“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”
My wife and I celebrated 9 years of marriage this past Thursday. And today, we’re blessed to be able to have a night getaway at an AirBNB in a nearby town while family takes care of our two boys.
And as I reflect on our relationship together, I am so thankful that Alesha is in my life. We have been through so many life stages and ups and downs together, and I can’t imagine where my life would be right now had she not been part of all of it.
I’ve been asked by many people how we make our marriage work.
Our marriage is not perfect by any means, but I can truly say that, by the grace of God, I think we have one of the best marriages I know of.
When I’ve been asked by others, there have been many different things I point to and have suggested to help a rocky relationship or to help avoid future hardship.
But there is one thing that stands out above the rest:
I am so thankful that my wife and I have chosen to put Jesus first in our lives and marriage.
I’m not saying we’re perfect in any means, but here’s how it has played out in our marriage:
When we decide life priorities… we have the same baseline of putting Jesus and His Kingdom first When we have difficult life decisions to make… we pray to Jesus and ask for guidance and wisdom When we argue, have misunderstandings or get upset at each other… we turn to Jesus to give us the grace to repent and forgive and work through things together When one of us is going through a hard time… we are able to love and support each other with the grace Jesus provides When we go through difficult external situations that press down on us… we both separately and together trust in Jesus to get us through
Through the ups and downs of life, Through the internal struggles between us, And the external issues around us, We are able to turn to Jesus together, And He holds us both close to Him, Individually and together.
As I mentioned above, there are many relationship “tips and tricks” that we’ve picked up from others over the years, but the baseline of our marriage is founded on Jesus – and that has made all the difference.
Whether you’re married, engaged, dating or single; Jesus is the One Who promises to be with you through every storm of life, To guide you in the bright of day and the darkness of night, And I cannot emphasize enough how having Him in your life and in your relationships will make all the difference.
Our lives and our marriage is not perfect, But our God is, And He is our foundation for both.
And so, out of all the things I am thankful for about my wife, I am most thankful that she has given her life to Jesus, And has determined to love Him with all her life.
And so in a world where divorce and unhappy marriages are the norm, I am so thankful for God’s grace giving us 9 amazing years of marriage, And I look forward to every day I get to spend with my wife until death do us part.
And even then, death won’t truly end our lives together, as we will both be in heaven enjoying and worshiping Jesus together and with all who trust in His name.
For all eternity, just like we’ve been practicing here on earth.
“…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
After we are saved through grace by faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8), God desires for us to continue to grow in godliness (Titus 2:11-14), which includes growing in stability of belief and faith (Ephesians 4:13-14).
Is your faith, hope, love, mind and overall life tossed around by circumstances, other beliefs and things that go against God’s Word?
God desires better for you, And He promises to help you.
Here Are 3 Things You Can Do To Root Yourself Firm In Jesus
Study/Learn God’s Word
The most important thing you can do is to discover more of Who God is and what He says by studying His Word, the Bible.
As you get to know the Bible more, you begin to filter life’s situations and other ideas by what the Bible says, which can help you from being “tossed to and fro” by things and people around you.
Take, for example, the 4 G’s that Tim Chester writes about in his book “You Can Change”.
God is great – so we don’t have to be in control. God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others. God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere. God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves.
These truths are rooted in God’s Word and can apply directly to our lives and change the way we respond to external situations and internal dialogues in a way that aligns with God’s will.
Below is one of my favorite Peanut comics that illustrates this concept well:
By having a good grasp on what God says about Himself, ourselves and the lives we live, you will be less likely to be swayed in life’s circumstances and ideas that you hear.
If you need help in studying God’s Word, I’ve written many posts on how do study the Bible, including this two part series you can check out here: part 1 and part 2
Apply God’s Word
As important as it is to know God’s Word, it’s nothing if you don’t apply it.
This includes obeying Jesus (John 14:15-17) And also, and more importantly, embracing Him (John 15:5).
As we apply God’s Word, we draw nearer to Him and bind our hearts and lives to Him as our stability in times of trial.
One thing I want to note is that applying God’s Word isn’t simply doing better and trying harder but also relying on God’s Spirit for the grace to have God live through your life as we’re reminded in Philippians 2:13.
Live In Christian Community For Encouragement And Accountability
It’s been said that you can can a Christian alone, but you can’t live the Christian life alone.
Here’s what that means:
Your salvation is a completely individual act between you and Jesus, But the act of living life as a Christian requires other Christians to be in your life.
Christian community is extremely important. Jesus ordained it so that we would be an important source of encouragement and accountability to each other, in order to help each other run our race of faith with endurance and continue on the straight and narrow as we follow Jesus together.
A few months ago, our church took a weekend retreat together which caused me to write a post titled “Being Still Before God” which was a reflection on how we need to slow down and take time to be before God.
But a few months later, it’s already become warped again.
Shelter in place orders have been set, And we’ve increased on online activity and time before screened devices to fill the void of personal connection, And I think many of us have (ironically) experienced less “stillness” than before.
Although we’re physically limiting ourselves, many of us are filling our minds, thoughts and hearts with busyness, news reports, social media, and anything else we can do to try to keep from cabin fever.
And in the midst of it, we’ve filled every bit of silence we had left.
A couple books I’ve read recently (both spiritual and non-spiritual books) all pointed to the importance of silence in our lives.
Of quieting our hearts and minds to be still and present in the moment.
For the Christian, that means resting in God. Trusting Him for the past that haunts us, Trusting Him for our current situations that plague us, And trusting Him for our futures that we’re always trying so hard to plan and prepare for.
So I wanted to re-encourage you to slow down and be still.
Be quiet, Be calm, Focus solely on God, And listen.
I personally find it helpful to meditate on scripture when trying to slow down, so below are some of the ones that came to mind when thinking about this topic. I pray you have a good few minutes of calming quiet as you rest in the midst of everyday chaotic life.
“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
1st Peter 5:7
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
We live in a society that values movement. Things always need to be going up and to the right. They need to be faster, better, bigger, more important, more expensive.
But God doesn’t value the same things we do. Often, it’s like He’s not playing the same “game” at all.
God has a wholly different view of life.
As I quote often from Isaiah 55:8-9:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
This plays out in a lot of ways, but one in particular has been on my heart for a while and I’ve wanted to share it:
And during that time we’ve had some really cool opportunities come up… but they didn’t feel quite right.
They were great opportunities, And I’m sure God would have used them, But we felt like God was telling us to wait.
Which brings me to a common misunderstanding:
Just because there’s a great opportunity doesn’t mean God wants you to take it.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t pursue things on the basis that they’re “too good to be true” or that “God doesn’t want you to be happy” but that we tend to go too far the other direction and assume that because there’s an opportunity, that God wants you to take it.
And that’s simply not true.
The best example I see in scripture is when you compare two separate God-ordained “jailbreaks”.
Here’s the first one:
“But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
It’s very clear. The apostles were (wrongly) in jail and an angel broke them out and they left the jail.
But check out what happens in a similar situation 11 chapters later:
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.”
In this situation, it seems just as clear: God is breaking Paul and Silas out of jail.
They were wrongly in jail, The “precedent” in the Christian community is if God does a miracle to let you out of jail; you leave and go preach the Gospel.
But they don’t. They stay in the jail.
And as we see from reading this passage: that was the right choice.
When To Stay, When To Go
You might be wondering why Paul and Silas decided to stay.
Maybe it was because Paul realized that the jailer would be faced with the death penalty for loosing the prisoners, but I think it’s for a different reason.
I think it’s because they know God didn’t tell them to.
In the first example, it says that the angel led them out of jail, But in the second, it only says the doors were opened and the bonds were unfastened.
Maybe, for you, that would be enough to believe God wanted you to step out, But it wasn’t for Paul and Silas, And God knew that.
God was providing this situation for Paul and Silas, Not to the other apostles, And not to you and me.
I believe that if God wanted Paul and Silas to escape, that He would have made that clear in a way Paul and Silas would receive it, so long as they were willing to seek and hear from Him.
God isn’t trying to play games to get us to guess His will, even though it can sometimes feel like that, and I believe that had He wanted Paul and Silas to leave, He could have directed in a way they would have understood and followed – just like He did with the other apostles.
Following Jesus In The Difficult Decisions
There have been many books written and sermons preached on this subject, so here are just a few thoughts:
1. God desires your faith to be put in Him, not a system or program. So be ready to have to trust that God is working and to follow where you believe He is leading you.
2. Your desire to please God and love God is far more important than making perfect decisions, so don’t be afraid of making the “wrong” decision. If you’ve prayed about the situation, asked for help/input from those around you in the process and are truly desiring to please God, He loves us and knows our limitations and imperfections and sometimes simply wants to have us choose between different good options.
3. Consider waiting. If you don’t have to make a decision, sometimes it’s ok to wait. Sometimes we have an external deadline that we have to make a decision by, but other-times our deadlines are arbitrary and are unhelpful in God’s timeline.
4. Stay connected to Jesus. In the second example, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God. They were spiritually sensitive to Him and worshiping Him, and so when an opportunity came their way, they knew what to do.
There’s certainly no formula on knowing when to wait and when to go, or which direction to go.
But here’s what we do know:
It’s ok to wait, and it’s ok to “pass up” an opportunity. We need to stay connected to Jesus to know His will. We need to stay connected to each-other as God’s intended Church for godly counsel.
And most importantly: We know that God is God and we are not, And that He promises to guide us, And that we please Him by following in faith and love in response to the love He has first shown us.
Living the Christian life and sacrificial living in Christian community is just that: a sacrifice, and it takes intentionality to live the life God has called us to live. In light of online church services becoming the norm, I think many of the things God has called us to do as a church when we gather will become naturally more difficult and even easy to stop altogether.
Below are a list of things I see as potential struggles that will affect every Christian, and therefore, every church. They’re not judgement calls, but simply an acknowledgment of how online services make the communal aspects of Christianity more difficult (so that we can be aware of them) with some practical things you can do to continue living in Christian community as we’ve been called to do.
As a final note before the list, I’m not saying that God can’t work through online services, but I am saying that I believe having online church has more drawbacks than have been acknowledged from what I’ve seen online and we need to be aware of some specific problems that they will cause and be ready to proactively fight again them in our personal lives and churches as a whole.
So, as we are required to have online services for a while, there are a few key things I think we need to be aware of:
Consumerism Christianity Could Easily Become The Norm
I’ve actually seen many posts and articles claiming that online church services will help eliminate “Consumerism Christianity” (where you simply attend a service, walk away, and don’t serve, give, or participate in any sacrificial way). However, I think we need to be on guard against consumerism Christianity becoming even more normal than it already is.
For years, pastors have warned against not just sitting in the congregation and trying to have church just be a place where you “consume” sermons and worship but one where you build community, serve, give, and exercise spiritual gifts… but in the context of online church, these natural problems will only be magnified.
It will be so much easier to simply watch services over the next 3 or so months without coming in contact with another church member or feeling obligated to do anything but spend an hour or so once a week watching a service.
And if too many previously active Christians suddenly fall into the routine of “Consumer Christianity,” this could become a massive problem once in-person services become possible again.
Online Church Can More Easily Become About “Me”
This issue is a specific off-shoot of “Consumer Christianity” where it will become very common for many Christians to stop attending the online services of their home church whenever it doesn’t fit what they like or “need” in the moment and go to other online churches. This type of online “church hopping” will also contribute to consumer Christianity specifically in the context of thinking of church as what it can do for you, instead of a body of believers you are to engage with and be a part of.
This “all about me” is easy to fall into when all church attendance options are online, because at that point there’s no other people to be serving or considering and so it’s easy to forget that you’re part of something larger than yourself and your tv; thus leading to focusing inward towards ourselves instead of upward towards Jesus.
We (As Christians) Naturally Lose Some Of Our Greatest Witness When We Gather Online Rather Than In Person
When Jesus said “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” in John 13:35, He was making it clear that being in a community of believers gives a greater Gospel Witness than being separate believers. As we have online services and are social distancing from everyone, including other believers, a lot of this witness will naturally not be present unless intentionally sought after.
Spiritual Disciplines And Accountability Could Easily Fall Away
One of the greatest aspects of gathering together is the realization that we all have problems and sin and that we’re to engage with each other to promote godliness and forgiveness in and towards each other.
We’re not meant to simply listen to sermons and sing songs, we are meant to be engaged with each other and with God, to be filled with His Spirit for the work of the ministry both inwardly towards other believers and outwardly towards the world.
But when we are online only, a lot of this will naturally stop happening, as the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind.
The Solution (What You And I Can Do About It)
I don’t write all of this to say that churches should still have in person services, but more to bring awareness of some of the natural problems that will come from only offering online services. Below are a few things I encourage every Christian to do during this time to help fight against the problems that online services create.
Find Ways To Serve In Your Church From A Distance
As I wrote about in my post “8 Ways You Can Live Out Your Faith In Jesus Even When You’re Stuck At Home” a great way to remember that you’re to be part of the church and not a spectator is to find ways to serve. I wrote more ideas in that post, but I encourage you to reach out to your church leadership and find where the needs are. It might be shopping for at risk families in the church, or joining the prayer team, or something else entirely.
Continue To Give And Support Your Church And Others Around You
Even in the midst of the pandemic, God desires us to put our trust in Him in all areas of our life, including our finances. By giving to your church and others in need, you will continue to put your faith in God as the first priority of your life rather than your comfort or security.
Purposefully Connect With A Few Other Christians
This is a lot easier if you already had a community or home group that you were part of before everything went online, but you can still reach out to a few people to be in online community with even if you didn’t have something beforehand.
Regardless, find a way to be intentionally connected with a group of Christians. This may be through a weekly online call, or an app like Marco Polo, the important thing is that you have a group of people you can be real with and live life with.
This group should be a place where you confess sin, ask for prayer, encourage each other with things God is teaching you, and are held accountable for the things God has put on your heart to do.
Be Intentionally In God’s Word And In Prayer
This isn’t something that’s unique to a time of social distancing and online church, but it’s something that I feel necessary to mention because it is of upmost importance to the Christian life.
We get to know God and hear from in His Word and one of the most powerful ways we engage with Him is through prayer. The importance of being in God’s Word and prayer cannot be overstated.
If you need help in these two areas, here are a couple blog posts I’ve written on the subject:
God has redeemed us from the burden of sin and death, its earned reward, and He has filled us with His Holy Spirit to live a new life that reflects Himself.
A massive part of this is living in community with Him and His Church (other Christians), so in the midst of social distancing, I encourage you to not simply watch online services, but to find ways to live out the Christian life by seeking God daily, serving others in any way you can and finding Christian community that will uplift you in prayer, encouragement and accountability and for whom you can do the same.
On Good Friday, the check was written to pay our debt, And On Resurrection Sunday, the check was cleared and deposited.
THIS is the day that matters more than any other.
Paul made it clear in 1st Corinthians that Jesus’ resurrection is the single most important piece in the Christian faith:
“And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”
1st Corinthians 15:14
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
1st Corinthians 15:17
Paul continues with this logic to say that if Jesus did not raise from the dead, then we ought to be pitied above all other people for putting our hope and lives in this false belief. (1st Corinthians 15:19)
The resurrection is the crux of everything for followers of Jesus.
It’s why we have hope beyond this life (Titus 1:2) It’s why we believe we have the right to be God’s children (John 1:12) It’s why we believe we have power beyond ourselves to become more like God (Titus 3:6)
And so much more.
It all centers around the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
There’s so much more to say, but you’ve probably heard so much of it.
If you’re looking for a helpful tool to share this Good News (the Gospel) with someone, you should check out the 3 Circle Evangelism Training at this link. It’s one of the simplest and most understandable ways to explain the Gospel in a way that people relate to that I’ve seen.
And as you celebrate Easter today, here’s some lyrics from a song by Phil Wickham that I think captures the amazing moment of Jesus’ resurrection.
May you live in the light of Jesus’ resurrection.
Today, Tomorrow, And until He returns.
Then came the morning that sealed the promise Your buried body began to breathe Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion Declared the grave has no claim on me Then came the morning that sealed the promise Your buried body began to breathe Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion Declared the grave has no claim on me Jesus, Yours is the victory.
Yesterday was Good Friday. Tomorrow is Resurrection Sunday (Easter).
But today. Today is Transition Saturday.
The day between the grief and the joy, Between the sorrow and the rejoicing, Between death and new life.
Many of us put great emphasis on Good Friday and on Easter (of course).
But what about Saturday?
Consider how Saturday must have felt.
They woke up that morning wondering if it was all a dream… hoping it was a dream… wishing it was a dream.
But their nightmare pressed on.
8am became 9am. 9am became 10am. And Jesus was still dead.
Maybe you have experienced something similar.
Maybe you’ve had a death of a loved one, Or some news that tore you apart, Or something caused your whole world to crumble.
And then there was the next day, And nothing changed.
And the next day, Still nothing changed.
That’s what this Saturday felt like.
The realization setting in, The stages of grief beginning, As the rest of the world continued on around them.
The rest of the Jewish people were remembering how they had been delivered from Egypt through passover, But the disciples were still processing the fact that their deliverer had just been murdered.
The Beauty of Transition Saturday
Consider this: Jesus didn’t need to stay dead on Saturday.
He could have risen on Saturday just as easily as Sunday.
But consider just some of the beauty and imagery He has given us by delaying His resurrection.
1. Transition Saturday is on the Sabbath: the day of rest
When God gave the command for Israel to rest on the Sabbath, He gave two different reasons.
One reason is that God gave them an example in that He created the universe in six days and then rested on the seventh (Exodus 20:8-11).
But the other reason reveals much more of His intention.
He tells the Children of Israel that they are resting to remind themselves that they were no longer slaves in Egypt and therefore, get days to rest (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).
Consider this: as Jesus laid in the tomb on Saturday, the disciples had the opportunity to remember why the Sabbath existed: to remind them of their deliverance – and the state they were now in: freedom.
In the same way, as we reflect on the new life and freedom we have through the cross and resurrection even in our transition periods and days.
Free from slavery of sin, Free from shame and condemnation, Free from death, Free from fear.
Freedom in Christ. John 8:36.
May Transition Saturday remind you of your freedom in Christ.
But wait… there’s more.
2. Transition Saturday reminds us that we are to wait for Jesus’ return
One of the most popular reflections I’ve seen regarding Transition Saturday is that we, the Church, are in a transition much like the disciples were on Saturday.
Our sins are dead, But we’re not in heaven yet.
Our salvation has come, But the final culmination of God’s plan isn’t complete.
So, whenever you go through a trial, or suffer in any way You can look to Transition Saturday, And trust in the promise that just like Sunday came, So too will Jesus return and make all things right.
3. Transition Saturday reminds us that God is working even when we don’t see it for a long time
Although our times of waiting are generally longer than a single day, this pause in the story reminds us that God is still working, even when He seems silent.
For the past 3 years, Jesus had been on the scene doing miracles and teaching.
In just one more day, Jesus will rise from the grave proving He is God and that the payment He made for us on Friday is true and sure.
But today, on Saturday, God seems absolutely still and even absent.
But rest assured: He was still working.
Because sometimes God chooses it best to wait before the next act in the story.
Maybe you’re waiting, and God feels distant, or absent.
Be rest assured, He is working, and what He has planned will come to pass.
Even in our waiting, God is still working behind the scenes.
4. Transition Saturday is at the end of the week, making completion for a new thing to begin on Sunday, the beginning of the next week
The Sabbath, as mentioned above, closes out the week and is meant to be a day of rest and pause.
But Sunday is the day of new beginnings.
By allowing for Transition Saturday, God reminds us to rest, but He also reminds us that new things are coming.
The Gospel is the Good News that God has provided new life to our dead ones, And what better way to remember that than on the first day of the new week.
This is also why Christianity has classically met on Sundays, even though we stem from the Jewish practices and history which celebrated Saturday as holy.
Because Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday, Our new life was given to us on Sunday, And that was made possible by the waiting that happened on Saturday.
I hope you take some extra time today to reflect on Transition Saturday.
I hope this post encourages you in whatever transition or waiting period you might be in right now.
And most of all, I hope it brings you nearer to the One Who made all of this possible.
Who paid our price, Who died for our sins, Who was buried, Who rose again, Who has given us new life, Who continues to live alive and well today, And Who desires to have you surrender your life wholly to His, As that’s the relationship we were created for.
God turned Jesus’ death on Good Friday, Into His resurrection on Sunday, And salvation for us all.
So let the truth of the ultimate Good Friday speak into your life today. Into the eternal meaning of your salvation through Jesus, And also into the immediate suffering or trials you may be experiencing.
As you reflect, I encourage you to also watch this YouTube video. It’s pretty old (as you’ll see) but it captures the heart of what Good Friday must have felt like and I think it may help you in your reflection today.
As I wrote it, another quote of His came to mind that I couldn’t shake and felt was the perfect follow up:
“I firmly believe that the moment our hearts are emptied of selfishness and ambition and self-seeking and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will come and fill every corner of our hearts; but if we are full of pride and conceit, ambition and self-seeking, pleasure and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God. I also believe that many a man is praying to God to fill him, when he is full already with something else. Before we pray that God would fill us, I believe we ought to pray that He would empty us. There must be an emptying before there can be a filling; and when the heart is turned upside down, and everything that is contrary to God is turned out, then the Spirit will come…”
To put this idea into a bit-sized summary:
If we desire to be filled more with God’s Spirit, We have to be empty of the things that are not of God.
As a note: I believe that all Christians are filled with the Spirit of God at the time of salvation, but that our sanctification process (becoming more like and nearer to Jesus until we reach heaven) is what D.L. Moody means by being more “filled” with His Spirit. That the idea of being “filled more” with God’s Spirit is more about empowerment and more surrender to God and His Spirit and not regarding salvation.
This idea of further emptying ourselves of things that are not of God is complemented with how there are so many verses that tell us to focus on “things above, and not on things below” (Colossians 3:2) or to dwell on good things (Philippians 4:8), or to not be drunk with wine but filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
Because when we’re full of something, We can’t be filled with something else.
When we’re full of things that are not of God, We can’t be filled more completely by God.
The writer of the book of Hebrews puts it another way:
“Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
When we cling to other things (and are full of other things) They keep us from fully pursuing and following Jesus (and being filled more fully by His Spirit)
Have you been praying for God to fill you with His Spirit? Maybe it’s time to complement those prayers with additional surrender in your life.
Surrender is an ongoing practice and journey that God has us all on, And it won’t be over until heaven.
So, what area do you need to surrender in? What area do you need to let go? What/who are you clinging to? What/who are you “filled” with?
Give it all to Jesus. Surrender fully to Him and His plan. And may you be able to cling to Him all the more, And enjoy even more of His Spirit in your life.
What many of you might not know is that we made the opposite move (Washington State to Florida) in 2012 to help start a church.
And ever since we moved to Florida we’ve had people ask when/if we’re going to move back to Washington.
And our response has always been the same: “God called us to move here, and we don’t know for how long. He may call us somewhere else in two months, two years, two decades, or never.”
And throughout our time here, we’ve continued to pray that God would show us where/when He wants us to move if He wants us to be somewhere else or to be doing something else.
And 7.5 years later, He has told us to move to Washington State.
As we began sharing this with others we were met with a mix of sorrow and celebration and also with people recognizing that they also feel God is moving us that direction.
I don’t know what God has for us next, but we know that God is moving us towards something.
Some family and friends have even mentioned that God might move us somewhere else shortly after we get to Washington.
We don’t know. But here’s what we do know:
God has a plan, And God promises to lead us, As long as we look to Him and keep following.
There are several things in this move to Washington that don’t make sense to us (yet) but we are trusting that God has plans and reasons that He hasn’t revealed yet – and He is doing that on purpose to keep us trusting Him.
Following God doesn’t always make sense or follow a specific pattern, but it always involves looking to Him for guidance and to godly counsel and Scripture for confirmation.
A Relationship, Not A Formula
Throughout Scripture, we see that God doesn’t want us to simply copy and paste a formula for life, but instead He wants us dependent on an individual relationship with Him, lived out together with others in His Church.
This is because God wants us to live by a relationship based off of faith instead of a calculated impersonal “check the right boxes” kind of life.
If God always worked in a specific way, then we could simply do the “right” things and get specific results in a way that is just as personal as putting money into a vending machine.
But God wants more than a vending machine relationship. He wants a real and personal relationship.
Here’s some examples in Scripture that show how God rarely worked in the same way twice:
God parted the Red Sea before they stepped in the water for Israel to cross, Then He required the priests to step halfway into the Jordan before stopping the water for them to cross.
God gave the children of Israel victory over their enemies by having them march around a wall, And also by having them strategically fight in classic warfare.
God provided mana from Heaven, And later provided fields and vineyards for Israel to work for their food.
Jesus healed many by touching them or speaking to them, And He also healed the Centurion’s servant from across town without ever seeing him.
Following And Obeying Jesus
Part of having a real relationship with God is seeking His will on a daily basis not just checking off all the “boxes” in life.
It can be as simple as speaking words of truth and life to someone, Giving to someone in need, Choosing to read His Word, Spending time with Him, Even taking a different job or moving across the country.
God has made clear many things in Scripture and He has called us to obey Him each step of the way.
Being a Christian is far more than attending services on Sundays, And that has never been more obvious than with the social distancing situation we have right now.
So, what can Christians do besides simply watching a video streamed online service?
Obviously, being stuck at home limits a lot of opportunities you have to live out your faith in Jesus, but here are 8 things you can do even now.
As a note, these are great things to start getting in the habit of and to continue doing even after life has returned to normal.
1. Study the Bible and share what God is teaching you with others
If you’ve never studied the Bible on your own, this is a great time to start. I’ve written a two-part blog series on how to study your Bible if you need help (here’s part 1 and part 2).
Whether taking extra time to study, or even to simply read, your time with God’s Word will never be wasted.
As a “part 2” to studying your Bible, it’s extremely important to be sharing what God is teaching you with others – and I don’t mean simply posting about it on your Facebook page. You can do that, but I mean to take a few minutes to personally encourage someone. It could be a private message, a text, a phone call, or even a conversation with someone in your own home.
Regardless of how you do it, take some time to be in God’s Word and to personally share your experience with others.
2. Call people to pray with them (and then continue to pray for them throughout the day)
One of the most valuable things we are given is the ability to pray – and you don’t have to be next to someone to pray for them!
Simply call someone, ask them if there’s anything you can be praying for them about, and then do it right then on the phone with them! And don’t forget to continue to pray for them that day and the rest of the week.
3. Spend some time reflecting on God’s Word and repenting of sin
As I have written about before in another two part series, repenting of sin should be an ongoing part of a Christian’s life (you can read these posts at these links: part 1 and part 2). Having our lives and routines disrupted can also be a stressful time that requires even more repenting than normal, and so this is a great time to start this godly habit.
Engaging with our faults and areas we’re not like Jesus can be difficult, but is essential to living a life that glorifies God.
4. Fast and spend that extra time praying
Fasting is an often overlooked part of the Christian life, but I hope that your time in isolation revitalizes this important spiritual discipline. Sometimes it’s hard to fast when you’re going about normal life, but with so many normalities being uprooted right now, this is the perfect time to fast without having all of the normal day-to-day distractions. You can read another post I’ve written on fasting at this link.
5. Financially give to your church and to others in need
Tithing has been a spiritual discipline and practice since the very beginning of Judaism, and generous giving to the church and those in need is still something Christian’s are to practice today. Especially with people not attending Sunday morning services, tithes being given to the local church will plummet, while the needs they are trying to meet in the community go up, so I encourage every Christian to continue to give to their home church.
Obviously, if you’re now out of work you may not have anything to give, but I’ve personally found the benefit of continuing to give even when times are extremely difficult.
But it’s not just giving to churches, there are many people in need right now and there are many ways you can give to others. Whether simply giving money, or providing help or supplies that others need can be extremely valuable and a way of giving to others.
6. Find ways to be generous towards and caring for those around you
Jesus clearly teaches us to treat others as we would like to be treated, to put others above ourselves, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
One specific way you can show love towards those around you is by simply offering to pick up things for others when you’re taking a trip to the store. Some people are too concerned or too high risk to leave their house even to pick up essentials and these people need help. Others can go to the store, but if you’re already getting something, then you can save them a trip and potential exposure.
By doing so you are individually helping them and also helping the general quarantine situation by helping keep fewer people from leaving their home.
7. Serve your church from a distance
This one might be a little more difficult because each church is different.
The easiest way to serve your church is to simply ask if there are any needs.
If you normally serve in kid classes then you might want to offer to help create curriculum for the upcoming weeks or to video record how to do a craft for the parents to do with their kids.
If you serve on the web or tech teams you can see how you can continue to help keep the entire church informed on what’s going on and keep things up to date.
If you play on the worship team then you might be able to help record worship songs that are personal to your church to send to members during/before/after service streaming times.
You might also be asked to simply check in on some of the elderly in your church or help in some other way.
Overall, every church is having to pivot how to best serve their congregation and there is almost always a need for volunteers to help.
8. Ask God to show you opportunities
This last one is something we, as Christians, should always be doing.
Life is full of twists and turns and opportunities that God has prepared in advance for us if we would simply seek His will (Ephesians 2:10).
I hope during this time of unknown and uncertainty, you will take this opportunity to seek what God might have for you.
Pray for opportunities, Keep your eyes open for what you can do, Take action when God presents opportunities.
BONUS: Video chat over board games and movies
Obviously, there’s a lot of good we can do during times of social distancing, but don’t forget there’s still ways to have fun too! There are plenty of ways to play games at a distance or even watch movies – I heard there’s even a Chrome extension that allows you to sync the movie you’re watching on Netflix with someone else to watch it together. Technology is pretty amazing so take advantage of the ways to stay connected with people even when you can’t be with them in person.
I wrote a few week’s ago on “Surrendering to God’s Plan” and, as God would have it, I was (unrelated reasons) reading through some notes from a book I had read and came across this wonderful quote:
Mr. Henry Varley challenged D.L. Moody that, “the world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by a man who is fully consecrated to Him.”
D.L. Moody reflected on what Mr. Henry had told him: “He said ‘a man.’ He did not say a great man, nor a learned man, nor a smart man – but simply ‘a man.’ I am a man, and it lies with each man himself whether he will or will not make that entire and full consecration. I decided I would try my up most to be that man.”
There’s nothing wrong with being smart, skilled, gifted, or anything else.
But there is something wrong with feeling like those things could ever be enough on their own.
Because they’re not enough.
Which is probably why God often calls people without many of those things as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31:
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
God can obviously use any gifting, position, wealth and whatever else He has given you.
But He will use you far more when you are surrendered to Him.
So, what would happen if we let go of our high esteem of those things, And instead, focused on a simple and complete surrender to Jesus.
To His will, His plan, His way.
What would God will do with and for and through you and I if we were fully consecrated to Him.
As D.L. Moody realized:
“I am a man, and it lies with each man himself whether he will or will not make that entire and full consecration. I decided I would try my up most to be that man.”
Will you choose to be that person who gives up their life completely to God?
Will you and I get to see what God will do with and for and through and in us if we become fully consecrated to Him?
I pray that we do.
Because I can’t imagine anything else more worthwhile.
If you’re a Christian, you’ve probably asked this before:
“What’s God’s will for my life?“
When you decide to follow Jesus and surrender your life to Him, It begs the question: now what?
What does that mean for my life?
Like me, you might be asking for some specific things you have to choose between.
Should I pursue this job, or that job, This opportunity or that opportunity, The list goes on.
The reality is that God rarely opens up the heavens to tell us the specifics of most decisions.
But He does tell us that…
He is with us (Matthew 28:20, Deuteronomy 4:29; Proverbs 8:17; Jeremiah 29:13) He will guide us (John 14:26, John 16:13, James 1:5-6, Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 119:105, Psalm 37:23-24) And that His plan will come to pass (Philippians 1:6, Psalm 57:2, Isaiah 14:24, Proverbs 16:9)
In summary: God promises that when you seek Him and His will, He will guide you and that nothing you choose with good intentions and heart towards Him will ruin the plan He has for you.
And so for the times God isn’t clear: it’s ok to simply make a choice.
Sometimes that means choosing left, Sometimes that means choosing right, Sometimes that means waiting.
And that’s ok.
God is bigger than the decisions we make, And you can trust Him, Even when you don’t have clear direction.
If you have lived for any amount of time, you’ve had difficult things come into your life.
Maybe it was an external situation or person. Maybe it was an internal hardship or struggle.
But we’ve all faced difficulties that we’d simply rather avoid. And our God is in the business of turning these difficulties into launchpads for good things to come.
I’ve been reflecting on how God uses our trials for good things in His plan, especially the last couple years as my wife and I have felt like we’re in a massive transition and waiting period in our life (you can read more about at this link).
And, although our God has plans and reasons beyond all that we can comprehend, I think there are two things that God consistently brings out of our trials that are worth giving special attention.
I hope these are encouraging to you and that they even help you see what God might be doing as you transition through difficult seasons in your life.
Please note that I’m not saying God necessarily brings any trials into our lives, but that, regardless of why we experience a difficulty in our life, that God is able to use it for our good and His glory.
1. To Make Us More Like Him
One of the key benefits to experiencing trials in our life is how they can mold us more into the image of Jesus.
Although I believe that every good change in our hearts and lives are from the Holy Spirit’s work within us, I believe that going through trials can reveal to us areas that God knows we already lack and can cause us to surrender those areas to Him so that His Spirit may do that work within us.
I write that because I don’t believe that trials are simply tools to have us try harder and do better (as some believe), but that God can use our trials to cause us to draw nearer to Him and to be transformed by Him.
As the saying goes:
God whispers in our joys, Speaks to us in our daily lives, And shouts to us in our pain.
Our trials and pains often bring us back to the God Who we tend to drift away from, and can even reveal specific areas for Him to work in us.
Case in point: a couple years ago, my wife and I went through the most difficult year of our life. And a few months after the main difficulty was over, I was asked by a friend what we learned and how we grew from the experience.
I didn’t have an answer at the time.
But about 6 months later, it dawned on me.
I ask for forgiveness quicker than I use to. I’m more sympathetic with the unknown struggles of others than I was two years ago. I generally trust God more, especially when I have to trust that He’s working in spite of what others are doing.
And these things were direct results of that difficult year.
I have no idea all that God accomplished through that time, But I can definitely see that He used it to mold me to be more like Him.
Here are two verses for you to reflect on as you consider some ways that God has used your trials to draw Him near to Himself and to make you more like Him.
“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
2. To Position Us For Our Next Steps/Calling
Sometimes, one of the greatest things God can bring out of our trials isn’t even what He does in us, but where the trial can bring us.
I think the simplest examples would be Joseph, Esther and Paul.
None of these characters seemed to experience a lot of personal growth from some of their trials, but they were able to be used by God in incredible ways because of the position that their trial brought them.
Joseph: He was sold into slavery, was given high authority, only to loose it all again by being falsely accused and thrown into jail… only to be taken out of jail years later to become second in command in Egypt and save the surrounding nations from a famine.
You can read Joseph’s story in Genesis 37-50. It is summed up well in these verses:
But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.“
Esther: As a young Jewish girl, she was forced to become the wife of a gentile king and live a pretty secluded and lonely life. But through her, God was able to save all of Israel from complete genocide and extinction.
You can read her story in the entire book of Esther. It is summed up well in these verses:
[Mordecai passing on a message to Esther to encourage her to use the status God has given her to save Israel from genocide] “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?“
Paul: As the writer of most of the New Testament and arguably the most prominent person in the early church, Paul accomplished a lot. What is most amazing is how much he accomplished while in prison. Being in prison allowed for a few of the books to be written that may not have otherwise (such as Philippians) and also gave him an audience with some rulers that he would not have had otherwise. Paul is clearly an example of someone who does not wait for a difficulty to end, but finds what new leverage he has in the mist of each trial.
You can read about much of Paul’s early adventures in the book of Acts and also through the many books he wrote in the New Testament. I think his attitude to leverage any opportunity a trial provided him is best described in this verse:
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me [being in prison] has really served to advance the Gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”
All of these characters experienced an incredible opportunity that wouldn’t have been possible without the pain they experienced first.
I wanted to use three examples of people who’s stories emphasize how God used their trial to position them rather than grow them, but our God tends to work in multiple ways at the same time.
In addition to considering how God has made you more like Him through trials you’ve experienced, consider where He has brought you through these trials as well.
Waiting On God Through Trials
Obviously, God has a much bigger and more complete picture than we do, and so there is so much more He can be working in and through our difficulties, so I encourage you to be patient.
To wait on God, To keep your eyes on Him, And allow Him to bring about the good He has in store.
As one of my favorite verses reminds us, God’s plan is different than ours AND His plan is better:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
If you’re looking for more encouragement through a trial you’re going through, here are two other posts I’ve written on that subject: