Position Yourself for Change

My son was a wrestler in high school. Wrestling is a grueling individual sport. When you’re out on the mat, there’s absolutely nobody to hide behind! If you’re skilled and well prepared, everybody knows it. If you are not, well, you know how that goes.

From day one wrestlers are taught about stance and positioning. Not only is it painful to have your head continually shoved into the mat, but there aren’t any moves a person can execute when he’s lying flat on his belly. In such circumstances the coach will continually yell, “Get to your base!” Only when he gets to all fours, will the wrestler be in a position for positive change.

I’ve made it clear that self-sufficiency is not the answer to our ills and that we cannot make ourselves to be better Christians. That doesn’t mean, however, that there is nothing we can do to help facilitate personal growth. The key is to learn to position ourselves for change.

Romans 5:17 is a passage that both inspires and challenges me:

“For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (NASB)

What does Paul say is the requirement for reigning over sin’s power in this life? Receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness! It’s all very simple—and very powerful. So why don’t we see more fruit in the lives of professing Christians? We aren’t positioned to receive.

When the pride of self-sufficiency serves as our underlying motivation, we block the flow of God’s life-giving grace. When we constantly work to earn God’s favor, the gift of righteousness lies unclaimed. When we focus on our guilt and shortcomings, we allow the powers of darkness to shove our faces into the mat. When we fail to trust the promises of God, we lie powerless on our bellies.

If you want to see God move in your life, you’ve got to get to your base to position yourself to receive from God. How is this accomplished? It’s not complicated.

We begin by admitting our need. We don’t have what it takes to defeat our adversary, but surely our God is The Champion! Turning to God, we confess what we’ve just admitted.

But there is another essential factor that we simply cannot ignore—the Word of God. Without the Word we’re toast! This is one of the keys of daily Bible reading. It’s not about trying to be a good Christian or somehow trying to please God. A daily devotional life serves to help position us to receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness. And as we read, we begin to learn the promises of God—especially those which apply to our circumstances.

So let’s imagine (for some this might not be too hard) that you’re at a bad place in life. Your circumstances stink. It seems as though the people around you either don’t understand or don’t care. Hope is fading as you’re nagged by the sinking feeling that even God has abandoned you. Or perhaps you’re facing a mountain that you simply can’t overcome. What do you do? Get to your base!

Go to God in prayer, surrender your will and confess your need. Then turn to the Scriptures and to His promises (Romans 8:26-39 might be a good place to begin). No matter what your circumstances seem to say, stand on His promises, believing that God is absolutely and totally faithful to His Word. Position yourself for change and then watch Him move on your behalf!

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God, Why?

Photo from Wikipedia

Have you ever asked, “Why?” I often wonder why God does some of the things He does. Some people mistakenly think that God is the source of natural disasters and every type of human tragedy. News flash: God doesn’t have a cruel streak!

At the same time, however, our Heavenly Father does have this tendency to lead His children into difficult places. Consider the Israelites’ entrapment by the Red Sea. And then their journey into the desert without food or water. God initiated all of that!

And why did Jesus tell us to pray to the Father, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (ESV)? Surely there is a reason for this particular aspect of a prayer that so many lift before God week in and week out.

Make no mistake—our loving Father is trying to prove and establish us as a people of integrity—that is wholeness. Matthew 6:13 might make more sense put this way: “And please don’t lead us into difficult trials where our faith and devotion will be sorely tested and proven, but do deliver us from our own evil tendencies toward self-sufficiency.”

The last thing that God wants is for us to fall prey to sin. But the one thing He always seeks to accomplish is the firm establishment of our faith. Trust cannot exist without faith. And relational intimacy never happens apart from trust. And wholeness, most certainly, is impossible apart from relational intimacy with our loving Creator.

Have you ever thought that perhaps God leads us into desolate, impossible circumstances in order to teach us to look to Him? Resting the weight of our confidence on others apart from God is idolatry–simply put. Trusting in ourselves is nothing more than a return to the original sin (the desire to be like God apart from God). Both idolatry and self-sufficiency corrupt our lives with bitter, poisonous roots.

Stepping out in ministry I have been living by faith for 12+ years—especially the past 4 with the launch of Search for Me Ministries, Inc. I can’t count how many times I’ve said in a tight spot, “God, if you make me independently wealthy, I would do this for free and fund it all myself.” Ah! That’s exactly the problem! I would do it all myself—in my own strength and with my own ability—if I could.

The only thing that compels me to avoid self-trust is to find myself in situations and circumstances that are beyond my human ability (and therefore considered impossible). Herein lies the wisdom (and beauty) of the wilderness experience. Through the Lord’s Prayer Jesus is sending us a message: “Put no trust in yourselves and your ability to handle difficult circumstances. Turn from self-sufficiency and put the full weight of your trust in your heavenly Father and His covenant love.”

God’s promise is that He will never fail or forsake us. The desolate and impossible terrain of the wilderness sends the opposite message. Depending upon our response, the final products are fear, anxiety, hardness and bitterness, or a deep-rooted transformation into a Holy Spirit-watered life. The potential outcome almost makes me want to say, “Bring on the wilderness!” Having been around the block a few times, however, I’ll wisely stick with, “And lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.”

When God Lets You Down

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lexrex/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Living above a bar was fine for the two of us, but with plans to start having kids Debi and I wanted something resembling more of a home. And so we did our best to prepare.

We continued saving money for a down payment. I took a class on home buying. As we prayed for guidance and provision we began to search for just the right house. It wasn’t long before we were excited to find it—or so we thought. The process ran into a snag, however, and we needed God to answer a particular prayer for the deal to work out. We laid hold of God’s promise for provision and genuinely believed that everything would proceed as expected. It didn’t. We even lost some money in the process. I wanted to scream to high heaven!

There are times when words can’t express the depth of disappointment that comes from an unanswered prayer. Sometimes it’s not so much the specific issue as it is the feeling that God has somehow let us down. Like mold on old cheese the roots of doubt begin to quickly spread to other areas of life.

Looking back I now realize that the purchase of that particular home would have actually hindered the ministry to which we were eventually called. But I didn’t see it at the time. I couldn’t see it—being a finite human has a way of limiting one’s perspective.

Somewhere along the line I learned a really valuable lesson about faith. God’s promises are an outflow of His character and ability. We can always trust our Creator because He is all knowing, all powerful, totally sovereign, ever faithful and so in love with His covenant children. Faith is rooted in the substance of who God is.

I so believe that we need to lay hold of specific promises of God, but at the same time I recognize that we don’t always see the whole picture. There will be times in life when God doesn’t answer certain prayers or fulfill specific promises the way that we expect. It’s during those seasons that we need to remind ourselves that the foundation of our trust rests in the person of God. Even though we didn’t get our desired answer with regard to that particular house, He was still looking after our best interests and guiding us toward a very meaningful destiny.

Personally I believe that one of the most powerful statements of faith found in Scripture comes from Job 13:15a – “Even if he slays me, I will hope in him.” (NET)

We all have varying interpretations of the book of Job, but the bottom line is that God was seeking his welfare even in the midst of some really painful and difficult circumstances. And Job believed it! While He may not have had perfect faith, Job rested the weight of his trust on the impeccable character of his Creator.

Abraham did the same. So did David. And the list goes on of heroes of the Christian faith who threw the full weight of their lives upon the character of God even though their circumstances appeared to betray His promises.

The truth is that God will never truly let you down. Blend genuine faith with the passage of time and you will eventually see His hand powerfully moving in previously unseen ways.

Promises, Promises

We’ve all experienced the pain of broken promises. Western culture can be characterized as a promise-breaking society. Political campaigns saturate our media-driven world with sincere and profound pledges for change—pledges that will be fulfilled when that person finally gets in office. Within months many of those promises are completely forgotten.

Owners, coaches and even players from high profile sports teams swear up and down that they will or won’t do (or haven’t done) something and within a week the facts speak to the contrary.

Religious leaders proclaim their integrity and honesty only to be found skimming funds or sleeping with someone they shouldn’t be.

Parents promise to spend the day with their kids only to be called into work or to take off with friends. A spouse vows to “have and to hold” until the separation of death only to be caught having an affair with someone half their age. When such promises are broken our hopes are dashed and our hearts devastated—a broken promise in many ways stands as a sign of rejection. We are not loved or valued enough for the person to keep their word.

It all sounds horrible—and it is. Unfortunately these all too real scenarios are unceasingly repeated day after day after day.

We’re all finite beings and sometimes people break promises because of circumstances beyond their control. A pattern of unfaithfulness, however, sends a loud and clear message: This person cannot be trusted!

Our response to such patterns always includes pain—often a deep-rooted pain that is accompanied by anger, bitterness and even substance abuse. In many cases we find ourselves desperately searching for that special someone who will show us truly faithful love.

The collective effects of a promise-breaking culture lead us to feelings of worthlessness and a sense of cynicism. And probably worst of all—they severely hinder our ability to trust God. We can relate to people through our five senses, but God is invisible. All too often their voices speak louder than His. Add unanswered questions to the mix and trusting God can sometimes seem near impossible.

NEWS FLASH! GOD HAS NEVER BROKEN EVEN ONE OF HIS MANY PROMISES!  We’ll have more on this all-important story in the coming weeks.

“Now when God made his promise to Abraham, since he could swear by no one greater, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you greatly and multiply your descendants abundantly.” And so by persevering, Abraham inherited the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and the oath serves as a confirmation to end all dispute.  In the same way God wanted to demonstrate more clearly to the heirs of the promise that his purpose was unchangeable, and so he intervened with an oath, so that we who have found refuge in him may find strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us through two unchangeable things, since it is impossible for God to lie. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast ….” Hebrews 6:13-19a (NET)