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]
After the twelve spies surveyed the land, only two came back with a good report. Ten men came back to share their fear of the strong people of the land. When the people were speaking negatively about the situation, Caleb boldly stepped forward. The Bible says that he “silenced the people before Moses.” He exclaimed, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Numbers 13:30 NIV).
Caleb trusted the One behind the promise. He trusted God. Ten of the spies couldn’t look past the problems they saw with the land. They couldn’t imagine that God would see them through, that God would deliver on His promise. They were stopped in their tracks, stopped by mere men.
God says that Caleb had “a different attitude than the others have.” He also was called loyal. His loyalty didn’t change with circumstances. He was loyal. Some of us have an attitude problem today. We have the attitude of the ten, instead of the attitude of Caleb; we have an attitude of fear and distrust, rather than an attitude of trust and confidence. The Bible speaks of this hope—this confidence—we should have as believers. We should be confidence for judgment day (1 John 4:17-18). We should have confidence for prayer (1 John 5:14). We should be confident His plan is perfect and He desires what is good for His children (Romans 8:28). We should be confident that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). May the Lord be your confidence (see Proverbs 3:26, Job 4:6).
“But my servant Caleb has a different attitude than the others have. He has remained loyal to me, so I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will possess their full share of that land.” – Numbers 14:24 [NLT]
“And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.” – 2 Corinthians 1:10 [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]
This is the year both of my kids are in high school. When your children reach high school, things immediately change. They have somewhat figured out their gifts, their talents, their interests. They have selected activities and hobbies that they truly enjoy. It’s very different from the elementary years when they dabble in a sport for a year, only to not want to take it up the following year. I’ve been through baseball season, a few soccer seasons, and even a year of karate while the kids dabbled. Today, my son plays the trombone and my daughter runs. My son is musically gifted; my daughter is a dedicated runner.
Part of the school shopping this year included a new trombone for my son and running spikes for my daughter. They both have gifts in their respective areas, but they needed to be equipped with some items to help them get to the next level. My daughter just used her new spikes for the first time, and it was amazing to see the improvement in her run on the muddy mess of a course this weekend. She was equipped to do what has been placed on her heart.
God calls us each to do something in life for His kingdom. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:5, “It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God” (NLT). God qualifies us. God also places people in our lives to equip us to better serve for His glory. Ephesians 4 speaks of the responsibility people have “to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (v. 11-12 NLT). Today, consider who God has placed in your life. Does God want you to help equip them for service? Is the Spirit leading you to do something to help them? Are you enabling them to stay where they are at, when you could instead equip them for the road ahead? Pray about this.
While growing up, you likely were told never to look into the sun or you would go blind. I don’t remember ever being told not to look straight into the moon. Many evenings, I love to look up and enjoy the sight of the moon. The brightness of the sun is strong. The moon does not let off great light; however, as it’s not shining light, but reflecting light. The moon reflects 3-12% of the sunlight that hits its surface. The brightness and shape of the moon in the sky is always dependent on the position of the moon in orbit around the Earth.
In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul wrote that we “reflect the glory of the Lord.” As children of God by faith in Jesus Christ, we have the awesome opportunity and privilege to reflect Jesus. How awesome is that?!? We are allowed to mirror the image of God. Day by day, as we walk with the Lord, “we are changed into His glorious image.”
Just as the moon reflects a particular percent of sunlight dependent on its position in orbit, so we only can reflect the percent of the Light, Jesus Christ, dependent on our relationship with Him. If you are not walking closely with Him, if you do not know Him very well, if you are not abiding in Him—this will cause you not to reflect the glory of the Lord. You cannot be changed into His glorious image unless you allow Him to be ever-present in your life. You cannot mirror Jesus if you are not spending time with Him, getting to know Him and allowing Him to break and mold you into who you were made to be for His kingdom. Today, look in the mirror. Ask the Spirit to reveal to you Who you are or are not reflecting.
“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.” – 2 Corinthians 3:18 [NLT]
As I look at my skin, I see many scars. I have a few scars from some bee stings that caused my life to be rattled for a few weeks. I have the scar on my right hand when I attempted to cut open a brand new VCR I got for college using my house key and it did not work out well. I have a scar on my knee from falling on the ice while walking Max, gashing my knee causing me to walk a mile home with blood dripping down my leg the whole way. I have scars on my wrists from when my great aunt put my chubby self into a checkered dress a size too small, only to have my circulation a bit cut off by the nasty elastic in the sleeves (hence why they don’t make clothing like that anymore). With scars, comes pain. Each of us have scars; each of us have suffered pain.
The Bible speaks about how life is going to be when we get to heaven. We know that we will leave the earthly body behind—which means all of our scars will be gone. We also will have no more pain, no more struggles. No more of the bad knee that causes the hobble walk. No more back pain that keeps you up at night. No more headaches that make it feel like your head could explode. Read 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 for more on the resurrection body.
We also know that there will be One Who will bear scars. In Revelation 5, we read of He who was slaughtered. We are reminded of the One Who never sinned, but died on a cross to pay for our debt, to be a sacrifice for our sins. We are reminded that the wages of sin is death, but that God has offered us life through Christ Jesus. We are reminded that we will see the Lamb, and we will see His scars. The scars remind us of His love and His sacrifice. No words can describe His love.
“For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.” – 2 Corinthians 5:1 [NLT]
“Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which represent the sevenfold Spirit of God that is sent out into every part of the earth.” – Revelation 5:6 [NLT]
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]
There is a big difference from being told to give something compared to giving something from the heart. I am sure there were many times that I did not want to give someone something, but I was told to do so and obliged. It didn’t mean I wanted to actually do it. I cannot remember this, but I trust that it happened because I have seen the same thing with my children over the years.
When it comes to tithes and offerings, the same thing is true. There is a difference between someone giving because they are told to give, and someone actually wanting to give—actually delighting in the giving. Paul wrote, “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully’” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT). If the heart isn’t in the giving, the offering is made for the wrong reason.
Today, ask for the Spirit to reveal what is on your heart. Are you giving just to give? Are you giving because you desire to give? Are you giving so people see you giving? Are you moved to give? Is it a joy to give? Are you cheerfully giving? If you aren’t giving, ask why not? Thank God for His blessings and ask Him to reveal how He desires you to be a blessing.
“Tell the people of Israel to bring me their sacred offerings. Accept the contributions from all whose hearts are moved to offer them.” – Exodus 25:2 [NLT]