Take a minute to check out the final two practical reminders from the book of Proverbs.
7. Be Open Minded
Proverbs 18:2 (NASB) says, “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind.” Stephen Covey popularized a saying that originated with St. Francis of Assisi who said, “Seek first to understand and then be understood.”
If you have ever had a conversation with another human being then you know that living this principle out can be difficult. Our first inclination when someone is speaking is to do what? Begin formulating our response right? Why do we do this? We do it because we want to ensure that our opinion and our voice is heard. We want to make sure that we’re not skipped over. We want to make sure that our needs and our plans are considered.
I think we can all agree that this isn’t a healthy model for communication. Where we can get into even more trouble is when we apply this communication style to our relationship with God. As we pray, we strive to ensure that God understands what we’re dealing with. We say that we want to hear from God but we never stop talking long enough to actually hear what He has to say to us. As the Proverbs state it, “we only delight in revealing our own mind.”
"What would it look like for you and I to seek first to understand God and then to be understood? What if we practiced listening? What if our prayer times weren’t filled with our list of needs and desires but instead were filled with silence, not on God’s end but on our end?"
8. Take Action
Proverbs 20:5 (NASB) says, “A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out." I love this verse because it speaks of both discernment and action. The writer compares the many plans of a man’s heart to that of deep water. In much the same way that water lies far beyond the surface of the ground in a well, there is also within many a vast wealth of knowledge and understanding.
"In the same way that the water at the bottom of the well must be creatively and with great effort be brought to the surface so to must the godly wisdom and knowledge of those around be brought to the surface."
Solomon repeats on multiple occasions through the Proverbs that godly counsel from many advisors is critical to our success. Proverbs 11:14 (NASB) says, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.”
Proverbs 12:15 (NASB) says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”
Proverbs 15:22 (NASB) says, “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.”
Proverbs 20:5 challenges us as believers to learn how to discern and identify where godly wisdom is in those around us and then takes it a step further by saying, learn how to draw that out of those around you.
We have to become more comfortable with having spiritual conversations. What I mean by that is two-fold. 1.) We have to become okay with admitting to those around us that we’re struggling and 2.) You as the listener, you as the counselor have to learn to not just hear, but engage and admit our own struggles and learn how to share the journey that God has had you on for the benefit of those who are also struggling.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, our relationships with Jesus are personal but they should not be private. Take action, learn to use the journey that God has you on for the benefit of those around you. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Check out a few more practical reminders from the book of Proverbs.
5. Be Honest
Proverbs 11:1 (NASB) says, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.”
According to one survey 90% of children have grasped the concept of lying by aged 4. According to another survey, of those who replied affirmative to lying, 86% of those lies are told to parents, 75% to friends, 73% to siblings, 69% to spouses. Crazy right?
We’ve convinced ourselves that a “little white lie” never hurt anyone. Here’s the problem with a culture of dishonesty. We cheat ourselves out of the process of becoming fully developed Christ followers. What we’re looking for when we lie is a shortcut. We’re looking for a way to basically have the same outcome with less effort and we do this because we’ve bought into the bigger lie that, “that’s just the way the world works”.
Christian read these next words slowly, "As a Christ follower you don’t operate in the same economy as the rest of the world. You are called to something higher."
“Well Andy, you don’t understand, things were getting tough at work and I had to fudge a little here and there to make the numbers match.”
Or maybe you've rationalized it this way, “My kid was getting a little out of control so I had to promise them some things I had no intention of actually doing, but they were just so aggravating, I told them what they wanted to hear.”
You see we’ve convinced ourselves that lying is a healthy method for dealing with stress and getting out of a pinch. But listen to what Romans 5:3-4 (NASB) says, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope…”
Dishonesty is a short-cut that will only serve to cheat us from developing into the men and women God has called us to be.
6. Surround Yourself With Wise People
Proverbs 14:7 (NASB) says, “Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge.”
This is the heart of the words I heard from my mother on countless occasions as a teenager, “Andy, you are who you hang out with.” It’s a lesson that we as parents likely share with our kids on a regular basis. Our goal of course is to protect our kids and teenagers from falling in with the wrong crowd, we want to shield them from a lifetime of heartache and wrong choices so we closely monitor our kid’s friends, we scroll their text messages and social media feeds keeping a close eye on any activity that might indicate that they are hanging with the wrong crowd or getting into something that they shouldn’t.
But I wonder how we’re doing at applying this same principle to our lives as adults? How are we doing at discerning words of knowledge? You know sometimes we read a verse like this and we focus in on the, “leave the presence of a fool” portion and that’s true, we should surround ourselves with wise people. But how do we know if we’re being influenced by foolishness? How do we know if we’re in the presence of foolishness?
The litmus test for whether or not foolishness is present is whether or not we are discerning words of knowledge. What’s the word of knowledge? The word of knowledge is God’s Word
"If we’re not discerning words of knowledge, if we’re unable to discern God’s Word, if we’re not hearing from God, if we’re not perceiving the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives perhaps we’ve allowed foolish people, foolish ideas and foolish ways of thinking into our hearts and minds and that foolishness has started to outweigh the wisdom that comes from above."
What do I mean by foolishness? When compared to the truth of God’s Word, foolishness is the latest personality test. When compared to the truth of God’s Word foolishness is the latest magazine article that’s supposed to revolutionize our marriage. When compared to the truth of God’s Word foolishness is the endless stream of social media opinions telling you how you should feel about what’s happening in our world.
Everything is foolishness when compared with the truth and righteousness of God’s Word. We spend countless hours safeguarding our kids and teenagers and reminding them that they are who they hang out with but allow me to remind us as adults that we are who and what we allow into our hearts and minds.
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Check out two more practical reminders from the book of Proverbs. If you missed the first two, you can check those out here.
3. Run From Temptation.
Proverbs 5:8 (NASB) says,“Keep your way far from her and do not go near the door of her house…”
Proverbs 7:21-23 (NASB) says, “With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him. Suddenly he follows her as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, until an arrow pierces through his liver; as a bird hastens to the snare, so he does not know that it will cost him his life.”
Perhaps you can recall the “less than wise” years of your life where you failed to map out anything beyond point A. You saw something in front of you and you just went for it. You failed to realize that A leads to B and that B leads to C and C isn’t so good. What at first appeared to be a good idea, what at first appeared to not bring any harm to anyone suddenly takes a turn and we find ourselves being sucked into a series of choices that develops into a lifestyle, a lifestyle that certainly doesn’t bring glory to God.
Why do we flirt with temptation? I want to suggest to you that we do so because we fail to think critically about our choices.
"Figuratively speaking we keep our heads down and we shuffle along only lifting our gaze to see the heels of those right in front of us, while we never stop to lift our eyes enough to see what’s coming on the horizon."
God’s Word maps out for us a model that encourages us to identify those temptations in our lives and to not make an effort to just skirt around them but rather to completely steer clear of them all together. The passage in Proverbs 7 speaks of the stag not being killed instantly but first being trapped. Likewise, the bird is first ensnared. In the same way you and I are cautioned to avoid at all costs those things that would lure us towards evil, we are called to avoid those areas that at first seem harmless but ultimately serve to trap us and bind us up in sin. Flee from temptation.
4. Don’t Hold Grudges
Proverbs 10:12 (NASB) says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.”
This doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone but conflict is a normal part of our lives. We experience conflict at work, at home with our spouses, with our kids, with our crazy in-laws, with friends, we experience conflict within the church.
Allow me to suggest that the conflict we experience in our lives doesn’t have anything to do with any of those people. It’s not sourced in your moody spouse or your misbehaving kids or your jerk of a boss.
1 Peter 5:8 tells us that conflict is sourced in the adversary of our souls. 1 Peter 5:8 (NASB) says, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Learning to not hold a grudge becomes a lot easier when we realize that it’s not really about me versus them. It’s not about me getting my way or being mad that they got their way.
When we realize that it’s really about the devil’s desire to sow discord, we suddenly understand the long-term negative impact that our grudge has not just on the relationship (horizontal) but also on our relationship (vertical).
We have to figure out through the power of the Holy Spirit to sow not hatred but love into the lives of those we disagree with and that’s accomplished through realizing that our tongues carry power. James 3:5 (NASB) says, “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!”
We must come to a better understanding of the power of uncontrolled anger in our lives. Ephesians 4:26-27 (NASB) says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
We must learn to listen more. James 1:19 (NASB) says, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger…”
We must learn to forgive as we have been forgiven. Ephesians 4:32 (NASB) says, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Check out these two quick thoughts from the book of Proverbs.
1. Wise Men Never Stop Learning. Proverbs 1:5 (NASB) says, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.”
Kari Jobe sings a song entitled, “The More I Seek You” and I love the lyrics because it paints a perfect picture of this idea.
The more I seek you, the more I find you
The more I find you, the more I love you.
I want to sit at your feet, drink from the cup in your hand
Lay back against you and breathe, feel your heart beat
This love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand
melt in your peace, it’s overwhelming.
Hebrews 4:12 (NASB) says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Jesus said, “…blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Luke 11:28 (NASB)
“All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16 (NASB)
In case you have forgotten, allow me to remind you that God gave you His Word that you might have a roadmap of how best to follow Him. Seek the wisdom that is mapped out in His Word. God gave you the church that you might seek the wisdom of those who have traveled the road before you and ultimately God has given you the Holy Spirit that you might be continually be directed in the paths He would have you take.
How are you continuing to learn?
2. Stay Humble. Proverbs 3:7 (NASB) says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”
I think we could all agree that we live in a society that doesn’t place a high value on humility. If you watch or listen to any level of news reporting, ranging from politics to sports to current events, television, radio and internet are jammed full of talking heads that espouse their opinions as facts. Seldom do you hear someone even acknowledge the possibility that their idea or their opinion could be wrong.
Listen, you are entitled to your opinion. You can prefer this political party over that one. You can prefer this team to win the Super Bowl over that team. You can prefer this city tax plan over that city tax plan.
"Your preference is your preference but when your preference for that party, that team or that city tax policy brings with it a lack of love and a genuine concern for the spiritual well-being of other people you have gone astray. When you become more passionate about your opinions than demonstrating the love of Christ to those around you, you have allowed evil to enter in to your heart."
I am a passionate person, I’ve got opinions on things I didn’t even know that I cared about. But here’s the thing, those are just my opinions. You see we have started to confuse our opinions with the truth of God’s Word. God’s Word is fact. My opinion is not.
What would it look like for us dial back our social media opinions on this or that and to ramp us our declaration of the truth of God’s Word? What if instead of flooding social media with our opinions we chose to flood social media with Scripture and post about the goodness of God and His faithfulness to us in the midst of struggle. Here’s my encouragement to us on this topic. Perhaps we should seek ways to become more humble in our own opinions and at the same time more confident in our declaration of God’s Word and God’s truth.
What would it look like for you to become more humble in your opinions and more confident in your declaration of God's truth in your life?
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I finished reading "Trazan of the Apes" and the author's plan to bait the reader into reading the next in the series worked perfectly, I was hooked. I quickly jumped online and filtered my way through Burroughs' original copies priced in the thousands and eventually made my down to the less than $10 reprints of book number two, "The Return of Tarzan". Thanks to Amazon Prime I started reading book two in just under 36 hours.
The story picks up exactly where book one ends with Tarzan feeling sorrowful yet confident with his choice to forsake his birthright in the name of love for one Jane Porter. He finds himself with his friend D'Arnot in Paris reliving his growing up years in the jungles of Africa. As Tarzan speaks of his adoptive mother Kala, the she-ape he speaks with words that fail to connect to the heart of the other human man listening to him. D'Arnot cannot understand Tarzan's unwavering love for and vast sorrow over the loss of Kala the she-ape. To D'Arnot she was just an ape. To Tazan she was his mother.
As I read through this exchange I came across a powerful line that immediately reminded me of God's outlook on you and I as His children. Tarzan said, "To you, my friend, she would have appeared a hideous and ugly creature, but to me she was beautiful--so gloriously does love transfigure its object. And so I am perfectly content to remain forever the son of Kala, the she-ape."
It's my belief that God views you and I in much the same way. While others can perhaps view us as hideous and ugly, God sees something much deeper. God sees beyond what we are to what we could be. God doesn't see us as we see ourselves, He doesn't even see us as we hope to one day see ourselves. He sees us in perfectly clarity as we were created to be. God sees past your hideous behavior, past your ugly actions and hurtful words and still He chooses to love us.
Paul tells the church at Philippi in Philippians 1:6, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." In other words, God sees the completed version of you. He knows you as you will one day be. God isn't finished with you yet. What others see as an incomplete piece of junk, God, because of His great love for you, sees as perfection. May we remain content to forever be sons and daughters of the Most High God. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I often read what most would consider weird books. Perhaps a better description would be boring books. To me there is something thrilling about finding an old bookstore or a little, out of the way, hole in the wall shop and searching for something written years ago that likely hasn't been read by anyone in decades. I've read book on a wide variety of topics that are usually all centered on some obscure and often forgotten point of world history. While I mostly read non-fiction I occasionally pick up something from the world of fiction to give myself a break from the bleakness of our world's history. Recently, while visiting a small bookshop in Canada I came across a re-print of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Tarzan of the Apes". Having watched the cartoon on multiple occasions with my one time toddlers I was familiar with the overarching theme but since I'd never read the book itself, I figured now was as good a time as any to give myself a mental break.
You're likely familiar with the story so I'll save you time and cut right to the words that jumped off the page to me as I was reading last week. Speaking of Tarzan's heightened ability to see, hear and sense his surroundings Burroughs writes,
"Man's survival does not hinge so greatly upon the perfection of his senses. His power to reason has relieved. them of many of their duties, and they have, to some extent, atrophied, as have the muscles which move the ears and scalp, merely from disuse."
As I read those words I was struck by the similarity between that idea and my own atrophied muscles. After a few weeks of summer camp, I can certainly identify with unused physical muscles but beyond that my mind went to the realm of spiritual muscles. How often do I allow my spiritual muscles to go unused because I choose to rely on my own reasoning in their place? At those times in my life when I have felt as though God were distant and had become non-communicative was it perhaps just my own inability to continue using those spiritual muscles.
Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 13:16-17 (NASB), "But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it."
Jesus tells them this in the midst of a crowd of onlookers who couldn't understand His parables because of their atrophied spiritual muscles. They desired to see and hear but they were unable. Listening to God, seeing His work around us, sensing His presence in our midst are spiritual muscles that must be worked and utilized. With time and practice it's these spiritual muscles that become toned and defined and afford us greater ability of use.
Tonight I'm asking myself the questions: How am I using my spiritual muscles? Have I replaced the muscles of seeing, hearing and sensing God's presence with my own human reasoning? Does my existence depend on the perfection of those spiritual muscles or have I carved out an existence for myself apart from God? Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
"Did you say, Abe Lincoln?"
"No I didn't say Abe Lincoln, I said, 'Hey Blinkin'."
That's about the only line that sticks out to me from the movie, "Robin Hood, Men in Tights". For whatever reason I think of that line often and find myself quoting it out loud, usually to no one in particular. As those goofy lines ran through my head today, I began to think about the idea of being misunderstood.
Two of the most frustrating things are being misunderstood and consistently, not understanding what's going on around you. Regardless of where you find yourself, both ends can leave you feeling like banging your head against the wall. How is it that what seems so clear in your mind can not be manifested into coherent words and sentences that others can comprehend? Why is that everyone else seems to be clicking right along with a particular project or concept and you feel like you are completely in the dark, clueless as to what's happening?
As I've thought about this idea I was reminded of the number of times that Jesus was misunderstood by His disciples, the religious leaders of the day, His own family and really just about everyone He came into contact with while He walked the earth. What was so clear to Christ - His mission, His purpose, His ultimate goal, all were misunderstood by those around Him.
In Mark the 3rd chapter, Jesus' mother and brothers come looking for Him, presumably trying to figure out what He was doing? Of course, the religious leaders had no idea what was going on and even those in His own town of Nazareth demonstrate confusion as to His purposes. The Gospels are full of examples of His own disciples demonstrating complete ignorance as to what Jesus' mission was all about, some of them were looking for an earthly kingdom to be established, others were looking for the power and title that they assumed Jesus would bring them. Confusion all around.
It wasn't until after Jesus' resurrection that the disciples at large finally got what Jesus had been saying all along. Finally something "clicked" inside of them and they figured it out. What was the difference? Why all of the sudden did the disciples finally catch on? Had Jesus started using different words? Did Jesus come up with some new creative strategy to communicate with them? None of the above. The only difference was proof. Jesus was no longer dead. He was alive. The grave was empty. They saw, ate with and talked to Jesus - post resurrection.
It's hard to argue with that kind of proof. I think sometimes we forget about that same proof that is available to us as believers. I've interacted with Jesus on a daily basis for years. I've experienced Him in a very real way on countless occasions. He changed my life in a very real way. My experience with Christ has been more than theory, it's been more than just something I've heard about or read about, I've experienced it for myself. The same could probably be said for you as well. You've been a believer for 5 or 10 or even 20 years or longer and have had dozens or even hundreds of powerful experiences with Christ and yet you still find yourself confused and misunderstanding what God has planned for you. Don't get me wrong, seldom does anyone, including the seasoned saints among us, hit the nail on the head every time with God. The Bible makes clear in Isaiah 55:8-9 that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.
Perhaps we need to entertain the possibility that our lack of understanding and confusion about God's mission, plan and goals for our lives is less about us understanding and more about us wanting to understand. I mean, with all of the interactions that you've had with Christ over the years, with all of the proof that you have experienced first hand, can you still be using the excuse that you're just not sure what He wants? Maybe we know exactly what He wants and we're just not sure that we want the same thing? Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
You've heard the phrase, "Time heals all wounds" right? It's the idea that that feelings of sadness, disappointment, etc., gradually go away as time passes. We often use this phrase while attempting to console someone who has just lost a loved one or in an effort to bring encouragement to a friend who was recently rejected, fired, stabbed in the back, etc.
I think we're comforted by this phrase on a few levels. First, we're comforted as the giver of this type of encouragement because it's easy to say. This phrase has become commonplace and flows from our tongues without much thought as to its helpfulness or even accuracy. It's like when we don't know what to say to be truly helpful we simply default to "Time heals all wounds". For many we've become uncomfortable with silence so we feel the need to fill the dead space and naturally we resort to our most comfortable saying.
I think we're also comforted by these words as we receive them. Let's be honest, it's easier to wait than it is to work. Staying in my seat and suffering through my pain is far easier than persistently pushing myself towards healing and wholeness. When we hear the phrase, "Time heals all wounds" we're comforted because our only role becomes passive. We buy into the idea that as we passively wait healing will naturally manifest itself.
Here's the problem with this phrase, it's simply not accurate. Time doesn't heal all wounds. Time only serves to aid us in forgetfulness and numbness. Imagine with me that I'm in my backyard attempting to trim my "badly needing to be trimmed" trees (not imaginary). Let's imagine that as I reach for one of the furthest limbs that my chainsaw slips from my grasp and gashes into my leg leaving a massive cut. We would all readily agree that my wound is in desperate need of a trip to the hospital, some stitching, antibiotics and a long time of recuperation. What if instead I made the decision to just wait it out, I could head into the house, flip on the tv, crack open a cold ginger ale and just wait it out. This of course would be ridiculous but as crazy as it sounds, this is often how we choose to handle our own need for healing, we simply attempt to wait it out.
If you study Scripture you'll discover that many who needed and received healing were those who didn't just passively wait but rather were those who pushed and persistently sought healing. In fact, many of those found in Scripture had waited for years on end without receiving healing.
Mark 5 paints a pretty clear picture of this very idea. Mark 5:25-29 in the NIV says, "And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering."
It's safe to say that this woman had done her fair share of waiting for healing and yet she never got better, in fact she got worse. It wasn't until she pressed in with intentionality, boldness and faith that she was healed.
Luke 18 maps out the account of a blind beggar who, upon hearing that Jesus was nearby, began crying out for healing. We can assume that this bling beggar wasn't recently blind or recently poor. He had likely been blind for sometime and as a result lived his life in poverty. Upon hearing that Jesus was close the Scripture says in Luke 18:38-39, "He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Both of these are powerful examples of people who actively sought healing. Healing doesn't come from waiting. Healing doesn't come with the passing of time. Healing comes as a result of our persistent effort to allow God into our hurtful situations, into our scars and into our heartache.
Perhaps today you could start crying out for yourself, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Rest assured that He will hear your cries and He will bring healing, in His time and in His way. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I'm grateful for the opportunities that I have each week to share from God's Word with those who have entrusted me with such an honor. It's humbling to think that people invite you into their hearts and minds in such a way. If I'm honest, at times I'm fearful, not in a stage fright kind of way, I've been doing this long enough to have gotten past that. When I say fearful, I mean more in the sense of, "God don't let me say anything that would cause someone to think incorrectly about your Word or Your plan for their life." In fact I often pray the prayer, "God don't let me screw this up." Perhaps that seems flippant to some but I assure you that it's heart-felt. God is moving in each of our lives even when we don't recognize it or even care to recognize it and I want to be sure that I don't get in the way of what God is doing in someone's life with an ill spoken word or worst yet, an incorrect interpretation of God's Word.
As a result of my desire to get out of God's way I often find myself cutting out, re-vamping or editing for time parts of a teaching that just don't fit into the overall theme or more often than not, can't be fully unpacked. To bring something up or as some say, "open that can of worms" would be foolish if time prohibits a comprehensive look and anything less would only serve to cause confusion. Thus, there is often much that goes unsaid.
Just this past week I shared a teaching based on the idea that God calls each of us to make an impact on those around us. You can listen to the full message here. Over the last few days I've felt prompted to revisit some of the areas of this talk and to further unpack a few of the ideas that were presented. The one that jumps out to me the most centers around the revelation of God. I said,
"God’s Word maps out for me His general revelation. My time in prayer allows me to discover His specific revelation for my life. The saints of the church, those who have gone before me allow me to walk in their wisdom."
This process of revelation is so often overlooked as we strive to become the people God has called us to become. Too often we spend all of our energy asking God to reveal to us His specific revelation for our lives. We want specifics from God on:
We long for God's specific revelation in these areas. We want details and a road map for what's to come and yet we don't give adequate time or even worse, we completely ignore God's general revelation as mapped out in His Word. When we don't hear from God in the way we imagined it would happen we throw our hands in the air in frustration and ask ourselves, "Why does God not care enough to reveal Himself to me?"
God's Word is packed full of lessons, direction, guidance and insight for us to pull from and apply to our lives. When we skip over God's general revelation as we're waiting for His specific revelation we miss out on so much of what He wants to reveal to us.
It's the Matthew 6:33 principle, "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." Of course this verse is written in the context of Jesus' teaching on money and possessions but the same principle applies.
It's Micah 6:8, "No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." Again, not written in the context of general revelation versus specific revelation but the principle of first following God before getting caught up in the details of the sacrifice makes it applicable to this idea.
We get far too caught up in the details of following Jesus before we've first developed our ability to simply follow Him according to His Word.
2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right."
Let's make the commitment today and in the days to come to first and foremost look for God's general revelation before we get frustrated or feel slighted at His (in our faulty opinion) lack of specific revelation. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
In the last 40 days I’ve hosted an overnighter for 100+ teenagers, took my sons on 2 college visits, met with 5 engaged couples for pre-marital counseling, played volleyball 4 times, preached 5 times, led 2 baccalaureate meetings, attended 6 staff meetings, led 4 summer camp planning meetings, led 2 small groups, taught 4 Bible studies, became CPR and First Aid certified, hosted a simulcast leadership conference and led 12 after school program days. Not factored in are my meals, (which are countless), my hours of sleep, trips to the bathroom (which are increasing in frequency) and my seemingly limitless conversations with friends, co-workers, students and family members.
A lot can happen in 40 days. I want to challenge you to consider an upcoming 40 day block in a new light. The season of Lent is right around the corner. Outside of Catholicism it seems as though Lent has largely been forgotten about. Allow me to do my small part in bringing this important season back to the forefront for those looking to push themselves spiritually.
The Lenten season runs from Ash Wednesday (that’s March 6th this year) to the day before Easter (that’s April 20th this year) and is 40 days in all (minus Sundays). The 40 days of Lent are meant to parallel the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. See Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13
& Luke 4:1-13.
Lent provides the spiritually hungry with an opportunity for prayer, repentance and self-denial. Often it’s during Lent that many Christians will commit to fasting (food or some other luxury) in order to replicate this 40 day season of sacrifice that Jesus experienced. With fasting comes “extra” or “recently freed up” time that can be spent in prayer, Scripture reading, listening to God, etc.
Often Lent is painted as a “religious duty” or an “outmoded liturgical practice”. Let’s reframe this Lenten season away from that and towards an opportunity to increase our connection with God. As a Jesus follower we should always be looking for ways to connect at a deeper level. Not participating in Lent and “not giving something up” isn’t wrong but the question is “why”?
Why wouldn’t we actively seek ways to increase our intimacy with God? Why wouldn’t we search for greater ways to connect? A lot can happen in 40 days. What would it look like for you to make the most out of the 40 days of Lent. I invite you to join me and others in the “40 Days Towards Jesus” devotional journey that kicks off on Wednesday March 6th.
Imagine what could change in your life after spending 40 days in prayer, repentance and self-denial. Imagine for a moment what 40 days of exposure to God’s Word and His voice could do for you. Join me.
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.