Letters

The Test: Do I Really Believe What I Post?

So I posted something on Facebook the other day.

·         If God is really our provider, and that’s not just a religious saying, then why must we always worry about getting the very best price?

This is something Father and I have been talking about. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when he tests me on it.

I’ve been looking for a piece of equipment; my “to do list” has a hot link to a Craigslist search for the piece. And over the weekend some gave me some money, enough to buy the piece. And what do you know: there’s one for sale, exactly the sort that I’m looking for.  

On the way there, Father & I discussed this. I decided that “the best deal” was not the goal, but “the best honor” was a better choice. I had a price in my mind – not sure why it was there – that was well below his asking price.

So looking at the equipment, he offered to sell it for less; in fact, it was the exact amount I had in my mind (and in my pocket). Imagine that.  

But we tested it first. Oops. Not pretty. Needs new blades. He agreed and lowered his price again (I haven’t pushed him on price even once), this time to an odd number. I said no, and insisted on the next higher even number: all I had were $20 bills. He was happy with that.

I got home, tried to sharpen the blades on it: No go. Needs new blades.

Ordered blades from a little shop online. With shipping, that brings the total back up to the number that I had in my mind originally. And in my pocket.

What a funny process. But I think I learned some things here:

* I really CAN trust Father’s provision.
* Honor is more important than “the best” price.
* The path he takes me on may at times be circuitous. But it WILL be interesting.




Standard
Letters

The Test: Do I Really Believe What I Post?

So I posted something on Facebook the other day.

·         If God is really our provider, and that’s not just a religious saying, then why must we always worry about getting the very best price?

This is something Father and I have been talking about. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when he tests me on it.

I’ve been looking for a piece of equipment; my “to do list” has a hot link to a Craigslist search for the piece. And over the weekend some gave me some money, enough to buy the piece. And what do you know: there’s one for sale, exactly the sort that I’m looking for.  

On the way there, Father & I discussed this. I decided that “the best deal” was not the goal, but “the best honor” was a better choice. I had a price in my mind – not sure why it was there – that was well below his asking price.

So looking at the equipment, he offered to sell it for less; in fact, it was the exact amount I had in my mind (and in my pocket). Imagine that.  

But we tested it first. Oops. Not pretty. Needs new blades. He agreed and lowered his price again (I haven’t pushed him on price even once), this time to an odd number. I said no, and insisted on the next higher even number: all I had were $20 bills. He was happy with that.

I got home, tried to sharpen the blades on it: No go. Needs new blades.

Ordered blades from a little shop online. With shipping, that brings the total back up to the number that I had in my mind originally. And in my pocket.

What a funny process. But I think I learned some things here:

* I really CAN trust Father’s provision.
* Honor is more important than “the best” price.
* The path he takes me on may at times be circuitous. But it WILL be interesting.




Standard
Letters

The Test: Do I Really Believe What I Post?

So I posted something on Facebook the other day.

·    If God is really our provider, and that’s not just a religious saying, then why must we always worry about getting the very best price?

This is something Father and I have been talking about. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when he tests me on it.

I’ve been looking for a piece of equipment; my “to do list” has a hot link to a Craigslist search for the piece. And over the weekend some gave me some money, enough to buy the piece. And what do you know: there’s one for sale, exactly the sort that I’m looking for.  

On the way there, Father & I discussed this. I decided that “the best deal” was not the goal, but “the best honor” was a better choice. I had a price in my mind – not sure why it was there – that was well below his asking price.

So looking at the equipment, he offered to sell it for less; in fact, it was the exact amount I had in my mind (and in my pocket). Imagine that.  

But we tested it first. Oops. Not pretty. Needs new blades. He agreed and lowered his price again (I haven’t pushed him on price even once), this time to an odd number. I said no, and insisted on the next higher even number: all I had were $20 bills. He was happy with that.

I got home, tried to sharpen the blades on it: No go. Needs new blades.

Ordered blades from a little shop online. With shipping, that brings the total back up to the number that I had in my mind originally. And in my pocket.

What a funny process. But I think I learned some things here:

·   I really CAN trust Father’s provision.
·   Honor is more important than “the best” price.
·   The path he takes me on may at times be circuitous. But it WILL be interesting.

Standard
Devotionals, Letters

The Missing Diamond Rings

Some time ago, Jane & her husband John had difficulty connecting heart-to-heart with the people of their little country church. So they decided to invite folks to their home. That went so well that they made a habit of it, inviting folks from the church, and from the neighborhood to their small home for a meal and to talk about life, and how God relates with them.

One week, Jane was cleaning her home for the guests expected later that afternoon, and she took her diamond wedding rings off and put them onto her ring holder on her dresser. They were pretty large diamonds; they’d belonged to her husband’s grandmother, and they were every bit as special as they were valuable. One thing led to another, and she forgot them there when guests started arriving.

There were several new people, lots of good food, and excellent conversation. Throughout the night, individuals would excuse themselves to use their bathroom, which was accessed through the master bedroom, right past the dresser.

Jane didn’t remember her rings until they’d farewelled their last guest, and sat down to unwind. As soon as she remembered, she jumped up to check her rings, while John did the dishes and put chairs away.

As she rushed to her bedroom, she instantly saw that her ring holder was empty: her rings were gone! She burst into tears, remembering the many people, many of whom she didn’t know, marching past her precious rings, all alone in the bedroom, where anyone could slip a ring in a pocket. She searched the dresser, the floor, the bathroom, in case they’d fallen somewhere, but found nothing. One of her guests must have taken them. Now they were gone forever. 

She fell on her bed, weeping. John heard the tears, and took extra time with the dishes, so Jane had time to share her broken heart with the Lord, and that unleashed a fresh wave of tears. She was creating quite a wet spot on her bed quilt, and still she poured her heart out.

As her tears faded away, a black cloud of discouragement started to take its place in her heart. Those rings were family heirlooms, and she’d failed in her care of them. Now she’d never be able to pass them on to her daughters and granddaughters. The black cloud began to settle over her heart.

But before the cloud had completely settled in, a small voice whispered, “Check the quilt.”

Hunh?

“Check the quilt.” Then no more came.

She sat up and looked around. This quilt had also been in her family for generations. It had been hand-sewn by one of her great grandcestors as her wagon train made its way to the Northwest.

Check the quilt? What could he mean by that? She looked more closely at the quilt, noting the even stitching, not noticing the great wet spot from her tears. Eventually, she worked her way to the corners: her grandcestor had sewn a few coins into each corner so that the quilt would lay flat. It felt like four quarters in each corner.

“You’re getting warmer.” More of a thought than words. She examined the four corners, wondering what she should do next. Eventually, with a mental shrug, she got her seam ripper from her sewing kit, and, gritting her teeth, she opened the stitching holding the quarters in place.

Working carefully, to do as little damage to this family heirloom, she opened the seam, and four quarters fell into her hand. Her eye caught the nineteenth century date on the top quarter, and thought about her ancestor’s sacrifice to make the quilt. She picked up the top quarter with her other hand; the one beneath it was even older.

Now interested in the dates, she picked up the next quarter, and there, in her hand, between the coins from a century earlier, were her diamond rings that had just gone missing this afternoon.

She wept some more, but these were tears of joy.





Standard
Devotionals, Letters

The Missing Diamond Rings

Some time ago, Jane & her husband John had difficulty connecting heart-to-heart with the people of their little country church. So they decided to invite folks to their home. That went so well that they made a habit of it, inviting folks from the church, and from the neighborhood to their small home for a meal and to talk about life, and how God relates with them.

One week, Jane was cleaning her home for the guests expected later that afternoon, and she took her diamond wedding rings off and put them onto her ring holder on her dresser. They were pretty large diamonds; they’d belonged to her husband’s grandmother, and they were every bit as special as they were valuable. One thing led to another, and she forgot them there when guests started arriving.

There were several new people, lots of good food, and excellent conversation. Throughout the night, individuals would excuse themselves to use their bathroom, which was accessed through the master bedroom, right past the dresser.

Jane didn’t remember her rings until they’d farewelled their last guest, and sat down to unwind. As soon as she remembered, she jumped up to check her rings, while John did the dishes and put chairs away.

As she rushed to her bedroom, she instantly saw that her ring holder was empty: her rings were gone! She burst into tears, remembering the many people, many of whom she didn’t know, marching past her precious rings, all alone in the bedroom, where anyone could slip a ring in a pocket. She searched the dresser, the floor, the bathroom, in case they’d fallen somewhere, but found nothing. One of her guests must have taken them. Now they were gone forever. 

She fell on her bed, weeping. John heard the tears, and took extra time with the dishes, so Jane had time to share her broken heart with the Lord, and that unleashed a fresh wave of tears. She was creating quite a wet spot on her bed quilt, and still she poured her heart out.

As her tears faded away, a black cloud of discouragement started to take its place in her heart. Those rings were family heirlooms, and she’d failed in her care of them. Now she’d never be able to pass them on to her daughters and granddaughters. The black cloud began to settle over her heart.

But before the cloud had completely settled in, a small voice whispered, “Check the quilt.”

Hunh?

“Check the quilt.” Then no more came.

She sat up and looked around. This quilt had also been in her family for generations. It had been hand-sewn by one of her great grandcestors as her wagon train made its way to the Northwest.

Check the quilt? What could he mean by that? She looked more closely at the quilt, noting the even stitching, not noticing the great wet spot from her tears. Eventually, she worked her way to the corners: her grandcestor had sewn a few coins into each corner so that the quilt would lay flat. It felt like four quarters in each corner.

“You’re getting warmer.” More of a thought than words. She examined the four corners, wondering what she should do next. Eventually, with a mental shrug, she got her seam ripper from her sewing kit, and, gritting her teeth, she opened the stitching holding the quarters in place.

Working carefully, to do as little damage to this family heirloom, she opened the seam, and four quarters fell into her hand. Her eye caught the nineteenth century date on the top quarter, and thought about her ancestor’s sacrifice to make the quilt. She picked up the top quarter with her other hand; the one beneath it was even older.

Now interested in the dates, she picked up the next quarter, and there, in her hand, between the coins from a century earlier, were her diamond rings that had just gone missing this afternoon.

She wept some more, but these were tears of joy.





Standard
Devotionals, Letters

Finding God’s Will God’s Way

I was talking with a friend recently about “finding our life’s purpose in God.”
That’s a tricky one, isn’t it? We want to know what our calling is for, so we can spend our energy where it’s useful, and where it’s not. And fairly often, for example when we read the parables of the talents or the minas, we feel a real urgency about the topic. Sometimes, it feels like we’re just bumbling around in the fog, instead of actually changing the world. And all of us, whether we admit it or not, want to have an impact on the world.
I’ve been battering this topic around rather a lot. I grew up reading stories like God’s Smuggler, where the heroes heard God say, “Go do this!” and they went and did it, and there were miracles. I want to be that guy: the one that gets to walk confidently in God’s leading and in God’s miraculous provision.
I know other folks who have had a prophetic word that’s way bigger than them, or a vision of something big and effective, or just a longing for “more” in a particular area of working with God.
We want God to make that happen. Here’s the problem: I’m not sure that’s a realistic expectation.
I’ve watched folks around me for some decades as they matured in Christ, and I think I’ve discovered some trends. Obviously, there are some folks who are not really attentive to their purpose in God; they just bumble around in one degree of contentment or another, attending conferences, complaining about difficult things, consuming resources and not really impacting the world around them. I’m not talking about them today.
But among those of us who are concerned for what God is planning for us, I think I see three broad categories:
a) Servants: These are the ones to whom God gives a good roadmap, and leads them along the way to the end of the line, sometimes step-by-step. These people often have amazing stories to tell of God’s leading.
Frankly, I suspect that some of these folks are asking out of immaturity (servants ask permission, sons not so much). But some seem to be mature in it, though I myself don’t see many of mature saints in this category.
b) Sons: These people have a rough idea of their calling, and they know their Father, so they just run off and do the things that are consistent with that calling. Most of the time, they learn more about their calling along the way.
The apostle Paul was in this category. Occasionally, God would give him a dream (“Go there!”), but most of the time, he just went. And he planted churches everywhere he went, because that’s who he is. I know an apostle who’s planted churches and Bible schools on three contents, and he says that God hasn’t told him to start any of them. That’s just his calling, and so he’s started hundreds of churches and dozens of schools by now, just being who God made him to be.
c) Useful: There are a lot of folks who would have a terrible time describing their calling, but instead are big on “do what’s right in front of you.” Is there a need to meet? Then meet that need! There are ALWAYS needs right in front of us; which ones we see, which ones we’re drawn to, may be a clue to our calling, but knowing the calling is less important than just “taking care of business” with the things around us. These people make “bumbling around in the fog” a means to being effective in ministry!
I’ve spent decades as one of these people, and it has seemed to work out pretty well. Over the course of meeting those needs right in front of me, I’ve discovered that the needs that I see, the needs that I’m most comfortable meeting, fit into categories, so I’ve moved from a category c) guy to a category b) guy, just by virtue of continually bumbling along.
It’s easy to pooh-pooh the Bumbling Around Method of Finding Your Calling. A lot of us want the kind of direction from God that we’re used to with the matters of this world: a clear email, or an owner’s manual, or even a quick-start guide. We want clear, easy-to-follow directions. Bumbling around in the fog is uncomfortable, darn it!
But God doesn’t very often do that. Even his specific instructions to Paul (Acts 9) were pretty fuzzy: “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” That’s pretty vague.
Sometimes God gives us a vision or an understanding of something really cool, really mature, and very often it’s a lot of our heart’s desires.  For me, it involved Brother Andrew and God’s Smuggler, and it involved Corrie Ten Boom and The Hiding Place. For others, he speaks to them, like he did with Paul, about the end game:  This is who you’ll be when we’re all done. Sometimes it’s just a vision or a dream, or a longing that’s hard to get rid of.
And we want God to wave his magic wand and make that happen. Or at the very least, to make the Treasure Map appear, with the great big X that marks the spot.
Yeah, no. I’ve never once - not in my life, not in the life of anyone I’ve ever known or heard about, and not in the life of anyone in Scripture - ever seen God wave his wand and make people into the thing they see in the vision, the experience. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone for whom God gave them any Quick Start guide that was more than that initial prophecy or vision or longing.
Even the apostle Paul! God knocked him off his ass and blinded him for 3 days, but then he took him into the wilderness for perhaps as many as seventeen years, where he trained and mentored him.
He gives the glimpse (prophetic word, vision, longing, whatever) of the end of the process for three key reasons that I can tell about:
1) That glimpse is a target, it’s to help us make choices to aim at that end result, rather than aiming for something that’s not consistent with the way he’s built and accessorized our lives. For example, my glimpse, my longing, is always about equipping saints, and that helps me not try to focus my life on interpreting tongues or mercy ministries. Those are important and valuable, and they are not my area of calling.
2) It’s to give hope: this is where he’ll take you, provided that you’ll walk with him. I’m of the opinion that hope is under-valued in our world today. Some years ago, God spoke to me about a “worldwide ministry of teaching about the Kingdom of God.” The internet had not even been invented then, so it was hard to imagine a worldwide influence, but the hope of being able to influence saints in favor of participating in God’s Kingdom kept me moving through some times where it would have been easy to crawl home and hide under a rock. (“I can’t do that, there’s this vision out there for me!”) That illustrates a key principle: what the end result looks like will probably be remarkably different than what we thought it would look like, what we still think it should look like. I think God does that on purpose, because if we saw the end result too clearly, we'd likely rely on our own skills to get there, rather than relying on walking with him to get there.
3) I think he’s just so excited about our future that he just wants to share it with you! Like any good daddy, he’s terrifically excited about sharing his secrets with his kids, particularly the kids that are going to grow up and inherit the family business.
Paul says, in Romans, “... whatever is not from faith is sin.” So if God just handed us the Complete Guide to Your Eventual Ministry Once You’ve Grown Into Maturity, we wouldn’t need it. And we might not even grow into maturity. If we saw our path to that goal so clearly that we knew every step of the process, then our faith would be superfluous; we’d walking by sight, not by faith. And “Faith,” it has been said, “is spelled R-I-S-K.”
The process of getting from where we  are now to the place of mature ministry of our vision or prophecy will involve risk. It will involve asking ourselves, “Did God really say that?” and “Is God really leading me in this direction?” And every step of the way - whether we get it right or get it wrong - is moving us to that goal, as long as our heart is set on following Him!
Besides, once we’ve read the last book of the Bible, we get a good understanding of how important it is (to Father and to ourselves) to be an “Overcomer.” And how shall we ever become overcomers if we don’t have doubts, questions, obstacles, enemies to overcome?
Maybe bumbling around in the fog isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe that’s the best way, the fastest way, to reach our goal after all.
Onward! Through the fog!
Standard
Devotionals, Letters

Finding God’s Will God’s Way

I was talking with a friend recently about “finding our life’s purpose in God.” 

That’s a tricky one, isn’t it? We want to know what our calling is for, so we can spend our energy where it’s useful, and where it’s not. And fairly often, for example when we read the parables of the talents or the minas, we feel a real urgency about the topic. Sometimes, it feels like we’re just bumbling around in the fog, instead of actually changing the world. And all of us, whether we admit it or not, want to have an impact on the world.
 
I’ve been battering this topic around rather a lot. I grew up reading stories like God’s Smuggler, where the heroes heard God say, “Go do this!” and they went and did it, and there were miracles. I want to be that guy: the one that gets to walk confidently in God’s leading and in God’s miraculous provision.

I know other folks who have had a prophetic word that’s way bigger than them, or a vision of something big and effective, or just a longing for “more” in a particular area of working with God.

We want God to make that happen. Here’s the problem: I’m not sure that’s a realistic expectation.

I’ve watched folks around me for some decades as they matured in Christ, and I think I’ve discovered some trends. Obviously, there are some folks who are not really attentive to their purpose in God; they just bumble around in one degree of contentment or another, attending conferences, complaining about difficult things, consuming resources and not really impacting the world around them. I’m not talking about them today.

But among those of us who are concerned for what God is planning for us, I think I see three broad categories:

a) Servants: These are the ones to whom God gives a good roadmap, and leads them along the way to the end of the line, sometimes step-by-step. These people often have amazing stories to tell of God’s leading.

Frankly, I suspect that some of these folks are asking out of immaturity (servants ask permission, sons not so much). But some seem to be mature in it, though I myself don’t see many of mature saints in this category.

b) Sons: These people have a rough idea of their calling, and they know their Father, so they just run off and do the things that are consistent with that calling. Most of the time, they learn more about their calling along the way.

The apostle Paul was in this category. Occasionally, God would give him a dream (“Go there!”), but most of the time, he just went. And he planted churches everywhere he went, because that’s who he is. I know an apostle who’s planted churches and Bible schools on three contents, and he says that God hasn’t told him to start any of them. That’s just his calling, and so he’s started hundreds of churches and dozens of schools by now, just being who God made him to be.

c) Useful: There are a lot of folks who would have a terrible time describing their calling, but instead are big on “do what’s right in front of you.” Is there a need to meet? Then meet that need! There are ALWAYS needs right in front of us; which ones we see, which ones we’re drawn to, may be a clue to our calling, but knowing the calling is less important than just “taking care of business” with the things around us. These people make “bumbling around in the fog” a means to being effective in ministry!

I’ve spent decades as one of these people, and it has seemed to work out pretty well. Over the course of meeting those needs right in front of me, I’ve discovered that the needs that I see, the needs that I’m most comfortable meeting, fit into categories, so I’ve moved from a category c) guy to a category b) guy, just by virtue of continually bumbling along.

It’s easy to pooh-pooh the Bumbling Around Method of Finding Your Calling. A lot of us want the kind of direction from God that we’re used to with the matters of this world: a clear email, or an owner’s manual, or even a quick-start guide. We want clear, easy-to-follow directions. Bumbling around in the fog is uncomfortable, darn it!

But God doesn’t very often do that. Even his specific instructions to Paul (Acts 9) were pretty fuzzy: “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” That’s pretty vague.

Sometimes God gives us a vision or an understanding of something really cool, really mature, and very often it’s a lot of our heart’s desires.  For me, it involved Brother Andrew and God’s Smuggler, and it involved Corrie Ten Boom and The Hiding Place. For others, he speaks to them, like he did with Paul, about the end game:  This is who you’ll be when we’re all done. Sometimes it’s just a vision or a dream, or a longing that’s hard to get rid of.

And we want God to wave his magic wand and make that happen. Or at the very least, to make the Treasure Map appear, with the great big X that marks the spot.

Yeah, no. I’ve never once - not in my life, not in the life of anyone I’ve ever known or heard about, and not in the life of anyone in Scripture - ever seen God wave his wand and make people into the thing they see in the vision, the experience. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone for whom God gave them any Quick Start guide that was more than that initial prophecy or vision or longing.

Even the apostle Paul! God knocked him off his ass and blinded him for 3 days, but then he took him into the wilderness for perhaps as many as seventeen years, where he trained and mentored him.

He gives the glimpse (prophetic word, vision, longing, whatever) of the end of the process for three key reasons that I can tell about:

1) That glimpse is a target, it’s to help us make choices to aim at that end result, rather than aiming for something that’s not consistent with the way he’s built and accessorized our lives. For example, my glimpse, my longing, is always about equipping saints, and that helps me not try to focus my life on interpreting tongues or mercy ministries. Those are important and valuable, and they are not my area of calling.  

2) It’s to give hope: this is where he’ll take you, provided that you’ll walk with him. I’m of the opinion that hope is under-valued in our world today. Some years ago, God spoke to me about a “worldwide ministry of teaching about the Kingdom of God.” The internet had not even been invented then, so it was hard to imagine a worldwide influence, but the hope of being able to influence saints in favor of participating in God’s Kingdom kept me moving through some times where it would have been easy to crawl home and hide under a rock. (“I can’t do that, there’s this vision out there for me!”)

That illustrates a key principle: what the end result looks like will probably be remarkably different than what we thought it would look like, what we still think it should look like. I think God does that on purpose, because if we saw the end result too clearly, we'd likely rely on our own skills to get there, rather than relying on walking with him to get there. 

3) I think he’s just so excited about our future that he just wants to share it with you! Like any good daddy, he’s terrifically excited about sharing his secrets with his kids, particularly the kids that are going to grow up and inherit the family business.

Paul says, in Romans, “... whatever is not from faith is sin.” So if God just handed us the Complete Guide to Your Eventual Ministry Once You’ve Grown Into Maturity, we wouldn’t need it. And we might not even grow into maturity. If we saw our path to that goal so clearly that we knew every step of the process, then our faith would be superfluous; we’d walking by sight, not by faith.

And “Faith,” it has been said, “is spelled R-I-S-K.”

The process of getting from where we  are now to the place of mature ministry of our vision or prophecy will involve risk. It will involve asking ourselves, “Did God really say that?” and “Is God really leading me in this direction?” And every step of the way - whether we get it right or get it wrong - is moving us to that goal, as long as our heart is set on following Him!

Besides, once we’ve read the last book of the Bible, we get a good understanding of how important it is (to Father and to ourselves) to be an “Overcomer.” And how shall we ever become overcomers if we don’t have doubts, questions, obstacles, enemies to overcome? 

Maybe bumbling around in the fog isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe that’s the best way, the fastest way, to reach our goal after all.

Onward! Through the fog!

Standard