God Calls Us to be Humbly Daring!

 

For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth.  By You I have been sustained from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb; my praise is continually of You.

Psalm 71:5-6 (NASB)peak-experience

Psalm 71, written by David, speaks of God as a refuge and fortress and rock in the midst of the plots and schemes of ruthless men against him.  As I read again this morning verses 5-6 stood out to me.  It is clear that our great God is our refuge and strength in times of trouble.  If you’re facing trials and difficulties, know that you can find salvation and help in Him.

But as I read these verses this morning, the word that jumped off the page was confidence.  David declares that the Lord has been his confidence since his youth.  David understood there was no room for self-reliance.  Sure, there were huge failures in his life, but in the end, he always returned to the truth that without the Lord, he was hopeless.  Think of David’s defeat of Goliath, his willingness to trust God’s timing in becoming king as he fled from Saul, and his reliance upon God as he led Israel.

Two Mission-Cripping Mindsets
As you consider your own life, maybe you realize you are looking to yourself for confidence in far too many instances.  Doing this leads to two mission-crippling mindsets:

  1. Pride – If you fail to recognize God as the strength and provider of all things in your life, you begin to take credit for things that only God deserves.  This makes you a glory thief, and God will not share His glory!  This pride will quickly lead to Kingdom ineffectiveness.
  2. Fear – The opposite mindset created by self-reliance is that of fear.  If you believe it is up to you to change the world in your strength and abilities and you recognize how short you fall in being able to do this, you will be handcuffed by fear.  You’ll never dare to do great things because you think its up to you.  This too hinders you from experiencing the fullness of what God wants to do through you.

A Proper Balance
When we find our confidence in the Lord, we’ll find proper balance between pride and fear.  Pride is dispelled by confidence in the Lord because we recognize God as the source of power working through us to accomplish His mission.

Fear is dispelled when we understand its not up to us. All God is asking from us is surrender and obedience, and when we do this, we’ll see Him do things through us we never dreamed of doing.  We will risk boldly when we know it is Him working in us.

Both of these proper mindsets give God all glory for what He does.

O Lord, may we find our confidence in You today, and may this keep us humble while daring greatly as we see You at work through us to change the world.

Rest in Jesus,

Andy

 

I’ve Got a Dream…I’ve Got a Dream!

Snuggly_DucklingMy girls love the story of Rapunzel told through the Disney movie Tangled.  We have watched it dozens of times.  To be honest, I kinda like it too.  One of our favorite scenes in the movie comes when Flynn Rider, the petty thief turned hero, in his attempts to scare Rapunzel back to her tower takes her to the Snuggly Duckling tavern.  In this scene, filled with an assortment of hardened criminals, Rapunzel shares her dreams of seeing the “glowing lights” that fill the sky every year on her birthday.  This leads to a song and dance routine featuring all of these characters declaring they have dreams too.

The comedy comes in their declaration of these dreams.  Here you have some of the toughest, meanest, scariest criminals in the world declaring their dreams of being a concert pianist, to another’s desire to fall in love, to Tor’s desire to quit and become a florist, Gunther’s desire to do interior design, Ulf’s dream of doing mime, Attila’s love for baking, Bruiser’s knitting, Killer’s sewing, Fang’s puppet shows, and finally Vladimir’s collection of ceramic unicorns. B9B037QIMAEveOv

It’s a hilarious scene, but ultimately it points out a truth that all of us experience.  No matter who we are, what we’ve done, or where we find ourselves, we all have dreams and desires deep within us that we want to pursue.

God’s Word speaks directly to this, and gives us direction on how to go about seeing our dreams and desires come true.

Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4 (NASB)

We all have dreams and aspirations.  It doesn’t matter if you are deeply committed to following Jesus or if you are consumed with pursuing the ways of this sinful world, there is something inside you that leads to a pursuit of a goal.  As in most things, there are two overarching ways we can pursue the fulfillment of our dreams; God’s way and man’s way.

Man’s way is self-reliant.  God’s way is selflessly surrendered.  Psalm 37 is David’s formula for seeing your dreams come true.  Many read Psalm 37:4 and assume this is the proof-text for “name it, claim it” or “prosperity theology.” A mindset that says, “If you give your life to follow God, you can ask for whatever you want and God in a ‘genie-like’ way will grant your wish.”

This is NOT what David, nor the Lord intends for us to understand when we read this verse.  I know this because of the first phrase of verse 4.  “Delight yourself in the Lord…” Find your hopes, dreams, and aspirations coming from a deep personal delight in God.  The “name it, claim it” and “prosperity gospel” people do not ultimately delight in the Lord.  Their delight is founded on the things of this world. They delight in position, possession, and prosperity.

Those who truly delight themselves in the Lord, do so because He is delightful.  His the all-powerful, sovereign God of creation who has shown us His great love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and perfectly holy character through His Son, Jesus Christ.  He has given us His Word that we may know Him intimately.  He has filled us through the Holy Spirit and granted us abundant life, sonship, purpose and meaning.

It is in this reality that followers of Jesus understand Psalm 37:4.  We know these verses point us to a deeper delight in God Himself, not the things this world can offer.  And we know as we discover this deeper delight leading to personal desire, it will be met by an inexhaustible God who is happy to reveal Himself to us who delight in Him.

So, while you may share Gunther’s affinity for interior design or Fang’s love of puppet shows, or any other of the countless possibilities you could pursue, ultimately, you’ll find a soul-satisfying fulfillment in your pursuit of these dreams when you pursue them to bring delight to the Lord.  When you do this, indeed, He will give you the desires of your heart.

Rest in Jesus,

Andy

Take Initiative!

Ant-individual-Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest.  How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?

“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest”–your poverty will come in like a vagabond and your need like an armed man.

Proverbs 6:6-11(NASB)

When I read these verses I usually think of their warning about laziness.  But what stands out to me in these verses this morning is more about taking initiative.  I believe we often sit back and wait for direction from a boss or pastor because we fear failure.  We want to be able to point to someone else when failure comes and say, “they told me to do it that way.”

This is not leadership in any form or fashion.  The ant doesn’t wait for a directive from a leader.  She knows what must be done, and she gets to it.  No delay. No hesitation.  Many times Christians will use the excuse of “waiting to hear from the Lord” for their complacency.  Certainly it is important for us to make space to wait on the Lord and hear from Him.  But when we leave our prayer closet each morning, it is impossible for us to say, “I’m not sure what God would have me do today.” God’s word is crystal clear:

LOVE GOD, LOVE PEOPLE, MAKE DISCIPLES

Often it is our pride that keeps us sidelined.  Our pride says, “If I fail, people will think less of me.” What a lie!  Consider these perspectives on “failure.”

I haven’t failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Thomas Edison

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.

Henry Ford

To simply settle for the status quo way of doing things and waiting for someone to give you step-by-step instructions is not the way God wants you to live and lead.

Being used by God to change the world will never happen without risk.  But really, how risky is it to try valiantly and courageously to do something at the very center of the heart of God?  Our great God who has all the supply will never leave us.  Our great God who knows the path and will guide us in this pursuit if we are simply willing to step out in faith will accomplish things through us beyond what we could imagine (see Ephesians 3:20). What appears to be great risk in the eyes of the world is no risk at all when founded upon the will of God. But this will not happen through the life of someone who is unwilling to take initiative and lead.

So today, do not sit back.  Do not wait.  Get to the task at hand without wavering!

Rest in Jesus,

Andy

The Passionate Pursuit…

baseballI remember the early mornings.  I’d rise before the sun, wipe the sleep from my eyes, slip on some shorts, a t-shirt, and shoes, and make my way downstairs to the garage where my dad had constructed a hitting station.  Before most kids my age had thought about getting up, I’d take 100 swings off a tee.  I had a driving passion in my pursuit of being a great baseball player.

For me, as a young man, my dream of being a professional baseball player altered every aspect of my life.  It’s what I was taught was necessary to be the best.  As a result, I played Div. 1 baseball in the SEC at Vanderbilt, and then had a five-year minor league baseball career with the New York Yankees.  My passionate pursuit paid off, but in the end my career ended and all those swings and pitches thrown are now a distant memory.

But deep within the fibers of who God made me to be, I find an internal fire that drives me.  The passion that drove me to pursue a baseball career has now shifted to something more lasting; something that won’t be cut short by old age or fading physical ability.

Solomon, writing to his son in Proverbs 4:5, is making a passionate plea…

Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth.

Proverbs 4:5 (NASB)

There is an urgency in Solomon’s words almost as if he is pleading with his son in a matter of life and death.  Over the course of our lives, it is, indeed, a matter of life and death.  When we seek wisdom from the proper channels it becomes a source of direction leading to life.  Wisdom found in God’s Word and the godly counsel of fellow saints is indeed life-giving and paves the way to the experience of not only abundant life in Christ personally, but also a Kingdom effectiveness that leads us to a tremendous purpose and fulfillment.

Think about the different roles you play in your life, and consider how you are pursuing wisdom in each area.  For me personally, I need wisdom as a:

  • Follower of Jesus
  • Minister of the Gospel
  • Husband
  • Father
  • Friend
  • Son/Son-in-law
  • Disciple-maker
  • Disciple
  • Employee
  • Servant
  • Neighbor
  • Missionary
  • Evangelist
  • Teacher

Wow! When I think of these areas, there are none I am willing to let slide.  But as I look at the level of passion I am investing in each area, I know there is a need for improvement.  As I reflect back on my passion in pursuit of a baseball career, I am sad to say that I pushed harder to be better there than I do in many of these categories, and this cannot happen.

…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31b (NASB)

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.

Colossians 3:23 (NASB)

So why passionately pursue wisdom? Because anything less is sin and an affront to our Savior. I see the importance in a fresh way this morning.  No more laziness or passive approaches to these pursuits.  By God’s grace, I am pressing on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Won’t you join me?

Rest in Jesus,

Andy

Which Path to Follow in 2016?

Fork-In-Forest-darkerOne of the biggest questions asked is, “What is God’s will for my life?”  This question is even more popular at this time of year when we have entered a new year full of possibilities.  No one wants to miss God’s will for their life.  If you love Jesus, there is no where you would rather be.  So how do you know which path to follow in 2016?  God’s Word is not silent on the subject… Continue reading

Shadows of Redemption

cross-shadowGod’s story begins with the creation of all things.  God completes His work in six days found in chapter 1 of Genesis and chapter 2 is marked by God resting from His work and finally creating woman as a helper suitable for the man.  All is well.

If you’re familiar with the story, you know how quickly this changes because the next chapter brings “the serpent” and his temptation into the story.  Satan came to wreck the beautiful creation God had made, and he succeeded.  As a result, God’s perfect fellowship with His creation was lost, and His perfect rescue plan was put in motion. It is in these first chapters of God’s Word that we get our first shadow of redemption. Continue reading

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Anonymity and secrecy are a myth.  The recent Ashley Madison hacking scandal made this abundantly clear as over 30 million people were exposed as members of a website whose primary purpose was to help men and women connect to have affairs.  This exposure has left millions of homes and marriages shaken, and some broken beyond repair.
These 30 million people were lured into this trap under the promise of anonymity. “No one will ever know” was the promise/lie that led them to take this step. Now they find themselves exposed for all the world to see.
But what if this hack never happened? What if today 30 million people were still “secretly” pursuing an affair? No matter how secret your sins appear, Hosea makes it very clear that secrecy is a myth.
You may be able to hide your sin from your spouse, friends, or family. You may be able to keep those things in the dark, but ultimately, you are entirely exposed when it comes to God.  “He sees them all.”  “Small” sins or the big disgusting sins like Ashley Madison are all the same to a holy God.
Though we would like to point fingers at those on “the list” the truth is all of us have been laid bare before God.  Nothing is hidden.  This is why we all need Jesus.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23)
None are innocent.  To know Christ is to be honest about our sin and struggle.  To turn from it and to run into the merciful, forgiving, loving arms of God.  There we can find healing, forgiveness, and strength to go to war against the devil and the sinful tug of the flesh. So before you begin pointing fingers of accusation or boldly declaring “they’re getting what they deserve” stop and realize these men and women who have had their sins exposed to the world need Jesus to cleanse them…and so do you.

Perfect Peace

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We have so much in our lives that can steal our peace and rob us of joy.  Difficult circumstances, unexpected outcomes, and overall hard times can come in and prevent us from experiencing the abundant life that Jesus has come to give us. (See John 10:10).

Last Thursday we got news that our neighbors across the street suffered the tragic loss of their 8 year old daughter. No former medical issues, no idea anything could or would happen.  One minute she was finishing her jujitsu practice, and the next minute she had collapsed.  They rushed her to the children’s hospital, but there was nothing they could do.  Ella Armstrong was gone, leaving behind a mom and dad and three siblings.

What do you do in situations like this? If it were me, what would I be like today? I’ll be honest, I’d be wrecked.  But for each of us and for families like the Armstrongs, truth and promises like those found in the verses above will help sustain us and get us through difficult times.

So how do we put these verses into practice?  

First, “perfect peace” is what is offered to those who trust in the Lord. So the first step is to trust Him.  Remember that even in the face of unbelievably difficult circumstances, God’s love and care for us never changes.  I’m not saying that’s easy to remember in the face of tragedy, but it is where peace is found, so we must pray and find a way to trust Him.

Second, our thoughts must be fixed on Him. You’ll never get over the heartbreak of a difficult circumstance by thinking about the circumstance.  You must focus your attention on God; His love, His grace, His mercy, His goodness, and His sovereignty.  We do this by reading and meditating on His Word.  Find promises like those in these verses and remember that God is faithful, and His word is true.

In this perfect peace, we will find a deeper trust in Him.  We will see Him for who He is, “our eternal Rock!”

So whether your facing the loss of a dear loved one, your facing difficulties in your job or marriage, your struggling with rebellious children, or life just doesn’t seem to go as you have planned, remember, there is peace available to us. Trust Him and fix your mind on Him, and He will meet you in the difficult places and walk with you through them, for He cares for you.

Rest in Jesus,

Andy

Foundations to Wisdom

  
 No one wants to be known as a fool. We want to be wise in every aspect of our lives. 

So where do we turn? Colleges, Universities, the self-help section of Barnes and Noble, or maybe older/wiser men?
Education and experience has its place and is valuable, but notice what Solomon (the wisest man to ever live) says wisdom must be built upon as the foundation…”the fear of the Lord.”
Our pursuit of wisdom and understanding must begin with the One who created all and knows all. Books, universities, and the wisdom of those who have gone before you have their value, but what you learn there must have, as its foundation, a proper view and pursuit of God.
With this foundation, we can live what Paul describes in Ephesians 4:14 –
…we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.

Seek wisdom. It begins with God and His Word!

Rest in Jesus 

Andy

Which Way Do I Go?

  
A classic passage that we need to be reminded of often. So often we try to walk through life and make major decisions based upon our understanding. 

Why? Why would we try to figure it out on our own when we have the God of all creation as our Heavenly Father? He knows all. He knows our beginning from our end. He knows the plans he has for us. If we will seek Him, He will reveal the steps we should take. When we do, we’ll find ourselves at the center of His will for our lives, and there is no better place to be.

Rest in Jesus,

Andy