Security Source

A few minutes of any newscast is enough to threaten our sense of security. With disturbingly increased frequency, regular people are losing their lives in ordinary places through surprising and devastating events.  Children and adults alike are being regarded as disposable as all manner of harm occurs against the innocent and vulnerable. The motives vary, but the result is the same: horrific events can throw us into a tailspin, making us feel helpless, fearful,  and angry that such suffering and evil even exists. We may question God, demanding to know where he when such horrific events happen. 1 Peter 3:12 says “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.””

On a personal level, we often experience pain, loss, disappointment, traumas, and hurts that will never make the local news. Some challenges are private and unknown even to those who are close to us. Others are humiliating where our pain is on public display. Those same woeful feelings cut even deeper when our lives are directly affected, yet the line of questioning may remain the same.

Whether the issue is a personal or global tragedy, we find ourselves struggling to regain a sense of security. If we try to serve as our own source of security and strength, life events help us to realize that we do not have nearly the level of power and control that we think. John 16:33 says These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Our sense of security is based in our identity. If we profess to be an entity exclusively unto ourselves with no other connections, then we are limited and only experience security in temporary and fallible ways. However, if our identity is anchored in a relationship with Jesus Christ, then we learn to trust God’s sovereignty far beyond every immediate issue or circumstance. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” As distressing as life can be, we can rest assured that even if “the worst” happens and our lives end earlier than we anticipate, we will transform to a different state of existence where we can see our Father’s face. We don’t have to live a daily existence fearing death, danger, nor failure. We need not be reckless, but we don’t need to be fearful either. This is because our sense of security relies on the unlimited and everlasting power of God rather than our limited and temporary financial, emotional, and intellectual assets. The beginning of 2 Corinthians 12:9 says “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”” Stressful, burdensome situations force us to recognize and admit our limitations while simultaneously providing opportunities for us to invite God into the midst of the situation where He can show and prove himself strong in concrete and specific ways. Proverbs 14:26 says Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.” 

In order to feel certain in an uncertain world, you must carefully consider your security source.  Remember Psalm 31:24 which says Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord.”

Holding Pattern

While an aircraft awaits clearance to land, it typically flies in an oval-shaped flight path over the destination airport. That flight path is known as a holding pattern. Sometimes we find our lives in a holding pattern – a place where God allows us to see our goal or destination but doesn’t provide immediate clearance to arrive. Life’s holding patterns can be frustrating and discouraging. Here are a few considerations to help you fly into your God-given destiny with confidence. Holding patterns:

  1. get our attention – When we are not bombarded with concerns that we normally experience on the ground, we can hear from God more clearly. Proverbs 2:1-5 says “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
  2. are designed to build you up, not break you down – Holding patterns boost your strength, patience, and endurance. Romans 5:3-5 says Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
  3. allow time for removal of dangerous obstacles – the Lord is preparing your destination, divinely arranging and rearranging obstacles that would otherwise hinder or compromise your successful landing. Isaiah 57:14 says “and it will be said: “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.”
  4. keep you focused on your destination – the longer your holding pattern, the greater your desire to land safely and arrive at your intended destination. Philippians 3:12-14 says Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

  5. require clearance from The Control Tower – Admitting our inability to land independently is both an admission of our weakness and a confession of God’s strength. John 15:4-5 says “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
  6. give you greater appreciation for your “arrival” – overcoming adversity and cultivating a closer relationship with God during your hold makes your landing far sweeter. In the midst of a holding pattern, God can expose talents and gifts that you didn’t even realize you had. Genesis 50:20 says “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
  7. bless you in new and exciting ways – landing victoriously after enduring a difficult holding pattern allows you to experience new dimensions of God’s provision, protection, grace, mercy, and favor. James 1:12 says Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” 

Behaving Boldly

Society often equates being “a good Christian” with being a doormat for the world to tread upon. Our Heavenly Father is full of grace, wisdom, mercy, love, and truth.  As Christians, we strive to embody those same characteristics. Unfortunately, a skewed worldly view means that as Christians, we are often expected to tiptoe through our existence, never offending or disagreeing with anyone despite the fact that others offend us daily. This passive perception of Christianity is wildly inaccurate. The same way that we are called to exhibit love, mercy, and grace, we are also called to holy boldness. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

Holy boldness does not mean behaving with arrogant self-righteousness. We are not called to deputize ourselves as some sort of spiritual police, judging and discounting others, while placing ourselves on a pedestal. We are called to serve. Holy boldness is having the courage of conviction to stand for the Lord Jesus Christ in the face of opposition. Consider these scenarios:

  • When someone tells an offensive joke, do you laugh outwardly and cringe inwardly?
  • When you see someone being mistreated, do you look the other way?
  • When you see a glaring need, do you think about ways you can help or instead think about reasons why you cannot possibly lend a hand?

Love is the key component for holy boldness. We cannot operate in holy boldness apart from God’s Holy Spirit. God is love. 1 John 4:8 says “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Holy boldness inherently means operating with faith and courage in obedience to God. We are God’s hands and feet on this earth. God allows us to encounter situations which call us to holy boldness. These are situations where we recognize that we respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that …the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.” Usually, these acts of kindness, concern, conscientiousness, truth, and assistance may be far outside of our comfort zone. Holy boldness doesn’t mean being rude, it means responding with loving conviction. These situations are designed for our spiritual growth and maturity.

Responding with holy boldness is a double blessing. First, it blesses the hearer or recipient because it can plant a seed where people examine their motives, actions, and responses. Second, it blesses the speaker or giver because of they are responding in obedience to God. Ephesians 3:12 says In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” The end of Galatians 5:6 says “…The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” We can navigate our lives with confidence, seeking our next God-given assignment, knowing that the Lord is the source of our hope, courage, faith, strength, and love. It is our relationship with God that allows us to operate with loving obedience and holy boldness. 2 Corinthians 3:12 says “Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.”

 

 

 

Praying God’s Will

We have an innate desire to be in control. We often blame God when things go wrong without praising God when things go well. Drastic, painful, and unexpected situations are often met with platitudes about a situation being in God’s will. Is it God’s will that so much suffering, violence, and mayhem occur in this world? Does watching the nightly news reveal more about man’s will or God’s will?

I believe the root of this issue is that we toss around the “God’s will” phrase as if there is only one kind. There are two components within God’s will – directive and permissive. Our omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God uses this combination of wills to accomplish His divine purpose for our lives. Through Jeremiah 29:11 God tells us “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God’s directive will is divine, perfect, and unchangeable.

Permissive will is what God allows. God’s permissive will often involves testing us so that we may grow. The Lord tests. The enemy tempts. The enemy has no new tricks. Although the Lord allows temptation to occur, He also provides a means to escape. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13

In the acclaimed devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, teacher and evangelist Oswald Chambers, explains “it is our reaction to these things allowed by His permissive will that enables us to come to the point of seeing His perfect will for us.” Through Romans 12:2, God reminds us “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I once heard a preacher share a story of a father who planned to give his son a bicycle for his birthday. Over several months, the father planted seeds of suggestion by occasionally mentioning bicycles to his son. The son heard his father’s suggestions and began to earnestly want a bicycle. When his birthday arrived, the son was delighted to receive exactly what he wanted. And so it is with our need to align with God’s will.

Each time we pray, we make a choice to pray God’s will or our own. Wikipedia defines will as “the strongest desire from among the desires present.” Our prayer life often reflects our faith journey. The risk in praying our will is that it is short-sighted and often temperamental, based on our emotions at that time. By contrast, praying God’s will is an act of faith because it goes beyond our understanding of immediate situations. We cultivate faith by acknowledging our trust and desire for God to resolve every issue according to His divine plan. If you find yourself struggling to pray God’s will, begin by praying for a willingness to obey God’s will. As you progress in your spiritual journey, you will begin to desire the things of God. The chasm between your will and God’s will narrows until it is one and the same.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, though Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”-Hebrews 13:20-21

Provoked to Prayer

As we go about our daily routines, we often observe troublesome situations: the homeless man begging at a busy intersection, a young mother yelling at her child, a senseless news story that breaks our heart.

Beyond observations, there are situations that we directly encounter: a tense conversation with a loved one, a stressful event at work, or unexpected news from the doctor.

All too often, we cluck our tongues, shake our heads and give in to feelings to irritation, frustration, or worry. These feelings and reactions are perfectly natural. However, I invite you to also consider the spiritual aspect of these everyday occurrences.

Have you ever asked yourself why certain situations resonate so deeply with you?

It is my belief that such situations are intended to prompt us to pray. That sinking feeling and burden that we feel in our heart is actually a prayer assignment notification. God is connecting with His very same Holy Spirit which abides in you to solicit your prayers. This is not just a nice idea, but a sacred responsibility. In fact, scripture specifically states that it is a sin against the Lord to fail to pray for someone. When we deny prayer, we are essentially denying the power of God to bring about resolution.

“23 As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.”
– 1 Samuel 12:23-24 (NIV)

The next time you feel that vexation in your spirit – pray! Ask God to move in the situation of that individual as well as everyone else who who could fall into that same category or be associated with that category. For example, seeing the homeless man may prompt you to pray for him, but also for:

  • the entire homeless population
  • those who provide services to the homeless
  • those in positions of authority to influence policies that benefit the homeless

Your resulting prayer will bring you a sense of peace because you’ve been obedient and fulfilled your spiritual assignment. Prayer is one of the simplest, yet most powerful spiritual disciplines that you can develop. It requires no special tools nor qualifications, yet it has the power to bring about miraculous changes for God’s glory.

My hope with this blog is that you will be encouraged to cultivate a rich prayer life that strengthens, empowers, and blesses you.

So the next time you feel troubled, irritated or aggravated, I hope that you remember this post and are provoked to prayer!