Month: May 2013

Jesus is Bigger than the Giants

Do you have some trouble because of following Jesus? Do you have enemies that need conquering? Do you see giants on the horizon that strike you with fear? If you choose to follow God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, then life will not always be easy. Jesus even told us as much in John 16:33 when he said, “in this world you will have trouble.”
The great news is that the verse finishes with Jesus saying, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I remember these words when I read the story of the 12 spies who go into the promised land to scout out the Israelite’s enemies in Numbers 13-14. Moses sends the 12 spies and when they return they all report that it is a land flowing with milk and honey that would be a great place to call home. But 10 of the spies report that there are numerous enemies including some giants that would probably defeat the Israelites should they choose to try to take the land.
But the spies Joshua and Caleb said something different. They called people to remember all that God had done while leading them out of Egypt. They called people to put their faith in a God who continually showed that He was their God and they were His people.
The people chose to live in fear and the punishment was that no adult except Joshua and Caleb ever saw the promised land. They wandered the desert for 40 years and experienced the consequence that came with their lack of faith.
We are faced with the same choice when Satan and his spiritual forces are attacking. We can cower in fear and run away to stop the attack and stay safe or we can move forward while remembering the story of God includes Him as the victor and King. Yes, it be hard. Yes, there will be times that it is scary. Yes, there will be moments when you don’t see your next step clearly. This is necessary where faith is concerned. But God will give you his peace and will be with you every step you take.
Take heart, Jesus has overcome the world. The forces of darkness cannot stand against Him!

The Voice of the Impostor

I have had trouble feeling inspired lately to write. So I haven’t. I’ve slept in. I’ve read. I’ve found other things to do. And that is what it is. For me, here is the problem with not writing:

I have been listening to the voice.

I’m not talking about the Voice, God. I’m talking about the other one. The liar. The impostor. The voice that keeps telling me I’m not good enough and never will be. And I grab hold of that thought and hold on for dear life. That thought, though crushing, is safe. It keeps me from risk and hurt and really trying.

I am tired of safe and risk-free.
I am tired of trying to be good enough.
I am tired of listening to the voice.

The reality is that I don’t have to be “good enough” at writing or youth pastoring or fathering or husbanding or whatever else. “Good enough” says I have to reach some magical number or mark before I am ok. God says something different.

He says He has loved me with an everlasting love.
He says that before I was formed He knew me.
He says that He loves me so much He would give His son for me.
He says that I am His and He is mine.
He says that I am loved so much that I am His adopted son and full heir to His kingdom.

He says nothing about me being good enough. He knows I’m not. That’s why Jesus died for me. Because I am not good enough to make it on my own. I need God.

We each hear the voice that lies to us and tells us we are not good enough.We have to quit listening to it and listen to the God who loves us, know us, and wants to do beautiful things in and through us.

You are loved.
You are enough just as you are.
Tell the voice of the imposter to go away.

Where in your life do you need to quit listening to the voice?

The God of We Over Me

As I have read through Genesis and Exodus in the last couple of weeks I have been struck by a generational look at the work of God. God makes a promise to Abraham and it is generations until that promise is fulfilled. The time in between includes famine, brothers selling each other, slavery, and war. It reminds me that God is the God of all humanity for all time.
Sometimes I get a little caught up thinking God is telling my story. That is why He exists. The truth is the opposite. I exist to tell God’s story and participate in it. 
When I approach God selfishly, I want everything from God right now and in the exact way I want it. It makes me unwilling to wait on Him with expectation for Him to act in His time. The problem is that God’s time is so vastly different from our time. God is not telling a short story or 2-minute YouTube video. He is telling the grand epic redemption story of all things.
It took the 80 years for Moses to grow up and lead the people out of Egypt. It took 40 years of wandering in the desert. It took hundreds of years for the people to enter the promised land and become a people set apart by God. Abraham didn’t see the promise fulfilled. Neither did Isaac or Joseph or Moses. But it didn’t change that God was faithful in his time. The promise was never about what God would do during one person’s life but rather what he was doing among His people over time.
My mom recently told me this story about my grandfather, Harve Schmucker. He thought God wanted him to disciple a group of 12 men. So he started praying for God to bring him those 12 men. He prayed for the first year without having a single man show up. He prayed a second year, same results. After 5 years of praying, still no one. 10 years of praying, same result. In year 20 of praying, something finally happened. God sent twelve men. They were twenty years old. So my grandpa had been praying for them since their birth. Wow! 20 years is a long time to wait on God. But wait my grandpa did and God answered my grandfather’s prayer in His own time.
More and more I realize that God is calling His people to faithfulness even when we don’t understand how and why He is or seemingly isn’t moving. You are not the point of the story. But the main character loves you and will use you to do great things for His kingdom. Seek God and His call on your life and then wait with expectation that He will move for His kingdom and His glory in His time.

A God Who is There

Let me set the scene:
The Israelites have been in Egypt for 350 years. They came there to escape a great famine and were well taken care of and given great land. Unfortunately, they eventually became slaves to the Egyptians. The Israelites spent their days making bricks to build Egyptian cities. At the time of Moses’ birth, the Pharaoh ordered that every baby Israelite boy that was born should be killed to keep the Israelites from multiplying and becoming too big. Their existence was fairly miserable. Here is what Exodus 2:23-25 says happened at this point in history: 

The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

God had made promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the Israelites felt like he was forgetting his promises. He was leaving them to be slaves! Let’s look at three important things we see about how God responds to their grumbling and groaning.

1. God Heard
The time between this verse and the Israelites gaining freedom is 80 years! God heard, but he didn’t act immediately. A perceived lack of action from God does not mean he has not heard you. He may be waiting for a Moses to grow up to lead you. But God does hear you when you call out to him. You have to wait expecting God to act on your behalf. Just remember it might not happen as quickly as you would like.

2. God Remembered
God does not forget his promises to us. And he has made a lot of promises to us in the Bible. My friend Dave has been listing the promises of God that he sees on his twitter. He is at 122 and counting. Spend some time reading some of God’s promises and know that He remembers His promises and will see them through. Also know that remembering His promise is not the same as Him being compelled to act immediately. God will work when he works. Remember the 80 years from #1. 

3. God Looked
Sometimes as a parent, it’s easy to hear your kids but not see them. You watch out for them by listening, but you try to accomplish something else while they play. Your attention is divided. When you move from listening to watching, your full attention moves towards your kids. You don’t turn and look when you hear crying, you get up and run before they cry because you see them start to fall. God doesn’t just hear you and remember his promises, he sees you. He is paying attention because he created you and loves you. 
God may not always act in the way and timeframe we want, but it is a wonder that the Creator of all things hears, remembers and sees us. Rest securely in those truths today.

Dealing with Doubt

I grew up believing any doubts I had about God meant I wasn’t a Christian.
The problem with this way of thinking was that I actually had doubts about God. When doubt would fill my heart and mind, I dealt with it by pushing it down and trying to ignore it. Eventually the doubt caught up with me and when it did, it did what all hunters do when they pursue and catch their prey. It devoured me. 
I spent almost three years completely unsure of whether or not God was real and if he really cared about me. I mostly kept this to myself. I didn’t want others Christians to know because I was embarrassed and I hadn’t ever figured out what to do when I struggled with doubt. Now, years later, I think I have an answer for doubt. It is not a cure, but it is a place to start when doubt creeps or rushes in. It comes from looking the man whose name is synonymous with doubt, the disciple Thomas.
Here is Thomas’ story of doubt from John 20:
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Thomas missed the first time Jesus appeared to the rest of the disciples. He was probably in line at a super hard to find food truck that made great fish tacos. Whatever the case, he missed it. 

When the other disciples told him he missed it, you know what he didn’t do in his doubt?

He didn’t leave.
He didn’t go ask the local buddhists what they thought.
He didn’t sit at home and watch whatever it is they watched back then. Mud drying? 

The powerful thing Thomas did in the face of his doubt was staying in the most likely place for Jesus to show up again. In doubt we are called to faithfulness. Can you imagine what that week in between was like for Thomas? His faithfulness did not pay off immediately. The rest of the disciples would have been celebrating and remembering the words of Jesus as he predicted his resurrection. Thomas sat and waited, not sure he could believe what they said to him. But he stayed around the rest of the disciples and a very long week later, Jesus showed up to erase his doubt.

Very often when we doubt, we go out looking for answers. We watch tv, listen to the radio, ask co-workers, or try to ignore it while only being able to hear the words of those who don’t believe. The lesson of Thomas is to stay plugged into the people and places where God is likely to show up. He will show up. 

Find people that pray and sit with them. Find people that serve others and serve with them. Go tell a pastor/elder/someone you admire about doubt. If they can’t handle you having doubts, go find someone that can. Listen for stories of God at work, watch for lives that are changed. Ask people their stories of God at work.

But don’t run away. Have courage, be like Thomas, and draw near to where God is most likely to be found.