3 Messages from Jordan

Back in Florida from a 13-day trip to Jordan. We had an outstanding time with the team (Latvians, Brazilians, Irish, Americans) pictured below.


When talking with those we went to support, I asked three of them this question: “When I have the opportunity to share with Americans a message from you, what would you like me to share?” Here are their responses:

Receive and love our people. They’ve suffered enough. Don’t add to their pain or cause them more hurt. -Iraqi refugee

When you pray for us, consider that you might be the answer to your own prayer. -Missionary

We believe the American church is our mother church. We pray for you. Please pray for us. -Pastor

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3 Questions to Counter Fear’s Lies

(a follow up from last post)

When, not if, fear lies to us, we should be ready with a counterpunch. Our most powerful counters will be focused on God, not us. In the story from Exodus 3-4, Moses’ counters were all about himself. Suppose he had countered with these questions instead.

What is God doing? 

  • And I don’t mean, “Pretty cool trick. How is he doing that?” Rather, I’m talking big picture. Moses may have actually been asking himself this question for decades, but I’m guessing his viewpoint was too small.

Where does God want me to join his work?

  • It’s pretty clear Moses gave up this thought long ago. His bully memories and self-excusing led him to accept, “This is all there is.”  It wasn’t long before he found out otherwise. 

How is God revealing himself?

  • Like most of us, Moses was caught up in his own awe. His self-imposed blindness allowed him to offer only what he could see. His world changed when God removed his blinders.

Go ahead. Counter Fear. Give God his chance to remove your blinders to show you what He’s doing and how you can join him.

Fear is a Liar

Exodus 3-4:16
Fear steals your curiosity. 3:1-4
Fear steals your “yes.” 3:11,13; 4:1,10,13
Fear steals your awe of God. 3:5-6,14-15;4:11

Daniel 3
Fear will tell you to bow to other gods. Vs. 1-6
Fear will tell you to give your allegiance to what you can see. Vs. 7-12
Fear will tell you to resist God’s plan. Vs. 13-18
Fear will tell you that God cannot be trusted. Vs. 19-30

Missing God’s Gift (Something Misplaced?)

Yesterday a friend told me how different he is from who he was just 18 months ago. Earlier this week a group discussed how a coaching program has altered their life’s rhythms in just 7 weeks. These people were expressing how receiving a gift from God, such as leaving a successful corporate job to start all over or exiting the routine of life to enjoy Sabbath, has changed who they are. And they want more.

God’s gifts come to us in various formations. Sometimes they are clearly seen as coming straight from God. Other times, we are a little more challenged to determine if an opportunity or unforeseen blessing are indeed gifts from God. That is, unless we live from the viewpoint that God works at all times and through all things in our lives. Until we reach that viewpoint, it’s likely we will often miss God’s gifts.

Why don’t we automatically have this viewpoint? What keeps us from it? How can we move toward it? In talking with these people, I’d say they would say they had some things misplaced.

Misplaced Contentment-Yes, it’s possible to be so content that you miss noticing an offer from God. Our contentment can often lead us to settling, stubbornness, and even pride. So a God-given opportunity can appear unsettling, unnecessary, maybe even unworthy. Think rich, young ruler.

Misplaced Fear-In this case, fear of just about anything (loss of job/income, ability, identity, power/influence, health, security) or anyone (family, peers, leaders, employer, yourself) has been given higher rank than God. Think Moses’ initial bush response.

Misplaced Stewardship-Stewardship covers more in our lives than just finances. Stewarding your family, your talents, your choices, your time, your emotions, your mind, your body, for example. Think about most kings in the Old Testament.

Misplaced Allegiance-Satan is committed to leading us to misplace our allegiances. We can become more allegiant to so many earthly kingdoms that we miss God’s leading us toward his heavenly kingdom. Think about the Pharisees and Paul’s warnings about false teachers in the church.

Misplaced Commitment-Commitments lead to routines, obligations, and expectations-some short term, others long term. These can become idols causing us to be completely blind to something more aligned with God’s plans for us. Think Eli, Saul, or Martha.

We often miss God’s gifts to us because our misplacements lead us to consider way too many “what ifs.” So consider a few reverse thinking “what if” results when God’s gifts are missed:

  • What if you miss God’s gift because you ignore a burning bush?
  • What if you miss God’s gift because you run toward Joppa instead of Nineveh?
  • What if you miss God’s gift because you always look backward rather than forward?
  • What if you miss God’s gift because you follow the crowd and declare, “Crucify him!”
  • What if you miss God’s gift because your faith is so small that your reply to God’s offer is, “No thanks.”

Three Ways to Let God Out of Your Box

(Third and final entry for this post)

The first two entries talked about two ways to let God out of your box: don’t give up and stop believing lies. Read Nick’s quote again to see the third way.

Too often we tell ourselves we aren’t smart enough or attractive enough or talented enough to pursue our dreams. We buy into what others say about us, or we put restrictions on ourselves. What’s worse is that when we consider ourselves unworthy, we are putting limits on how God can work through us! When you give up on your dreams, you put God in a box.

As a long-distance runner, I often hear people say something like this after they hear about some race I’ve done or I’m preparing for: “I could never do that. You’re amazing.” If I were to bluntly respond what I’m thinking when they say that, it would be something like this: “That’s ridiculous. Of course you could. And by the way, amazing I am not.” This is a simple example of what we often do to God as well. We tell him what’s possible…so in the box he goes. The third way to let him out of your box is to do the opposite.

Resist Putting Limits

Nick said we put limits on how God can work through us. And this can have tragic consequences. Case in point: the Israelite spies in Canaan (read Exodus 13-14). Twelve went in to check it out. Ten said, “No go.” Two said, “We should go.” Forty years later, the ten got want they wanted and so did the two. God showed up for the two who resisted putting limits on him. They experienced what God can do through those who allow him to work through them (read Joshua 6,14).

So how can we resist our human nature and give God all the freedom in our lives he deserves?

  • Foster a mindset of submission to daily prompts from God-“Sure, I’d be happy to ask my neighbor how I can pray for them. What else?”
  • Keep your finger on the “yes” trigger when God comes with a big ask-“Yes, I’ll take a vacation week to go on a mission trip. And I’ll stay open to even moving my family to live there permanently.”
  • Seek counsel from those we believe live submitted lives-“Can we have coffee soon? I’m needing some guidance on something God has challenged me to do.”
  • Surround yourself with other “resisters”-“God, who should be in my corner? Holy Spirit, surround me with fellow resisters.”

In what area(s) of your life is God in your limit box? What could God do through you if you’d resist putting limits on him? Tell God, “I’m sorry for not giving you my ‘yes’ more quickly. I desire to experience what it’s like to give you full access. Show me what it’s like to let you out of my box.”

Three Ways to Let God Out of Your Box

(Continued from yesterday’s entry)

Too often we tell ourselves we aren’t smart enough or attractive enough or talented enough to pursue our dreams. We buy into what others say about us, or we put restrictions on ourselves. What’s worse is that when we consider ourselves unworthy, we are putting limits on how God can work through us! When you give up on your dreams, you put God in a box.

There are three phrases in Nick’s quote that explain how we put God in our box: we tell ourselves, we buy into, we consider ourselves. These actions aren’t generated by God. They are generated by ourselves and others, and they reveal the second way to let God out of our box.

Stop Believing Lies 

Have you noticed you are one of the biggest liars about you? Nick gave you some examples: “I’m not smart enough. I’m not talented enough. I’m not attractive enough.” Sure, maybe someone actually said those or similar things to you one time, but who keeps repeating them more than anyone else? You do. Stop telling yourselves lies that you end up believing. 

Yes, others say things that we have a choice to buy into. A choice. In middle school, my music teacher said I wasn’t good enough to get a college degree in music. I chose not to believe that and got that degree anyway. And in my ministry career others have said I wouldn’t be able to get hired by churches because my marital status is single. For over twenty years now God has chosen otherwise.

To stop believing ours and other’s lies, we must fill our hearts and minds with God’s truths. Instead of undermining what God wants to do in our lives by considering ourselves unworthy, we should believe scriptures like Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Who in their right mind wants to believe lies and box up the God of that verse?

What lies do you need to stop believing? What God truths could replace those lies? Tell God, “I’m tired of the lies. I’m going to stop believing them and stand in your truths. Show me what it’s like to let you out of my box.”

(Blog completed tomorrow)

Three Ways to Let God Out of Your Box

You read that title right. You may not be almighty, but you are capable of stuffing God in a box of your making. It’s so easy that most of us do it without even knowing or thinking about it. And then we marvel at those who live what seem like extraordinary lives, not knowing that they have simply let God out of their box.

Case in point: Nick Vujicic. He was born without limbs-no arms or legs. Can you imagine the box he had as a child where he stuffed God? That box must have been filled with lots of whys, hows, whens, and seriouslys. And who could blame him? Sounds perfectly natural to think God had messed up-you might say he put himself in Nick’s box.

Somewhere along the way, Nick decided to let God out of that box. Nick is now 35 years old, married, travels the world speaking, and directs an organization that helps share the message of hope in the God he let out of his box. I started reading his devotional book, Limitless, this week where in the first day’s reading entitled Free from Limitations he wrote this:

Too often we tell ourselves we aren’t smart enough or attractive enough or talented enough to pursue our dreams. We buy into what others say about us, or we put restrictions on ourselves. What’s worse is that when we consider ourselves unworthy, we are putting limits on how God can work through us! When you give up on your dreams, you put God in a box.

From Nick’s quote, we can see three ways to let God out of any box where we’ve decided he belongs.

Don’t Give Up

Giving up is another one of those easy-to-do human things. What if we looked at giving up as putting God in a box? What if we stopped exercising our finite power in such a life-sucking way resulting in squelching the infinite power of God? For some other cases in point, consider the following people who didn’t give up:

  • Noah
  • Esther
  • Joshua
  • Daniel
  • Martin Luther
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Alexander Bell
  • Winston Churchill
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Jesus

How their lives and those impacted by their decisions would have been changed had God stayed in their box!

Are you considering giving up? On your marriage? On your education? On your faith? On your passion? Tell God, “It’s all yours. I’m not giving up. Show me what it’s like to let you out of my box.”

(Blog continued tomorrow)

The Worst Case of Being Misunderstood

Ever been misunderstood? I’m not asking have you ever had a misunderstanding. I’m talking about being mislabeled, mischarged, or mispegged to the point that trust was broken. In some cases, these events lead to years of damage and loss, such as years in prison for being accused falsely. If it’s been that bad for you, that’s rough. I can’t relate to that depth of being misunderstood. But I can tell you this, that’s not the worst case of being misunderstood. No, the worst case happened a few millienia ago.

The worst case of being misunderstood happened to God. Yes, that’s right. And just like the case usually is, it was because of a lie. The lie led to mistrust. The mistrust led to the worst decision known. And God and his creation have been suffering ever since. Yes, that’s right. You have been suffering because God was misunderstood.

You’ve probably guessed where this happened. If not, here’s a hint. The lie had to do with becoming like God. (Now that’s a whopper of a lie.) The lie caused Adam and Eve to lose trust in God’s character. The choice to believe that lie in essence said to God, “You can’t be trusted.” The first person to ever be misunderstood created those who made him feel misunderstood.

So here you are. Either being misunderstood right now or thinking about when it’s happened to you in the past. Find comfort in these thoughts:

  • God is the one person in the world who does get you, all of you.
  • God knows what it feels like to be misunderstood. It started soon after he created us and has never stopped.
  • God found a way to offer reconciliation to those who misunderstood him. You can do that too, most likely. But remember, just like his offer, yours may or may not be accepted.
  • God’s character wasn’t impacted by his being misunderstood. At his core, he is love. Strengthen your core with love.
  • God continues to do his work. So can you. Being misunderstood is not your identity. Your identity is found in your Creator. Don’t believe the lie that started this whole thing. 

2018 Resolution: Closing the Spiritual Gap

This afternoon I finished reading my final book for 2017, The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan. I shared a thought from his book a few days ago regarding a sabbath type exercise, which he offers many of in this book. Here’s one from chapter 10 that seems fitting for New Year’s Eve:

A good Sabbath exercise is to take stock. It is to sit and reckon where you are spiritually and calculate the gap between that and where you want to be – or, at least, where you know you ought to want to be. Do you want more grace, or trust, or peace? Do you want a greater sense of God’s presence and goodness? Do you want to live by Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4:29, to “not let any unwholesome talk proceed out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”?

What if our resolutions for the new year were spiritual in nature? 

What if our first priority was about our souls, our spirits? 

What if a year from now we could say, “Thank God my spiritual gap isn’t as big as it was“?

Real Sabbath: God’s Sovereignty

My latest reading has been on the subject of Sabbath. Why? It’s a curious subject; we all need it; and I’m putting together a coaching program on the subject.

The two books I’m reading through this month are excellent; they’ve made the resource list for the program. Here are links to them: The Rest of God and Rhythms of Rest.

To give you a taste of the goodness of these books and what you could look forward to in a program on this subject, here’s a quote from chapter four of The Rest of God:

Real Sabbath, the kind that empties and fills us, depends on complete confidence and trust. And confidence and trust like that are rooted in a deep conviction that God is good and God is sovereign.

To give the reader a practical way to seek the sovereignty of God and therefore achieve an attitude of Sabbath, the author gave this challenge based on the storyline found in Acts 3-4 (you might want to read that now):

To practice the sovereignty of God today when you pray, start with God. Survey what he has made. Recite what he has done. Proclaim who he is.

So I tried that this afternoon as a journal entry. Give it a shot and see if your mind and spirit aren’t entered into a deeper place of trust and confidence.