feels bigger than you, hope continually in the Lord God Almighty. For He is bigger than anything you face.  And, when you put your hope and your trust in Him, He promises that He will be with you in the midst of the trouble (Psalm 91).  Do not despair! Do not lose hope! Hope continually!

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Drip, Drip, Drip

Recently, I opened my refrigerator to discover that the air inside the fridge was surprisingly NOT COLD.  (Why is it when the refrigerator breaks, we panic about losing $20 of food and leftovers?  I mean the day after Thanksgiving, now that is a time to panic, but a few days before pay day, and the fridge is almost empty, if there is ever a good time for the fridge to break, that is it.  But, I digress.)

So, at 9pm on a Thursday night, we headed out to the local refrigerator store.  While at the store, I became like a man in a mid-life crisis shopping for a shiny red sports car.  (I think my 99 Camry was actually jealous.)  I think maybe the excitement came from the fact that this was our first major purchase since starting Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace 4 years ago. (Don’t tell Dave, that we still have 6 months to go, but I just couldn’t bear the thought of buying another 1950’s style fridge, which of course we bought in year 1 of Financial Peace.  Again, I digress)

So there I am, in the local refrigerator store, and I see it.  It was beautiful.  I walked up to this stunning machine, put both my hands on it, and I said, “this is the one.”  The salesmen came over and explained that this model had dual cooling units, which will keep your food fresher longer.  I thought to myself, “you had me at dual cooling units.”

Fast forward to Friday, and I can’t wait to get home from work to see my shiny new toy (don’t judge).  I walk in, and what do I see…drip, drip, drip…from the water dispenser.  But I refused to let a few drops of water ruin my excitement, so I pulled out the trouble shooting guide to solve the pesky dripping problem.  I then pulled my shiny new toy (I said, don’t judge) out from the wall to turn off the water, and what do I see…DRIP, DRIP, DRIP….from the water line,  and a rather large puddle of water on the hard wood floor.  NOT GOOD!  I turned off the water, cleaned up the mess, and went to the local hardware store to buy some plumbing supplies.

Well, after I got over the frustration of the fact that the installation crew from the local refrigerator store left a mess for me to clean up, it occurred to me, that if it was not for the little drip, drip, drip, I would not have found the larger DRIP, DRIP, DRIP, until the damage was already done.   I was very thankful that the good Lord gave me a little warning to help me avoid a BIG problem.

The book of Proverbs has a word about this…The wise see danger ahead and avoid it, but fools keep going and get into trouble.  (Proverbs 22:3 EXB) Now I am not calling myself wise, or anyone fools, I am simple saying that it is wise to listen to and pay attention to the warnings from the Lord, and it is foolish not to.   Are there any small warnings of danger the good Lord has put in your path to help direct your steps?  Listen and Obey.  Not much more I can add to this instruction.  Listen and Obey pretty much covers it.

What’s that dear, “you say the new ice maker isn’t making any ice, and there is an image of ice cubes flashing on my shiny new toy?”  UNBELIEVABLE!  Now what was I reading in James the other day about looking at trials as an opportunity for joy.  Who knew the good Lord can use a busted refrigerator, I mean my shiny new toy, to fill my heart with joy!

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