Tuesday, April 23, 2019


Job 1:20 reports, “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.” This was Job’s natural reaction and spiritual response to the tragic news, unspeakable loss, and broken heart.
Tearing his robe and shaving his head were customary expressions of pain, grief, and sorrow. But these were no ceremonial acts. Job truly grieved. By his example, Job teaches us that there is nothing spiritual about acting like life does not hurt when life hurts. Being born again does not make you bionic. Godly people grieve. In scripture, many godly people, like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Peter, and Paul, wept and mourned. Even Jesus wept at the graveside of Lazarus (John 11:35). The Bible does not forbid mourning. It only admonishes us not to sorrow as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). After Job tore his robe and shaved his head, he bowed on the ground. And with his face in the dirt, Job worshiped God. It is understandable that job grieved his loss. It is what you would have done. But can you worship God with a broken heart? Job’s spiritual response teaches us that worship is a choice. Believers suffer bad things in life, just like those who do not believe. We grieve. They grieve. But we do not curse God, sin with our lips, or charge God with wrong. God does not change when our circumstances change. So we continue to worship him no matter the circumstances.
The Bible teaches three facts of life: God is good. God is all-powerful. Terrible things happen. Any two of these facts make sense together if you exclude one. It does not matter which one you exclude. To embrace all three makes no sense. But faith involves believing all three truths at the same time. And the evidence of faith is that you continue to worship this all-good and all-powerful God, even when terrible things happen. Life is hard. But life is not God. God is God. And God is good all the time!

True Worship is the Result of an Eternal Perspective.

As Job worshiped, the media showed up. “Job, you’ve lost everything,” a reporter said. “How do you feel?” Job answered, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job’s eternal perspective is expressed in two statements about himself and three statements about the Lord.
Job made two statements about himself. First, he says, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb.” Job acknowledged that he did not enter the world with cattle, money, servants, property, or children. Everything he had possessed, he received after his birth. He came into the world naked. Everything he possessed was a grace gift from God. This is the first principle of Christian stewardship: God owns it all. We are only stewards of the blessings God entrusts to us. Then Job said, “And naked shall I return.” We checked into this world with nothing. And we will only be allowed to check out with what we checked in with. We brought nothing into this world. And we will take nothing with us when we depart. A baby is born with closed fist; a man dies with open hands. Death inevitably snatches away the material possessions we accumulate.
Job made three statements about the Lord. Job says, “The Lord gave.” God is a giving God. But do not judge God’s generosity by what is in your bank account. Divine generosity is ultimately demonstrated at the cross of Christ. Then Job says, “And the Lord has taken away.” Job did not say the Lord gave but Satan took away. God alone provided and withdrew Job’s blessings. Good parents give allowances and punishment to teach their children responsibility. So does God the Father. Then Job said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” It’s easy to say the Lord gave. It’s hard to say the Lord has taken away. But it is impossible to say blessed be the name of the Lord without an eternal perspective. Job blessed the Lord because the Lord gives before he takes away. Job blessed the Lord because the Lord gives more than he takes away. Job blessed the Lord because even when the Lord takes away, he leaves us enough to make it with.

True Worship Requires Stubborn Trust.

Prosperity preachers claim Job made his situation worse by speaking a negative confession. God only gives and never takes away, they insist. This only proves the “money-cometh” hustlers only read the parts of the Bible that support their predetermined conclusions. Job 1:22 states: “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” The fact that Job worshiped God did not prevent Job from having to bury his ten children. Yet Job did not allow his tragic circumstances cause him to wrongly indict the goodness, wisdom, and sovereignty of God. Job trusted God’s character even when God’s ways did not make sense to him.
This is not the end of the story. Job did not curse God when life tumbled in on him. But Satan did not concede. He concluded that he did not hit Job hard enough. And he asked permission to attack job again. The Lord gave Satan free access to Job’s life, only stipulating that his life is spared. This time, Satan attacked Job’s health. “Do you still hold fast your integrity?” Job’s wife asked. “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Job’s wife wrongly concluded that Job offended God. She advised Job to go all the way so God would strike him down. Job’s wife is the ancient prototype to Dr. Kevorkian. She proposes the first “mercy-killing” to end her husband’s misery.
“You speak as one of the foolish women would speak,” Job responded. “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Again, Job did not sin with his lips in saying this (Job 2:10). It is not wrong to say the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. It is wrong to receive blessings from the Lord and refuse to receive trouble. There is a place where the sun always shines and it never rains. It’s called a desert. Nothing grows in a desert, including faith in God. Real faith is ambidextrous. It can take blessings in one hand and trouble in the other, lifting both in the worship of the God who is worthy of our stubborn trust, complete obedience, and unceasing praise.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Prime the pump

One day, a man was lost in a desert without water, but he saw an old makeshift structure. He knew he couldn’t make it much longer, so he got to the covering as fast as his worn-out legs could carry him. To his surprise, inside he found a jar of pure looking water. This jar was on the floor next to a pump.
Filled with relief, he walked over to the jar to quench his overbearing thirst. As he reached down to pick up the jar of water, though, he noticed a sign. The sign read, “Use this water to prime the pump. When you have gotten as much water as you need, refill the jar, and leave it for the next person who will pass this way.” 
This man suddenly found himself on the horns of a dilemma because he was so thirsty that he was close to dehydration. What if he followed the directions on the sign and there was no water in the well? What if he poured out all of the water he now held in his hand and got nothing in return? Was that worth the risk to even try? The man had to make a decision to either fill himself now, or pour out what he had and take the chance that deep down there was so much more. The man made the choice to prime the pump. It was a good choice because the water flowed freely. He drank to his delight and collected enough water to take him on his journey. Before he left, he filled the jar and placed it next to the note. Under the words of the note, he wrote, “Trust me. It works!”
Giving to others in our horizontal relationship with them is a method of priming the pump of God’s vertical blessings in our lives. You have a choice. You can take the little that God has given you now and consume it for yourself. Or you can use it to prime something that’s got so much more. The choice hinges on whether you believe God’s Word that if you give, it will be given to you. Oh, and trust me, it works (Luke 6:38).

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Handling transitions

The rest of their brothers (the priests and the Levites and all who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem) began the work, appointing Levites twenty years of age and older to supervise the building of the house of the Lord. Ezra 3:8

Transitions are hard, even good ones. But sometimes it is time to move out and move on. God may be calling you back to a particular city or town for you to influence old and new friends for Christ. Or He may be calling you to a brand new endeavor full of wonder and risk. Either way, your transition is what is best for His kingdom and for your spiritual growth. Transitions are a time to trust totally and to live boldly.

The goal is to position yourself, with career and family, for the most impact on God’s kingdom, placing you and your family in an environment that will challenge and nurture your spiritual growth. Yes, pray much and seek godly counsel, but do not let fear of the unknown stifle you. This life is your one opportunity to follow hard after God.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6).

Do not let the things of this world paralyze you or cause you to pause. Hesitation can hurt. However, in your zeal, do be sensitive to your spouse. Make sure to nurture him or her through the process. Retain Christ as your compass through the transition. He will keep you honest and soften the hearts of those most affected by the move. Do not let the fear of man get you off mission. Rather, let the fear of God lead you to follow His call.

Transitions can be exciting. They can keep us young. They move our faith to a whole new level. You could have stayed in your comfort zone with a minimally felt need for God. But now your dependence on Him is daily, real time. You feel and know He is your loving heavenly Father. Your circumstances may or may not get better, but you will.

“Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt…. The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered” (Genesis 39:1–2).

Is He leading you to a new city? Hire a realtor. Does He want you to downsize so you can simplify your life? Put up a for sale sign. Does He want you to cap your lifestyle so you can give away more money? Tell your financial advisor. Does He want you to move overseas and train national leaders? Get a passport. Does He want you to reach out to your neighbors? Invite them to dinner. If He wants you, trust Him, and wholeheartedly give yourself God.

Divinely orchestrated transitions are like a loyal friend whom you totally trust. See this shift as an asset on heaven’s balance sheet of your life. Ride change like the ocean waves. It may be a little scary or maybe a lot scary, but He is with you. You will crash occasionally, but He will buffer your fall, like resting on a soft, sandy sea bottom. Let this transition lead you closer to God and His will. You will never know exactly what you would have missed if you do not, and you will have few regrets if you do.

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5–6).

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Not by talent

One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.” 1 Samuel 16:18

Those who are most talented are the most tempted to stop trusting in the Lord. Talent alone can get results, but at the expense of God not being glorified and humility lost. However, talent under the control of the Holy Spirit is beautiful to behold, like a champion race horse sensitive to his jockey’s every instruction—he see obstacles as opportunities to learn from his master. Our abilities unrestrained by self-reliance have exponential impact in the hands of the Lord.

David was a handsome multi-talented: musician, dancer, poet, warrior, leader and communicator who enjoyed the favor of God. But in spite of his incredible giftedness, he suffered a couple of major setbacks in his life: once as a young man due to his reactive anger and fearful panic toward his father-in-law King Saul, and again later in life due to his hubris from success—he committed adultery and murder. Though a man after God’s heart, David sadly had seasons where he isolated himself and took matters into his own hands, resulting in the consequences of sin’s devastating effects.

He cried out in contrition:

“Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good. Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (Psalm 25:7-9).

Do you regularly dedicate your gifts and talents to God to be used for His purposes? A gifted speaker sees themselves as a channel of truth to help others follow God’s will—merely a messenger with words from the One who is the creator and sustainer of all good things. A talented leader reminds themselves often to first follow Christ before they attempt to lead others. It is through the ongoing process of self-surrender to your Savior that people are able to see Jesus in your life.

We are on the right track when we view our work and service as worship to the Lord. Thus a parent remains a dependent child of God—so they can gently, wisely and patiently parent their child. Praise to God frees us to appropriately praise another and not ourselves. We enjoy the Spirit’s habitation, as He quietly and precisely leads us in our moment by moment activities. A worshipful life focuses its admiration on Jesus Christ and refuses to take credit for good fruit. Humility gives credit to the originator and sustainer of all gifts and talents—Almighty God.

“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change” (James 1:16-17).

Monday, April 15, 2019

Rest the soul

I will bless the Lord who counsels me; he gives me wisdom in the night. He tells me what to do. Psalm 16:7

I sometimes pressure my imperfect self to make a perfect decision, only then I realize I need to be reminded of a wiser way. With a little bit of time I am able to: 1) process emotions, 2) ponder options, 3) reflect on "why" I want to do this, 4) and chiefly, ask the Lord for His wisdom, confirmation, and validation. Just going with my "gut" in an instant may give me short-term relief, with a long-term kick in the butt. My best decisions resemble a meal prepared like a Panera Bread sandwich: my mind fully marinated in truth, seasoned with humility of heart, all wrapped up in the pita bread of prayer.

Beautifully, the Psalmist describes the kind of sleep destined to accomplish more, more than when a person is awake. Sweet sleep where noisy distractions lie dormant. Emotion’s quiet, engine turned off. The body repairs torn muscle, rests achy bones and rejuvenates fatigued limbs. The Lord does deep work in our innermost being. A soul may be most awake when the body sleeps, ready to receive what is easily dismissed in the daytime hours. The Spirit seeps effortlessly into a soul waiting in solitude, engaged, in tune, teachable. What is comprehended in the night can be applied in the day. The Lord is awake while we sleep, as He never sleeps nor slumbers to counsel, impart wisdom and direct.

"These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. " (1 Corinthians 2:10-11).

What decision do you face that has you seeking the face of Jesus? Maybe you are experiencing a relationship that requires bold courage to break off or generous forgiveness to grow its intimacy. But relational decisions can be messy and complicated. Be careful your flesh does not cloud your thinking. In a similar fashion financial wisdom can be diluted by confusing a want for a need. Wants can wait. Needs are necessary now. A newer car replacing a perfectly nice car is probably a want while a newer car replacing an undependable car could be a need. Wisdom does not bow to pressure for an instant decision, but bows to the Lord seeking the best decision.

In our stress we can sleep soundly, as we seek God postured for prayer while lying in our beds. Our sleep is the Spirit's opportunity to carry out deep soul care. We can rest in the middle of relational conflict, with the confidence that Christ can bring us solutions for resolution as we rest. Rest facilitates a healthy body and a healthy perspective. Perhaps we keep a pen and paper on the night stand so we can record what we see in the night, to remember and apply in the day. Our loving Lord who never slumbers, speaks to our soul in our slumber. He counsels us to trust. He gives us wisdom to be counter-cultural. He tells us the next right thing to do.

"For God does speak—now one way, now another—though no one perceives it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn them from wrongdoing and keep them from pride" (Job 33:14-17).

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Blessed to bless

Imagine with me for a moment that you are standing in a candy store with two of your kids. If you don’t have kids, imagine that you do for the sake of this illustration. You are standing in one of those big candy stores with rows upon rows and bins upon bins containing all kinds of assortments of mouth-watering tasty treasures. Both of your kids want some candy, but to simplify things, you fill up one large bag with some of their favorites and then hand it to your oldest. You make sure to let him know that he needs to share it with his younger sister whenever she wants any. There is one bag, but what is inside the bag is intended for them both. Your oldest is not the owner; he is the steward.
However, in time, you notice that your oldest child is hoarding all of the candy, only grudgingly giving a piece to his sister when she cries. What will you do? When the candy runs out, will you go back to the store and buy another bag to give to your oldest again? Or will you make other arrangements this time? 
Conversely, what if your oldest child had done something different altogether. What if after you left the store, he began to share the contents of the bag not only with his little sister but also with other kids in your neighborhood when you got home? Each face lit up with joy as your oldest gladly handed out piece after piece of candy. What would you do this time when the candy bag ran out? Would you go back to the store and give it to your oldest again? Or would you even consider giving him more this time seeing as it brought so much happiness to so many people? 
Many of us as parents would likely give more candy to the child who distributed it to others. And many of us as parents would not trust the child who hoarded the bag of candy with any more, at least not anytime soon. It’s not that our love for our child would have changed. But our child’s experience of that love, demonstrated in this case through blessing and provision, would have been diminished as a result of his behavior. 
We have a Father in heaven who has a very big family. His love for us is secure. He will always be our Father. But our experience of His love, whether through blessing, provision, presence or any number of things, will oftentimes depend on how we honor Him through how we treat the others He loves as well. 
Give, and it will be given to you. Hoard, and you may miss out on much of what God desires to give.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Help in hardship

Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. 1 Corinthians 10:6 (NRSV)

I grew up in the church. Services on Wednesday and twice on Sunday. Potlucks. Summer camp. Service projects. On and on I could go. Each and every experience was formative and shaped me into the person I am today. And as I look back, I hope for many of the same experiences for my own children. I long for them to know the church to be a place where they are loved unconditionally and welcomed as family. Yet as good and holy as these experiences were and are, I am acutely aware that one can be fully within the family of faith yet remarkably distant from God.
Paul linked the story of the infant church in Corinth to the long story God had told through the people of Israel. He holds up a robust vision of baptism and communion as the two great signs that one is incorporated into this family story. In short, he says “it’s the same food and drink as Moses ate and drank, yet his disobedience left him dead in the wilderness!” (1 Corinthians 10:1-5) One can be in the family, in a place of favored communion with God, and still with hearts and lives running in the other direction.
Very few of us are consciously aware of evil and brokenness in our lives and happily walk in that direction. Evil is far more subtle, our intentions far more elusive. You and I can be fully convinced of the virtue of our ways and the integrity of our decisions, even if they are leaving a wake of chaos and destruction at every turn.
It is good to remember that we aren’t the first people to live through economic hardship, relational heartbreak, or vocational restlessness. As each generation faces these questions and countless more, some men and women faithfully and beautifully walk in the way of Jesus and leave an example to be followed for years to come. At the same time, there are others who are led down the path of destruction by their own sin and selfishness. As such, always be quick to listen and quick to learn.
Continue to press in faithfully to the means of grace that God gives to his people: baptism, communion, community, confession and forgiveness, and prayer. Yet always remember that these channels of his grace are meant to encourage and fan into flame a heart fully alive with his love and life.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Life in Christ

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

There is a great exchange that takes place when a person places their faith in Jesus Christ. Their old way of living is replaced with living for the Lord. Their old way of thinking is replaced with thinking on the truth of Jesus. Their old way of speaking is replaced with speech that is sprinkled with the grace of God. The old has passed, the new has come.

The life of Christ becomes the life of the follower of Christ. No longer are we led down the dead-end road of unrighteousness, but we are set free to journey down the less traveled road of righteousness. We give up what we could not keep—our life on earth, in exchange for what we can keep—eternal life in heaven. To a watching world it seems foolish to give up for God, but what we get from God—forgiveness, peace and love—is true life.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).

Have you surrendered yourself to your Savior Jesus? Have you given Him your trust in your own goodness and good deeds in exchange for His holiness and His Spirit-filled power? This great exchange of the temporal for the eternal is what gives you the capacity to grow in grace and to become a person of great faith. However, an effective exchange requires the receiver to have faith in the Giver. God is a generous giver who can be trusted.

Maybe you have believed, but have lost your way and you need a refresher in righteousness. Perhaps repentance has become a foreign language for your heart and mind. Let loose of your old life of fear and doubt and replace it with your new life of trust and security. Put off pride and put on humility. Put off anger and put on forgiveness.

“In Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through your faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:10-12).

Make this great eternal exchange and do not waste another day. No one has ever regretted receiving from Almighty God His agenda for their life. The Lord wants you in exchange for Him. Jesus wants your life in exchange for His life. He wants your troubled heart in exchange for His tender heart. He wants your fears in exchange for His peace and calm.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” (Romans 10:9-10).