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Press On

If one thing is made evident in kingdom work, it’s that God’s timing is not our timing. We often find ourselves lagging behind the Spirit of God, because we doubt or are afraid – Moses arguing about going back to Egypt is a good example. Other times, we try to jump ahead, anxious to get to what God has laid out for us. A biblical example here is the apostle Paul wanting so badly to go to Asia Minor on his first missionary journey, but the Holy Spirit stopped him for some reason (Act 16). We do know that Paul gets there later, though, in both his second and third journeys (Act 18).

We are also often out of sync with God in the timing of results. In an instant gratification society, having to wait for anything feels frustrating at best. If we are doing the work, we think that God should be providing the results in a reasonable timeframe. We made the sacrifices, we paid our dues. God must come through on his end. Sometimes we can be just that presumptuous, God forgive us!

It seems God anticipated this issue in our generation, because he gave us Galatians 6:9:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Press on into what God has called you to. Trust him that fruit will come in its proper time.

Consider Abraham and Sarah. It was 25 years from God’s initial promise to Abraham of a son ’til the coming of Isaac. He was 100 and Sarah was 90 – no wonder Sarah laughed when the angel of God set the date just a year before the birth. They had given up. We all would’ve given up, but God didn’t. The perfect time had just not yet arrived for him to be glorified.

We see this repeatedly in Jesus’ life and ministry as well. It seems arriving to Mary and Martha’s house before Lazarus died would’ve been better timing; he could have, no doubt, healed Lazarus with a touch or a word, but he was not there. He allowed himself to be delayed, and by the time he got there Lazarus had been dead three days. The unknown plan was not to heal Lazarus, but to raise him from the dead!

Is there some area of obedience you are becoming weary in? Press on. Don’t lose heart. God will be right on time with the answer. He is faithful.

Risk and Obedience in the Kingdom

“Would One Challenge send me to North Korea?”

The question still rings in my mind.

The young woman facing me had just joined us one month after finishing her degree. She was in training and headed toward Taiwan, but other thoughts were tugging at her mind. She was willing to go where few would consider going.

In fact, others in our ministry family have eyes on and are praying for North Korea, but we are not there yet. Why are we waiting?

The answer is that we are waiting for God to clearly lead us there. It’s a matter of obedience. Going where God has not led is as sinful as not going where he has. If God opens the door for us to get involved at some point, then by God’s grace and provision, we will obey.

But what about the risk? Shouldn’t risk be a consideration?

Risk is always a consideration, but it should never become a condition placed on obedience. If there is great risk, then we should look deeper into our confidence that God is truly leading us in that direction. What is God truly saying to us? Do we have peace this is the right decision, in light of the risks involved?

The Bible provides us with many examples of taking on impossible projects in obedience, but today, let’s focus on just one: Nehemiah and the wall of Jerusalem. How did Nehemiah figure out that risking his life to take on this project was God’s will for him? Watch as Bill Keyes leads us through a brief look at Nehemiah and discerning God’s will.

 

What is God asking you to do today? Are you willing to lay it all on the altar to obey?

Just Do You

Sometimes we think we need to be “special” in order to be used by God. We tend to idolize Christ-followers of significance, like well-known pastors, famous worship leaders, and singer/songwriters. Even the Bible tells us stories of beyond-human people of faith like Abraham, Moses, Peter, and Paul.

But the truth is that God just wants you to do you… you empowered by him, following in obedience, that is. God works best through weakness – when we are weak, his perfect strength can be revealed through us (2 Cor 12:9).

Gideon was weak. By his estimation, he was the most insignificant person in an insignificant family in the smallest tribe of Israel. Who was he to be used by God to free Israel from Midian? But the angel of God said, “Go in the strength that you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.” Go in the strength that you have – that sounds like God telling Gideon to just be Gideon. What he had would be enough.

After some convincing, and the assurance of God answering prayer in the fleece tests, Gideon obeyed. He gathered his army, 30,000 of men. This seemed like a decent number, although the Midian army had 300,000 men. Ten to one odds weren’t too bad, since God would be on their side.

Then God called Gideon aside and said, “You’ve got too many men in your army, Gideon. Send anyone who is afraid home.”

Gideon obeyed (though there might’ve been some convincing needed first) and about half of his troops headed home. He was left with 15,000. Twenty to one could still work with God’s help, especially since the remaining soldiers were all in.

God was shaking his head. “Still too many,” he said. “Have everyone go down to the river to drink. Send home anyone who lays down his weapons and drinks with both hands.” At that point, Gideon probably wondered how he would have drunk if he hadn’t had the heads up.

In the end, 300 men were left, leaving them outnumbered 1,000 to one. This made a God-sized impossible situation.

You know the story. The 300 surrounded the Midianites at night, flashed torches and yelled, and the Midianites pretty much killed each other off.

Gideon thought he was weak, but God made him even weaker and then did the impossible through him.

God doesn’t need you to be super-human. He is God. He needs you to be you, just the way he made you! When you are genuinely you, he can be entirely him. When the two of you team up that way … miracles happen!

So when it comes to making an impact for the kingdom… just do you.

Reality in the Kingdom

Once, while facing impossible circumstances regarding legal residency in her country of service, one of our mission workers heard from God. He said, “Which is more real, your situation or my word?”

Kingdom reality is often at odds with what we see around us. Though our circumstances are very real to us, they do not always tell the whole story with God’s perspective and plan. Consider some of these biblical reminders:

  • Abram is nearly 100, and Sarah 90, when they have their first child, whom God promised to them 25 years earlier.
  • Moses and the children of Israel are trapped between the Egyptians and the Red Sea, when God parts it to save Israel and destroy the armies of Pharaoh.
  • God whittles down Gideon’s 30,000-man army to 300 before using them to defeat Midian and his army of 300,000.
  • When surrounded by the army of the king of Aram, Elisha and his servant can see the hordes of angels ready to defend them.
  • Though the enemy has an apparent victory in the death of Jesus, it is actually his ultimate undoing. God raises Jesus from the dead and not even the gates of hell will withstand the advance of his body, the church.
  • Peter seems in serious trouble when the Jewish leaders imprison him. James has already been killed. In the night, an angel comes to free him and return him to his friends.

We could go on and on. The faith fact is that our reality is not God’s reality. His ways transcend our ways. Back to our opening story: our missionary received her residency against all odds, because on the day that her husband went to pick it up from immigration, the clerk he was working with took the time to find the paperwork and the document and handed it over, though it had previously been denied.

Knowing that God’s reality is not ours does not mean that everything always goes well for us, though. Moses was saved from death at the hands of Pharaoh as a baby, but thousands of other Hebrew babies were not. The brokenness of this world; disease, hate, terror, and death affect all of us. God does not always save us from the consequences of living this life here. He will, also, not always keep us from the results of our sinful, or unwise, actions.

What we can be sure of, though, is that God’s will is being worked out in and through our lives. He is the one directing our steps into the way he has laid out for us ; and, whether our life is easy or difficult, whether we have little or plenty, in sickness or health, whether we live or we die, God will be glorified in us as we seek to follow him. He is with us. He is for us.

Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the very end.” Let us rest in that promise today and every day.

Dispel the Darkness

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It is a scientific fact that darkness and light cannot exist in the same place. In fact, darkness is just the absence of light, so, if there is light, there is no darkness. Shadow can exist as something blocks the light but shadows are still impacted by it. Remember the last big solar eclipse? Even if you were in the complete blackout zone, it was not dark. For it to be truly dark, no light can exist.

John 1 describes Christ as the light.

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

(John 1:4-5 NIV)

Jesus, himself, reveals himself as the Light of the world.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

(John 8:12 NIV)

When Jesus talks about the church he says that the gates of hell will not be able to keep it out. This makes total sense because Jesus left us here in his place. He is with us. He is light. We are light. Hell is darkness, the absence of light, but when the light approaches it, darkness flees. Hell cannot stand against the Light of life that shines out of us.

We should not get smug about this, though, because darkness can still have impact. Shadow exists, even in a well-lighted room. To rid our world of shadow, we must remove the obstacles that block the light. Some of those obstacles are within ourselves and some are presented by things and people outside of us. This takes intentional effort on our part. We must humble ourselves and admit our selfishness and pride, asking God to forgive us. We must also confront, in love and humility, those around us who put obstacles before the light. This is a task that will not be complete until Christ returns and dispels all darkness and shadow.

Consider these three ways to bring Light to wherever you are.

1)      Smile – There is nothing like a smile to lighten any space. A genuine smile is an outward sign of inward joy, that joy that goes beyond understanding. When you smile, others around you will smile as well. It’s contagious!

2)      Praise – Encouraging someone by telling them they are doing a great job brings light into their life. It doesn’t matter if this person is a friend or someone you haven’t previously met. It doesn’t matter what their day has been like up to that moment. Your praise and encouragement will make a difference.

3)      Love – Sacrificing yourself for someone else, the love that Jesus demonstrated for us brings the most powerful light into the world around you. Loving someone that way is completely counter to the way the world operates on a day to day basis. Sacrificial love is like a flash of lightning in the middle of the darkness of the storm. As you pour yourself out for someone else, you are being Jesus to them and there is no better way to represent him than that!

Be the light in your world by living Jesus every day. Smile widely. Praise lavishly. Love deeply.