One of my favorite proverb is Proverbs 16:9: “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps” (NIV). We make our plans. God determines our steps. Often, we think we know better. We have these ideas or desires, and of course, it’s the greatest thing ever. We have to do it. We get nudges from the Spirit that there’s another way. We close our ears. We say, “Wouldn’t it be better.” We second guess the God Most High.
God was leading His people. The people did not always want to follow. They asked, “Why is the LORD taking us to this country,” because they couldn’t see the faithfulness of the Lord, or the goodness of the plan. We only see small glimpses or get a promise to go on. We cry out, “Wouldn’t it be better for us” to return to our past situation. We know the past. We are familiar with how it works. We think it might be better.
God calls us to better. Not our “better,” but His better. It might take us through some horrid wilderness. We might need to learn from our stubbornness. We may have to remove the log in our eye. Perhaps, He wants to show us a few things. But the best is coming. Not the better—not what we think will be good. We cannot even imagine what He has for us (see 1 Corinthians 2:9). The next time you consider a wouldn’t it be better scenario, consider with Who you are talking about “better.” Do you not think He knows about better?
“Why is the LORD taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” – Numbers 14:3 [NLT]
A few weeks ago, I bought my daughter some Cross Country spikes as recommended by her coach. As she’s now on the varsity team, I wanted to be sure she was equipped with the equipment that would help her get to the next level. Like her mom, she likes to keep her shoes loose. During her latest run, another runner stepped on the back of her shoe. As a result, her spike flew off. My daughter ended up with only one shoe. I couldn’t imagine running with only one shoe. Even more so, I couldn’t imagine running a few miles without a shoe. Despite the pain, my daughter continued to press forward. She didn’t let another runner disrupt her race. She actually ran faster and more focused. She finished with a personal record. Yes, her foot was a bit sore, but she finished the race and she finished it well.
We are each running a race. The Apostle Paul talks about this race. Remember, we are to run so that we win the race (1 Corinthians 9:24). There are people out there who will step on our shoes. We often think it’s the people who don’t believe that step on our shoes. We make non-believers out to be the enemy. Stop doing that! They are lost people, just like you and I were once lost.
Oftentimes, the reason our race is slowed down is because of the other runners—our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Bible speaks again and again about unity, about harmony with the body of Christ. Jesus Christ is the Head and we all are the body. Yet, we have a terrible time at getting along. We argue over doctrine. We tear each other down, instead of building each other up. We promote our own agenda, even if it means sacrificing what God is doing through the ministry of others. We are divisive. We are judgmental. We live by our opinions and emotions rather than God’s truth. Our human nature leads us off course. We get in the way of what God is doing through others because we want to be control happy.
Today, look at your feet. Are you running the race? Are you running to win? Are you encouraging the other runners, or are you stepping on their shoes? Are you running alongside your brothers and sisters in love, or are you slowing them down as a stumbling block? Live in harmony. “Be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”
“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” – 1 Corinthians 1:10 [NLT]
When my daughter first began running Cross Country a few years back, she noted the importance of running within the flags. There’s a course set up and you have to go around the flags in such a way. If you go off of the course, you are in trouble. Something that I see as a big problem is the spectators. You have your eager parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, etc., chasing alongside the course cheering and screaming encouragement. Sometimes they get onto the course. Then you have those people who have no clue how Cross Country courses are laid out, and they walk onto the course. Many times, you will hear a parent yell for people to “get off the track” or “get off the field.” I have been that yelling parent many times. This weekend, I was that parent on three occasions. Guilty! I don’t usually yell, but when I do, you know it was me.
Thankfully none of the uninformed onlookers caused any real problems. They move quite quickly when you yell at them. However, there have been instances when runners have been slowed down because of some disruption on the course. Despite the yelling of the referees, coaches, and parents, it happens. Can you imagine running miles, training for weeks, trying to beat a record—only to have someone stroll onto the course and cause you to lose all that effort in a blink of an eye?!? Sometimes it’s a few tenths of a second. Boom.
Paul talks about us running a race. Each of us, whether we admit it or not, are running a race. It’s our Christian walk, our walk with Jesus Christ. Sometimes there will be someone who will come along as we are running our race, and he or she will cause us to stumble, to slow down, to get off course. Sometimes there will be that one person who will keep you from being where God wants you to be at and you might not even see it coming. Today, look at the track of your life. Do you have a group of encouragers, chasing along, trying to help you get to where God wants you to be? Do you have people in your life who look out for your best interests and try to equip and empower you? Or do you have someone on the field, walking along, getting you to stumble and slow down? Do you have someone who is trying to enable you to stay where you are at, when God is trying to take you somewhere new? Keep running the race. As Paul, may you finish the race.
“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 [NLT]
When I speak with people about church, they always ask the denomination. Then I say, “Oh it’s non-denominational.” It’s an interesting phrase. There’s different denominations (for example Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist). Then there’s non-denominational. Those are the churches that claim to not be affiliated with any of the known denominations. After the Early Church that you read about in Acts, things started to break apart. As time continued, groups were formed from other groups. Some churches have so many different divisions in their names, it becomes a tongue twister.
The denominations all came about from a difference of beliefs. This still happens today, hence the reason we have tons of church plants and longer than life names. The reason for the differences of beliefs, and at times, disunity of the church, is because we are a broken people. The church is filled with sinners, many sinners who are saved by grace alone. But we aren’t perfect. Some of us are proud, lazy, quick to speak, discontent, disorganized, agenda focused, bossy, or fable telling folks. We aren’t perfect, so it’s hard for us to all live together in harmony.
Nonetheless, the Bible speaks a lot about unity or harmony. Yes, that’s the vision God has for His Church. The capital “C” Church is the universal church. Broken down, this is all of the denominations and non-denominations. Together, as the big C, we need to be united. Remember, the Church is the body of Christ. The Church is people, not buildings. As the big C, we must remember Who we worship, Who we follow, Who is the Head of the Body. Even so, all of the little C’s need to also be united as separate bodies.
This seems like an impossible task. People can rarely get along. There are bound to be disagreements. Yes. Very true. But with God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Remember the reason for the Church. Keep running the race. The Spirit will unite us if we allow ourselves to be led (Ephesians 4:3). Don’t be proud. Don’t think you know it all. Humble yourself and seek the best for others (1 Corinthians 10:24). Love. It’s the bond of perfect unity (see Colossians 3:14). Live in harmony.
“Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” – Romans 12:16 [NLT]
Recently, someone told me that they “cannot afford to tithe.” I remember those days—the days when I thought I could not part with the money or the bills wouldn’t get paid. But I also remember the moment I got my finances in order, when I started to take a serious look at where the money was going. The Bible speaks about where the treasure is located, that’s where your heart will also be found (see Matthew 6:21). Take a look at your checking account register. Review it and you will see what has value to you. Recognize that if God is first place in your life, He shouldn’t be getting the leftovers.
You might be included in the likely 90% + readers who know I am a pastor. Perhaps you are saying, “Oh here’s a pastor asking for money again.” Please understand, I am NOT asking you for money. God does NOT need your money. He is the God of the universe. He is our Creator. But He has blessed us with what we have in our possession. It’s HIS! ALL OF IT!! Maybe you worked for it, but He blessed you with that job. Behind it all, before it all, you will find God. He is the Alpha, the Omega, the Beginning, the End. He is in all, above all, through all. Bottom line (see 1 Corinthians 8:6, Ephesians 4:6, Colossians 1:17, Revelation 22:13). And tithing is a BLESSING to you! Yes, you read that right. Giving some of the money that God blessed you with to your local church to continue God’s kingdom building is an amazing opportunity you are blessed to be able to take part in. It’s a blessing to be a steward, and we are to be generous givers (see 1 Timothy 6:18). Tithing is not an obligation; it’s a loving response, a willing response to the grace of God.
God doesn’t want you trapped. He wants you free. Sometimes we are trapped by lies. Sometimes we are trapped by sin. Sometimes we are trapped by possessions. When you are trapped by your possessions, you cling to them so tightly that your possessions actually possess you. Today, look at your budget. Jot down different categories. Look to see where your money goes. Then pray about your finances. Consider what Paul wrote to the Corinthians. “On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NLT). You do this and you will learn to be a better steward. You will start to loosen your grip on what God has blessed you with, and be the generous, cheerful giver you were meant to be.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7 [NIV]
ctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7 [NIV]
As I sat at my desk going through my task list, I noticed an elderly woman approaching the office door. Was she coming inside? She is not a client. I went to the door to greet her and figure out who she was and what she needed. She saw a van parked outside our office just leave, and she thought that we were the business advertised on the van. I informed her that the company was only visiting our office to do some work and apologized.
As we were about to part ways, she told me she was having a tough time. She recently moved and she was struggling to get everything in order. She was hoping to catch the man in the van, or get some answers from his associates within, only to discover she wasn’t close to the place to find answers. Nonetheless, the Spirit gave me a nudge to help her out. Little did she know; the answers were online. She was led to share her struggles. I needed to listen to the voice telling me to slow down and pay attention. In no time at all, she had the answers in hand and it was time for her to leave. It was a simple encounter, and it was easy to help her. Five minutes. But she was so grateful and she left with a smile.
We often have these encounters with strangers. Do you consider why they are brought your way? Some people are in your path to help you grow. Some people are in your path for you to bless. Some people are in your path for you to shine the Light. Don’t trivialize evangelism. Don’t think sharing the Gospel is all about big demonstrations with fancy words. Small encounters with strangers, embracing and showing compassion—these encounters are precious. Do small things with great love and watch God move in mighty ways.
“And do everything with love.” – 1 Corinthians 16:14 [NLT]
I love the verse for today. Paul said he “decided to know nothing among (them) except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” That is all that He chose to speak about when He was with them. It was all about Jesus.
He notes in the first verse that when he approached the people, he didn’t bring with him some fancy words or some human wisdom. He spoke of Jesus. He admits in verse 3 that he was fearful. He was anxious. He understood the great responsibility. We too have a great responsibility.
Allow the Spirit to move through you as you share Him crucified. What a great demonstration of the Spirit’s power. As verse 5 notes, faith should rest alone on the power of God. Don’t speak of anyone else or you may lead someone to rest their faith on you. Sharing Jesus has nothing to do with big words, fancy speech, or some difficult to understand theology. We claim nothing except Jesus Christ. We share nothing except Jesus Christ. We point to no one except Jesus Christ.
“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” – 1 Corinthians 2:2 [ESV]
When I came home with the groceries, I was excited to have an extra set of hands, along with my kiddos, to carry in the bags. Of course, just after I yelled, “Don’t break the eggs,” the bag that contained the eggs and bread was knocked over. Despite the kids trying to stop the fall, they were not quick enough. One egg broke.
Days later, I went to get out some of the eggs. The eggs that were closest to the broken egg (which was long gone) were all stuck in the egg container. Despite trying to remove them from the carrier, some of them didn’t seem to budge. I ended up having to tear apart some of the carrier just to get them out. I’m frugal—what can I say? They weren’t broken; it was because of the nearby broken egg that we had this situation.
Just as the broken egg spilled out over some of the neighboring eggs, so our sin can spill out and impact the lives of those around us. Often we think that going against what God intends will only impact us, yet we are terribly wrong. Again and again in the Bible, we read about not being yoked with foreigners. Why do we read this so much? If we are closely connected with those who are not followers of God, we will find ourselves drawn away. We stick with who we are around. When we hang around long enough with a person, we find that we begin to carry the consequences of their sin. Today, ask the Spirit to reveal anything or anyone stuck to your life. Be open to what you are shown. Remember, there are times you are the broken egg, and times you are the egg next to the broken egg.
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” – 1 Corinthians 15:33 [ESV]
“Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you will not associate with these nations, these which remain among you, or mention the name of their gods, or make anyone swear by them, or serve them, or bow down to them.” – Joshua 23:6-7 [NASB]
“You are to be holy to Me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be Mine.” – Leviticus 20:26 [HCSB]