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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Do you hear the Father calling?

Do you hear the Father calling?  He is quietly calling out to this generation, and His message for His children has not changed….

Do not fear.  My child, I love you.  You are My prized possession, why do you think otherwise?  Do not be deceived.  As a father disciplines the son he loves how much more do I bring discipline into your life?  I am refining you My child.  As pure gold and precious silver, I am refining you.

Do not seek to escape the refiner’s fire.  Do not seek to find an easy path.  I have brought you into the fire and through the fire I intend to take you.  There will be seasons of pressure, but I am with you, and I give you rest in the midst of the pressure.  You must rest in Me every moment of every day.  I am with you!

I have not given you a Spirit of fear, so do not be afraid.  I am with you.  I go before you and I come behind.  I am to the left and to the right.  I am always with you and I love you.  My child, I love you more than you can know.  My love for you is deep and wide and nothing can separate you from My love.

Do you hear the Father calling?  He is calling.  Stop for a moment today and listen.  Stop for a moment every day and listen.  Oh how He loves you!  Quiet your heart, be still and tell Him, “Lord, your servant is listening.”   And listen, for He is calling.

 

 

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Bold as a Lion

“…the righteous are bold as a lion.” (Proverbs 28:1b)

Do you ever feel timid? Do you ever feel afraid? You don’t have to.

Be bold as a lion!

And here is the secret. The righteous are bold as a lion because Jesus is their source of righteousness. And when the righteous are right with Jesus, fear vanishes. You won’t even understand where it goes. If there is fear give it to the Lord. The psalmist wrote, I sought the Lord, and He answered me, He delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4)

And what does He replace those fears with? Well, lots of things….love, peace, joy, and boldness. That’s right, when you seek the Lord, when you are right with the Lord, His righteousness makes you righteous, and this promise from Proverbs is yours to claim. The righteous are bold as a lion.

Now if you are thinking, that seems too simple…think about it like this. The Lord has already promised us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is always with us. But, we forget this, don’t we? Why do we forget? Because we get weighed down by the cares and concerns and fears of life. We start to try to figure it out, which of course leads to more fear.

But Jesus is always right there waiting for you to seek Him. As a follower of Christ, did you know that He goes before you? Isn’t that what it means to follow? And not only that, but He comes behind you, and He is to the right and to the left. If that is not enough, He hovers over you and He prepares the path you are meant to walk on.

It is the path where we choose, isn’t it? Do we choose the path of righteousness, where we are bold as a lion, or do we choose a different path. He goes with you on every path you choose. That is His promise, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” But on the path of righteousness, on that one path, that the God of the universe has prepared for you, that is the path where righteous lions walk. Choose the path of righteousness, and be bold as a lion!

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Sometimes, the answer is no…

You have read, “Ask anything in My Name, and it will be given to you.”

So why then, are some of our prayers answered with a resounding NO?

There are many mysteries of God and many secrets hidden within the hearts of people as to why prayers go unanswered. Here I am specifically writing about when the prayer is answered, but the answer is no.

In My Name, does not simply mean, that if you use the phrase “in the Name of Jesus” when you pray that He will give you everything you ask for. It means that you are agreeing with Jesus in what you are asking the Father for, and He will give you anything you ask for that He agrees with.

Think about it like this. At the place I work, one of my senior leaders from time to time will ask me to do something. If he knows that what he is asking me to do may require some doors to be opened, he will say to me, “Tell them that Mike asked me to reach out to you.” He is essentially saying, “when you ask them for help, ask them ‘in my name.'” It is always amazing to me when I give someone a call or send an email, and I say, “Mike asked me to contact you…” just how quick and complete the response is.

When Jesus says ask anything in My name, He is a saying, when you go to the Heavenly Father in prayer, say to Him, “God, Jesus said I should and talk to you. You see, well, we need food, we need shelter, we need help with.…, I’m really struggling with…., I’m really discouraged about…., I need wisdom.” And your Father in heaven knowing, that Jesus agrees with you in these requests because they are promises He has given you from His Word, will give them to you.

But sometimes we bypass the Son, and we go straight to the Father. “God, I really want….will you give it to me, in Jesus Name, Amen.”

This is like me going to HR at work, and saying, “You know, Mike said I should talk to you about a raise.” What’s going to happen? HR will call Mike, and because I took for granted our relationship, the answer will be no, and I probably will be in pretty hot water.

If we bypass the Son, if we take for granted our relationship with Him, we have no right to go to the Father. The Door won’t be opened. The answer will be no.

But, when we go to the Son, He will meet us where we are, and He will guide us through His Spirit according to His perfect will, and we will pray according His perfect will. When you pray according His perfect will, in His Name, It will be given to you.

There is relationship here. That is what it is all about. Did you know that Jesus wants relationship with you. He does. He died for you, so that you can have relationship with Him. Who does that? Jesus!

So if we find that we have not asked God for something according to His perfect will, and the answer is no, what should we do?

Look at an example from the life of King David. David had a child who was very ill, and He asked God to heal him. This is a good request right? Well yes, but if you unpack this a bit, you learn that this child was born out of an adulterous affair. And in order to cover up the adulterous affair, David sent the women’s husband, who was a friend of David, to most dangerous front in battle. And if that’s not enough, David, had the rest of the men retreat leaving this poor man alone to die. David’s actions against this man were nothing short of Murder.

But looking at his sick little child, David asked God to heal him. He asked God for something that was good. But, for reasons known only to God, it was not according to His will. The answer was no, and the child died. Look how David responds.

“Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was still alive, we spoke to him and he did not listen to our voice. How then can we tell him that the child is dead, since he might do himself harm!” But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; so David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” And they said, “He is dead.” So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the Lord and worshiped.” (2 Samuel 12:18-20a)

He worshiped the Lord.

Regardless of how the Good Lord chooses to answer our prayers, I believe our proper response to every answer is a heart of thankfulness and worship toward the Lord God Almighty. It is easy to say thank You when the answer is yes. But sometimes, the answer is no. Such times truly test the attitude of our hearts toward our God.

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God Appointed Change

Recently, I was very discouraged with my work, and a good friend of mine said to me, “If you were your own life coach, what would you tell yourself?” And I said, “Get a new job.”

Horrible advice!

When you are discouraged in your work, that is not reason enough to look for a new job. You first need to understand what it is that you are discouraged about, and ask yourself, “Do I have the ability to change anything about this circumstance?” Once you have asked and answered this question, then and only then should you consider if now is the time to pursue a new job. The fact of that matter is that the very circumstance that is bringing you discouragement might just be an obstacle that the Good Lord has placed in your way so that you learn to look to Him and press into Him for the strength to overcome.  And until you do, He will keep this obstacle before you.  Looking for a new job will only add to your discouragement.

Is the change you seek a God appointed change? Or are you simply looking to escape pain and discouragement?  These questions demand answers before you embark on a search for a new job.

The Bible tells of a group of people who faced discouragement in the work that they did. They were the exiled people of Israel, and through circumstances, ordained by God, some of them were sent back to Israel to rebuild the walls of their city.  Many came against them, and mocked them.  Still they pressed on, for this was their God appointed change.

There was one man in particular named Baruch, who worked differently than the rest.  The Bible tells us that Baruch “zealously repaired another section” of the wall.  (Nehemiah 3:20)

I think in the midst of discouragement, rather than falling away or looking for a way out, many times, we need to press into the Lord and work zealously, so that we can put the discouraging obstacle behind us, in order to move on to what the Lord has planned for us.

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