Friday, March 30, 2012

If God is Your Co-Pilot, You are in the Wrong Seat

Have you ever been confused about just what God is doing in your life?  I am in the midst of one of those times right now.  Sometimes you have things so planned out in your mind that when things are not going according to that plan, you get stressed.  That stress is really a crisis in faith.  It is not life's circumstances that are bringing you down, but your focus on those circumstances.  I think the problem stems from our desire to try and be one step ahead of God.  We have this need to know the road ahead instead of just trusting the Lord to take us there and through it.  We take to heart those well-meaning but poorly though out bumper stickers that read "God is my co-pilot."  Quite honestly, as someone once said, if God is your co-pilot, you are in the wrong seat.  Sometimes the lesson is not one of doing something but in taking our hands off the wheel and trusting the Lord to steer us through troubled times.  Sometimes the lesson is not learning more about God's plans for your life, but about admitting that you really do not know much of anything.  Sometimes we just need to stop trying to figure God out and just trust that He is God and His promise is to work whatever it is for good. 
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [His] purpose.  Romans 8:28 NKJV
This passage is a wonderful oft-quoted promise often given in times of trouble.  It is one we should always have on the fronts of our minds because when things come upon us, it is easy to lose our focus.  It is easy to focus on things.  For me those things are 2-year income rules when applying for a mortgage, a job for me or my wife depending on where we will live, two very old cars that need to be replaced soon, someone to purchase our house, and a house to purchase.  Then there are the realtors, mortgage people, buyers, and sellers.  And let us not forget about the everyday things that come into our lives.  Those are many many things.  They are intimidating, they are all out of my control, and I am relying on all of them to somehow work out.  I have had several plans in mind over the past few years, and each time I think I have things figured out, some new twists or turns comes into the road and I am left scratching my head.  I get stressed, confused, downtrodden, and angry.  I question God and His plans and wonder why what I thought was going to work one way is now somehow not working the way I had hoped.  I wonder how this is going to work with that or how I can rearrange my plans to meet the current circumstances and realize I just do not know. 

I hope you noticed my mistake.  I wish I did before I made it or even before I let it all get me down.  Scripture really shines the light on what my error was.
But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind [was] boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" And immediately Jesus stretched out [His] hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"   Matthew 14:24-31 NKJV
My mistake was the same of Peter's.  I was not focusing on the One who promises to work all things together for good, I was focusing on all the things.  I was focusing on the waves.  I was worried about my circumstances while not putting my faith in the one who has my situation well in-hand.  How quickly I forgot all that God has done so far.  I forgot that God has led my wife and I out of just about all of our credit card debt. I forgot how God has changed our situation to being able to qualify for a mortgage on both of our incomes instead of just mine.  I forgot how God, by decreasing our debt load, has maintained our budget even as other costs become greater.  I forgot how God has kept our cars running and even if something ever did go wrong, He provided the means to get them repaired.  I forget how God knew this Winter would be mild and that the nightmare of last year would not be a reality this year.  And even God did not keep this Winter mild, I forgot how God brought me through the weather of last year unscathed.  I even forgot that God moved one creditor to forgive a debt worth over $5000.00.  I forgot that despite the winds and the waves, I have been walking on water for a year and so I began to sank. 

And even as I write this post, I can feel those word of my Lord piercing through to the innermost parts of my heart.  "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"  Why was I of little faith?  Why did I doubt?  Why did I allow the waves to rise above my Lord to where they overtook me?  Why did I not keep my eyes on the Lord and know that He is not going to take me so far on this road only to let me sink now?  Why do any of us do that?  I think that Jesus chose this to be part of His word because He knew that we would need this message.  He knew that we would sometimes allow our circumstances to overwhelm us.  He knew we would struggle with our faith.  I made a terrible mistake and it only worked to cause me stress.  It did not make the waves go away, it only made them seem like impossible mountains.  It did not make my life easier, it only made it seem all that much harder.  It did not help me to know what the Lord's plan was for my life, it only made me forget that He was in control and that He had a plan. 

But, as is always the case with our Lord, along with the much-needed admonition comes a message of grace.  When Peter started to sink, he cried out to the Lord and the Lord immediately stretched out His hand and caught him. He did not Peter sink and drown, but caught him and brought him back to safety. Do not lose the importance of that message for your life as I am learning it for mine.  I have had several times during this past year when I began to sink and each time I cried out to the Lord and each time He brought me back to safety.   Each time I have stumbled and fell on this road, the Lord has picked me up and kept me moving forward.  The Lord could just as well as left me to wallow in my own stupidity in forgetting that the Lord can do all things, but that is not who our Lord is. The Lord wants to complete His plan for our lives. The Lord wants to see us finish the course He has us on.  The Lord wants us to get up and is willing to help us up no matter how many times we cry out to Him feeling the sting of our own doubt. 

And so, I am where I have been after each time my faith wavered when the road twisted in an unexpected direction.  I can not say for sure when this road will end or exactly what His plan is and I certainly have no idea how He will get me there.  What I do know, though, is that He does have a plan and that He will get me there.  Jesus is not my co-pilot.  I am not leading Him and only expecting Him to do what I ask.  I am not even His co-pilot.  He does not need one and I do not even the ability to put my hand at the controls.  I am just a servant at the ready to head in whatever direction He takes me.  I know He is taking me somewhere and I know we will arrive on time, which is His time and not my own time.  I know we will arrive at the right destination, which is not necessarily where I think it should be.  I know that nothing in this world will stop us from getting there because no matter how large the waves seem to me, they are all subject to His authority.  Let that be a lesson for your own life.  We will all face trials and tribulations and many times the Lord will take us in a way we were never expecting.  No matter how many things are coming at you, no matter how large the waves seem to be getting, no matter how hopeless you think the situation may be, never lose sight of the Lord and He will guide you through.  Nothing is impossible for Him, and when He has called you, nothing is impossible for you. 
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13 NKJV

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Club of Clubs

People love to feel as though they are part of some exclusive club.  Whether it be children in Boy Scouts, students in Honors Societies, college kids in fraternities or sororities, career people is various professional groups and unions, and religious people in their special churches.  Of course, if you are a veteran, there is the VFW.  If you are any ethnic group, there is probably a club or society for that as well.  At one time, you could even buy you way into the "Inner Circle" of Joseph Prince.  I am sure you can still do so with other ministries.  The point is that we love to feel that we are special and somehow better than others. We like to feel like we were chosen or that we somehow deserve to be recognized.  If that is you, and perhaps this is a bad thing, I am going to tickle your pride today. 
But you [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  1 Peter 2:9 NKJV
Christianity is a very exclusive group.  First of all, we are chosen.  In fact, another part of the Bible amplifies this point. 
Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly [places] in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.  Ephesians 1:3-6 NKJV
God tells us through Paul in Ephesians that we were chosen.  Did you honestly think you, while spiritually dead in your sins, were spiritual enough to choose God?  God chose you!  Not only that, He chose you before the world was even created.  Please understand that this club we are in has its membership hand-selected by God.  What earthly group can possibly compare?  Can any man, any committee, any judge, any anything in this world compare to being chosen by God Himself?  I can not imagine any greater honor and privilege to being hand-selected by God. 

Now that I have inflated your pride, I need to deflate it a bit.  First of all, I am not teaching predestination.  I believe that God chose us because He knew we would choose Him.  God did not force us to choose Him, but knew that we would choose Him and so He chose us.  He saw our hearts before they were even created knowing that our hearts would, at some point, turn towards God.  It may sound like I am contradicting myself a bit, but that is the mystery of the doctrine of predestination vs. personal choice.  Both have to be right to some extent, but how that works out in the end is mystery only known to God.  Furthermore, God did not choose us based on any great attribute that we have.  We were chosen "according to the good pleasure of His will."  In other words, He chose us because he felt like it.  In other words, it has nothing to do with any great life we lived or work we have done.  Why did He feel like it?  I gave you my idea, but God has not completely shared His heart and so anything we come up with is only conjecture. 

Next we are a royal priesthood.  Yes, we are royal and we are priests
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with [Him], that we may also be glorified together.  Romans 8:16-17 NKJV
We are royal in that we were adopted into the family of God with God as our Father.  In that, we are coheirs with Christ, sharing in the reward earned through His sacrifice.  Furthermore, we are royal in that we are the bride of Christ who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  As royalty, we are destined to rule and reign with Christ during the millennial kingdom.  Can any group on earth offer you a chance to literally rule the world with God?  There are not. Sure there are others who make that claim, but unfortunately for them they never checked with God.  As for priests, we are a kingdom of priests.  We are given the responsibility of glorifying God on earth.  It is our responsibility to share the Good News of the Gospel with the world.  It is our responsibility to share the light and love of God with the world.  And it is our responsibility to intercede for the world in prayer. 

And, finally, we are a "holy nation, His own special people."  We are a holy nation as we are a people set apart to God and we are special because God has chosen us to be in that set-apart nation.  We are a nation of people set-apart unto God. 
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.  1 Peter 1:1-2 NKJV
We are God's elect.  We were elected to be a member of this nation set apart unto God.  Many times in the New Testament, Christians are referred to as the "elect."  That is such a wonderful word.  We did not somehow end up as Christians, but we were elected for this special privilege and we were chosen before the foundations of the earth.  Again, please do not let this get to your head.  You are not special for any reason of your own.  You did not do something that made you special.   Its not about your talent, your looks, your money, your family, or anything else. 

And that really sums up the message of today.  For any of us in Christ, we are part of a very exclusive club.  You can not enter this club unless chosen by God before earth even existed.  You can not earn your way into this club.  You can not have enough talent to be allowed into it.  You can not know the right person to be a part of it.  You can not be in the right family and accepted based on your family heritage.  And if you had all the money in the world, you could not purchase your way into it.  Quite honestly, no one, not me, not you, not anyone else, even deserves to be members in this club.  Membership in this club is by invitation only and the only one who can extend that invitation is God. 
Come to Me, all [you] who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke [is] easy and My burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV

For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." Romans 10:13 NKJV
If you are not a Christian, that is your invitation.  The invitation did come from God and it goes out to the whole world.  How do you know if God has chosen you?  Choose Him and you will know that He chose you.  There is no such thing as "wishing" God would choose you.  Choose to choose Him, making Jesus Lord and Savior, and you will know that you were chosen of God before the foundations of the world.  Invite Jesus into your life and you will know that God has invited you to be a part of His holy nation.  It really is that simple. 

But what about the membership fee?  Does it cost anything to be a member of this club?  A club of this magnitude surely is not free and the cost is greater than anyone can manage,  You can not accumulate enough gold or earn enough money to even come close to making a dent in the cost of membership.  Gladly, we do not have to.  Jesus paid it for us and He paid for it with His blood. 

Of all the things we can be part of, in the end, this is the only club that matters.  You see, once you are a member, your name is written in the membership rolls and that book is known as the Lamb's Book of Life.  Why is that important?  Because that Book is a list of the citizens of Heaven.   
But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.  Revelation 21:27 NKJV

Monday, March 26, 2012

Jesus Decided to Die For You (Revisited)

Today I am going to revisit Friday's post.  I think it is too important of a post to not develop just a little bit more.  The idea is that Jesus decided to die for our sins.  I will begin where I left off. 
And He said, "Abba, Father, all things [are] possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You [will]."  Mark 14:36 NKJV
It is at this glorious moment where Jesus submits to the Father in the trial that was to come.  Jesus could have said many things at this point. He could have refused.  He could have decided to just hit the "Reset" button and create earth all over again.  He could have just returned to Heaven and said "never mind."  As God, there was an infinite selection of things He could have done differently.  The difference is that of all those infinite choices, only one would result in our redemption.  In that, and out of His love for us as unworthy and sinful as we are, He chose the way of Cross and the salvation of all of us who called upon Him as Lord. 

Just in case you are of the mind to disagree, let me show you how gloriously true this is.  Let us look at a few arguments people can make.  The first argument would be that it was not the will of Jesus to go to the Cross, but the Father's and that Jesus was only acquiescing to the will of the Father.  In fact, they may even use Mark 14 as their proof.   The Bible, however, teaches differently. 
But Jesus said to him, "Friend, why have you come?" Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. And suddenly, one of those [who were] with Jesus stretched out [his] hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. But Jesus said to him, "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. "Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?"   Matthew 26:50-54 NKJV
This is the moment Jesus was arrested.  Judas betrayed Jesus and the men grab hold of Jesus to arrest Him.  Peter, in impulse more than forethought, takes out his sword and strikes the ear of one of the men arresting Jesus.  What Jesus says next shows that Jesus chose to go to the Cross.  He told Peter that if He desires, God would send an army of angels to rescue him from these few men.  Considering it was only one angel who wiped out the entire Assyrian army, more than twelve legions of angels would have been more than enough to take care of a few servants.   That many angels would have been a force capable of subduing and occupying the entire world.  Instead, Jesus heals the servant and chooses to allow those men to arrest Him. 

The next argument might be that Jesus did not choose to die, but was put to death and that death was counted for our sins.  Again, Scripture tells a different story.
Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.  John 10:17-18 NKJV
If Jesus did not choose to die, no one would have been able to take His life.  No man has the power to kill Jesus, only Jesus could lay down His own life.  That is important to understand.  Jesus did not die because the high priest wrongly convicted Him at an illegal trial.  Jesus did not die because Pilate condemned Him to die.  Jesus did not die because the Roman guards nailed Him to the cross.  Jesus did not die because the Jews shouted to crucify Him.  Jesus died because He laid down His life for our sakes.  Jesus died because He decided to lay down His life as punishment for our sins.  Jesus died by His own will.  He may not have convicted Himself, scourged Himself, or nailed Himself to the Cross, but He allowed it, and He allowed it for our sakes. 

Finally, one other argument that may be brought up by the verses I cited.  That argument is that Jesus was a victim of prophesy.  He was prophesied to die and so He never really had a choice.  The Bible, once again, sheds light on this argument.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14 NKJV
Was Jesus a victim of prophesy in that He was prophesied to die and therefor had to die?  Yes, He was.  But, Jesus is the Word made flesh.  In other Words, Jesus, as God, wrote the Word that prophesied His death.  Do not miss how amazing that is.  Jesus wrote His own death.  Jesus set His own fate in order before the foundations of the earth.  Jesus, knowing He was going to die for us, created us.  Jesus knowing how His life on earth would end, decided to be born into this world.  Jesus did not come to earth and grow attached to us then decide to die for us, Jesus decided to die for us before He was born.  In fact, He decided to die for us before Adam was created.  In fact, Jesus decided to die for us before Creation even began.  Before we even existed, He knew what would have to be done for our redemption.  Before He created us, He knew we would fail Him,  If you ever had any doubt as to how much Jesus loves you, just remember that fact.  Before earth was even formed, Jesus decided to create you and die to redeem you.  Before you committed your first sin, Jesus suffered and died for all your sins.  That is the measure of His love.  Despite your failures, despite your blasphemy, despite the fact that you would spend a good part of your life caring absolutely nothing about Jesus, He loved you enough to create you and then to suffer and die to redeem you.  That is love and a kind of love far above and beyond what our mortal minds can comprehend.  No matter how far you fall or how much you fail God, never forget that His love is always greater than your failure. 
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8 NKJV

Friday, March 23, 2012

Jesus Decided to Die For You

Today is an exceptionally busy day and it is a Friday so I will try to keep today brief.  In fact, I am basically going to steal something from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones that I read last night.  Here is the Scripture:
And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.  John 17:19 NKJV
When we think about sanctification, we often think of separating ourselves to God or in becoming more holy or more righteous or more like Jesus.  Of course, none of these can apply.  Jesus was God and so separating himself to God implies He was somehow separate from God.  Jesus was perfect in every way so He certainly could not have been made more holy or righteous.  Jesus was, well, Jesus so He could not be making Himself more like Himself.  This leaves only one option.  What Jesus meant was that He was giving Himself entirely to the Father in submission to whatever He may do and not for His sake or even the Father's sake, but for our sakes.  In fact, this was part of Jesus's prayer in the garden before He was arrested.  

I do not think we pay enough attention to Jesus's prayer before He was arrested.  That is a shame because God shares with us a moment like no other.  We hear several times in Scripture about Jesus going off alone to pray, here we see what that prayer time was like.  We are given a window to witness the perfect communion of the Godhead as their heart for our sakes is revealed.  Here are Lord is praying for the trial to come.  Here our Lord is submitting Himself to suffering and dying for our sins.  It is easy to think of Jesus dying for the sins of the world, but much more difficult to imagine Jesus dying for your sins.  How often do we ponder the suffering of the Lord for what we have done?  How often do we sin and confess and realize that Jesus chose to die even for that so that we can have eternal life.  What we see in this verse is Jesus making that decision.  We see Jesus making that final decision to go through with the event that would change the world.  We see Jesus deciding not just for the world, but for you.  Jesus did die for our sins, but please take some time to understand that it was not just that Jesus died for your sins, but that Jesus decided to die for your sins.  I think when you take the time to consider that fact, you will gain a whole new appreciation for the price Jesus paid for you. 
And He said, "Abba, Father, all things [are] possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You [will]."  Mark 14:36 NKJV