We are all too often having conversations within our own minds. If not careful, we can talk ourselves into some pretty ungodly decisions. During conversations with others who are constantly talking we often think to ourselves, "Excuse me, but can I talk now?" I can only imagine God asking that same question...wanting the opportunity to disrupt that ugly conversation that is repeating itself in our minds throughout each moment of every day. He longs to be that voice of reasoning and truth that we'd come to desire to mull over as our spiritually mature food so that we can begin to think like and become more like Him.
This past week we my family and I attended Family Camp at IRBC in Clear Lake, Iowa. The song I have a link to at the bottom of this posting is one that we sang frequently throughout the week. Such a great reminder to slow down and allow God to speak into our hearts and minds. Hope you Enjoy!
Practicing His Presence,
Psalm 46:10a (NLT) “Be still, and know that I am God!
1 Samuel 3:9-10 (NLT) So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, LORD, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed. And the LORD came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”
Keith and Kristyn remind us that “One of Christianity’s distinctives is that we worship a God who has spoken - who is not silent. From God the Father, speaking the world into creation, to speaking through His Living word in Christ, to speaking by His Spirit through the written word.
Throughout history the word of God has transformed the most proud leaders and the most hopeless victims, the greatest civilisations and the remotest of villages, in every age to every corner of the world - so incredible is its power.
Often today however the preaching of the word has been diminished in value – from its prominence in a service to its passion, but most of all in our own expectation each time we sit down and ask God to speak to us.
In Isaiah the people were performing many acts in the name of God and the Lord said “This is the one to whom I will turn my face – he who is humble and contrite and trembles at my word”.
It is our prayer that through the power of the spirit, this hymn will prepare people to humbly listen to the Bible being taught and respond to the huge consequences it has on their lives.” Link to Article
Song: Speak, O Lord by Keith and Kristyn Getty
In his devotional book Drawing Near, John MacArthur on the page for May 7th, John reminds us that “God can use your natural abilities as a basis for your spiritual service. Peter is a good illustration of how God builds a spiritual leader. He begins with a person’s natural traits and works from there. Natural traits alone don’t make a spiritual leader; the person must also be gifted and called by the Holy Spirit to lead in the church and to be a model of spiritual virtue. But often God endows future leaders with natural abilities that constitute the raw materials from which He builds spiritual ministries. That was certainly the case with Peter, who demonstrated the leadership qualities of inquisitiveness, initiative, and involvement.
Peter was always asking questions. In fact, the Gospel records show that he asked more questions than all the other disciples combined! People who aren’t inquisitive don’t make good leaders because they’re not concerned about problems and solutions.
Initiative was another indicator of Peter’s leadership potential. He not only asked questions, but also he was often the first to respond when Jesus asked questions (e.g., Matt. 16:15-16; Luke 8:45).
Also, Peter loved to be in the middle of the action, even when it got him into trouble. For example, we might criticize his lack of faith when he sank after walking on water, but remember, the rest of the disciples never even got out of the boat.
Peter was inquisitive, showed initiative, and sought to be involved. How about you? Are you inquisitive about God’s truth? Do you take initiative to learn about Him? Do you want to be involved in what He is doing? If so, you have the raw material for spiritual leadership. Continue to cultivate those qualities, allowing the Spirit to use you for God’s glory.”
As John MacArthur just mentioned, God has given not just Peter, but every follower of His specific and unique talents and abilities. Someone told me not too long ago that “the best ability is availability.” Letting God know that you're available and genuinely willing to be used by Him takes practice, courage, and obedience. In Mark 16:15 (NIV) “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation…’”
God commissions every follower of Christ – commands every follower to GO! So how will you respond? With a “here I am, send me.” An “I’m available.” Or “no, thanks,” “maybe later,” or “let me think on it.” In this series we’re going to consider a few scriptural examples of those who made themselves available to the Lord and His work.
The Prophet Isaiah…Isaiah 6:8 (NLT) Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.”
God already knew who would respond and how he would respond, but He still wanted to give Isaiah the opportunity to build his character in the moment. Isaiah was so close to God that he could hear Him and His request. Knowing God was near made it easier for Isaiah to confidently respond the way in which he did.
David…1 Samuel 17:31-37 (NLT) 31 Then David’s question was reported to King Saul, and the king sent for him. 32 “Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!” 33 “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.” 34 But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, 35 I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. 36 I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! 37 The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the Lord be with you!”
David had experienced the Lord being with him his whole life. He knew there was no way he could defeat a lion or bear on his own, and he knew he couldn’t beat an experienced man of war either unless the Lord be with Him. Knowing and experiencing the Lord’s presence gave David the confidence to face anything and anyone. If the Lord is with me, then who can be against me? (Romans 8:31; Psalm 118:6; Psalm 56:9; Psalm 27:1; Luke 12:4-5).
A Scribe…Matthew 8:18-22 (ESV) 18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
The Lord has great compassion for those in mourning. He’s not being inconsiderate or insensitive in this moment. He just wants to know where this scribe’s allegiance lies. He wants to know where his priorities are. He knows the heart of man, and his tendencies. To go back would cause the scribe to be less responsive to the call to go. Most likely the scribe would’ve found himself too attached to family that his choice would be to rather stay home than follower the Lord. It’s easy to say “I will follow” and “I will go,” but to actually do it is another story.
Matthew 15:8 (NLT) These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Isaiah 29:13 (NIV) The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
I know this is from the Old Testament, but go ahead and read, and then we’ll fit it into our prayer.
Ezekiel 22:30-31 (NLT) “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one. So now I will pour out my fury on them, consuming them with the fire of my anger. I will heap on their heads the full penalty for all their sins. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken!”
John 4:35 (NLT) You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.
There’s a lot of work to be done for the Lord. He sees it and knows it. He could do it all on His own, but He’s chosen us to be used by and for Him for His glory. Consider your community and the work for the Lord that needs done in it. God sees it. He looks around for a heart that is willing to step up and get the work done. Is there anyone volunteering and stepping up to the challenge, or would He say, “I found no one”? Check out the resolution in the last Chorus of the song below. Will that be your honest resolve today?
Song Lyrics: Be the One by Al Denson
In a world full of broken dreams
Where the truth is hard to find
For every promise that is kept
There are many left behind
Though it seems that nobody cares
It still matters what you do
Cause there's a difference you can make
But the choice is up to you
Will you be the one
To answer to His call
Will you stand
When those around you fall
Will you be the one
To take His light
Into a darkened world
Tell me will you be the one
Oh sometimes it's hard to know
Who is right and what is wrong
And where are you supposed to stand
When the battle lines are drawn
There's a voice that is calling out
For someone who’s not afraid
To be a beacon in the night
To a world that's lost it's way
There are still some battles
That I must fight from day to day
Yet the Lord provides the power
For me to stand and say
I will be the one
To answer to His call
I will stand
When those around me fall
I will be the one
To take His light
Into a darkened world
I will be the one
Joshua…We previously discussed Peter above…a man loving to be in the middle of the action. We’ll notice today that he and Joshua were much alike. Maybe you can relate with both of these individuals God’s used as well. Joshua 1:9 (NLT) This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua understood that the Lord would be with Him wherever he went…in whatever circumstance he would face. Knowing the Lord would be with him made it an obvious “YES” for Joshua. “I am AVAILABEL, YES. Use me. Send me. Here I am.” Many of us “need to learn to seek and find God’s presence [desire to have God place you in the middle of what He’s up to]. Because God promises us victory. But just like in the Book of Joshua we have to actively participate in it. You see what I’m saying? God’s victory is there. God’s promises are sure…God promises if you seek Me with all your heart I will be found. He promises we can find Him, but our part is that we have to seek Him. Our part is that we have to go to Him. Our part is that we have to participate. Here’s a hint, Exodus chapter 33, remember Moses and the tent of meeting? The cloud comes down, [the Israelites are like] ‘yeah that’s Moses speaking with God,’ and it says in verse 11, ‘when Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.’ Joshua just stayed there. Why? Presumably because he didn’t just want to witness Moses speaking to God, he wanted to speak to God. He didn’t just want to be someone who saw God do great things through Moses, he wanted God to do great things through him. He wanted to hear from God himself, he wanted to meet with God himself, he valued being in God’s presence, he was serious about being with God. Joshua practiced and prioritized being in God’s presence. It wasn’t random. It wasn’t only when in desperate times. It was all the time.” http://gracecovenantchurch.sg/sermons/
On pages 249-250 in Tim Tebow’s book Through My Eyes, Tim states that “Just because something bad happens doesn’t mean that He stopped caring about you or that He stopped being sovereign. Those things are simply part of His plan that we’ll never understand here on earth…That’s where faith comes in. It’s not knowing about tomorrow, but it’s knowing that I have a God who loves me and is going to keep me in His plans and safe in His hands through those coming days without my even knowing what’s going to happen. It gives me great comfort to know that God is not only with me and carrying me when I need to be carried but, already waiting for me in my tomorrow [in my ‘wherever I go’ moments]. Now what is there for me to worry about with God already there to care and lay out His plan for me?”
Do you find yourself in the middle of what God’s doing, or have you allowed yourself to be full of excuses? Paralyzed by fear? Don’t just want to be involved, actually get up and do something…be an active participant. Desire for God to do great things through you too. Practice by taking baby steps of obedience and service and see where it leads to in the years to come. Remember, He’s already there and just waiting for you to arrive.
In John MacArthur’s devotional book Drawing Near, John states on the page for May 20th that, “When you think of Thomas, you probably think of a doubter. But if you look beyond his doubt, you’ll see he was characterized by something that should mark every true believer – an intense desire to be with Christ [when you’re with Christ you’re also involved in what He’s doing].
John 10:39-40 tells us Jesus and His disciples left Jerusalem because of threats on Jesus’ life. While they were staying near the Jordan River, Jesus received word that His dear friend Lazarus was sick. He delayed going to Lazarus because He didn’t want merely to heal him, but to raise him from the dead.
Lazarus lived in Bethany—just two miles east of Jerusalem. So when Jesus decided to go there, His disciples were deeply concerned, thinking it would surely be a suicide mission (John 11:8). Despite the danger, Thomas said, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with Him’ (v. 16). That’s a pessimistic attitude, but it also shows his courage and his desire to be with Christ, whether in life or death. An optimist would expect the best, making it easier to go. Thomas expected the worst but was willing to go anyway.
I believe Thomas couldn’t bear the thought of living without Christ. He would rather die with Him than live without Him. That’s also evident in John 14, where Jesus told the disciples He was going away to prepare a place for them. Thomas responded by saying in effect, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you’re going or how to get there. Please don’t go somewhere we can’t go!’ (v. 5). He didn’t understand what Jesus was going to do. All he knew was that he didn’t want to be separated from his Lord.
Can you identify with Thomas? Is Christ such an integral part of your daily decisions and activities that life without Him is unthinkable? Do you love Him so much you long to see Him? That was Thomas’s passion. May it be yours as well.”
God makes no mistakes. His timing is perfect. We often tend to fear the possibilities – the “what if’s.” Someone once told me that the safest place to be on earth is in the will of God. If God directs you into dangerous territory, then He will provide a way to escape. If it’s God’s will for you to do something for His sake, then we need to trust His plan. Setting self aside is a tough task. Living for the Lord is tough. But just take some time to consider Thomas’ mindset. Meditate for a while on the underlined words above. What hits home the most for you? Pray and ask the Lord how He’d have you respond to this lesson we’ve been working through concerning making oneself available to and for Him.
Additional Complimentary Verses:
How can I get to the point where I boldly and confidently tell God “here I am send me”? That no matter what, life or death, I have determined that I’d much rather be in His presence.
Prayer: Use me as You will…I am available. I am willing to be a living sacrifice for Your glory!
Recently someone shared with me that John Piper’s son, Abraham, had left the faith. After chewing on this a little more, the Lord led me to put this cartoon together. The "sheep" in the middle says, “I’ve decided to no longer be a sheep.” The two sheep on the sides are thinking, “but you never were one in the first place.” Pseudo-Christians returning to just as they were and are.
1 John 2:19 (ESV) They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
Not redneck…rubberneck Christians.
Video about Distractions to begin with.
A few years ago, I was blessed to have a Kicker join our College football team from the state of California. In conversation one time he brought up the problem with rubberneckers in CA (don’t ask me how that conversation came up). That was the first I’d heard of the term. He explained that when an accident happens on the freeway that it’s almost guaranteed that another accident will happen just shortly thereafter. Why? Because some drivers want a peek at the accident, take their eyes off the road, and find themselves running into the car in front of them. The one looking at the previous accident and causing another accident is the one considered to be a rubbernecker. This conversation greatly benefited me. I recall a few years later my family and I were driving in CA, on the busy freeway, and there was an accident ahead. I did all I could to allow my family to relay to me what they saw, but at the same time keeping my eyes straight ahead. Just as we’d passed the accident we heard another vehicle coming up on our left side way too fast and they ended up rear-ending the car in front of them. Their curiosity caused them to look at the other accident, which then caused them to create another one.
Why is there such an urge to rubberneck? One author once said that “Curiosity is in our nature.” We are a curious people. The longer we think on a thing or see something that’s out of the norm, the stronger our desire becomes to want to look, investigate and participate. Self-control and resisting the temptation are thrown out the window.
Another author points out that “In times like these, it is vital to pay even more attention to what’s going on in front of you — because nobody else is. Every other driver is likely rubbernecking, just like you are tempted to do. Rubbernecking is such a traffic safety problem that first responders increasingly are placing barriers around accidents to prevent people from looking. That’s because prevention works in distracted driving. People who don’t text don’t get in as many accidents as people who do. People who don’t rubberneck don’t get in as many accidents as those who do. So the barriers work as a preventive mechanism.”
So how does this relate to our Christian walk?
We have wise counsel all around us telling us not to look at certain things that will trip us up, if not destroy us spiritually. Do we put that wisdom into practice when we find ourselves facing a curious situation? Or does curiosity prevail with its pull on you? God knew we’d be a curious people, which is why He warns us of many things to refrain from in His Word. So, what is it that is causing you to take your eyes off of the spiritual path that God’s prepared in front of you? What is it that you just have to peek at or look into? What is it that is distracting you from the goals and paths God has for your life? What is it that you find yourself more and more curious about? Where’s it leading you? What warning signs are you ignoring? What barriers/preventative mechanisms need to go up in order to avoid another spiritual accident/tragedy? I recall one of my professors in college encouraging us to have “bouncing eyes.” Anytime we found ourselves catching a glimpse of something the Holy Spirit didn’t want us looking at, then we needed to avert/bounce our eyes away from that stumbling block as quick as possible.
Are you a rubberneck Christian? If so, then what changes has the Holy Spirit been nudging at you to make in your spiritual walk with the Lord? Below are some passages to take into consideration that relate to today’s reading.
Practicing His Presence,
Just for a short time…Peter took his eyes off Jesus and what happened to him?
Matthew 14:30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Aaron looked to the people rather than to the Lord and what happened to him? Exodus 32
James 1:15 (NLT) These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
Job 31:1 (NLT) “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Song: I Look to You by Selah
Song: Fix My Eyes by for King & Country
We had 28 men present at Ox Strong this past Saturday.
Lee did a fabulous job explaining to us his faith journey to the Lord. It was encouraging to hear how dedicated and hungry he became to know more about the Lord and His ways. We read the following in 2 Peter 3:18 (NKJV) “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” Lee had such a desire to grow in the knowledge of the Lord…it was evident to his family as he’d read godly books and listen to godly preaching on a regular basis in the presence of his family. Such an example of what it means to be Ox Strong in our homes. If you were unable to be with us in person or if you weren’t able to watch the live stream, then here’s the link to Lee’s challenge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_rDdTWBPlw.
Lee’s Faith Journey
In his childhood, Lee was never really told why Christians do what they do.
Why is it important to go to church?
Is there a need to attend Church past a certain age?
Why do you believe what you believe? So when he was given the option to attend church after the age of 12 he opted out and stopped going to church altogether. He’d served his time and felt as though that was enough for him at that time.
Lee attended Iowa State University after high school. At that time the legal drinking age was 18 and he took full advantage of that opportunity. There were no alternatives in his mind to worldly living. And then the Lord caused Jane to cross his path. Jane grew up Catholic, and so once the two got married they chose to join the Catholic Church just because. Prior to then he had no faith to hold to and no Church to call home. But now God got his wheels turning. Lee began thinking that there’s got to be more to this life than he’d previous been living. God had lit a match under him that got him thinking, searching, and reading scripture and other religious writings.
He came to the realization that there is a God Who we can know and love. A God that we can have a relationship with. A Spirit that has been given to us to help guide us through these questions and concerns in life. There is really such a thing as God’s divine providence. God shared with him and showed him that He can bring good out of bad circumstances in life – good that otherwise wouldn’t have happened if the bad hadn’t come first. An example Lee gave was that he and his wife experienced two miscarriages right away in their marriage. God laid it on their hearts to adopt their son whom they’re so thankful for.
Lee wanted us to remember that God is love, and that we need to keep our focus on Jesus Christ in order to make good decisions in life. He challenged us to really think about how our relationship is with the God Who created us, because Christianity is all about being in relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ is The One to be worshipped (worth-ship). Now, personally ask yourself the following questions, “how do I manifest my relationship with Christ?,” and “what am I doing to invigorate my relationship with Christ?”
Remember, anytime man is involved in traditional practices that the good, the bad, and the ugly will be present. Do you see yourself in the following verses looking more like the Pharisees/world or the Disciples (Believers)?
Kevin Clevenger added another couple good questions that God had him ponder one time, “How would it change your life if you knew you only had thirty days to live…how would you spend your time?”
Thanks for reading and or listening to / viewing Lee’s faith journey…hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Practicing His Presence,
Nate Smith is a college baseball and football coach, a husband, a father of 6 girls, grandpa to 2 granddaughters, a police chaplain, and has a passion to see men grow in Christ.
#girldad including granddaughter