searching for solace.

I recently traveled to Iceland and absolutely loved every aspect of my trip; however, my favorite part of the trip actually eluded me while I was there. It wasn’t until after I returned to the United States that I realized what I had loved so much. Iceland was quiet. Not an eerie quiet, but a tranquil quiet. As we went from village to village, life seemed unhurried. In fact, my least favorite places were the most popular tourist spots, because they shattered my romanticized views of Iceland.

We live in a noisy world. Literally and figuratively. If a store is not pulsating with music, its echoing the screams of a child who can’t have his way or a parent who can’t control her child. At a stoplight, cars reverberate with music pumping from the speakers of a single car nearby; and if cars don’t accelerate quickly enough after the light turns green, a lengthy horn is sure to alert everyone within a square mile. Beyond that, we are bombarded by advertisements on billboards, buses, and benches. Commercials are played relentlessly in every mobile application until we are desperate to upgrade to a commercial-free premium membership. Our mailboxes are overflowing with ads and coupons and credit card offers. Furthermore, our social media is flooded with its own ads, everyone’s opinion about everything, and pictures of your friends and your friend’s friends and your friend’s friend’s friends and your friend’s friend’s friend’s food.

It’s exhausting to manage and filter and discern, but it’s the world we live in.

So how can we find solace?

1. Turn off the digital noise. 

While we were in Iceland, we had no reception. We couldn’t receive texts or phone calls or notifications of any sort. I’m sure I’m in the minority here, but for me, it was glorious! We talked to people face to face. We used physical maps. We enjoyed the world around us.

I can see the benefits of social media; however, I think the majority of people who have social media are not utilizing those benefits. Because of such neglect, social media can become a center for pride or discouragement or distraction. Many use social media as a platform to promote themselves or to find affirmation. Those who through comparison cannot live up to other’s portrayals of perfection find themselves discouraged. Others mindlessly scroll and post and click and squander time that could be much better spent.

While I think there are many compelling arguments against social media (another day, another post), I am not necessarily suggesting we delete all our accounts. What I am suggesting is that we learn to function without them. Because even though we may think we couldn’t possibly live without the connections or information that social media provides, we can. In fact, we may even learn that without social media we can build stronger connections. We are constrained to truly communicate and interact and relate to the people that God has placed in our lives. Furthermore, we may learn to discern what information (given and received) is indeed valuable. We may find that we feel less compelled to share our clever opinions on trending topics and more inclined to develop our beliefs in timeless truths.

2. Turn away from mind-numbing pursuits. 

Six-hour plane rides may be torture for some, but for the reader, it’s the perfect time to finish a book or two. In addition to ample time for reading as we drove around the country, Iceland was also a great place for exploring and hiking and learning. We explored lava fields, found abandoned villages, hiked waterfalls, and learned about the culture (I feel like an expert on Icelandic economy, volcanoes, and the Huldufólk). We even learned the language. Just kidding. It’s one of the hardest languages to learn and almost everyone there speaks English. But I can say “Halló” really well.

In the book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman argues that television has instilled within our culture a desperate need to be endlessly entertained; therefore every aspect of American culture becomes a form of show business to keep the masses interested. If it can’t captivate and maintain the public’s interest then it is or becomes irrelevant. While I enjoy a good television show, movie, podcast, soundtrack, or radio station, I know that there are times when I must turn away from these things to contemplate, read, or study. These practices often take more effort but can be far more rewarding.

In Deep Work, Cal Newport writes, “Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction.” We are a generation that finds it difficult to pursue a task if it requires extra effort. So many prefer to watch the movie rather than read the book. Others read only what can be read in short periods of time, and even then, they prefer to scan the headings and bold print assuming that will give them the gist of the piece. It takes work to get through classic novels and non-fiction, but the work truly is rewarding.

Beyond reading, work towards some goal in some area of your life. If you are in school, push yourself to your limits. Study until you could teach the material yourself. If you have a hobby, develop your skills. Become a better athlete, artist, or alliterator. If you run, build your distance or improve your time. If you write, write (because for me, that’s the hardest part about writing). Whatever your interests are, keep improving. Don’t give up because you don’t like the results. Don’t give up because someone can do it better than you can. We have to get better at getting better. We have to develop stick-to-itiveness (why, yes, I have been waiting my whole life to use that word).

3. Turn to God.

Iceland allowed me to see God in a new way. I experienced His creativity, His compassion, His closeness. It reminded me that no matter what we do or where we go, God has something that He wants to show us. Turning off the the digital noise and away from mind-numbing pursuits will only accomplish so much if we do not use some of that time to turn to God.

In order to find true solace, we must find rest in Him. Matthew 11:28-29 says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” God never intended for us to trudge through life on our own. He calls us to a better way. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Life will not be without burdens, without struggle. But we have access to supernatural strength that carries those burdens and endures those struggles. Paul writes, “And he [Jesus] said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

In order to find true solace, we must find our identity in Him. If we seek to be defined by our status, wealth, or beauty, we seek to be defined by something that will fade away. However, if we claim the truth that we are “complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10), pursuits of temporary pleasure or affirmation are displace by the pursuit to serve others and ultimately glorify God. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2) Only God can fulfill the deepest longings of our hearts. As Augustine so beautifully reminds us: “Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee.”

___

Few of us will ever live in places of timeless tranquility. However, to find solace, we must discern what noise we allow into our lives; and when the noise is beyond our control, we must access that inner peace that is only found in Christ alone.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

 

 

Advertisements

my goings are of the Lord

I am amazed by God.

“For his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings.” Job 34:21

“He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” Psalm 40:2

“For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings.” Proverbs 5:21

“Man’s goings are of the Lord; how can a man understand his own way?” Proverbs 20:24

God has a plan for each and every human being on this planet. God is not only working in my life, but orchestrating the lives of everyone on this planet – and that is not from one moment to the next either… He has orchestrated it from beginning to end!

Within such an intricate and massive conglomeration, He has some who willingly submit to His plan for them, while others outright defy it. They choose their own way because they think their way is better, which is absurd, but they don’t know! They don’t know that God has a specific plan for them. They don’t know God! At least not truly, for if they did, surely they would submit their petty desires to the One Who wants only the best for each and every individual.

He loves every person within the complex network of humanity, and for those who choose His way, everything works out quite perfectly.  And for those who choose to reject His way, well, He still works things out perfectly! Tragically, they simply lose the blessings that God had in store for them. He works through and with all the choices that are made by BILLIONS of people!

 

I am in awe.

I cannot understand my own way, but I know the One Who has planned it!

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26:3

becoming a cheerful giver

“God loveth a cheerful giver.”

I was reading 2 Corinthians 9, and when I got to this verse, I stopped. Usually, I quickly skim by it with a mindset of Yeah, yeah, give my tithes and offerings with a willing, happy heart. No problem! But today I really thought about the verse and decided to apply it on a deeper level.

First of all, I grew up in a Christian home, so giving money to the work of the Lord has never been a struggle. If my parents gave me a dollar, then I gave a dime to Jesus. If grandma sent me ten dollars for my birthday, one dollar went into the offering plate. I didn’t do it because I was forced and I never wondered why God wanted my money. I just knew that giving was another way of showing my love for God and trusting that He would provide for all my needs. And He does–for every need and even for wants.

Maybe you didn’t grow up as I did. Maybe giving is a struggle for you. If so, please let me tell you that it is worth it. First of all, knowing you had a part in something great – the work of the Lord – I have always seen it as such a privilege. Secondly, just proving God’s faithfulness is an awesome experience. When you give by faith and see the Lord provide in ways you did not expect, He becomes so real!

Also, I realized that there is more of me to give then just of my finances. I struggle more with giving when it comes to my time and my talents. I selfishly schedule my time. I have time for work, church, devotions, and other ministry. I want time to read, to play the piano, to write, to run, to cook, to play games, and to spend time with friends, but anything outside of my regular schedule I sometimes consider unwelcome.  When it comes to my talents, I tend to hide them for fear they aren’t good enough. I doubt whether God could really use my talents for His purposes when there are so many others who could do it better.

But I realized my perspective on all of these things–my time, my treasures, my talents–was completely wrong! None of it is mine! It is His time, His treasures, and His talents! If I will consistently adjust my perspective to see that all these things are not my own, I will have no problem giving of them with a cheerful heart! If the Lord wants me to give of the time He has given me, I can happily give of it since it was never mine to begin with. And if the Lord wants me to use or even develop my talents for His purposes and glory, I will have no problem in doing so because I realize that the Lord has blessed me with the ability to do those things.

Now I am far from perfect, and there will be times when I will once again become selfish. But the prayer for my life is that the Lord will remind me that nothing is my own, it is His, and I am blessed! And when reminded, I will remember to give cheerfully!

 

first things first.

“When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” ~ C.S. Lewis

Jesus is not my first priority…

Paul writes, speaking of Jesus Christ: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers:all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” ~ Colossians 1:16-18

Last December I began to plan the new year in detail and wrote out goals for every aspect of my life. In the last few years, I have chosen a verse and a word to focus on throughout the year.

At the time, I was continuing my reading through Paul’s epistles. The Lord had already been working in my heart for months about this very verse and the word I would choose. I read Colossians and, though I have probably heard and read these verses hundreds of times, they affected me more than ever before.

Colossians 1:18 would be my goal verse. Jesus would be my one word.

I have touched on this before, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of living a Christ-centered life. I know the first month is nearly over, but allow Christ to have preeminence in 2014.

List everything that consumes your time.

This is how I start, and I encourage you to do the same. The list is virtually endless, but I’ll mention the most common – God, family, friends, church, prayer, Bible study, sports, reading, school, television, social media, eating, sleeping, etc… Take a look at your list and order them according to their importance. Now, be honest with yourself, are you giving more time to things of less importance? How does your life balance out?

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. ~ Ephesians 5:15,16

Jesus is not at the top of my list, nor do I want Him to be.

Jesus is not an item I can simply mark off a to-do list. The verse does not say, “…that above all things he might have the preeminence.” It says, “…that in all things might have the preeminence.” He must be at the center of everything I do.

After I made my list, I looked at each item and asked myself one question, “Can this be done to the glory of Jesus Christ?” If the answer was yes, I then set goals that would ultimately bring glory to Him in their accomplishment. If the answer was no, I removed them.

This is absolutely Biblical. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Honestly, this is difficult. It means we must constantly be walking in the Spirit, and it requires dying to our own fleshly desires. Your flesh and the Spirit are constantly at war. Paul says in Galatians 5:16, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

Mind the things of the Spirit.

Romans 8 is a phenomenal chapter on the flesh versus the Spirit. In verses 5 and 6 it says, “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

It’s a simple truth. If you want a life that glorifies Jesus Christ, mind the things of the Spirit. If you want a life that glorifies yourself or anything else that will pass away, mind the things of the flesh.

And everything will affect you one way or another – every television show, every song, every book, every friend, every magazine, every conversation, every text message, every movie, every moment spent either glorifies Christ or doesn’t.

Is my every moment spent on things that glorify Christ? Honestly, no. But I am a work in progress, and so are you. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6) By the end of 2014, I hope to see more time spent on things that glorify Christ than things that satisfy my flesh.

Will you also allow Christ to have the preeminence in your life?

fall to fly

We all come to a point in life in which we are comfortable. We think we have life figured out. We like the ideal life we have orchestrated – a life without complication. Yet God desires more from us. He wants us to step out in faith. The desire for more burns within us. We are not satisfied with good, we truly want great. But when the sacrifices are considered, most settle for the ordinary, the simple. They decide that it is better to be comfortable rather than to endure challenges in order to succeed – in order to obey.

I challenge you to take the leap of faith that God wants from you. Like a bird must step out of its nest so that it may learn to fly, step out of your comfort zone. You will fall at first. It is necessary. It will be frightening. It will take your breath away. You may even begin to believe that you are falling to your finale. And you may want to simply accept that, but don’t.

Inhale.

Take on the pressure.

Face the wind.

Rise up.

Fly.

And when you are soaring above all those who would not step out in obedience, those who settled for mediocrity – those who stayed in their nests – you will be thankful that you learned to fall in order to fly.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles…” ~ Isaiah 40:31

taught to the teacher

Several years ago, I assigned my students book reports, and many of them (in different classes) chose to do the various books from the Chronicles of Narnia. I figured, since I had never read any of them, that I would read them too.

So I started with the first book and went through the series. I discovered two things. First, these are excellent books! I should have guessed this, since I truly enjoyed C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity, but I was still pleasantly surprised. The second thing that I discovered was that some of my students who were claiming to read these books were only reading the first chapter and the back cover and then using that limited information to write their book reports. See, little did they know that I had read the same books that they had read, so I knew exactly what happened in each book.

At first, I was really frustrated. I thought, I know exactly what these stories are about. Do they seriously think they can fool me with these “short-cut” book reports? They have the nerve to tell me that they read the whole book?

And then my thoughts wandered… and I was convicted.

Are there not times when I do almost the same thing with God? I take “short-cuts” and convince myself that I have done what was required of me, but am I seriously trying to fool my omniscient God? I wonder if God looks at me and says I know exactly what you are about and do you think you are fooling me with your “short-cuts”? 

Have you really convinced yourself that you have read your Bible as you should? 

Prayed as you should? 

Yielded to the Holy Spirit as you should? 

Shared the Gospel as you should? 

Obeyed as you should? 

Trusted me as you should? 

Helped others, rather than self, as you should? 

Loved as you should?

Lived the Christian life as you should? 

It’s your reasonable service.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. ~ Romans 12:1-2

success?

Of this I am almost certain, there are two proverbial keys necessary to unlocking the door of success to any goal we desire to reach. The first key is discipline, a weighty key that requires great strength; the second is balance, a delicate key requiring great attentiveness to preserve its fragility. Now here is the hardest part… you have to use both keys at the same time to unlock that “door.”

Are you imagining this with me?

Does this seem nigh impossible to anyone else?!

Well, let’s just start with this then, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) Despite the fact that balance and discipline seem almost contrary to one another, it is possible to exercise both and reach the goals you have set for yourself. But not on your own. You need your Heavenly Father to help you.

There have been numerous times in my life when I have tried to do it all in my own strength, and every time I am left exhausted and disappointed until I realize I have not been relying on Him to help me. And until you do the same, you too will end up exhausted and disappointed. Of course, I am no expert; all I can do is share with you the things that the Lord has shown me in my own life. While making my goals for 2012, this was something that God put on my heart – something that would help me stick to my goals and see growth in my life.

With that being said, let’s address these two “keys.” Of the two, balance is probably the one I struggle with most, so I will address it last. Discipline can be a little easier for me if it means acquiring something I really want. For example, in January 2011, I set a goal to lose thirty pounds by the end of the year. My purpose was two-fold 1) I wanted to be an ideally healthy weight 2) I wanted to feel good about myself. By June 2011, I had lost thirty-five pounds.

The difficult thing is being disciplined when I don’t want to be, but need to be. I can think of several goals I have set for myself, because I know they are things that I should be doing in order to see growth in my life. The hard part is putting what we know we should be doing into action. Because knowing how to do something and actually doing something are two very different things.

The truth is, you know how to reach your goal. You probably wouldn’t have set a goal, if you had no idea how to attain it. But if you are like me, it’s taking the necessary steps that can be a struggle… or as in my introductory illustration, it’s lifting that weighty key that requires a measure of strength. So where do we find that strength? Through Christ. He gave us everything necessary in His Word and through the power of His Spirit. In fact, discipline is a fruit of the Spirit. It’s just known by another word – temperance. (Galatians 5:22-23).

With this in mind, ask yourself a few questions:
1. Why have I set my goal? Is it to please yourself, others, or Jesus Christ? Above all, if your goal is not set with Christ in mind, then perhaps your goal is not really worth striving for. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ…” When you are living a Christ-centered life, knowing that everything you do is for Him makes the hard things a little bit easier. Now along with the Christ-centered goals you may find yourself and even others pleased, and there is nothing wrong with that as long as pleasing Him is your primary focus. Later in verse 23 of the same chapter the Bible says, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”

2. Have I asked for the Lord’s help in accomplishing my goal? Once you have separated selfish goals from Spirit-filled goals, this step becomes a bit easier. Jeremiah 29:11-12 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.” God obviously wants the best for you, and since He is omniscient and omnipotent, why not ask for his guidance and strength in reaching your goals?

3. Am I doing everything I can to reach my goal? Oh, hello discipline… we meet again. So once you understand you must be dependent on God, what can you do?

First, get organized. Organizing your life is a whole other subject in and of itself. Time and space and frankly capability does not permit me to address this right now. Ask God to help you prioritize your responsibilities. Read books on organization (I highly recommend Getting Things Done by David Allen).

Next, get focused. You have already narrowed your goals to the things Christ would have you do, now write them down. Set time frames for your goals, and intentionally make time to reassess your progress on a regular basis. Eliminate distractions that keep you from reaching your goals.

Finally, do. Stop making excuses. Stop wasting time. Trust me, I know that it is easier said than done, but at some point you have to decide that you are just going to do it! And you can. Because your goal is worth doing when you know you are doing it for the glory of God. “Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

As I told you before, I set a goal in 2011 to lose 30 pounds, and I reached it. What I didn’t tell you was how it affected the other areas of my life. The results were not good, because I had completely disregarded that necessary key of balance. There was nothing wrong with my goal to lose weight. The problem was I had lost sight of all other aspects of life, and losing weight almost became an obsession. I no longer thought of my goal being accomplished for the glory of God; my goal was being accomplished for the glory of man. I thrived on compliments. My appearance in the sight of others controlled my every thought. Now, there may have been other factors that played into this – certain life events that had provoked a measure of insecurity with how I looked. But had I my focus been on Christ, I would not have reached this point.

Fortunately, the same life events that had played a part in my obsession also brought my attention back to my relationship with God – the relationship I had almost completely abandoned for several months. As I sought him for guidance and strength (something I had not done when I had set my goals) I began to realize how faulty my mindset was. And once God had shown me where I fell short, He began to help me find the balance I needed.

Now, perhaps I had known this all along, but for the first time in my life, I had intentionally decided to live it out. I determined that everything I did would only be done because my relationship with Him was all that mattered. Do you know what I discovered? Obsessing over my weight and my appearance – what I should and shouldn’t eat or wear or whatever – was doing nothing for my relationship with God. Yes, the Bible says, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost… For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body…” I had started off with these verses in mind, but I had forgotten the end… “and in your spirit, which are God’s.

With this in mind, here is my advice for finding balance:

1. Put Christ at the center of all your goals. And if your goal cannot be done to the glory of God, let it go! Pleasing Him is all that matters. There is no #2 after this. As far as, I’m concerned, it is the only thing necessary to acquiring balance.

As I said before, I am no expert. But I know what the Bible says, and I know what the Lord has shown me, and I know how the Lord has worked in my own life. I only pray that some part of this may help you or simply encourage you in some way. Paul said, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

you have now.

A birth, a life, a death.

This much is certain.

A life – my life, your life – length unknown.

What are you doing with this moment?

Those who have influenced the world most are those that have done the most with the time they are given. Those who have changed the world are those that were most aware of the value of every minute.

They were governed by the same clock, the same calendar by which you are governed. They did not know when their time would end, but they lived with an understanding that the passing of every minute is an irretrievable commodity.

What motivates you?

I recently asked a number of people what motivated them. The answers were surprisingly varied, yet I would venture to say that those with noblest motivations are those with a true understanding of time.

Several mothers responded by saying that their children motivate them. They know that childhood and adolescence are fleeting, but they also realize that these years are foundational to their children’s futures so they cherish the time they have to mentor and mold.

A number of people responded with motivations like “glorifying God,” “the cross,” and “the love of Christ.” I believe they understand that we will give account for the time that we are given, and only the things that are done for Christ will matter.

I don’t think there is necessarily any one right answer for what should be our motivation, but I strongly believe that our motivations should be centered on Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:12-13 speaks on the importance of this saying: “Now if any man build upon this foundation [Jesus Christ] gold, silver, precious stones, [eternal things] wood, hay, stubble; [temporal things] Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”

What you do with your time reveals your true motivations.

I can claim that the future is my motivation, but if I do not spend my time wisely or better yet, invest that time now, my claim is unfounded. I can tell you that the love of Christ is my motivation, but if my actions do not reveal the love of Christ to others then my words are meaningless.

Assess your life. Be honest. What motivates you? Is it relationships, identity, health, knowledge, wealth, beauty, acceptance – this is what the world will tell you is most important, but none of these things can last. People will come and go. Health will fail. Riches will not last. Beauty will fade.

Do you want to make a difference with the time you are given?

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

Paul was one of those Christians. He understood that his time on this earth was short, and there was much to be done. His advice: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)

I recently asked my students if any one knew what God’s will was for their lives. I was completely surprised that not one hand went up. Then I realized why. To them, God’s will was something far off in the future – when they needed to decide where to go to college, or what career path they should take, or whom they would marry. Those decisions are indeed aspects of God’s will, but He has a will for each and every one of us right now. I began quoting Romans 12:1-2, and they finished with me. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Seek God’s will today, and He will inevitably direct you towards the right college, the right career, and the right spouse; and He will do it all in the right time too!

God has given you this moment, right now.

Today you will either choose to become more like the world or more like Christ. With every passing minute you move in one direction or the other. You cannot conform to the world AND be transformed by the Word.

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever. ~ 1 John 2:15-17

Today you will either invest your time into your own future and the future of others or you will waste it on selfish pleasures that hold no significance. Live with eternity in mind.

The length of your life may be unknown, but you have now. What will you do with it?

when God doesn’t make sense

How do we understand an infinite God with finite minds? Simply, we don’t. A comprehended god is not God at all.

If you have lived the Christian life for any length of time, it is likely that you have experienced a time when you did not understand what God was doing. From our limited perspective, His way just did not make sense. Our natural response is to take those circumstances back into our own control, turn back, stop moving, or at the very least, figure it all out. I have been there. I hate confusion and love solutions. When God doesn’t make sense, my mind races with possible scenarios and outcomes. Then a two word command from the Word of God is brought to my mind. “Be still.” (Psalm 46:10) Not a pleasant suggestion to rest, more of a command to stop with my control-freak tendencies and know that He is God. It is then, when I stop that He reminds me of His promise from Proverbs 3 – one that you are likely familiar with.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Beyond this incredible promise, however, is a Bible filled with reasons why we can and should be encouraged when our circumstances don’t make sense. So I want to share with you what God has shown me.

1. When God’s leading in your life doesn’t make sense, take heart because He might just magnify Himself through you!

I think we have a tendency to read the Bible (especially those most familiar stories) without truly thinking them through. We are able to see the whole picture, and we neglect to consider what these men and women faced, while not knowing what God was going to do. Often times, the things God either told these people to do or what He allowed to happen to them were seemingly absurd.

  • Noah was commanded to build a giant boat that would house him, his family, and a host of animals because God was going to flood the earth and “destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life.” (Genesis 6:14-17)
  • Abraham was told to leave his country without a specific destination. (Genesis 12:1) Then later, after God had made a covenant with Abraham to make of him a great nation and after God had fulfilled that promise (when Abraham and Sarah were both over ninety… absurd in and of itself), God tells Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice. (Genesis 12:2-3, 17:16-19, 22:2)
  • Moses led God’s people out of Egypt only to be trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea; then God told them to go forward. (Exodus 14:5-15)
  • Joshua was told to march around an entire city for seven days. (Joshua 6:1-16)
  • Gideon gathered an army, only to be told that the army is too large. Then by God’s processes, the army was narrowed down to three hundred men. They then faced Midian with trumpets and empty pitchers. (Judges 7:2-21)
  • David, a man after God’s own heart, was anointed to become the next king of Israel only to have the present king of Israel attempt to kill him… multiple times. (1 Samuel 13:14, 16:12-13, 18:10-11, 19:9-10)
  • Elijah, after delivering God’s message to wicked King Ahab, was told to hide himself, and he would drink from a brook and be fed by ravens. Then, when the brook dried up, he was told to go to a widow woman and ask for her last meal. (1 Kings 17:1-12)
  • Job, who was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil,” lost all of his possessions as well as his children in one day. Then when he “sinned not,” he was afflicted with sore boils from head to feet. (Job 1:1,13-19,22; 2:7)
  • Mary, a virgin, was told she would give birth. (Luke 1:26-34)
  • The disciples were told to feed five thousand men with five loaves of bread and two fishes. (Luke 9:10-16)
  • A man who was blind his whole life had clay (made from dirt and spit) put on his eyes and was told to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. (John 9:6-7)
  • Paul, while faithfully spreading the gospel, was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked and so much more. He was also afflicted with a “thorn in the flesh,” which he asked the Lord to take away three times. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, 12:7-8)

These are just some of the most familiar stories. The Bible is full of stories in which men and women face seemingly impossible situations. Put yourself in their place. Imagine that you don’t know what God is going to do. Does it make sense? No!

But we do know what happens in the end, and that is what makes the stories so awesome! When these men and women obey God’s commands and trust His guiding hand, they see God magnified. These stories are all about God!

  • God blessed Noah and made a covenant to never destroy the earth by flood again. He also invented the rainbow! (Genesis 9:1,12-16)
  • God provided a ram as a substitute offering in response to Abraham’s obedience. (Genesis 22:13)
  • God parted the Red Sea and had the children of Israel walk on dry land; then, best of all, He had the waters come down on the Egyptian army and killed them all. (Exodus 14:21-31)
  • God gave the Israelites the city of Jericho when the walls fell down flat. (Joshua 6:20)
  • God caused the people of Midian to turn on themselves when they heard the three hundred trumpets. (Judges 7:22)
  • God protected, delivered, and blessed David. David wrote, “Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.” (Psalm 35)
  • God saved the widow and her son and proved His Word to be truth. (1 Kings 17:24)
  • God revealed His omniscience and omnipotence to Job and blessed Job with twice what he had before. (Job 38, 42:12-17)
  • God favoured Mary and she gave birth to the Son of God, who would give His own life to take away the sins of the world. I love her words “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” (Luke 1:30,35,46)
  • God fed the five thousand and left fragments that filled twelve baskets. (Luke 9:16-17)
  • God opened the eyes of the blind man so that he could see; then Jesus used the miracle to teach spiritual blindness (John 9:11,39-41)
  • God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

2. When God’s leading in your life doesn’t make sense, trust Him because He is faithful.

The God who made Himself real to these Bible characters is the very same God who wants to make Himself real to you and to those around you. The Bible is filled with promises given to those who trust Him and follow His leading.

God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:9

I’m smiling right now as I type this because even now there are aspects of my own life that do not make sense. But this life is not about me – it’s all about Him. And if He wants to use perplexing circumstances to magnify Himself through me and prove Himself faithful, that is an awesome privilege! Nothing could bring me more joy than to be used by Him for His glory.

One last thought…

When we read the Word of God, we see the stories from start to finish. But it may be that you will never why God allows certain circumstances into your life. It may not make sense, but we cannot forget that He is God. Job never knew why God allowed all his possessions and family to be taken, but in the end he was faithful, and God blessed that faith.

There is also a chance that you will not see God’s blessing on this side of heaven, but the Bible says, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.” (James 1:12)

O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. ~ Psalm 34:3