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

the beauty of death

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:… He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from beginning to the end. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1,11

I am absolutely captivated by fall in the Midwest. Every time I take a drive, I risk my life because I find myself looking at the trees rather than the road. Growing up in the desert (which has its own beauty), I never experienced such a colorful season. It’s just magnificent!

Today, as I was on one of my risky drives, I started thinking about the significance of autumn. Why do the leaves change colors?

Now, I am not a science teacher or any expert on biology, but I remember enough from grade school to know that as the days get shorter and the weather cools, the leaves stop making food, the chlorophyll (which makes the leaves green) breaks down, and the remaining pigments are revealed (hence the red, yellow, purple, and orange colors). Then within a short time, those leaves will fall. After all the leaves have fallen, the tree is prepared for the dark, cold winter. Once the tree has made it through the winter, warmth and light return with spring, and the tree continues to grow.

God reminded me of some Biblical truths through those autumn leaves today. In order for there to be growth, there must be periods of “death.”

Death for Life

The most significant time of death in the spiritual life is when we crucify our sinful natures. Romans 6:6 says, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the bought of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” In salvation, we find freedom from sin. Our sin natures must die so that the Spirit might live within us. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) This death alone, which provides new life, is beautiful to me. I think my favorite passage on this is found in 1 Peter 2:21-24, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; be committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

Death for Growth

Beyond this, I consider the wintry times of my life–times that seemed dark and cold. Before them, I didn’t realize what God was preparing me for. During them, I didn’t understand what God was doing or why He was even allowing it. After them, I couldn’t praise Him enough for proving Himself so real in my life! I came to see that in those times of “death,” He was preparing me for growth. He was working in my life to reveal Himself not only to me, but to others as well, and all for His glory! What an incredible God! 1 Peter 3:14 says, “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye…” 

In James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this that they trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” That word perfect is referring to maturity. God has a plan for each and every one of us. In order for us to fulfill that plan, we must go through periods of pain in which we die to self and trust God. We must shed away our desires, our wants, our fears, and our desire for control. They only hinder us from allowing God to do His growing work. We must trust that He is good, and He is loving. I think that Asaph understood this when he wrote in Psalm 73:28, “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.”

A Final Thought

Our God is a creative God, and He is a God of order. I think this is wonderfully displayed in the changing of the seasons. I think creation reveals so much about God, not to cause us to worship that which was created, but rather the awesome, omnipotent Creator.

“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:…” It then goes on to speak of those who lost sight of the Creator, saying “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more that the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” (Romans 1:20,25)

I think too often we are in such a rush that we forget to stop and look at the things which God has created. They reveal so much about our awesome God. David understood this when he wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)

Do not be in such a hurry that you miss something that He wants to show you. God began to reveal His power and wisdom to Job and said, “Stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.” (Job 37:14)

Will you stand still? Will you consider His works?

For thou, LORD, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands. O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep. ~ Psalm 92:4-5

for restless hearts

Jeremiah 2:28 – But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble: for according to the number of thy cities are they gods, O Judah.

The children of Israel had forsaken the one true God for a number of false gods. They were to be judged – taken into captivity. The question in this verse is then asked, and the answer is obvious. None of their other “gods” can save them.

Today, Christians often forsake their God, the same God of Israel who sent His Son to pay the punishment for our sins. 1 John 4:24 says, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” It seems, however, that we tend to forget what He did, and we allow false gods to steal our worship. These gods are not objectified as miniature idols or relics, but rather as beauty, relationships, knowledge, materials, wealth, or power. But when the darkest of times come and you don’t know what to do and you seemingly have no answers, will your looks save you? Will your closest friends and family truly be able to help you? Will your education get you out of trouble? Will your wealth buy you a solution? Will power protect you? None of these things are guaranteed. None of these things give you the security or the answers that are found in God and His Word.

Pursue Him and everything else falls into its rightful place. You see yourself as God sees you –  that you are created specifically by Him and He has a special plan for you. You learn that He is your closest friend and knows you better than you know yourself. You find that all the knowledge in this world cannot compare to the wisdom found in the Word of God. You discover that the things of this world don’t matter for they will pass away. You choose to lay up treasure in heaven that are incorruptible. You pursue the eternal over the temporary. You realize that all the power in the world is still in His control for He is omniscient and omnipotent.

So make Him the center of your life. Focus solely on Him and His plan for you. There is no greater happiness and no greater peace found when you choose to love Him and worship Him. Interestingly, one of the primary themes of 1 John is love. In chapter five, verse three it says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments…” Near the end of the chapter (and book) you find, “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true…” Then the very last verse of the entire book says this:

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

It’s almost as if you will never love God or truly know Him if you put anything before Him.

Place Jesus Christ above all. Love Him. Know Him. Worship Him.

the Potter’s hands

Jeremiah 18:4 – And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

I love this picture that God gives in the book of Jeremiah. In context, it is a picture of His relationship with Israel, but I think it is also a picture of His relationship with me. In this picture, I have learned much of the love and grace of God. When the clay is marred, it is marred within the potter’s hands… and the same is true for me.

When I am marred, whether it be by wrong choices or by circumstances beyond my control, I am still in the almighty hand of my Potter. He is continually working to make me into the vessel He wants me to be – and all this for my good and His glory. He works past all my flaws, my scars, and my shortcomings, and amends each disfigurement to make me a much stronger and more beautiful vessel. He does what I could never do in my own power.

If I attempted to rectify any imperfection in my own strength, I would fall so miserably short. The vessel I would create would look a pitiful mess when compared to the exquisite vessel He could create… if I let go and let Him work.

He can do the same for you. Will you relinquish all you hold in your hands – your desires, your will? I know it can be hard. Maybe like me, you’re a “control freak”… but always keep in mind that His desire and His will are above and beyond what we could dream, and He is able to do above anything we could ask or think! (Ephesians 3:20)

it’s not about you

And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto they servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. 

And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will teach thee what thou shalt say.

God has called each and every one of us to live a life that glorifies Him, and for each of us, that calling requires various tasks that must be accomplished. For me, there have always been two categories in which these tasks fall – those of which I think I am capable and those of which I do not.

This is all wrong.

With this mindset, one lives daily thinking the will of God rests on his accomplishments: whether or not His will is fulfilled wholly depends on his capabilities. How incredibly self-centered! God doesn’t choose men and women because of their abilities. He does not look for one who is intelligent or eloquent or resourceful or astute. He does not look for one with many “talents.” He looks for men and women who are willing, who want to be used despite their flaws. Moses was wrong in thinking that God couldn’t use him because of his “slow speech.” In fact, that showed just how little he believed in the power of God.

Similarly, Jeremiah, when called by God to be a prophet, said, “Ah, Lord God! behold, I can not speak: for I am a child.” Jeremiah was sure that he could not be the prophet the Lord had called him to be because of his youth. The Lord responds saying, “Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee… Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.” In that last portion, God shows that He had significant plans for the life of Jeremiah. God didn’t ask Jeremiah to go find his talents, develop them, and then come back so that God could use him. God just wanted Jeremiah to submit to His will. God would do the rest.

In contrast to Jeremiah and Moses, you can read of Isaiah, who probably had his own shortcomings, but despite them, had a willing heart to serve God. “Also I heard a voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.”

So are we going to waste time worrying about whether or not we have the ability to fulfill God’s will, or are we going to surrender ourselves – imperfections and all – to do whatever the Lord has for us?

“If you feel weak, limited, and ordinary, take heart! You are the best material through which God can work!”

It is dangerous to think that God’s will can not be accomplished because of my shortcomings. But it might be more dangerous to think God’s will is being accomplished because I can do it – in my own strength.

I think there is another way of thinking that can ensnare us if we are not careful, one that is far more subtle. It is believing that God is using us because of our talents and abilities. This too, is an extremely selfish way of thinking. I think there are times, when we start off simply with that willingness to be used as God wills, but then with success, there is a temptation to take our eyes away from what God is doing. We are pulled into thinking that God actually needs us.

Now, don’t get me wrong, God does give each of us different strengths and abilities for the very purpose of fulfilling His will, (1 Corinthians 12) but they are not for our own edification. They are to be used for Him. And again, it is He who gives them to us. Apart from Him, we are nothing and we can do nothing for His glory.

We must humbly accept this. If God should use us to do great things, we must know that it is He who does that which is great, and we are merely tools in the hands of God. The very fact that God would even be willing to use us should leave us in awe.

Paul was a prime example of a man with this mindset. In Galatians 6:18, he writes, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” And in Philippians 2, he writes of the perfect example of humility when he writes of Jesus Christ saying, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

So like Christ, we must humble ourselves, and if God chooses to do great things through us, then all glory belongs to Him!

James 4:10 ~ Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and
he shall lift you up. 

1 Peter 5:7 ~ Humble yourselves therefore under the might hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:”

“Humility is not in what we own or achieve, but in maintaining a teachable attitude, a willingness to bend to the will of the Father.”

Stop focusing on what you can or can not do. Focus on what God wants to do in and through you.

It’s ALL about Him.

those who trust Him wholly, find Him wholly true

from the moment that i wake up to the moment i pillow my head, i am constantly exercising levels of trust. i trust that my alarm clock will go off at the set time. i trust the electricity will work when i turn the lights on and plug in my blow dryer. i trust that neither my coffee nor my cereal have been poisoned. i trust that when i use my phone, my wireless service will work, and when i check the weather, i trust that it will be fairly accurate so that i may dress appropriately. i could go on with my entire day in which nearly every moment i place my trust in mankind and the things it has fabricated; however, that would be entirely too exhaustive, so i digress…

my point is, we – often without question – place blind trust in things and in faulty human beings, but when it comes to trusting God in heaven, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, we tend to not as willingly place our trust in His design.

of this, i am sure. no man or woman who has ever wholly trusted the Lord – that means in every facet of his life – has ever regretted doing so. the Word of God is filled with promises ensuring those that trust Him will see His guidance and blessings.

Proverbs 3:5-6 ~ 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.

Psalm 33:21 ~ For our heart shall rejoice in Him because we have trusted in His holy name.

Isaiah 26:4 ~ Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength:

Nahum 1:7 ~ The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him.

Psalm 37:5 ~ Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.

there are many more verses i could have included, but that would make for a lengthy post. i do want to also say that just because you live a life completely trusting in Him does not mean you will live a life free of pain or hurt. i think life would not really be life if we didn’t endure some heartache; you can be more grateful in the “good” times because you have endured the hard times. but trusting in Him, however, does guarantee strength and grace to get through those tough times.

not only is the Bible filled with hundreds of verses about the promises given to those who trust Him, but it is also filled with human examples. you can read the whole life story of Job – a man who had everything one day and nothing the next. he lost his financial resources, his family, his health, even his friends; and yet you can read Job 23:10 where he says, “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.“and do you know what happens in the end of the story? i’ll tell you what the Bible says, “…also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before… So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning…” wow! and then of course you can read the entire “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11… there is just so much, i don’t see how we could not trust Him.

so read His Word, see His promises, and prove God in your own life!