Thursday, January 31, 2013

Taking Risks

Over the last few months I've had some posts for here that I've written, but not had the courage to post. With a writing group that I'm part of we were challenged to write something that scares us and then share it.

I've done half of that. I've written it, but that was the easy part. It's the sharing of it that is a little more difficult.

This has caused me to think a lot about the whole idea of taking risks in our lives. About taking chances with things we do.

Not uncalculated or stupid risks. But planned, carefully thought-out risks.

Those are the things that make life interesting. Without risk our lives are boring and predictable.

The times in my life I look back on as being exciting or even just being enjoyable, are the times when I took a risk of some kind. They weren't always big risks, but even the little things can change things.

The times in my life that were the most boring and predictable are the time when I just stayed where it was safe and I refused to take any risks. That's not the way I want to live.

Taking risks is not something I do naturally. I would much rather stay where I know it's safe. It's my usual tendency, but it's not really a satisfying way to live.

What risk do you need to take?

What is holding you back from taking that risk?

When will you take the risk?

{The posts I've written that led me to writing this post, will probably be posted one day, but I don't know when. I' may have made you curious about them, but you'll have to wait until that is a risk I'm taking in sharing them.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What Do You Have?

". . . but what I do have I give you." (Acts 6:3)

In Acts 3, Peter and John are greeted by a lame beggar at the Temple gate. The beggar had been carried there and is asking for alms - for money. The makes the request to everyone who passes by, including Peter and John. Since they have no money to give to him, they give him what they do have instead.

In Acts 3:6-7 Peter says these words, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Probably the last thing the man was expecting. He was healed and walked from that place he had been carried to every day.

I was listening to a message on this passage of Scripture a couple of days ago and those few words from verse 6 jumped out at me.

". . . but what I do have I give you."
Peter and John didn't have money to give the man. They had something different they could offer him. The gave the lame beggar healing - he was now able to walk.

The speaker I was listening to made the point that we can only give to other people what we actually have to give. The same as Peter and John did here.

We can only give what we have to those around us - whether materially or spiritually. If we don't have it ourselves, there is no way for us to pass it on to another person.

It's most obvious in the physical realm. It we don't have the money, we can't give it to someone else. If we don't have food, we can't give it to someone else.

It's when it comes to spiritual things that it can become more difficult to see how this looks. If we don't have a confidence in who we are in Christ, we can't give it to someone else. Probably, the biggest one I've learned with this blog is that if I haven't started the journey of learning what I write about for myself, I will struggle to communicate to others.

The good news in all of this is that God doesn't ask us to give we don't have. He only asks us to give what we have.

". . . but what I do have I give you."

What do you have to give?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Believing God Hears Your Prayers

"Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." (John 11:41-42)

Those are the words Jesus prayed right before He raised Lazarus from the dead. A Bible study I was working on earlier today made a comment about Jesus' confidence in God hearing His prayers. I hadn't noticed that before, but now I can't stop thinking about it.

Yes, Jesus was God. But when He walked on this earth, He was human and He was subject to the same limitations as we are. Jesus seems very sure that God heard His prayers from these verses. He didn't question whether that was the case. He operated as if it was always true.

That makes me wonder about my own life. About my own prayer life.

Do I pray with confidence that God hears my prayers? Or do I often feel like I'm just talking to myself when I pray?

The honest truth is that I don't always pray with a confidence that God hears my prayers. Life sometimes makes it seem like there's no possible way God could actually have heard my prayers. But, there are also moments when I do have confidence God hears my prayers.

But when I look at Scriptures like this, it's something I want to have all the time. I want to pray with confidence that God hears my prayers. I want to pray with confidence that God will answer.

So, how do we get there? What do we do to begin to be able to pray with confidence that God is hearing and will answer?

It comes down to making it something you believe in your heart, rather than just knowing in your head. Sometimes that means you have to start acting like you believe it before you actually believe it.

You declare that you know God hears your prayers every time you pray. And over time you just might actually find yourself actually believing it.

I can't tell you how long it might take you. I don't know how long it will take me. It might be a life long process. It might go in seasons of believing it and seasons of struggling to believe it.

But, the one thing I know to be true is that God wants us to grow in our relationship with Him. And He wants us to know that He is listening when we pray. We can be confident of that. And not just know it in our heads, but believe it in our hearts.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Desires of Your Heart

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)

What are the desires of your heart?

That question has a list of obvious and not-so-obvious answers for all of us.

But, there is another question I've often asked myself when reading this verse or hearing someone talk about it:
If this verse is true, then why are there things I desire that I'm not getting?
I've wrestled with this question many times. Often walking away with no real answer to it.

Lately I've been wrestling with it again and I've come to a knew understanding. Oftentimes what I think are the desires of my heart aren't really the desires of my heart.

Let me explain that. When I stop and take a look at what I think the desires of my heart are, I can usually find something underneath them that is really the desire of my heart. I've taken the real desire and looked for ways to meet it and then called those ways of meeting it my heart's desires.

It seems easier to call those things my heart's desires because they're measurable and something that seems attainable. They seem like something I have control over making happen.

But I'm beginning to wonder if in doing so, I miss the ways God actually fulfills those desires of my heart. I get so caught up in looking for one specific way I miss all the other ways God is working.

Maybe that's where you are also. You're not seeing God give you the desires of your heart. And maybe the key is that you're not seeing it because you've confused the desires of your heart with specific ways you think those desires could be fulfilled.

Will you open your eyes to new ways God may be wanting to fulfill those desires?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Where is Your Home?

Have I come to think of something other than Christ as home?

This question was asked in a Bible study I started last week. And it's something I've been thinking about a lot since then.

Is Christ my home?

Or have I made my home somewhere else?

Home is the place where we can be comfortable. Where we can be ourselves.

Where have I made my home?

What do I think of as my safe place?

I'm not talking about a physical place, but of the place you find it safe for your heart to be. The place where you feel secure in who you are.

We seek this feeling of security in many things. We may seek it in money or a prestigious job or lots of material goods. But we won't ultimately find what we're looking for in any of these things.

The security we're looking for only comes and stays when we make Christ our home. When we find our identity, our purpose in Christ. When we learn to rest in who He says we are and His love for us.

That is where we need to make our home.

And when we do so, we can begin to really live. Because we feel secure enough to try new things, to take risks, to take that next step we've been thinking about. We can do these things because we know we have a safe place to fall whether things go well or we run into challenges.

Where is your home?

Is it in Christ?

Or is it elsewhere?

Do you need to learn to make Christ your home again?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

We Need the Family of God

I've been thinking a lot lately about our need for people at different stages of the journey of Christ in our lives. Especially our need for those who are a bit further along than we are.

Sometimes we call them mentors. A formal relationship.

But that term scares some.

So they call them friends. A more informal relationship.

I've heard some talk about about them being like spiritual parents.

Whatever term we use, we have ways to describe these relationships because we know they're important. We need people who are a little further along in the journey to be in our lives.

People who will pray for us. Encourage us. Challenge us.

People we can talk to about the hard stuff that's happening in our lives.

People who offer the wisdom and lessons that come from having some more life experience than we do.

At different times in my life I've done better at this than others. And when I look back I can see the difference it makes. I need those people in my life.

I think there's a very good reason why we often talk about the family of God. It describes what we should be. A family is multiple generations living life together. That's what we should be.

No, it doesn't mean we have to do everything together all the time. A family leaves space for doing things with just those whose lives are like ours. But a family also does enough together for all generations to know each other and learn from each other.

In a family, everyone is important, no matter their age of life situation.

That's how the family of God should be too.

Take a moment to reflect on the people from the family of God who are a part of your life. Are they all the same age? Or are there people of multiple life experiences in it?

Who are the people in your life who are a little further along on the journey you can talk to?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Psalm 91:14-16

"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 honour him.
With long life I will satisfy him
     and show him My salvation." (vs. 14-16)

God comes to the aid of those who love and follow Him.

He will protect us and answer us when we call our to Him.

God will walk with us and bring us out the other wide of it.

God desires to bring us good things. He wants to reward us for following Him. This doesn't necessarily mean we will see it on earth - that is not the promise. But our choosing to follow Him and serve Him will be rewarded.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Psalm 91:9-13

If you say, "The Lord is my refuge,"
     and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
     no disaster will come near you. (vs. 9-10)

It's more than just declaring that God is our refuge. It's about making God our dwelling place.

It's about making the choice to live with God and in His ways and plans for us.

That is what will protect us.

For He will command His angels concerning you
     to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
     so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
     you will trample the great lion and the great serpent. (vs. 11-13)

When we declare God our refuge and our place of living, we will be completely protected.

God's angel will keep us from harm.

This doesn't mean life will always be easy. Just that we will be protected from those hard times destroying us completely.

We will find victory over Satan in our lives and He will be trampled under our feet.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Psalm 91:5-8

You will not fear the terror of the night,
     nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
     nor the plague that destroys at midday. (vs. 5-6)

We have no reason to fear anything that comes our way.

It doesn't matter how bad what is thrown at us may seem, we don't have anything to fear, because God is on our side and is protecting us.

A thousand may fall at your side,
     ten thousand at your right hand,
     but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
     and see the punishment of the wicked. (vs. 7-8)

Even when people all around us are falling to Satan's schemes, we can be assured of God's protection.

We will watch destruction around us, but we will protected.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Psalm 91:1-4

This post is the first in a series of shorter posts on Psalm 91. It's a psalm I've been reflecting on lately. I'm not sure I have any profound thoughts on it, but it's where I've been spending some time lately.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
     will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
     my God in whom I trust." (vs. 1-2)

God is a safe place for us to choose to hide.

He will protect us from harm.

He will give us rest when we make Him our hiding place.

He is the One we can completely trust.

Surely He will save you
     from the fowler's snare
     and from the deadly pestilence. (vs. 3)

God will rescue us from the traps that Satan sets to snare us.

He won't let Satan's traps destroy us.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What Are You Known For?

What are you known for?

If the people you live with, work with, go to school with, and interact with on a regular basis were asked to describe you, what would they say?

Would it be a list of your accomplishments? A description of what you do to fill your time? A description of what you look like?

Or would they talk about someone who was known for something different? Someone who was a follower of Christ? Someone who puts others first? Someone who cares about others?

What are you known for?

That's a question that has been running through my head for much of the last few weeks. The truth is that what we're known for is also how we'll be remembered after we're gone.

What do you want to be remembered for? Are you known for that now?

Our society defines success by how far we go in our careers, how much money we make, and how much stuff we acquire. All things that can easily be taken from us. And things that no one will remember us for once we're gone.

That's not what I want to be known or remembered for.

As this new year begins, I want to live a life that is worth be remembered for. I want to live a life that flows out of a relationship with Jesus. That's what I want to be known and remembered for.

How do you want to live?

What do you want to be known for? Remembered for?

Are there changes you need to make that happen?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Live a Life Worthy

Over the last few months I've been reading Paul's letters to churches in the New Testament. I've noticed that in a few of them he says something to his readers about living a life worthy of the calling they had received.

"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." (Ephesians 4:1)

"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." (Philippians 1:27)

". . . so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord . . ." (Colossians 1:10)

"With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling . . ." (2 Thessalonians 1:11)

As I've read these words multiple times in different letters, the same questions have continued to run through my mind.

What does Paul mean by living a life worthy?

If the gospel is all about grace and not having to earn anything, why do we need to live a life worthy?

One of the things I like about Scripture is that there's always more to learn when we read it. This isn't the first time I've read these passages and thought about what they mean. And I'm sure it won't be the last.

The gospel is all about grace and that we can't earn God's coming to save us from our sin. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't change the way we live.

We don't live bound up by a bunch of rules. We are free from that through what Jesus did for us at the cross.

But, the very reality of what Jesus did for us should change the way we live. It should make us want to live our lives in a way that pleases God.

I think that is what Paul means when he writes these things. Even through we are free to do what we want, we should choose to and want to live a life that pleases God. And it's when we live in a way pleases God that we live a life worthy of God' calling of us.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Make the Time to Hear

Snow crunches beneath my feet with each step I take. Freshly falling snow quickly covers my footsteps. The only sound is the trees rustling in the wind and the crunching snow under my feet.

The world around me has been turned white. Everything looks so beautiful and clean.

I love going for a walk in the snow. It gives me time to think and reflect on things. It seems like God speaks to me most often when I'm out in nature and away from all that would distract.

The other day was no different. I was walking in the snow in a park near my house. I was almost ready to head home when I heard God begin to speak.

"It's been a while." Something stirred in my mind.

I stopped. It wasn't exactly what I was hoping to hear. I had some specific things I wanted God to answer and this was not an answer to any of them.

"It's been a while since you stopped and took the time to really listen to Me."

This time I listened. I quickly realized that I had spent a lot of time recently asking God for things. But it had been a while since I'd sat long enough to hear God speak or taken the time when reading my Bible to really pay attention to what God might be saying though it. I had allowed the busy-ness of the season to crowd out that time.

I've known for a long time that to have a relationship with God it requires more than me just doing all the talking and then just getting on with life. A relationship requires two way communication. I need to listen too. I'm just not always good at listening.

But that evening on my walk, I was reminded that I need to make listening for God a regular part of my life no matter the season. Listening doesn't mean I have to just sit there for hours. But I need to stop talking long enough to hear God speak. And sometimes that may mean sitting. Other time that means paying attention to things around me to be able to hear what God may be saying through them.

"Lord, help me to make listening to You a priority. Keep my eyes and ears open to what You are saying."

With that, I headed for home.

How do you do at listening to God speak in your own life?

Has it been a while since you took the time to listen? In prayer? Through taking the time to slow down when you read your Bible to actually hear from God?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

4 Ways to Keep Your New Years Resolutions

It's the first day of the new year and as usual there is talk everywhere of New Years Resolutions. For most of my life, I haven't been big on them. Mostly because I haven't done very well at keeping them in the past. The same seems to be true for many people I talk to.

Resolutions seems to be a word with negative connotations. Often speaking of something we make with good intentions, but fail to keep. And that can be depressing.

But what if you could make resolutions that you actually keep this year?

Resolutions you would realize you kept for 12 months when we get to the end of 2013.

It's possible. There are things you can do to make keeping your New Years Resolutions possible.

I usually call them goals, not resolutions. But they really could be called resolutions. And by doing what I'm going to share, I do often keep them.

1. Be realistic

You can't make drastic changes in a short period of time it's probably not going to work. You have to make changes in small increments. If it's manageable, you have a much better chance of being able to keep it.

If you want get in better shape, you can't go from nothing to hours every week at the gym. You need to set goals that are more realistic than that. Start with something shorter and consistent. Then increase it over time.

The same principle is true of anything you want to change.

2. Make them measurable

You have to be specific. Just saying you are going to do something more or less isn't enough. Set specifics for how many times a week and how long.

For example, if you want to memorize Scripture this year. Choose a specific number of verses you want to memorize and how often you want to start memorizing a new verse. Such as memorizing one verse every two weeks. It makes it easier to stick to it.

3. Set up accountability

If someone else knows about it, you're more likely to keep it. Tell a few people who are close to you and ask them to ask you how it's going on a regular basis. Knowing someone else is going to ask you about it, can motivate you to keep going, or to start again when life seems to get in the way.

4. Pray

This one is the most important. Pray about them before you make them. Pray while you're living them out.

Some changes we want or need to make in our lives aren't ones we can do completely in our own strength. We need God's help. So we need to pray about them.

The most important lesson I've learned about making and keeping New Years Resolutions in that you must be flexible. Sometimes we make a resolution that seems right and good in January, might not be right and good in July.

We have to be willing to allow them to change with how life changes. If something changes in our lives that requires one of our resolutions to be altered, it doesn't mean we've failed to keep them. It just means we need to alter them a bit to fit our life circumstances better.