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Uncertainty is a great crippler of change.

How much easier would it be to choose a new career if we knew it would bring us total fulfillment? How much more confident would we be in choosing a mate, raising a family and planning for retirement if God gave us a white sheet detailing every aspect of our future.

In our human finiteness we can’t possibly know what the future holds. It’s as though we walk through a wilderness with no path to follow, no landmarks to guarantee we aren’t simply walking in circles. It’s like pushing through the underbrush of the forest, being scratched and confused along the way.

Here’s the good news. When you put your faith in God and follow his lead, you can be assured of reaching the promised land. That doesn’t mean there won’t be times of doubt or times of confusion, but even in those times you can be assured he is walking through life with you.

He’s ready to do something new in your life. He’s blazed the trail. He’s provided rivers of provision. The question isn’t if his way is best, the question is, are you ready to make that first step. Books written begin by picking up the pen. Journey’s start with the first step. Seeing God work in mighty ways won’t happen until you step out of the boat.

Are you ready to follow his path out of the wilderness in faith?


Back in the 1990’s there was a clever marketing campaign which, I believe, was a true attempt to remind people of our original calling: To live by example the good news of the Gospel as personified in the life of Jesus Christ.

Many a T-shirt, can cooler, visor, and bracelet were sold with the initials, WWJD. Today, the question is as valid as it was then. What would Jesus do? I doubt he would lash out at Caesar for his handling of the Roman Empire. Judging from his treatment of the woman guilty of adultery, I”m guessing he would not condemn those who live a life contrary to God’s original plan for family.

Jesus Christ found the perfect balance between reaching out to the ‘deplorables’ while at the same time standing for the standards of his Heavenly Father. How unfortunate that 2000 years ago people of ill repute sought Jesus out and today they tend to scoff, run or hide from the mere mention of his name.

Now more than ever, we who are ‘little Christs’ (the original implication of the title ‘Christian’) ought to strive with every word, with every action, with every attitude, to exemplify the life of the one who called us from darkness.

Be a light. Shine like Jesus did.


“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. Matthew 18:15

conflictEach of us have gone through those periods of time when relationships fail. Those relationships that are closest are the most painful to lose. Some translations leave out the phrase “against you”. Others include it. In reality, as followers of Jesus it doesn’t really matter if the wrong is committed against you (most painful) or against others. Either way, the offense is destined to hurt a brother or sister in Christ and others!

So what do we do? It’s easy enough to say we need to pray. Sometimes prayer is a scapegoat and can be better paraphrased as “I don’t want to get personally involved” or “I hate conflict” or “It’s really none of my business, it’s God’s job to do the work.”

There is some truth to each of these excuses. But, the reality is, Jesus never shied away from involving himself in the ugly part of ugly people’s lives. Aren’t we called to do the same?

Here are some suggestions for what may help. I’ll say up front that I’m still working on these in my life and it’s not easy. I have a long way to go! Praise Jesus for grace!

Pray: This is the obvious but be specific. Pray for your wisdom. Pray for the welfare of the one who wronged you or who is in danger of hurting themselves or others. Pray FOR them, not ABOUT them. Remember prayer is a two way conversation with the wisest, most loving being in the universe!

Reflect: This mixes in easily with prayer. As you are praying ask God to reveal anything YOU may have done to bring on this situation. Rather than focus on what the person did, try to ascertain why the person may have acted as he did. Most of the time, actions are a symptom, not the disease.

Ask: This is a tricky one and must be used with the utmost care and wisdom. If you have a close friend you can trust to make sure this goes no further, ask them for insight into the situation. Be careful not to turn this into a gossip session!!

Restore: Restoration demands action! To be done well, restoration is done with love. It can’t be hurried. First attempts often fail. Compassion and patience are the two best tools to use. If at all possible, refrain from step four until steps 1-3 are firmly in place!

Rest: The Psalmist states that during the storm we rest in the arms of almighty God. Remember that once we have done all we can to lovingly, gracefully and compassionately strive for resolution, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate source of healing.

PRAYER: Father God. Right now, I pray for those with whom I am in conflict and those I’m concerned about because they are in danger of destroying themselves or others. Give me wisdom to know what I need to do to begin the healing process. Help me follow you. Amen.

 


“But true wisdom and power are found in God; counsel and understanding are his. Job 12:13

Jerry rarely missed a service. He was always early and, during the winter months, was more than willing to grab a shovel to clean up the sidewalks and walkways where the plow missed. He was a simple man and I use that as a compliment. Years of drug abuse mixed with mental health issues and a dysfunctional upbringing had taken its toll on Jerry. As a result he lived solely on his disability check. He was a prime example of surviving, but not really living.

One day I Jerry stopped by the church and I realized (quite to my shame) that I’d never really sat and talked with Jerry much. I was new to the church and had gotten taken up in many other things related to the ministry. That day was different. I pulled up a chair and sat down with Jerry to talk, or should I say, listen.

Our conversation turned to the ministry and I asked him, unaware of where it would lead, how he felt about how things were going at the church. That question was like a floodgate that opened to all sorts of ideas Jerry had about how we should ‘grow the worship services’ and ‘build the youth group.’ It didn’t stop there. I found out Jerry had ideas about virtually every aspect of the ministry.

But that wasn’t a surprise. Anyone in ministry knows that everyone has ideas about ‘how to do ministry.’ What caught me off guard is that many (if not all) of Jerry’s ideas were very good! This ‘simple man’ had loads of wisdom that no one chose to listen to.

When I asked him why he didn’t tell people his ideas, he bowed his head and said softly, ‘Aw, they don’t care. None of them listen to me. I’m just an old druggy.’

Jerry was an example of having wisdom but no power to act on his wisdom. Our churches are full of people like that. We tend to look past them because we are too busy fighting fires set by those who have the power but lack the wisdom. Wisdom without power is futility; power without wisdom is tyranny.

Job knew about those people. He knew all too well what it was like to be barraged with people who knew ‘just what to do’ but either plowed ahead recklessly leaving wounded lives in their wake and what it was like to see those people with great wisdom that weren’t listened to because of past poor choices.

What a blessing to realize our God had both the wisdom and the power to make things happen in our lives. When people fail you, remember that God has everything you need to succeed.

PRAYER: Father God, thank you that you have the power and the wisdom to help me make a difference. Give me courage to speak when I know your way and a listening ear for those who may not have the power but have wise words for me. Amen.



Other seeds fell on thin, rocky ground and quickly started growing because the soil wasn’t very deep. Matthew 13:5

A friend of mobstacles belowine was relating how he managed to shut down a sizable portion of the electricity in his neighborhood. He told how he was working on a yard project his wife had been asking him to complete for a long time. (Most of us men will be able to relate to that).

One of the last things he had to do was to plant a tree in the corner of the yard. As he tells the story, he completely ignored the sign in the corner of his yard warning that there were cables underneath the soil and no digging should happen without calling diggers hotline.

“I wasn’t going to be digging that deep, so I didn’t think that sign applied to me,” He smiled, “But on the fourth or fifth prod with the shovel I felt something solid. Thinking it was yet another rock I slammed the point of the shovel deep and pried up. It was getting late, I was getting tired. I wanted to be done and I was tired of rock! That’s when the spark happened.”

Within minutes his wife yelled out the window that they had no power. Further investigation revealed that nearly half of the houses in the subdivision were also lacking power. Needless to say, my friend learned a valuable lesson about digging. Always know what’s below. Always.

The same can be said in our spiritual lives I think. The ‘Parable of the Sower and the Seed’ tells of seed that is thrown on rocky ground. The seed sprouts and grows quickly, like the rest of the seed. However, when the sun came out and the wind blew the roots were not able to stand firm and the plant withered.

For years I’ve heard sermons on the negative aspect of the rocky ground. Sermons that spoke of not letting emotion get in the way of growth. Sermons about how vital it is to get ‘rid of the rocks’ in our lives so that we can grow our roots deep. All these sermons had important lessons for us to learn. However, maybe the story has a different twist for us as well.

Any good farmer knows the importance of working the soil before planting; of knowing what lay below the surface so that when you plant you know what you are up against. Understanding and preparing the soil is just as important as planting the seed.

I see the rocks of the story as those things in people’s lives that keep us from really turning over everything to God. It could be an abusive childhood. It could be the struggle of divorce or an unhappy marriage. It could be the realization, in later years, that the dreams of our childhood will never be realized.

Those of us on the surface can look with disdain on those intent on focusing on the emotional and not the deeper things of the spiritual life, or we can take the time to help those struggling with ‘rocky soil’ to withstand the penetrating and painful rays of the sun and destructive winds of life’s pain.

Perhaps the focus in the emotional and the surface things of life are all they can handle for the moment until they are able to remove some of those rocks hidden from view.

That’s what grace is about. Grace is about realizing that everyone we meet has some hidden burdens. It’s about patiently helping to remove the rocks before we can expect roots to grow deeper. Before you dig into someone’s life, know what’s below.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I lift up to you those I know who may be struggling with things below the surface I never realized existed. I ask that I might have the insight and patience to help clear the rocks before being concerned about deeper roots. In your name, Amen.

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