Humble Honor and Bold Obedience

UntitledIt is in my heart now to make a covenant with Yahweh, the God of Israel so that His burning anger may turn away from us. My sons, don’t be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand in His presence, to serve Him, and to be His ministers and burners of incense.” (2 Chronicles 29:10-11)

King Hezekiah spoke these words. I didn’t. I’m not in the exact same situation, but there is certainly a lot I can learn from Hezekiah’s words. Perhaps you can, too.

  1. Know what is “in your heart.”
  2. Make a covenant with God.
  3. Don’t be negligent.
  4. Accept you have been chosen to stand in His presence.
  5. Know you have been chosen to serve Him.
  6. Respond to having been chosen as His minister.

Maybe you want to leave out one or more of these directions, but they all fit together. And they apply to each of us, perhaps more than we want.

Instead of hesitation, we can respond with humble honor and bold obedience.

Free Water

water (7)The One on the throne said to me, “It is finished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give free water from the spring of the water of life to anyone who is thirsty. Those who win the victory will receive this, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. Revelation 21:6-7

God is.

That’s it. Pure and simple. God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. There has never been and will never be life without him. There is nothing that escapes his awareness. There is nothing outside of his reach. That includes you.

Perhaps you acknowledge him as Creator. You accept him as Savior. But what now? We can easily think of our relationship with God as a one-time decision when, in reality, it’s a relationship that is alive and growing. God desires to engage with us. He doesn’t abandon us. He fulfills every promise and hears every concern. He attends to our needs and often entertains our wants. Most of all, he longs to be the desire of our hearts.

When we have a thriving relationship with Jesus, we live out the truth that he is our Lord and Savior. He fulfilled a promise to us to give us eternal life, to sacrifice himself in place of our sins. He showed us unmerited grace and mercy out of his love for us. He endured pain so he could spare us an eternity of torment. He is our Savior.

But he’s also our Lord. That means he is in charge of our lives – not just the areas of life we don’t want anymore, not just the areas we’re uncertain about or struggling with, not just the areas we think we’ve cleaned up enough on our own to present as acceptable to him. When we accept him as Lord, we yield our lives to him. We let him guide us through the big things and the tiny ones. He cares about it all, and he doesn’t require we be at a certain place before he helps. He doesn’t wait until we’re in our Sunday best before he reveals himself. He doesn’t ever withhold his guidance and provision.

We thirst. God quenches.

Aren’t you thankful?

Live It. At some point throughout the day, preferably right in the middle of a busy time, stop. Quiet yourself to take a deep sip of God’s will. Let him nourish you to do his will. Let him fill you with his will, guiding and convicting you to be on his path. Where he leads, he will equip.

Give Me This Water

indexJesus said, “If you only knew the free gift of God and who it is that is asking you for water, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

The woman said, “Sir, where will you get this living water? The well is very deep, and you have nothing to get water with. Are you greater than Jacob, our father, who gave us this well and drank from it himself along with his sons and flocks?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give will never be thirsty. The water I give will become a spring of water gushing up inside that person, giving eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so I will never be thirsty again and will not have to come back here to get more water.” John 4:10-15

The Samaritan woman at the well didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. She thought he was talking about the physical water she drew from the well – the well she trudged to and from every day. The conversation between the woman and Jesus was on two levels: the practical level, which the woman focused upon, and the spiritual level, which Jesus superimposed.

The woman kept pulling the conversation back to what she knew. She could only think in the context in which she lived. She was practical. She needed water and disliked trudging back and forth to the well, likely for a variety of reasons, and if she could find a way to not have to continue the routine by accessing what Jesus said was eternal, she’d choose his way!

We often respond to God in the context of what we understand. We can’t get outside of our own world long enough to see the possibilities God places right before us. We think things can only work a certain way because we’ve worn ruts in the road, just as the Samaritan woman had worn along the path to the well. The journey was automatic. What about your journey is currently automatic?

God wants to reveal himself to you in fresh ways. He wants you to acknowledge him instead of remaining focused on your daily routine. He wants to offer a refreshing drink to you. Will you accept?

Live It. God will refresh you today. Watch for it. It might be through a friend’s encouraging word or a stranger’s smile. It might be an unexpected email or text. It could be a gorgeous sunset or fluttering butterfly. Be prepared, and give God the credit. Soak up every drop of his nourishment.

Being Resolute in Forgiveness

Forgive us for our sins, because we forgive everyone who has done wrong to us. (Luke 11:4)

When have you struggled to extend forgiveness to someone?

When have you struggled to receive forgiveness from someone?

How completely do you accept God’s forgiveness of you?

Forgiveness is not easy. It’s easier in some circumstances than others, but it’s definitely not a simple process. It’s not the same in every situation. There will be times when someone says “I’m sorry,” and you can easily say, “No problem!” Other times you might hold onto the hurt for years. Someone might not actually say he or she is sorry. You might wait, expecting an apology and expecting to be able to forgive once the apology is given, but if you can’t forgive without the apology, you likely can’t forgive with the apology. Your forgiveness isn’t reliant on someone’s guilt and offering of forgiveness. We want justice and can’t imagine getting it without something tangible. God’s forgiveness doesn’t require justice. If it did, none of us would be forgiven. God’s way of forgiving is undeserved. Even when we know someone doesn’t deserve our forgiveness, we have to extend it when we’re trying to live by God’s will. We forgive because of who God is. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you don’t learn lessons from what has happened in the past. It doesn’t mean you never think about it again. It doesn’t mean whatever is forgiven has no impact on your life. There are still consequences. Forgiveness simply places the situation into God’s hands. It’s the act of saying to God, “I yield this to you and trust you in guiding me how to deal with it. Use it to draw me close to you.” Forgiveness is more about your relationship with God than the worldly justice you crave.

Say “I forgive” to someone today. It can be to someone in your past or present. It can be verbal or written. You might need to say it to God because you no longer have contact with the person or don’t know how to reach them. It might be for something small or something big. It might be for a small piece of a larger issue or the big issue itself. Start somewhere. Start today.

Doing Life Together

As a church leader drove me to the speaking venue, we were having a fantastic discussion about the health of churches – and the lack of it. In the middle of a sentence in which I was stressing the importance of healthy accountability relationships, he interrupted with a quick, “Now that’s a bad word in most churches.” Accountability. Of course, he was joking…a little. The truth is a lot of people shy away from accountability. It’s uncomfortable. We don’t want someone telling us what to do or checking in on us. Whether it’s our need for control or our insecurities, we push back or avoid accountability all together.

When I led my first small group leaders’ training in my local church years ago, one leader demanded, “No one is going to tell me what to do, so don’t even bother calling me.” when I shared the structure in place to support each other, communicate needs, acquire resources, etc. It was interesting to be in a small group with the same person not long ago and listen to him talk about the importance of accountability and communication. What a difference a few years makes.

Who am I to judge? After all, I talked about the importance of accountability in trainings, small groups, and staff meetings, but I’ve certainly grown in its application in my own life. Oh, I had no trouble advising others and holding them accountable, checking in with them regularly after identifying struggles and setting goals and boundaries. Yet I was hesitant to be fully authentic. After all, what if someone betrayed me? What if someone I really cared about judged and rejected me?

So…what if? I thought that through and decided…it would be excruciatingly painful…but not the end of the world. In fact, anytime I ask myself “what if?” over and over again, getting to the root of my hesitation or fear, I’m reminded that as long as I have a solid relationship with God, I’ll be okay. That’s my foundation. My feet are firm. And since God’s Word tells me I’m to do life with others – well, what option do I have?

Do you have support from the church? I’m not talking about the place where you worship although that might be the case. Perhaps you’ve built your closest relationship with someone who regularly attends another church. That’s the case for me. (And for many in ministry, it seems to be an excellent option because of the limits and pressures they feel in their own churches.) When I ask about support from the church, I’m referring to the Church as a whole. Break down the walls. It’s really okay to reach outside those four walls you sit within.

If you don’t have support, why not? Is it everyone else’s fault? “People around here aren’t friendly.” “No one seems to like me.” “I can’t find a place to fit in.”

We often draw a line between “us” and “them” or “me” and “everyone else.” The truth is we can’t go deeper in our relationships without deepening our relationships! Relationships require effort. If you’re not feeling supported and reached, realize the person sitting next to you may not be feeling supported and reached either. As you’re waiting for someone to support and reach out to you, someone else is waiting for you to support and reach out to her. It’s not all about you.

How much effort are you giving? If you’re reaching out to people, what’s your motivation – to serve and give sacrificially or to meet your own needs? Let me say it again: it’s not all about you. Not to mention – people will always let you down. Not ever single person, but people in general. And you’re going to let others down whether you care to admit it or not.

The only one who will meet your needs is God. To expect all your needs to be met by anyone else will lead to certain disappointment. However…God uses people to meet your needs, so if you decide to withdraw and just rely on God for everything, you’re still going to have unmet needs. If you spend much time in God’s Word, you’ll encounter many “one anothers.” We’re to be devoted to one another in love, honor one another above ourselves, live in harmony with one another, accept one another, instruct one another, encourage one another, serve one another humbly, be kind and compassionate to one another, forgive one another, admonish one another with wisdom…and the list goes on!

Philippians 2:5 says In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

And Acts 2:44 says All the believers were together and shared everything. As I ponder “everything,” I consider my fears, anxieties, shortcomings, insecurities and struggles. Look around you. The people you’re not connecting with or waiting for them to connect with you? They have fears, anxieties, shortcomings, insecurities and struggles, too.

Share everything. Do life together. After all, it’s God’s plan.

I Want to Belong

We all want to belong somewhere. Some of us are more restless than others, but there’s a need to be associated with a certain group of people or have a place to relax. We want to be able to be ourselves without any pretense, so we seek a place to belong. We seek people who will accept us.

Sometimes our desire to belong gets distorted. We go along with behavior we’d otherwise say is unacceptable. We hang out with people who have questionable habits. Perhaps you think you left all temptations behind in high school. But have you? Do we sit with a group who is gossiping but say nothing? Do we go to a movie that promotes infidelity and violence and rationalize that we’re adults, so we can see whatever we want? Do we buy more when shopping than we should as our friends convince us we deserve to treat ourselves?

We want to belong, but God set us apart. And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me. (Acts 26:17-18, NLT) By setting us apart, God gives us the best place to belong. By setting us apart, God gives us purpose. By setting us apart, God gives us family.

We want to belong, because God created us for community. Our desire to belong isn’t wrong, but what we do with the desire can be wrong. Belong to God, who sets you apart from this world. Yes, you will still have struggles. You’ll befriend people who don’t know Jesus and build a bridge for them. You’ll be mistreated. You’ll stumble. But there will be a firm foundation under your feet along your journey. And you’ll belong to God. He satisfies the longing and belonging of your heart.