Resting and Trust

“So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:9 NLT)

The context of the book of Hebrews has to do with convincing the unbelieving Jews of the superiority of Christ. Jesus is the fulfillment of all that they hold dear. Jesus is better than Angels, Moses, and the Law because He is the fulfillment of all of those things. So the writer of the book is admonishing them to not harden their heart in unbelief like their ancestors, but enter into the rest that salvation can give them.

This message of rest is also for us today. Because of the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross we can enter into a Spiritual rest for salvation.

This rest not only applies to salvation, but also to everyday life. Our salvation is so complete that it not only deals with our eternal destiny, but it can offer us rest in the midst of every problem. The same rest that is available for the salvation of our souls is also available for every challenge of life.

Learning how to rest is an important element of victorious living. Saying, “I’m resting” is not some spiritual incantation that enters us into the resting mode, but rather it’s a lifestyle based on absolute truth. As the invitation in Hebrews states, “therefore be diligent to enter into that rest” (V 11). Entering into God’s rest is an exercise of the will, trusting in the authority of His Word.

It’s a deliberate acknowledgment that God is fully aware of your situation and He understands the severity, the timing and the gravity of your problem. In other words, resting is agreeing to allow God to “fix it” in His way, on His terms, and in His timing. Its the act of “casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)

Bottom Line
When my daughter Leslie was a toddler she was a trusting soul. I would lift her up and put her on the kitchen counter. She would leap off the counter with enthusiasm into my arms. No matter how far I got from the counters edge she would leap with complete trust that I was going to catch her. After each jump she would say, “again,again”.

That’s how God wants us to experience Him. He wants us to take the leap of faith and learn to rest in Him, again and again. He will, without fail, catch us when we take the leap of faith and give all our anxiety to Him.

There is a song written in 1920 by a Englishman named Edward Henry Joy called “All our Anxiety”. I believe the song echoes the message of rest in Hebrews 4.

Is there a heart bound by sorrow?
Is there a life weighed down by care?
Come to the cross each burden bearing
All you anxiety leave it there

All our anxiety all our care
Bring to the mercy seat, leave it there.
Never a burden He cannot bear,
Never a friend like Jesus”.

Courage For the New Year

Throughout the Scripture Jesus continually reminds his disciples to be courageous in approaching whatever they may face in life. Was he attempting to pump up the troops to help them accomplish their goals in life or was there something deeper he was conveying?

I think there was a deeper, life changing truth he was trying to instill in his disciples. Jesus was teaching the simple truth of trust. He desires that all of his children would live in the light of absolute dependence upon Him. Trusting in His finished work of the cross for our salvation is just the beginning of our trust journey.

If I could use one word to describe a “super believer” it would be the word TRUST. The ultimate attribute and quality of a follower of Jesus is our ability to fully trust him with every event, situation and aspect of our life. The Scripture says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart (our mind, will and emotions) and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.“ (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Whatever comes our way we are to give it to the Lord and trust Him to work it all out for our good and His glory. When we stress out over a situation we are choosing to withhold our heart from Him. We are choosing to not trust Jesus and our Heavenly Father. How is it that in stressful situations we often forget that God is already fully aware of our situation, and knows the severity of our circumstance? God is never surprised at what happens to us, matter of fact, he knows in advance. That means that every situation is a test of our willingness and ability to fully trust in Him.

That reminds me of a phrase I heard an evangelist give over thirty years ago regarding how God is never surprised at what happens to us. He said, “Has it every occurred to you that nothing ever occurs to God?” It would be good for us to ponder that statement.

He wants our natural reflex to be that we immediately trust Him. We already have a head knowledge that God is bigger than any situation, but he wants us to move that trust from our head to our heart.

Bottom Line

My challenge to you for 2016 is to set a goal to ‘up your level of trust’ . When you get stressed -out about a situation, give it to God, and practice trusting Him to see you through. Then begin to see every trial as a divine test by the heavenly Father to ‘up your level of trust’.

When something occurs that gets you stressed, worried, or out of control, remember this quote, “Don’t be guilty of mistaking the middle of the chapter for the end of your story.” (Jake Colsen)

Living in the Father’s Love

Love trumps every human emotion. Anger separates and alienates us from those we care about the most. Jealousy becomes possessive behavior that drives our loved ones away. Pride keeps us from being real, and it sets up a wall that prevents us from developing transparent relationships. But our Heavenly Father’s love sets us free and breaks down all those barriers. God’s love helps us establish lasting relationships that binds our hearts with others.

However, administering this love has a divine order. First, we must be able to receive love before we can adequately give it to others. God wired us to be purveyors of His love, but he knew in and of ourselves that we lack the capacity to give continual love. That’s the reason He sent Jesus to provide the ultimate act of love. Jesus died in our place on the cross in order that we can become a child of God and then be a receiver of the Father’s love.

God not only wants us to be continual recipients of the Father’s love, but He wants us to learn to live and walk in His love. How do we do that? We must be a willing receiver of His divine love. It’s more than accepting Jesus as your Savior. It involves an act of the will. We go the next step in our spiritual growth by abandoning our life to Him we are declaring “I am all in, and committed to serving God all the days of my life.” When you do that, there is an exchange that takes place, you exchange your self-centered, self-directed life for His life. It’s an acknowledgement that you can’t live your life in your own strength. You need Christ’s divine life in you for direction, wisdom and guidance.

When we learn to live “in the Father’s love” several things happen.

1. We give up the idea that our goodness controls the way God treats us. You abandon the idea that if you do your part, then He will do His part. God always does His part because He always has His hand in your life. God promises us that “He will never leave nor forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5)

2. We would let Him have His way with us so that we can become more like Him. He always knows what is best for us. “ God causes all things to work together…” (Romans 8:28)

3. God will set us free from those things in which we get our security. “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

4. You will see that suffering is God’s way of setting us free so we can follow Him at a deeper level. ”Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone” (John 12:24)

5. You will learn that walking in God’s love is enough. “We are made complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10)

6. God will increase your “love capacity” so you can become a giver of His love to others.

Bottom Line

God loves you more than the world could ever love you. His love is pure, unconditional and abundant. Living and resting in His love is the best place a follower of Jesus can dwell. Abiding in His love is not a formula or a religious ritual. It is not a list of “do’s and don’ts”. But its a gift from God as we yield every aspect of our lives to His control. So give up, surrender and then abide and walk in His sweet love.

Thanksgiving and Attitude

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:13)

One of the instinctive elements of a true believer is a thankful heart. We realize that a normal part of our daily life should include a continual attitude of thankfulness. It’s more than just saying “Thank You” to someone who does something nice for us. It’s displaying an attitude to those around us that whatever happens in life, I am going to respond as someone who sees God in every aspect of life.

There is a difference in “being thankful” and “giving thanks”. Being thankful is a result of a giving thanks. Being thankful is an act of the will regardless of how we feel. It is also an act of trust and obedience. Being thankful is a result of, and prerequisite to, having a thankful heart. Being thankful is an overt act of obedience, and the sweet result is having a thankful heart.

Does that mean we are to be thankful when we receive tragic news like, “You have cancer” or “You have lost your job”, or when we lose a friend or loved one through death? Yes, we are to be thankful – but not how you might think. No one in his right mind would say, “Praise the Lord, I have cancer.” Or would they say, “Hallelujah, my close friend has died.” That would be delusional.

But what it does mean is that we are to be so dependent upon a sovereign God for every event and circumstance in our life that we look for God’s hand and blessings in the midst of the trial. What God really desires is for us to be so “other-worldly” that nothing can shake our confidence and trust in Him. He wants us living at the level where we know that God knows best, even though in the midst of our problem we can’t see the blue sky for the fog.

It’s all about attitude

Whether we realize it or not, all our attitudes spring from some sort of belief system. For example, when our attitude takes a nosedive and we become discouraged or angry, it’s a result of a “belief system breakdown”. Our crisis of belief becomes, “do we trust God with this or are we doubting His ability to “work all things for our good?”

They have a saying in the Air Force, “Your attitude will determine your altitude”. So if you want to have an thankful heart that soars, then you must maintain a great attitude. That’s because having a thankful heart is all about “attitude”. It’s an attitude that gets its confidence from God’s love and care.

Bottom Line
You can gauge the depth of a thankful heart by observing attitude. Does your attitude reflect “God’s got this problem” or does it reflect doubt, fear and anger. Remember that our attitude often notifies our face.

The Answer Is To Trust

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? (Matthew 6:25-27 NLT)

Everyone struggles in one way or the other with life. We may have money worries, concerns about our children, job dissatisfaction, unfulfilled dreams, recurrent physical problems. There may be marriage problems, betrayal by those we love and cherish, and we may even struggle with loneliness. Many have a general sense of discontentment, and that leads to not loving yourself. When you don’t love yourself it becomes difficult to receive love from others and from God.

Your specific struggle may not be in the list above, but if you are warm and breathing, you will eventually experience some type of recurring struggle. That’s just life. So the question is not will we have struggles, but how do we respond in the midst of our struggles?

Jesus knew the impact of the sin nature and how it would produce worry and angst at every level of our life. Each season of our life has a different set of challenges that attack our peace and contentment.

When we became a committed follower of Jesus, we entered into a new realm of thinking, it’s called “kingdom thinking”. It’s based on trusting God for every element of our life. It becomes the basis of how we view life and the world. Kingdom thinking becomes our worldview. We no longer deal with our circumstances as “on our own,” but we see ourselves as a “child of the King dependent on our Heavenly Father”.

The passage above in Matthew 6 is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is teaching Kingdom principles to those who will become His followers. He is teaching a new way of living, from a ceremonial law-based mentality, to living by faith. It was radical thinking in that day, and unfortunately, most believers look at this as radical Christianity today. Missionary statesman Watchman Nee called it the “Normal Christian Life”.

When we put our trust in Christ as our Lord and Savior he gave us the promise of eternal life, a home in heaven and He promised to be our “need- meeter” in all areas of our life. He wants us to live with the daily assurance that He is in control of all our circumstances. He desires for us to turn over all our worry and discontent to Him, and then “He will do it all for you”.

Bottom Line

Prayerfully read the following passage and meditate on God’s infinite ability to supply, guide and satisfy our every need.

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. ” (Matthew 6:31-33 NLT)

Based on the above Scripture, ponder each word in the following statement; I Will Do It All For You.

I – God
Will – You can count on Him to honor His word if we trust Him.
Do – God will move whatever mountain that needs to be moved to accomplish His will for you.
It – God has an answer to every problem. Nothing ever takes Him by surprise.
ALL – God has a way of finishing the job “exceeding, abundantly more than we ever thought.”
For – God gets pleasure in meeting the needs of His children. If we as parents get joy out of providing for our children, how much more joy does it bring our Heavenly Father to meet our needs?
You – God is a personal God who knows and cares for His children personally.

Misfits

Have you ever thought that you just don’t fit in anywhere? Maybe you were like me and never felt like you belonged or fit in with any group. When I was in high school I was too “churchy” to run with the popular crowd and not smart enough to run with the intellectual crowd.

On top of all of that I was so shy and introverted as an adult that when asked by the Pastor to read the Sunday School report during the morning service I was so nervous I became nauseated. To even consider that I would one day stand behind a pulpit and preach was out of the question. I felt like a misfit.

Even as a conference leader and speaker, I have never had the support or endorsement of the larger churches, and popular pastors. I wasn’t denominational enough to be endorsed and promoted by the denominational leaders, and not radical enough to be drawn to the major independent church groups. I was even a misfit in my calling.

Yes, I am a misfit, yet I have had the wonderful privilege to preach, teach and counsel thousands of people on four continents. How can a misfit be used of the Lord? Somewhere along the way the Lord taught me a valuable lesson. He specializes in using misfits. He taught me that obedience, commitment to surrender, and brokenness is more important than popularity and acceptance.

This has always been God’s way, He uses misfits. The Scripture teaches us in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” (NLT)

From a biblical perspective, being a misfit doesn’t mean that we are unwise, reckless, and irresponsible. It means that we clearly understand that our worldview is not determined by the culture that we live in. We recognize that we are strangers and pilgrims in the world. The world system does not determine our belief system, our belief system is based on the absolutes of the Scripture.

Being a misfit also means that God uses those whose life has been filled with past failures. Peter was a prime example of someone who once walked with Jesus, and then later denied that he ever knew Jesus. He even quit the ministry and went back to fishing when Jesus was crucified. But Jesus still redeemed Peter and used him greatly in the kingdom. Weeks later he preached a five minute sermon and thousands came to Christ.

“It shouldn’t surprise us that God handpicks the foolish to confound the wise. Those that were rejected locally often are promoted by God globally for His glory. Being unqualified is greater than a degree from an Ivy League school. Graduate with God today because the Lord doesn’t call the qualified but qualifies the called.” (Frank Shelton, author Carrying Greatness)

Bottom Line

If you are feeling that you just don’t fit, then be encouraged, you are in the best of company. God’s Hall of Fame is populated by unqualified misfits. He specializes in using and promoting those who feel the most unqualified.

When we come to Him and lay ourselves at His feet, acknowledging we have nothing to give or offer but ourselves, we then enter the realm of the qualified. By acknowledging that “apart from Him we can do nothing” we become an “eligible misfit” for Kingdom work. May this be our prayer:

“Dear Lord, I come to you as a misfit, and fully unqualified. I acknowledge that apart from you I can do nothing. I offer myself to you just as I am. Cleanse and change my heart so that I can be a reflection of the Christ who lives within me. Amen”

The In’s and Outs of Obedience

If you have been a follower of Jesus very long you have heard or read multiple times about the importance of being an obedient believer. If you are like me, the question in my mind has been, “What does it mean to be obedient to the Lord?” In other words, other than obeying the commands of Scripture, what does obedience look like?

There is a lot written on the subject of obedience and the more you read on the subject the more confusing it gets. On one hand you could develop a law mentality and fall into religious legalism. The other extreme is you could become so passive that you never encounter or connect with God’s leading.

So in this devotional I would like to give you my view of what it means to be obedient to God. I am wired to be practical so my bend on obedience is from a practical standpoint. I don’t do well with complicated theological definitions, so my approach is to break it down into a practical but accurate definition.

Legal side of obedience
I view obedience from two perspectives. One is the legal side of obedience. These are God’s clear commands like we read from the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount or the epistles. These are clear-cut instructions given to us by God for us to obey. For instance, it’s never a question if we are to love our neighbor. We understand that lying is something that obedient believers don’t do. The Scripture plainly tells us not to lie or hate our neighbor. We don’t have to pray about if its ok to hate our neighbor or tell a lie because the Scripture is clear.

Practical side of obedience
This side of obedience is what trips up most believers. It’s more subjective and not quiet as clear as the written Word. We see an example of this principle when the rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked him how to obtain eternal life. Jesus told him, “You know the commandments…”. The rich man replied, “ All these things I have kept from my youth.” Then Jesus replied, “One thing you still lack, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and then you shall have treasure in Heaven, and come and follow me. “

This is an example of a man who had followed only the legal aspect of obedience. He missed the practical and heart side of what it means to be fully committed to God. Jesus wasn’t saying it was wrong to be rich or prosperous. He was teaching that even though the man had kept the letter of the law in his personal behavior, his money and wealth had become a God to him. He wasn’t willing to trade his wealth for peace with God.

One of the indicators that a person is really born again is they are connected to both the legal and the practical side of obedience. It is an inward thing. It’s more than keeping the commandments, it’s being willing to allow your life to be a living sacrifice.

We are sometimes like the little boy who was placed in the corner sitting in a chair for being disobedient. His mom told him to stay seated in the chair and not to get up until he was given permission. He then looked at his mom and said, “I may be sitting down in this chair, but on the inside I am standing up.” He looked like he was being obedient but on the inside he was still rebellious.

Three aspects of practical obedience
There are several aspects of practical obedience but I want to highlight three key components that most believers deal with on a day to day basis.

Obeying the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. When we were born again we received the Holy Spirit within us. This is the promised comforter and teacher that Jesus promised his disciples before he ascended to heaven. (John 16:5-15) It is the spirit of the living Christ living His life through us. This is what Jesus meant when He said that He would always be with them. The Holy Spirit is in us to not only be our teacher but also to reveal to us the will of the Father. It’s that inner conscience. Practical obedience is listening to and obeying the inner voice of the Holy Spirit. I call it intentional listening. As you commune with God through prayer and Bible reading, the voice will be clearer.

Practical obedience involves placing our trust in God during every crisis, situation or decision. This is when we give every situation to God and trust Him to show us direction. During my life, I would like to say that every major decision I’ve made was in line with God’s will. But I am sorry to say that I haven’t always made the right decision. Out of fear or rebellion I chose to do it in my own strength and wisdom rather than trusting God and following His leadership. But in those times when I trusted God to show me the way, He never failed to give me direction and peace in the midst of the storm.

Practical obedience is learning to wait on God. When I think back to the times that I made a bad decision it was because I didn’t have the patience to wait on an answer from God. We have all heard the familiar phrase that God has two answers when we pray, “yes or no”. I have found that there are actually three answers, “yes, no and wait”. I can handle the “yes and no” answers fairly well, it’s the “wait” that I struggle with. Learning to wait on God is a spiritual virtue that results in practical obedience.

Bottom Line

Obedience involves two aspects, following the written commands of God (the Legal) and the practical aspect (a practical living out of the commands). God didn’t give us the commands and then throw us to the wolves, hoping that we can persevere. He gave us the indwelling Christ to enable us to fulfill both the legal as well as the practical aspect of obedience. The Scripture tells us that we are made complete in Christ. (Colossians 2) His life is in us, enabling us to live in obedience. (Romans 8:1-10) It’s not just up to us to do the best we can, but rather it is Christ, who is the fulfillment of the law, living His life through us empowering us to be obedient. As a result, our obedience allows us to fulfill the will of God.

“The quality of our character is directly related to the level of our obedience. “