Archives For Exodus

There are days, when I take the time to notice the blessings bestowed upon me, I cannot help but be overwhelmed. Looking around the world, it’s ridiculous how incredibly blessed I am. Chances are, if you are reading this blog, your circumstances are similar. We have much for which to be thankful. To our detriment, it seems we spend far more time complaining about what we don’t have than allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed with what we do.

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For starters, if we have Jesus, what else could we possibly need? Anything other than Christ is just a temporary salve for a temporary wound. We are made complete in Jesus. Yet, God didn’t stop with the most incredible blessing ever. He continues to pour out His goodness into our lives.

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As I write this, it is only a few days until Father’s Day will be celebrated here in the United States. This holiday affects people in different ways, depending on their situation or upbringing, but few are emotionless about it. For those whose fathers’ have passed away, this day probably brings mixed emotions of joyful memories and sorrowful realities. Some never knew their father, and for these there can be an ever-present emptiness.

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Unfortunately, there are those who have fathers who were abusive in one way or another and, as a result, Father’s Day is a day of bitterness. To those like myself who had good fathers who are still with them, it is a day of celebration of years past. But to all who profess Jesus as their Lord, we have something even more important to celebrate: the love of our Heavenly Father.

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Devoted followers of Christ hate when they sin. It’s maddening. We don’t understand why we continue to do things we know are not honoring to God (Romans 7:15). If you’re like me, you may have often pondered why we sin in the first place. It seems logical our love and devotion to God would keep us close to Him and far away from sin. It would be that simple if we did not have an enemy who was constantly seeking to trip us up and eventually destroy us (1 Peter 5:8).

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While we can’t blame Satan for our failures, we can blame him for planting the seeds of those failures. Ultimately though, the reason why we sin is because we choose to take our eyes off Jesus.

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John 5:44 reads “How can you believe? While accepting glory from one another, you don’t seek the glory that comes from the only God.” Commenting on this verse, A.W. Tozer said, “If I understand this correctly, Christ taught here the alarming doctrine that the desire for honor among men made belief impossible.” Certainly there are a few ways one could read this verse, but Tozer presents an interpretation which is at best sobering and at worst terrifying.

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We spend much of our lives seeking and accepting honor from others. In our Western culture, life is all about moving up and getting ahead. Even a casual look at our Facebook and Instagram feeds proves people are consumed with presenting their best and brightest moments while seeking validation from others.

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I’ve been focused lately on living intentionally. My theme this year is “Devotion”, and I’ve already discovered increasing my devotion to Christ is nearly impossible without ordering my days in an intentional way.  Unless I am very specific about how I will choose to spend my time, my time will get spent in ways that in no way reflect my devotion to Christ. At least at this stage of my own walk with God, unstructured time rarely defaults to time spent with Him.

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It’s been both an enlightening and frustrating realization. While I’ve been reading books on living intentionally, it was Francois Fenelon who helped me see how living intentionally is firmly rooted in the pages of God’s Word. Here’s how the Bible demonstrates intentional living through the practice of living in the moment, keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus, and being content with what you have…
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In his new book, “Simplify”, Bill Hybels states that being connected to God reminds him he doesn’t “need to fulfill someone else’s agenda, because I have my hand in the hand of the one whose plans and purposes my life is all about.” It’s easy to get so caught up in the expectations of others that we become overwhelmed, over-committed, and altogether out of control. We lose sight of what matters most in life. The world we live in today is moving faster than ever before. Attention spans are almost nonexistent; patience levels are low, frustrations are high, and the result is a world spinning out of control, plummeting into an abyss of evil that is difficult for us to even comprehend.  There is an answer to this madness. There is a way out of the darkness.

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Søren Kierkegaard once said, “The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.” He’s absolutely correct. The Bible is very easy to understand. The question really is whether or not we want to hear what it has to say. With knowledge comes responsibility, and with responsibility comes obligation. If we know what the Word says, we are either compelled to obey it or reject it.

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Two roads diverging

As you go throughout your days, are you pursuing a life of holiness? Are you consciously striving to be the person God created you to be, a person who is consumed by the love of Jesus? This isn’t a new concept, but it has been brought to my mind in fresh ways through recent teachings by Bill Hybels and David Platt. Not only has God placed a unique combination of passions and skills in each of us in order that we might do the work He created us to do, but He has also charged us to conduct ourselves in a manner that is pleasing to Him (Philippians 1:27).

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Sometimes we can become paralyzed trying to figure out what it is we should do with our lives. This is largely an affliction of Western culture where the opportunities are plentiful and the aim is generally one of success. For those of us who seek to follow Christ, the dilemma is intensified by the fact that we want to live a life that is pleasing to Him. I think we can get so wrapped up in following Jesus that we neglect to take it to the level of learning from Him. If we simply follow, we will miss much of what surrounds us; but if we learn from Him, we will notice the opportunity and the beautiful ways to express His love as we go throughout our days. Our two-fold problem is determining what we should do and how we should live.

Fortunately, the Bible provides us with ample clues as to what we should and shouldn’t do. We shouldn’t kill, steal or lie (Exodus 20:1-17) but we should feed the hungry, care for the sick and seek justice for everyone (Isaiah 58:6-7). While that’s certainly not an exhaustive list, it’s a great start. If we want to live a life that reflects the love of Jesus, we will do the things He commanded us to do and steer clear of the things about which He warned us. As we pray for the change we want to see in the world in a way that aligns with His mission, we will gain clarity on what it is we should do. With this clarity comes great responsibility. Once we know what we should do, it is up to us to obediently do that work. This is where the hard part comes in. No longer can we simply sit around wondering what God’s will is for our life; now we know. Now we are obligated.

Once we recognize the things Jesus told us to do are the things we must dedicate our lives to doing, it is simply a matter of utilizing our unique blend of talents and gifts to take action. If you have a gift if playing music, perhaps you could raise money for the hungry by performing. If you are gifted in leadership, you could organize projects to feed the hungry. If you have a gift of service, you could join one of those projects and be the hands and feet of Jesus feeding the very ones who hunger. Whatever your gift, whatever your talent, as long as you are using it to do what Christ commanded us to do, you are in the will of God. You are living the adventurous life that we have been promised. It won’t be easy and it won’t always be safe, but it will be satisfying beyond measure.

Finding the will of God for your life is not difficult; it is in fact, extremely easy. We have made this simple subject extremely complex by assuming that there is a giant blueprint for our lives and that we are in constant peril of slipping off the narrow line that guides us through. God is far more interactive than that; He uniquely created each of us to collaborate with Him in carrying out His mission on earth. As long as we are seeking to do what He would do, to obey His commands and to serve Him only, He will be with us in all we endeavor. This is not a guarantee of success or prosperity, but it is a guarantee of a life well lived for His Kingdom and His glory. Nothing else matters anyway; without Jesus, there is no purpose and no point. Only He fulfills the empty gnawing in your heart; only He can bring rest to your weary soul.

Finding the will of God for your life is as simple as reading His word, praying that His will would be done on earth and then engaging your abilities to do the things He has told us to do. Your abilities may be small and seemingly insignificant, or they may be great and obvious. Regardless, Jesus can amplify and multiply whatever you bring for Him to use. Remember the boy who brought a couple of fishes and loaves of bread to Christ? (John 6:1-15) With that small gift and willingness to share it for God’s kingdom, more than 5,000 people were fed. How many might be fed through your own gifts? Never underestimate what God can do with the smallest of offerings. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, it is never too late to turn around and follow Jesus with all your heart. Surrender to Him, discover again what He has told you to do. Release your abilities to Him and watch Him miraculously bring the Kingdom all around you. This is the will of God for your life; it is there for the taking. Don’t miss it.

Reading in Proverbs the other day, a couple of verses really stood out to me. You read a passage you’ve read many, many times before and God just sticks His finger in the book and says, “Look, Right there!” I love when that happens. The passage I read was Proverbs 30:7-9:

Two things I ask of You; don’t deny them to me before I die:
Keep falsehood and deceitful words far from me.
Give me neither poverty nor wealth; feed me with the food I need.
Otherwise, I might have too much and deny You, saying, “Who is the LORD?”
Or I might have nothing and steal, profaning the name of my God. (HCSB)

I immediately prayed these words for my own life. I want my words to be always measured and truthful. Proverbs tells us, and life confirms, the more you speak the more prone you are to say something that is not true. Let your words be few; speak slowly and let every word count. Never lie or deceive another. We are servants of the king. Jesus said to let our ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ be ‘no’. (Matthew 5:37) The ninth commandment in the Old Testament tells us not to lie. (Exodus 20:16) There is no wiggle room. God demands honesty. In addition to keeping deceit from my own lips, I also pray that those who would deceive me would stay far away. Flattering lips and scheming individuals tempt us to walk a path Christ would not. I want these types of people as far from me as possible. Don’t keep close company with those who make a habit of lying to you or to others. Surround yourself with those of the highest character or you may be enticed to live in a manner that is against God.

The second thing I prayed was to be neither poor nor wealthy. I have on some small level touched both ends of the spectrum in my own life and can attest to the temptations of each. (As a side note, do you realize if you make in excess of $25,000 per year you are wealthier than 97% of the world? If you make in excess of $50,000 per year, you are wealthier than 99% of the world’s population! I’d wager you are wealthier than you may have previously thought! ) If I have too much excess available to me, I might easily be tempted to spend it selfishly on things I don’t necessarily need. Money and time are finite; are we spending them in a way that is pleasing to God? If I have too little, there is pressure to perhaps take what we did not pay for in order to satisfy our need for food or clothing or perhaps even just our desire to have something we could not otherwise afford. Better to have just enough for the day. This will cause me to faithfully trust Christ every day for His provision of my needs. If I have too much, my response should be to give that excess to those who do not have enough.

It is beautiful and astounding that the words of Proverbs written so long ago are still so relevant today. We are bombarded by advertising that makes us think we need the latest gadget or service. We are encouraged to do whatever it takes to get ahead. There is the concept of a “white lie” that apparently doesn’t count as an actual lie; who thought of this ludicrous idea? Lord, keep all deceit from my lips, and keep those who would deceive me far away. Give me simply just enough to provide for my day and let me fully trust you to take care of tomorrow. Keep my eyes on You and You alone; may I remain ever faithful with all you entrust into my care. Please, give me just enough.