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The Law of the Lord is a lamp, and its teachings shine brightly. Correction and self-control will lead you through life. Proverbs 6:23 (CEV)

It was our last camping trip of the season. Mid-October camping trips are risky at best in Northern Minnesota but the need to get away outweighed the risk of bad weather. Our destination was only about 90 minutes from home but the short days still meant arriving just after dusk.

Getting the camper parked was a challenge, but once in the site I managed to get set up for the evening by holding a small penlight flashlight in my mouth on occasion in order to find get settled. I made a passing statement that it would be nice to have a light that I could attach to my head so my hands (and mouth could be free).

This Christmas my ‘prayers’ were answered when my daughter gave me a small flashlight that attaches to my cap. Now I’ll be able to work with light and keep my hands free!

Although we are months from official camping season, I’ve tried my light out and expect it will be very useful in guiding me through the dark. It has its limitations however. My little light is bright, but it won’t light up much more than my immediate surroundings. With my little light I’ll be able to see what is only a short distance ahead, so I won’t be able to discern things in the distance. My little light is focused on the direction I’m heading, not to the sides, not to what is behind me. It is designed to keep me moving forward.

My little light is a picture of God’s word. Some think God’s Word is full of useless, confining and irrelevant rules and regulations. It’s outdated and doesn’t allow freedom. I say, on the contrary! Just like my little light, God’s word is a useful guide in the dark, steers me clear of danger and assists me when I can’t see my way.

God’s word is like my light in regards to my future as well. My Heavenly Father knows my tomorrows. While God knows what I’ll be doing ten years from now, he also knows that I don’t need that information right now. I need to get through the next day, the next few steps. His word gives me all the guidance I need to keep me moving forward.

When I follow God’s rules and God’s way I don’t need to be concerned about what lies to my right or my left either. I can focus on moving ahead. The past is just that, past, done, finished. What goes on around me isn’t important as long as I’m focusing on what God wants me to do.

Lastly, God’s word allows me to make necessary adjustments to my journey. I can choose to turn my light off and go it alone. If I do so I risk injury or getting hopelessly off course. In the same way ‘having God’s word’ is useless unless I use God’s word to guide me.
God’s word irrelevant? Gods’ word confining and outdated? I don’t think so! It’s just what I need to get through the dark times of my life!

PRAYER: Thank you Father for giving me the guidance I need through your word. Empower me to live by the standards you set for me so that I can walk confidently during the dark periods of my life. In Jesus name, Amen.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20

You don’t get ‘a little drunk’. Don’t try that line with the police officer. The level of alcohol in you r body may waver, but drunk is drunk. “But I’m only a little drunk’ isn’t the most effective way to avoid a ticket. You don’t get ‘a little pregnant’. A little pregnant and a lot pregnant will have the same results. ‘I’m only a little addicted to [name your addiction] won’t work either. Addicted is addicted.

There are some things in life that are all or nothing. Following Christ is one of them. He didn’t say to His Apostles, “Walk with me a couple miles, a day, a few weeks.” He said ‘follow me’. There was no time frame, no exit plan, and no map. They weren’t given an option as to how long, or how far. Two words that took a second to say, a lifetime to fulfill and eternity to understand.

Paul tells us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Although we as Christ-followers have a choice in the matter, if we truly want relationship with Him we have to make a conscious decision to be filled on a daily basis, sometimes more often than that when temptation wins. The filling is a simple request on our part to allow God’s Spirit to take every thought, word and action captive.

Some people think the ‘filling’ will show itself in marvelous and miraculous signs. It can, but that’s not a pre-requisite. Some people think that we need to clean up our act before we can be filled, but there is no place in the entire Bible that says we are responsible for cleaning up. Jesus is the only one that can do that and He already completed the cleaning, which is why He told us ‘It is finished!’ Some people think the ‘filling’ will take away from the joy of life, the freedom to be themselves or the ability to be creative and useful. In fact, the filling increases the joy in life, the freedom to live and the creative juices in your mind and body.

Just as a ‘little light’ dispels darkness, being filled with God’s Spirit sends the darkness of our soul fleeing in fear. When you struggle with those thoughts, when you desire to fulfill that addiction, when the fear returns with a vengeance, don’t just ask God to take it away, ask Him to replace it with a filling of His Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God isn’t a mystical ghost. He’s a person who wants to indwell, empower, comfort and guide you on the treacherous and painful path of life. Ask Him to fill you. Do it out loud. Do it whenever the enemy attacks. Being filled is risky. It promises change, change that is hard at first but better in the long run. It’s an option, but an option that is required to walk in complete relationship with Jesus.

PRAYER: Father God. I thank you that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I thank you that He finished the work of cleaning up my act so that I can have relationship with you. My life is so full of worries and fears, bruises and wounds, temptations and wanderings. Forgive me for all that keeps me from pure relationship with you. Replace all the junk in my life with Your Holy Spirit so I can live completely for you. In Jesus name, Amen.

I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him. Isaiah 57:18

The prophet Isaiah was called by God to minister to a people who never seemed to get the ‘living for God’ thing right. Their history with Him wasn’t stellar by any means. Even though God blessed them time and time again they refused to see Him as the source of their success. Any time something came along that looked better than God’s ways they followed it. They were stubborn, rebellious people who didn’t seem to care what God said.

Not only did they have a hard time following God’s ways, they blamed God when they didn’t get their own way. If God didn’t get them what they wanted they’d find a god that did. It may be money, new relationships, or stealing from other people. The bottom line was God’s people weren’t very godly after all. The people chose religion over relationship but that didn’t satisfy them so they found other things to soothe their pain.

Isaiah came before the people with a message straight from God. It was a simple message: “I know your name.” Things really haven’t changed much since Isaiah was prophet. We all still struggle with our spiritual walk. We try to live for God but are pulled in so many other directions that we lose sight of His way. People fail us, or abuse us, so we find others who will treat us well. We find comfort in drugs and/or alcohol but that is only a temporary fix to our pain. We try religion but religion is demanding and often doesn’t seem relevant to our pain. We get tired of trying and failing and trying and failing again. When we continue to fail like that it’s easy to just give up. We may decide God doesn’t exist or care. We may decide we are just too hopeless of a case and try to go it alone because there is no way He’ll accept us.

None of that is true. Isaiah 57:18 tells us that God knows who we are from the very beginning. He knows our name. He’s seen what we are like from the inside out. We humans tend to determine who we are and who others are by what we see on the outside. We associate a certain kind of behavior, looks and attitudes by what we see on the outside because we are limited by our humanity.

Our name gives people the framework for who we are. If I say I saw ‘Mary Jones’ today, and you know Mary, then in your mind you can relate all you know about Mary by that name. The same is true to a much larger degree with God. He knows who you are from the inside out. He doesn’t just know what you do, He knows the real reason you do it.

Not only does God know you better than anyone else, including yourself, He loves you. He wants to heal you. The Bible refers to our sin nature as a disease. It’s a disease we are born with and one we can’t heal ourselves. We seek all sorts of ‘medication’ to deal with it like relationships, chemicals, and religion, but nothing works. The only thing that will heal you is forgiveness by God through Jesus Christ.

If you are sick, you don’t say, “As soon as I get better I need to get to the doctor.” That’s a ridiculous idea. When you are sick you go to the one that can heal. Jesus not only heals you, He understands why you fail, comforts you in your pain and wants to help you learn to have a full, rich relationship with Him.

God knows your name. He knows who you are and exactly why you are the way you are. He’s real, powerful and loving. Through His Son Jesus, He can help soothe the pain you are in regardless of what you have done.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I’m so thankful that you know me. Other people think they know me, but even my best friends only know what they see on the inside. I praise you for knowing me from the inside out and understanding my pain. Forgive me of the mistakes I’ve made. Heal my wounds that run deep. Comfort me with your loving forgiveness. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NLT)

For years Joshua had been Moses’ right hand man. He’d been chosen to survey the Promised Land. He’d become Moses’ spokesperson to the people. He’d learned how to lead, how to wage military battle and most importantly, how to trust God. Now Moses was dead and God chose Joshua to take the lead role in bringing Israel into the Promised Land.

Being number two in command is relatively easy. If you are an assistant to the director or an assistant coach you offer advice and do your responsibilities but the final decisions are all in the hands of the ‘boss’. As a child you follow the advice and wisdom of your parents or trusted adult advisors. As a student you listen to and adhere to the guidelines of your instructor. In each situation the final say is out of your hands.

The real challenge in life comes when you step from the role of assistant to the guy in charge. You suddenly realize that all the decisions and all the responsibility are now yours. As a teacher, the class looks to you for wisdom and guidance. As a coach, the team follows your direction and expects victory. As a parent, your children watch you in order to learn the basics of life and living.

It’s no wonder then, that when life changes occur we can become fearful, even as adults. When our parents die there can be a sense of loss and fear and the thought, “What will I do now?” when in actuality we’ve been on our own for years and have children of our own. The fear of going it alone is a powerful and sometimes crippling emotion. In whatever position we find ourselves in, when the opportunity comes to step up we can doubt our own abilities to carry on. We never really get over that need to have someone direct us and support us.

The most important thing any of us can do is to surround ourselves with a support system that won’t fail. That’s the offer God gives to Joshua and to us. A support system that will never fail us regardless of anything we do or others do to us. He promises to be our source of guidance, strength and encouragement.

People will fail you, but God won’t. Religion will fail you, but God won’t. Money will fail you, but God won’t. Education will fail you, but God won’t. Technology will fail you, but God won’t. Nothing you come across in life will keep Him from being your Go-to-Guy. As you grow in relationship with God you will find Him faithful and His wisdom unconquerable.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father. There are times when I’m like Joshua. I look ahead at the task before me and am overwhelmed. I experience struggles and tragedies that discourage me. Friends and even family members have abandoned me and I feel so alone. Please help me to sense your presence. Empower me to draw close to you and learn to rely on your wisdom and strength to get through my days. Thank you for loving me. Amen.

So don’t go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers. Proverbs 24:6 (NLT)

What do you do when you have a tough decision to make? Here are twelve suggestions to guide you along the way. Remember that God loves you and has exciting things in store for you if you follow His direction.

  1. God wants you to win. He’ll give you the tools, the strategy and the opportunities to be victorious over any obstacle you encounter or dream you may have. But He will not do the work for you. You must take action steps of faith to start the process.  
  2. Don’t discount the ‘wisdom and advice’ of those who do not know Jesus. God can and has used unspiritual men to speak His wisdom. However, be very careful when following this advice that is does not contradict scripture for God will never lead you to disobedience.
  3. Don’t automatically assume that all advice from ‘Godly’ men is wise advice from God. Even pastors will be guilty of saying things to win you to their perspective. Weigh all the advice you receive before taking action
  4. Stretch yourself. God will rarely call you to something that you don’t enjoy or don’t have the gifts to accomplish. He may, however, call you to do things that you’d never thought of before and that are completely out of your comfort zone. Keep yourself open to new opportunities for ministry.
  5. God isn’t a fan of tradition. Jesus was a radical in His day although He never went against the wishes of His father. The way you dress, the music you listen to, the activities you engage in may draw unwanted ‘advice’ from people. Evaluate what they are saying to see if their concerns have merit. Prepare to adjust your life accordingly. But remember, you are answerable to God alone.
  6. Too many counselors/advisors can be counterproductive. Choose two or three of your closest and most trusted friends. Listen to their words. Allow them the freedom to be critical in the evaluation sense. Don’t allow yourself to be sensitive.
  7. Watch and listen for God’s confirmation. There are times when people completely out your circle of influence will make statements that will verify what you have been feeling all along.
  8. Pray. Pray. Pray. Not just the daily, routine prayers. Bring your thoughts constantly before God and allow Him to steer you in the way he wants you to go.
  9. Fast. Fasting has become misunderstood and forgotten. A fast doesn’t have to be painful or even that long. Skip lunch a few days and spend the time in prayer.
  10. Personal Retreats. Many times God will speak to us when we are removed from all distractions. Consider adding a personal retreat to your decision making process and the words of your advisors. Many Bible Camps and Christian Retreat Centers will have rooms/cabins available for you to stay in for a day or two for a nominal cost, or even free. Take nothing along but a bible, a journaling notebook and personal items. Spend time in prayer and reading the Bible.
  11. Read your Bible daily. It doesn’t have to take long. 15-20 minutes a day of bible reading can make a huge impact on how you think.
  12. Count the Cost. Make sure you are willing to give up everything you have to follow Christ. God will not always call you away or ask you to give up everything you have to follow Him. He may, however test you to see if you are willing to give up all for him.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father. I thank you today that you have told me I can call you ‘daddy’ and that you love me as a loving father who wants to be actively involved in my life. Right now you know that I have many decisions to make in life. I ask that you would help me to seek the wise, Godly counsel that will help me seek your will. Amen.

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