Monthly Archives: October 2009

Me Testing God or God Testing Me

Some of the comments on my last blog got me to thinking about this whole concept of “testing.” A very brief look at the scripture on testing lead me to some conclusions about my own situation, which I have shared now with the world. Some of your comments have been thought provoking on the side of agreement and others have been thought provoking on the side of disagreement. I’m just glad that you all care and are helping me through it by making me think.

Here’s how I approached this study. I looked up all of the times in scripture (using the New Century Version) that the words “God” or “Lord” were mentioned in the same verse with any form of the word “test” (tested, testing, tests).  Here are some of my findings.  Please understand this was a quick overview and not too deep.

GOD TESTING MAN

I have discovered in this brief study that most of the time any “testing” that is done is done by God. Here are a couple of examples. (Genesis 22:1 NCV) “After these things God tested Abraham’s faith. God said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he answered, ‘Here I am.'” (1 Thessalonians 2:4 NCV) “But we speak the Good News because God tested us and trusted us to do it. When we speak, we are not trying to please people, but God, who tests our hearts.”

It seems that the kind of “testing” God does to us is to see whether or not our hearts are going to remain truly with him. Many times the words “obey the commands” are mentioned along with these tests. Example: (Deuteronomy 8:2 NCV) “Remember how the LORD your God has led you in the desert for these forty years, taking away your pride and testing you, because he wanted to know what was in your heart. He wanted to know if you would obey his commands.”

MEN TESTING GOD

Of the times that I found that concerned men testing God, most of the time it was found to not be wise to test Him.  The kind of “testing” of God talked about in the negative sense was not the sincere heart of a man trying to find God’s will for his life, but more of a “tempting” God.  In fact, the KJV used the word “tempt” in all of those contexts.  An example of this is found in (Psalms 106:14-15 NCV)  “They became greedy for food in the desert, and they tested God there. {15} So he gave them what they wanted, but he also sent a terrible disease among them.” This of course is talking about when Israel got angry with God for not sending meat. God’s point was here that they were not trusting Him.  So He punished them for this.

On the other hand people like Gideon tested God with God’s blessing.  (Judges 6:39-40 NCV)  “Then Gideon said to God, “Don’t be angry with me if I ask just one more thing. Please let me make one more test. Let only the wool be dry while the ground around it gets wet with dew.” {40} That night God did that very thing. Just the wool was dry, but the ground around it was wet with dew.”

As with most “word studies” they have their faults.  One fault of this kind of study is the fact that they leave out other ways to use the concept of a word even when the word itself is not used.  Here’s what I mean.  Sometimes trusting God means testing Him.  There is a form of test in Abraham offering Isaac as a sacrifice.  Listen to these New Testament verses (Hebrews 11:17-19 NCV)  “It was by faith that Abraham, when God tested him, offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice. God made the promises to Abraham, but Abraham was ready to offer his own son as a sacrifice. {18} God had said, “The descendants I promised you will be from Isaac.” {19} Abraham believed that God could raise the dead, and really, it was as if Abraham got Isaac back from death.” Whereas Abraham offered Isaac in obedience to God, how could he have done that without believing that God would have raised him?   He obeyed the words of God trusting God to raise Isaac from the dead.  God wants us to take care of our children, not kill them, but He asked Abraham to do it so he did.

The same is true with Gideon’s army.  No person in his right mind would approach any army of thousands with only 300 men.  But Gideon believed God after more confirmation and told his army what to do.  The result was (Judges 7:22 NCV)  “When Gideon’s three hundred men blew their trumpets, the LORD made all the Midianites fight each other with their swords!” What a sight that must have been!  Gideon believes this thing from God that was so against conventional wisdom and God delivered.

You see, I believe from all of this that many times we do “tempt” God.  We do not believe and obey.  We don’t trust His everyday care.  We whine and moan about what we don’t have instead of enjoying the blessings we do have.  This is sin and we must turn from that.

On the other hand, there are times when God utters a word to us–one that seems so out of bounds with even things that God as said for us to do in His word– that we must believe and obey.  We must never turn a deaf ear to His charge.

I really believe that God told me to turn in a notice at Gold’s.  I have done that in obedience to his calling and word.  Now it is up to Him to deliver on His promise to take care of me and my family.  I don’t believe for a minute that He will fail me.


God Will Sustain Us!!

Do we really believe that God will sustain us? Is our total trust in Him? I really wonder where my heart is sometimes.

I hear statements like, “I know we are to have faith, but it’s so hard!” Or, “It was different in Noah’s day for him to have faith because God told him what to do.” I’ve even heard people say, “If I could have lived in Jesus’ time, I would have believed.” Really now, would you have?

We want to think that we would have believed, but I can prove to you that it’s just possible to see all those things and still not believe.  (Matthew 28:16-17 NIV)  “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” What???  “Some doubted???”  What were they thinking?  How many resurrections had they seen?  Just how many times did this ascension thing happen in Jerusalem?  What would it take to erase their doubt?

I believe trhat it is only by the power of God that we are all sustained!  Every breath we take, every move we make, God is directing you!  (Proverbs 20:24 NLT)  “How can we understand the road we travel? It is the LORD who directs our steps.” We can’t step one foot on the floor out of bed, but that the Lord is directing those steps.  Since that is the case, why don’t we live in such a way that we magnify Him?  Why don’t we just step and expect Him to make the path?  I challenge all of us to hear the word from God and watch the path He makes for our lives.

I read the following prayer from an article on fasting by Steven Lemmons.  It is very powerful and one that I need in my life!!  Listen with your heart.

“Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down! How the mountains would quake in your presence! As fire causes wood to burn and water to boil, your coming would make the nations tremble. Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame! When you came down long ago, you did awesome things beyond our highest expectations. And oh, how the mountains quaked! For since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him! You welcome those who cheerfully do good, who follow godly ways.”

“But we are not godly. We are constant sinners, so your anger is heavy on us. How can people like us be saved? We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall. And our sins, like the wind, sweep us away. Yet no one calls on your name or pleads with you for mercy. Therefore, you have turned away from us and turned us over to our sins.”

“And yet, LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We are all formed by your hand. Oh, don’t be so angry with us, LORD. Please don’t remember our sins forever. Look at us, we pray, and see that we are all your people.”


Faith Walk (Continued)

As of my last blog, which as really been a weekly instead of daily blog, I talked about a leap of faith that I was about to undertake. On Tuesday of this past week, I took that leap.

Remember the blog before last about God speaking to me through the song, “Voice of Truth.” That song prompted me to ask God, “So, what is it that you want me to leap out on faith about?” When I asked that question, I felt the immediate words, “Turn I your notice at Gold’s.” When I heard those words, I felt the urge to check God’s Idea by saying things like, “Lord, you do know what this economy is like don’t you?” But, I figure that He knows about it better and any of us.

I sought some counsel on the matter from a very dear friend here locally. His words were, “Before you turn in your notice you need to fast and pray.” It’s not at all surprising to hear this because only a few weeks ago, another brother in Christ had encouraged me to do the same. I decided to fast and pray on that Tuesday about this decision. I spoke to Ellen about it, and as she has been throughout this whole process, she was very supportive–to the point that she decided to fast and pray with me.

[Important Side Note] If God is going to challenge your faith, it’s so important to have a mate like I do. Ellen made me feel somewhat how Sarah must have made Abraham feel. When I told her what I had been prompted to do, she did not hesitate. She said, “I’ll do this with you and whatever God puts on your heart, I will follow.” To me that’s the kind of faith that God supports and blesses. It’s more a blessing than I can describe to have her as my bride!

So, I took the day off on Tuesday and from Monday night bedtime through Wednesday morning, we fasted and prayed. The focus of this fast was to make sure that my decision was something of God and not just something I wanted to do. I told Ellen that when we went to bed on Tuesday night I wanted to be firm in my commitment about whatever decision that God placed on our hearts.

What a wonderful day that was! No distractions, prayer all day with my wife, some deep conversation with God! It was one of the most cleansing feelings I have ever had. When bedtime came that night, I knew that I was going to proceed with my decision to turn in a notice on Wednesday. And I did!

It seems crazy to say it, but I felt great about having made the decision. To God be all the glory and praise!! Now we wait on Him to deliver on His promise. I don’t know where, when, or how, but I believe that He will make good on it.

Some blessings of this fast:

1. Learning that I CAN do this.
2. The closeness I felt with God all day.
3. The closeness I felt with Ellen that day.
4. The physical became almost invisible because the spiritual was so strong.
5. The physical was blessed too.
6. The clarity of mind a spirit was incredible.
7. Little things did not bother me as much.


God Will Take You Places You Would Never Go Yourself

Ask Abraham, Gideon, and Joseph. Ask countless others in scripture along with people in your own life about where God has taken them or where He is taking them. You are going to get all kinds of reactions.

Leaps of faith are not new. Many have changed their whole lives by making decisions based upon faith. When a mechanic tells you that you need a new engine, at least for me, I have to believe that based upon faith. When the doctor says, “Your gall bladder needs to come out,” I may have some pain, but I don’t know it’s my gall bladder. I have to trust that by faith. If those things are so easily believed and moved upon, why then do we find it so hard to trust the nudgings, promptings, and voices from God our Father? That question may never be settled upon by people in or out of church, but it is a legitimate question.

A friend of my recently told me, after hearing my story, that God will take you places that you would never go yourself. I have pondered that one a few days now. After having thought about it, I can look back over my life and see it to be true. He has allowed me to journey through some great times and not so great times, and the not so great times have been the times I didn’t want, but were some of the greatest growth times in my life.

I never thought I’d leave Creekside, but that has happened. After leaving, I never thought I’d ever go back into ministry again. The pain was just too much. Since then, I’ve grown to appreciate more what I had there and even am ready to see what it is that God has for me next in His kingdom. There is no way I’d have ever chosen this path for myself, but I can tell you that over the past several months (Especially the last two weeks)  I’ve learned more about faith than much of my life put together. God has never left–even when I tried to leave Him. Thank you God my Father!!

Here’s the deal. At the end of my last blog I wrote, “I don’t want to say in this blog, but I think I know my first step of faith in this chapter of my life. Please pray that it’s the right thing or that God will defeat my thoughts in a hurry.” Tomorrow, I’m going to pull that trigger of faith–barring some move of God that I’m not yet aware of.  Faith is exciting, fun, scary, crazy, and anything but logical.  With God all things are possible.

Please please please don’t hear me saying that I’m anything in all of this.  I am but a human.  I know my limitations.  I have lots of them, but my God has no limitations.  I hope to be able to share my story in more detail, but for now, just please praise God for His delieverance.  I haven’t yet seen it in detail as far as this part of my life is concerned, but I know that it’s only a matter of time–His time!


Stepping Out on Faith

Abraham left his country and was willing to give the ultimate sacrifice–his own son. Moses raised his staff and watched the Red Sea open and the people of God went through on dry ground. Israel marched around the city of Jericho for seven days, shouted and watched the walls fall because of their faith in God. Gideon’s army was reduced to a small band of men, but they defeated thousands with trumpets, and lights.

The remembrances of God’s faithfulness could go on and on. He is faithful! Those are some of the most important words in scripture. I have been reminded again this weekend of God’s words to me. Here’s my testimony.

As you who read my blog know, I’ve been praying (along with many of you) about the word from God I received weeks ago. I’ve been seeking confirmation and looking for more clarity about what it is that God wants. I’m still wondering, “Bring who or what together?” Just exactly what am I doing selling gym memberships? Why can’t I get back to what it is that God has called me to?  I’ve had so many reminders this weekend that God is not only listening, but is at work putting something together.

I told you about Sunday night, a week ago, about Refuel and the incredible feeling it was to be back speaking to groups about Jesus.  It was one more confirmation that I need to still be speaking for God somewhere or somehow.  This turn around in my spirit continued starting on Friday.

I was walking to the car Friday morning after having forgotten my glasses at home. I can’t see anything up close without them.  I was grumbling under my breath about having to be where I was. I was feeling down about everything from the weather (which as been terrible lately in our town) to the job I am doing.

On the way to the car and in the midst of all of this grumbling, I said something to the effect of, “Well, God, I guess you are just not going to do anything about my situation are you?”

I got in my car, started the engine, and there was a couple of seconds of silence on the radio, and then the song by Casting Crowns, “Voice of Truth” began. I know it lengthens this blog, but I have to put the lyrics to that song here to help this story make sense. Here they are:

Oh,what I would do to have the kind of faith it
Takes to climb out of this boat I’m in onto the crashing waves.
To step out of my comfort zone into the realm of the unknown where
Jesus is, and he’s holding out his hand.

But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me time and time again
“Boy, you’ll never win, you’ll never win.”

But the Voice of truth tells me a different story, the Voice of truth says “do not be afraid!”
and the Voice of truth says “this is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of truth

Oh, what I would do  to have the kind of strength it
Takes to stand before a giant with just a sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors shaking in their armor
Wishing they’d have had the strength to stand.

But the giant’s calling out my name and he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me time and time again
“Boy you’ll never win, you’ll never win.”

Repeat Chorus

But the stone was just the right size to put the giant on the ground
and the waves they don’t seem so high from on top of them looking down

I will soar with the wings of eagles when I stop and listen to the sound of
Jesus singing over me.

Repeat Chorus

Needless to say, I wept all the way home to get my glasses.  I could not contain it.  God, through the gift of music, spoke to me again.  He was saying, “Stop doubting me.”  “Trust my care.”  “I am working on you and you need to just listen to me.”  “Trust-Trust-Trust.”  I shared the story with Ellen and she too could not contain it.  Tears flowed and questions came.  What do we do with this?

The story continues.  Sunday morning, we had a guest speaker.  He is Alex Gear, a native Scot who was traveling through speaking to churches who have supported him through the years in Scotland.  He is a wonderful man of God.  Now I used to think if the preacher was talking to me, it had to be just “happenstance” or just “luck.”  Not any more.  Alex talked about faith and specifically how God is faithful.  One of his points was that God is faithful even when we are not.

After the sermon, I had to get up and tell my testimony.  I felt the power of the Holy Spirit guiding my words.  The church was so encouraged–so much so that another brother stood up and confirmed my words.  During the class time afterward, Alex shared that he changed what he was going to talk about that day only five minutes before he got up to speak.  WOW!!  I wonder how that happened.  I think I know.

The next time you begin to doubt that God is listening–that’s when you need to listen even more.  Even through your doubt, He speaks.  I do believe!!

Please pray that as I go through this week God will continue to help me decide what it is I need to do.  I don’t want to say in this blog, but I think I know my first step of faith in this chapter of my life.  Please pray that it’s the right thing or that God will defeat my thoughts in a hurry.

I cannot wait to see what God’s going to do tomorrow.  It’s no longer “if” he is going to do, but “what” and “when.”


Refuel

For those who read this and don’t know what “Refuel” is, in a nutshell, it’s a monthly teen event where teens from all over our area gather to praise God and learn about their relationship with Jesus.

Refuel Sunday night was completely off the chain for me. I have loved Refuel since we started it about two years ago, but Sunday night will go down as one of my personal favorites.

The praise team was led by two leaders. Jeremy Swindle always does a wonderful job along with the rest of the team. Sunday night we also had a retired man named George Darling who “tag-team” led with Jeremy. I thought it was wonderful to see that kind of tandem leading worship with a predominantly teen congregation. We sang for about forty five minutes and it didn’t seem like it was long enough for me. The kids were in rare form.

It will be memorable for me also because I was privileged to be ask to speak by the Shoals church. I was very grateful for the opportunity. It’s only the second time I have spoken in a “church” setting like that since leaving Creekside back in June. I don’t remember having been so pumped about preaching.

We talked about Jesus feeding the 5000 and the response of the people to that miracle. I talked about what motivates us to live like we do. The people of that day followed Jesus for the bread he gave them. Jesus told them to not work for bread that spoils. I challenged the group to not work for the things that this world can give, but to trust Jesus as Lord and follow Him. That’s the only true motivation for living this Christian life. Jesus wants us to be motivated by our trust in Him and not our own power.

It was an exciting night for me also because I really believe that it was another of God’s blessings for me to see what it is that He really wants me to be doing with my life. I don’t know when, where, or how, but I honestly feel the tug of the Holy Spirit drawing me back into a life of ministry. It’s the first time in months I’ve felt this way. And to tell you the truth–I really like it.

My goal right now is to focus on God’s voice and listen to what he’s telling me. As I listen I want to look for open doors and see what He has in store.

Thanks for all of your encouragement and prayers.


The Great Communion

“Today, congregations of the Stone-Campbell movement celebrate the 200th anniversary of Thomas Campbell’s “Declaration and Address.” This statement was copied from the website http://www.greatcommunion.org. It was something I had never heard of until about a year ago, but saw lots of planning come to fruition tonight.

I was approached by a local minister and asked if I was interested in getting together to plan this event for our area. He explained that it was an event to bring the Christian Church and Church of Christ together for an event that marks the above mentioned anniversary. I agreed to do so because it was a huge step for our movement in this area and the possibilities of future love and respect for our brothers and sisters in the Christian Church and beyond. I felt too that it was just the right thing to do.

The event went very well. I don’t know the exact number, but there were about 200 people there if my ability to do “preacher counts” is still in me.

The event was begun with an explanation of what was about to take place. After that there was prayer followed by special music sung by a combined choir of people from the five churches that participated. We then had a lovely solo sung by one of the ladies from First Christian. The Christian Church minister gave a wonderful history of what we were doing. He spoke of a unity which was based completely in Jesus and not the things which we have allowed ourselves to be separated over throughout the years. The congregation burst into applause at the end of his message. It was really powerful.

After more singing, we partook in the communion meal together. Two elders from each of the five churches were serving. That was awesome to see these elders standing in front united in Jesus. We took the bread by holding it until everyone was served. One of the presiding elders held up the bread and said, “The body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Then we ate together. We did the same with the cup. After a couple of more songs, we had some closing remarks and then I led the final prayer.

Reading about this in a blog makes it seem like just another a simple service, but it was so much more. It was significant because the history of our movement has not done this kind of thing in our area much, if ever. Or if it has, I’ve not been in the know about it. It’s also significant because I think it can mark a new beginning for our churches. Jesus said that our love for one another would be the deciding factor that determined how people would know we were Jesus’ disciples. Shouldn’t that be enough?

I felt a huge pull on my heart tonight to do more. I want to be used by God, if He allows, to make further moves toward unity. Not just within our Campbell-Stone Movement, but throughout the area amongst believers. It’s time to continue tearing down walls and start building bridges so that the world will be able to more clearly see Jesus living in us.

The word “communion” has at it’s core “community.” We are to be about the business of bringing together those in and out of Jesus for the sake of kingdom! Some of Jesus’ last words on this earth were, “I pray Father that they all be one.” Let’s work to make Jesus’ prayer a reality.

The final speaker tonight spoke of how this event in and of itself was not “unity.” He said that it was only a picture of what real unity could look like. The real unity we are looking for has to be lived out in the kingdom living of the disciples of Jesus. That means it all depends on you and me. Sounds like we’ve got work to do.