Tag Archives: Relationship With God

Quiet Time

Quiet time

I think our culture needs a time out….a quiet time out.  This morning, EARLY this morning, I’m reading,  praying, thinking…and in my ears is noise all around.

The neighbors next door fighting,

the neighbors behind me hollering at their kids,

dogs barking in response,

airplanes flying overhead,

will you all please be quiet!

Silence is something our world does not like.  We are a world of noise…noise 24/7.  Noise to keep the silence away.  There are few places where we can go to find a place without the noise of our world….because in the silence we have to deal with ourselves, we have to deal with God, we have to deal with the things we have done and so we turn up the noise.

It’s interesting that in the bible quietness and peace with God are spoken of together.  Noise and sin are partners as well.  It seems that quiet is the posture of peace, of a right relationship with God…it’s comfortable when peace with God is a reality.  But when we haven’t resolved our relationship with God, when there is no peace with God we keep the volume turned up so we don’t have to deal with him.

Isaiah wrote, “The Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.””

In Psalms God said to David, “Hush, be quiet and know that I am God.”

As I listen to the noise all around me, volumes increasing as the sun rises, I am thankful for the peace, the quiet of a relationship with God that gives me calm in the storm of noise swirling all around.

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

Alone

AloneOne of the grim realities of life is that we are alone. In the middle of a busy city with others all around we are alone.
This “aloneness” is one of the results of the fall, but is mostly ignored by writers. We simply don’t talk about it. Man, designed to be in constant relationship with God who made him is now thrust into the world empty, alone, isolated. Even with thousands around us we all have sensed this truth…we are alone.
In God’s amazing plan of redemption his intentions were to deal with more than one problem in the cross. Clearly the Christian world knows about his resolution of the sin issue. Without a doubt we all know about God’s redemption accomplished by Christ, the forgiveness of sin, the restored relationship, the promise of eternity, but what we don’t talk about is the resolution of man’s isolation problem.
Part of God’s plan in redemption was to bring us back into a relationship with him. We use those words so easily, but don’t realize what they mean. One of our major problems caused by sin is our isolation. We are alone! God’s plans included the restoration of how he designed us to be. His plans included the repair of this breach. Here is what Jesus says about this plan,
John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.’ 22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, ‘But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’ 23 Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
“We will come to him and make our home with him.” Did you see that? In God’s amazing plan of salvation he also plans to resolve our aloneness. He resolves it by coming to us and living with us. Suddenly, we are no longer alone. In a moment of time the great ache of the heart is resolved. Human beings, designed to be in constant fellowship with God, through Christ, are restored to that relationship. God with us, living in us, our hope of glory. This truth is profound and immensely important. If we miss this we miss all that God has done. No longer alone….what an amazing and wonderful part of God’s redemptive work.

Relationships

As I work my way through life, through marriage, through parenting, and through God’s word I am keenly aware of one thing….

ALL of life is about relationship.

Relationship with God.

Relationship with my wife.

Relationship with kids, and grandkids.

Relationship with PEOPLE! People are everywhere and if I’m going to survive well I have to deal with them, get along with them and care about them,

But there is a problem. You know the problem well, don’t you? People are selfish, mean, frustrating, prideful, hard to get along with and just messy! People make life hard!!! Isn’t that funny? People around us are our main source of joy, frustration and struggle. And it’s just plain messy!

Today I’m working on a passage of scripture I will be teaching this week and it’s all about relationships….how to get along with PEOPLE. You would think we would have this figured out by now, but we don’t tolerate each other very well. We can’t seem to get along with others well at all. The ongoing wars on our little planet tell the tale of our inability to exist together. We seem better able to kill than to care.

Anyway, the passage I’m working through is all about relationships and the key word for these relationship to work is the word “submit.” It’s this idea: “put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.” Now you see why we don’t do this well, don’t you? We are in a ME world with instructions from God’s word to make this an OTHERS world. It’s something that we can only do as we imitate the only one who ever did it perfectly- Jesus.

Submit to one another, in other words put others ahead of you…put them first…care about them more than you do about you. That’s the solution to our world’s problems, but it can only happen as I allow God to live it out in me. He did it perfectly and he can do it now through me….if I will let him. It would be really easy if it weren’t for all the people I have to deal with…..

Previously posted 5/10/11. Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

Heart Direction

“May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” 2 Thes. 3:5.

I’m fascinated by this short, simple verse. It’s a prayer of Paul for those suffering in Thessalonica. I would have prayed “May the Lord direct your minds…” but Paul prays for heart direction. There is a knowing of the heart that the mind cannot comprehend. There is an assurance of the heart that the mind cannot grasp. There is a relationship with God of the heart that the mind can only dream about. In this time of rest and sabbatical I have been seeking the face of God. It’s a passion I acquired from David the king. He pursued the face of God. I can only imagine what that looks like because, in truth, it’s a heart quest, not a quest of the mind.

One of the things I find as I get closer to the face of God is his love and joy in my presence. He really loves me! He likes me, he really does. He’s glad to see me. Personally. I feel so inadequate to even be in his presence, unworthy, imposing on his time and attention, but he loves me. As my heart is directed into his love I begin to see myself as he does. I see the me he sees and it brings the same response that Jesus had to the love of the father….steadfastness. As Jesus prayed in the garden, steadfast in his decision to obey the father because of the father’s love for him and for us, he went to the cross steadfast in obedience because he knew the father loved him. I see I cannot walk in steadfast obedience until I know the father’s love. It’s his love that gives me the ability to be steadfast in Christ.

We all go through difficult days, days that challenge our commitment to faith, but the love of God will bring us to a steadfast walk that can only be known to the heart. The mind would say you are crazy, but the heart knows the Father’s love and that makes all the difference.

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

A New Year

A new year.

A fresh start.

Hope for better things.

Desire for change.

It was just another day. It wasn’t anything special in the grand scheme of things, but we have made calendars so for us it was the start of something new. Another year, a new beginning, fresh hopes. Maybe this year…..

A new year is a wonderful opportunity to make a new list of priorities for our lives. It’s often the case that as a year moves through its seasons we forget what is most important and find ourselves busy with the small urgencies of life. Let me suggest, let me encourage you to make a short list of what is most important to you this year, no more that 5 things, and make those things the filters through which you use your 365 days of the year ahead.

Here are a few suggestions- Pursue a relationship with God, read a book each month about something that will encourage or inspire you, commit to reading the bible each day this year, take time each day to dream, write a journal, write a book, do something fun each week, develop a new hobby or interest, learn something new, intentionally ask one person each week about their life (this could be a daily activity for many of us), and on the list goes. These are not necessarily resolutions, they are simply priorities. And yes, for some of you exercise is on the list isn’t it? But whatever you do with this new year do it intentionally. Don’t simply let the year fly by and not use every moment well for the glory of God.

Have a great year!

 

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

Christmas Thoughts

This year, to be honest, my hearts not into Christmas. I’m not excited about it. In fact I’m feeling rather a Scrooge about the whole thing. I could easily go into a monologue about consumerism and how crazy it is to spend money for gifts while we lose sight of the real meaning of the season, but that whole discussion has been done to death.

This year I’m simply trying to focus on my walk with God in a busy time when God is so easily forgotten. Honestly I think my relationship with God, whatever that means, has suffered a bit in recent weeks. I could blame a number of things, but at the core of it all is me. I’m the problem. I’m not sure why, but I know it’s one of the normal cycles of a walk with God. It’s just the wrong time of the year for one of these down times to happen…..

Anyway, with Christmas only a few days away, I survey my living room covered with toys and grandkids playing, having fun, enjoying the day and we have yet to open gifts! They don’t need another thing and yet more will come in just a few days. Why do we do this? Will we answer for this crazy excess? I wonder. Yes, Scrooge is at work and I’m him. Sorry, I’m working on it, but for now I am just not into this season of the year.

Christmas is supposed to be a time to remember what God has given. Do we ever do that? Do we realize what he has done? Do we talk about it with our kids? This year we will give our grandkids chickens….chickens that will show up in India for a family in need. I would like to make it even more, maybe goats or cows next year……I would love to make our Christmas about those who have nothing. Now that would be a wonderful Christmas!

As I read the Facebook posts I see wives writing about cooking, decorating, buying gifts, tired, frazzled and worn out. Why are we doing this? Yes, Scrooge is alive and well, but in part I’m tired of this gluttonous consumerism in a country that has too much already. Ok, I’m done. I feel better already. Merry Christmas!

Visit Mike at Finishing Well….bring chickens.

Hard Hearts And Stiff Necks

There are two things I see in scripture that cause us problems- hard hearts and stiff necks.
Hard hearts describe people who are insensitive to God’s voice and untouched by his work in their lives. They simply don’t see or sense him, his voice, or his conviction.

Stiff necks describe people who are, even knowing what God wants from them, unwilling to change directions, unwilling to repent. They have set their course and will not “turn their necks,” change their minds or direction.

I’m thinking about this because I’m reading a passage, studying a portion of scripture where I see the disciples witnessing some of the most amazing miracles of all history and seems untouched, unaffected by them. They had hardened their hearts. They had become insensitive to God’s amazing work in their midst.
I wonder….I wonder how hard my heart is. I wonder what God is doing in my life, around me, speaking to me and I simply don’t hear it, sense it, feel his presence. This is a dangerous place to be because we don’t realize that a hardness has developed in our lives and our relationship with God. I wonder if my stiff neck, my unwillingness to change my course is made worse by my hard heart?

These are my challenges. These are your challenges. I pray that my heart will be soft to God, sensitive to his touch, responsive to his voice. I pray that I will not be so stubborn that I can’t change, can’t turn my neck to God’s directions in my life. I’m thinking about this because 12 men who lived for three years in the very presence of God on earth struggled with it. I know I do to.

Lord, soften my heart, massage my stiff neck. Help me to respond quickly, to hear well your voice and respond to your leading in my life.

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

Abounding Grace

God’s grace is a big deal to me. It’s the most important thing to understand in all that God has provided in Christ. Many, by not understanding it, have resorted to works to please God and frankly God is not at all pleased by that response.
He has provided grace and wants us to live in it, but few understand its implications, even fewer are comfortable with how that is lived out. If you want to know a bit about what God has done and what it means in your life here are Paul’s words in Romans 5 about that grace,

15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 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.

Abounding grace. That very phrase should make you want to know what that means, what’s the implications, why did it need to abound? Grace is one of God’s most profound works, and one that few are comfortable with. It means that in Christ God has done all that needs to be done for us to please him. There’s nothing more to do to find favor with God. If you have trusted Christ as savior you are his child, his son or daughter and you DO please him. He not only loves you he actually likes you just as you are right now. His grace has abounded above all your need and provided everything required to bring us into relationship with God, to provide forgiveness of sin, to give us security for eternity, to do all that needed to be done so there is nothing left for us to do.

Books have been written on this topic. I know in these few paragraphs I will not satisfy many hearts and minds with answers, there’s simply too much to discuss, but there is a reality in our Christian world that needs to be resolved- Do you believe it’s all been done or do you believe there’s more that you must do? It’s one or the other.
I know, as I write this, that many are saying, “Yeah, but….” And here begins the discussion about what I must do. Frankly, to please God there is nothing you can do. All that was needed to please God was done by Christ at the cross. The harsh reality of grace is this- there is NOTHING you can do to please God other than to say “yes” to the grace he has already provided.

Justice says I get what I deserve. Mercy says I don’t get what I deserve, but grace says in Christ I get what I don’t deserve. In this abounding grace I come to God and find that by simply trusting Christ I please God! That’s it. Nothing more to do. Grace says it’s all been done already. My response? Worship. Praise. A life that obeys him, but these are all just responses. They merit nothing for my salvation. That’s been done. Now, all that I do is respond to grace and in that response I find God’s joy.

Many in our culture call this simple idea “cheap grace,” but what they don’t understand is that it must be this way. If any of my works, my deeds, my performance for God are part of grace it’s a statement to the world that what Christ did on the cross wasn’t enough. When he said, “it’s finished” he just didn’t understand. You can’t have it both ways. Either he did it all or he didn’t. And if he did it all then your only response it to simply say “yes” to his gift and bask in that grace.

Abounding grace….abounding far above my need, abounding far above my understanding, grace to do for each of us what we could never do on our own.

Today I joyfully rejoice in God’s abounding grace to me!

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

He Never Lets Go

Do you remember the thrill of being spun around by your dad? Do you remember how exciting it was? Never a worry about him letting go. He’s your dad, he would never do that. The thought never crossed our minds. We simply enjoyed the thrill and excitement of the ride.

How have we lost that thrill of life with God? How have we imagined that he would ever let go of us? Where did we get the idea that we can’t trust him? When did the thrill of living a life with God disappear for you? I think, for most I talk to the thrill of a life lived with God is a distant memory if they ever knew that excitement at all. How do we lose that excitement of living in relationship with the God who made us?

For me the thrill and excitement of walking with God, of knowing he has me in his hands, is often a distant memory. I’ve lost it in the mundane, in the necessary things of life. But with the loss of that excitement another emotion rises for many…we wonder if God will let go of us. Can we trust him to “hold on?” Am I safe?

If fear of a fall is part of life then you can’t enjoy the ride…..you simply don’t trust the hands that hold you. When fear and lack of trust replaces the excitement of a relationship with God then you’ve lost all joy of knowing God and living life with him. We must recapture trust and then can enjoy the thrill of the adventure once more.

Here’s what Jesus said, knowing how destructive our fears can be, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” Jesus knows we forget the fun of the relationship and easily fear the one who holds our hands. He wants us to know, “I will never let go! Enjoy the ride. I’ve got you! I love you too much to let go of you. Relax!”

Once we recapture that trust then fun begins again, we relax knowing that God loves us, promises to hold onto us and wants us to enjoy this life and walk with him. If, like me, you easily lose the thrill and excitement of a life lived with God and entertain fears of the fall then go to the Father, recapture that trust, revisit his love for you and realize that whatever you go through he will never let you go. Enjoy the ride!

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.