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Christian Life, Life, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Warfare

On Looking In the Right Direction

November 9, 2015

“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots
and in the great strength of their horsemen,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
or seek help from the Lord.”

– Isaiah 31

 

Don’t put your trust in the things of this world. They won’t last. I’ve written along these lines before, but it bears repeating. God clearly thinks so judging by how often he reminds his people throughout the Old Testament.

When you look to things other than the Lord for your protection, power, or freedom, it’s not going to go well.

In Isaiah 31 God is addressing Israel and warning them against looking to Egypt for help and protection from Assyria, Babylon, and other threatening nations. Egypt had a large army – a multitude of chariots and hordes of strong horsemen, but God declares woe on those who look to Egypt for help.

Israel was being tempted to return to their old captor in order to feel safe, abandoning the God who had set them free from Egypt and slavery in the first place.

What multitude are you putting your trust in today? When life troubles come along are you expecting your array of preparations or piles of saved dollars to protect you?

What strength are you looking to? Are you trusting in the strength of your willpower or the strength of the economy or the strength of your relationships?

Want to see the power of God at work? Give up the chariots and horsemen and the thousand little things you think make you secure. Look instead to God’s multitude of grace found in Jesus. Look instead to the strength of God’s power demonstrated in Jesus. Embrace the conflict and trust that God is more than able to help you, even when an entire nation is opposing you.

Woe to those who look to Egypt for help, but those who look to the Lord can say with the Psalmist, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23).

 

 

 

Christian Life, Life, Spiritual Growth

A Blessing of Flavor

September 16, 2015

Brain injuries are strange things.

When I was 17 or so several friends of mine where hanging out, goofing around like teenagers generally do. A few of them hopped on the tailgate of a pickup that someone had driven there, and rode down the long drive way. Suddenly they hit a bump and one of the girls riding in the back lost her balance, fell from the truck, and cracked the back of her head on the ground.

I wasn’t there so I don’t know all the details, but bleeding and unconscious, she was rushed to the hospital. She recovered fairly quickly aside from some minor headaches for a week or so afterwards. Recovered, except for the fact that she’d completely lost her sense of taste and most of her sense of smell.

One small accident and the ability to sense flavors was gone. For the first few months after the accident she had an incredibly difficult time eating and had to force herself to consume enough food to stay healthy. The last time we talked was several years ago – about 5 years after the accident – and she was still without her sense of taste.

Maybe God’s done healing work since then, I don’t know. But ever since that incident I’ve sworn not to take for granted the fact that God has given us the ability to taste and enjoy our food. It didn’t need to be that way. He very well could have wired us to simply eat to fulfill a need, but instead God created us so that the mingling of scents, flavors, and colours can provide a nearly endless series of delights when we snack or sit down for a meal with family and friends.

We’re called to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess 5). One of the best ways to cultivate a soul that is always in a posture of gratitude is to take time to appreciate the tens of thousands of small gifts that God has given us. The ability to taste and enjoy food. The feeling of warm sun and cool breeze. The fact that vibrations in the air can enter our ears and be heard as music that uplifts our soul. The ability to see colors. So many of the things that pile up together to make our lives beautiful are often ignored.

Take time today to appreciate the blessing of flavor. Eat a good meal. Slow down your eating and revel in the flavors, textures, and smells. Let your enjoyment be praise to God, the giver of every good gift, including lunch.

Journal, Life, Ministry Update, Spiritual Growth

In Season, Out of Season

June 22, 2015

For the past few weeks life has felt like more of a burden than normal. No singular reason that I can point to, just a fog of heaviness. Things that normally get me excited are simply less so, days seem longer, and I feel drained of the passion that I usually have for the ministry I do on a day to day basis. (Worth noting that the days are literally getting longer thanks to summer, but that’s beside the point.)

Today in particular is a melancholy day – cloudy and cool. The steady breeze blowing through the window through the office where I’m writing mixes with the (unintentionally) somber music that I turned on to be background to my writing. My page long to-do list feels daunting and I know that I won’t be able to accomplish most of it in the time I have. Almost every night this week is booked with meetings and events, all good but all demanding significant amounts of energy. The labor of fundraising so I can move into full time ministry is long and arduous. The work of God often feels slow and plodding when I want it to be brilliant with speed.

My guess is that quite a few of you are sitting where I am this Monday morning, somewhere other than you’d like to be and unsure of whether or not you’ll ever get there. It’s times like these where our faith is laid bare. Do we operate on the flights of emotion or are we settled, steadfast, and anchored in Christ in season and out of season?

I’m writing this – even though I don’t really feel like it – to give some advice to myself. To follow the pattern of the writer of Psalm 42. To preach what is true when it doesn’t feel true.

In those out of season moments and mornings and months when you just want to step out of the ring and sit at home reading fiction or watching movies or whatever it is that you do to fulfill the longing, don’t believe the promises of earthly satisfaction. Why so downcast, o my soul? Put your hope in God.

Step out of the ring, but not for fleshly pleasures. Those things will fill you like cotton candy and ice cream. They’ll taste great but leave you sick afterwards and inevitably fail to give you the power you need to get back to the fight. Step out and meet with the Lord. Come to him in prayer to draw from the wells of his grace. Meet him in the meditation on the Word to find satisfaction for the hungers of your soul. Remind yourself of all that God has done for you. Put your hope in God.

In season and out of season, good days and bad, through joys and burdens and successes and failures, we need to learn how to draw near to God. Don’t give up my friends. Your Father is with you, even to the end of the age. The victory has been won, regardless of how we’re feeling at the moment. The gates have been opened and the King of Glory has entered in and dwells within you. Give him praise. The burdens will melt away in his presence.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Christian Life, Life, Quotations, Spiritual Growth

The Honorable Vessel

December 7, 2013

 

 

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.

– 2 Timothy 2:20-25, ESV

 

 

Journal, Life

25th Birthday: 25 Things I’m Thankful For

November 21, 2013

Today is my 25th birthday, and over the last few years I’ve tried to make a habit of taking time every birthday to look back over the previous years and give thanks to God for all that he’s provided and done. So, here on my 25th, a week before Thanksgiving, here’s my list. It’s in no particular order and is by no means exhaustive. These are things, however, that I am immensely thankful for and praise Jesus for on a regular basis.

  1. Faithful parents. In a world where increasing numbers of people are growing up with only one parent, going through the pain of parents divorcing, or having parents who simply aren’t, I am hugely thankful for my mom and dad’s faithfulness to each other and to me. Parenting seven kids is no small feat, and they’ve done an amazing job of it (whether they think so or not!). They definitely deserve to be first on my list.
  2. My wife, who is a partner, friend, and lover. The last year or so that we’ve been married has been so much fun. We’re not just two people who are attracted to each other; we’re partners in ministry, friends who can be totally ridiculous and silly together, and people who find each other attractive. Kelly’s the best.
  3. Brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s pretty sweet to be able to say with confidence that all seven of my siblings fall into this category, and that, on top of that, I’m surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ who I can go deep with and through whom I see God work on a daily basis. The Threshingfloor community is an important part of this, and I can’t wait to see them all tomorrow.
  4. Books. As anyone who knows me can attest to, I love my books. I’m awed by the fact that I can pick up a book and learn from someone who lived several hundred years ago or who is has a mass of knowledge I would otherwise never be able to access. Praise God for giving me the ability to read! And shame on any of you who can but don’t.
  5. Friends who believe and think differently than me. Being surrounded by people who are all alike is, honestly, boring. I’m thankful for friends who think differently than me and care enough about me to express it. Living with my friend Danu a couple years ago opened my eyes to things about God that I never would have seen if I’d only been with people who fit my mold.
  6. An identity in Christ, not myself. Oh what beautiful freedom there is in knowing that I no longer define myself! I’m thankful for how Jesus has taught me about the security of my identity in him over the past several years. I wouldn’t be able to accomplish even a third of what I do in my day-to-day life if I depended on how others treat me or how I felt about myself.
  7. The Holy Spirit’s power. This and the previous point are intimately connected. The Holy Spirit is the one who applies biblical truths like my identity in Christ and who empowers me to do what God has called me to do. Through friends like Danu, experiences in ministry, and books I’ve read over the last couple years the Spirit’s power and place in my life has been highlighted even more.
  8. Leaving home. As much as I love my family and parents, I’m so thankful that I moved from Brainerd to Fargo. God had things in store for me here that wouldn’t have happened anywhere else (such as meeting my wife!). Leaving home has grown me and shaped me more into the man who I believe Jesus wants me to be.
  9. Writing. Writing is a tool for organizing and processing my thoughts. How wild is it that lines and dots on a page are interpreted into language? To be able to write or type out what is in my brain is a beautiful release and a means of communicating things that would otherwise be very difficult.
  10. 2 Corinthians has become increasingly more valuable to me over the last three years of ministry. Read it.
  11. People who called me to more. Throughout my life there have been people like Kevin Dean and Andy Abramson who have called me to step out in faith, align myself with God’s purposes, and be more than I was. In all seriousness, without men like them I would probably be in some serious trouble.
  12. Life-long friends. Danny and LT are two people who have, like Kevin and Andy, called me to more. However, unlike Kevin and Andy they were my peers, which in some ways lent them even more influence. I’m blessed that even though we live hours apart, are all married, and don’t talk as often as any of us would like I can still be confident that I could call them up at any time and count on them to be the friends they’ve always been.
  13. People’s generosity. When I graduated highschool my grandparents gave me the car that I’m still using today. A couple years ago when my car went into the ditch and was towed before I could return to get it, Kellie Strong from my church in Brainerd sent me over $200 to help cover the cost of the tow. I could list so much more, but suffice it to say that I’ve been regularly blown away by the generosity of the people of God in my times of need.
  14. Being home-schooled. Growing up learning things from a biblical perspective was a blessing that I don’t think I fully appreciate yet. Because of it my understanding of scripture and God’s character was miles ahead of many people my age when I graduated highschool. Not only that, homeschooling taught me how to learn, something that has been even more valuable than any other education.
  15. Music. From bands like Project 86 who inspired me to pursue writing poetry to Future of Forestry who continuously amazes me with their creativity to Breakbot and the music that just makes me want to dance, I am thankful for the fact that God created us so that the vibrations in the air that we call music affect my spirit and mind the way they do.
  16. The internet. Without it much of my knowledge of how to study the scriptures, leadership principles, and various other things that I’m glad I know wouldn’t be. Sermons podcasted from across the country and world, blogs read, and countless things researched make me thankful for the internet.
  17. God’s sovereignty. If the God we served wasn’t totally sovereign over all things I would have no real hope. How could I hope to defeat the sin that so often seems about to overwhelm me? How would I have any ground for believing that the people I minister to can be changed? How, if not because our God’s sovereign power over all the universe?
  18. Different cultures. I love being able to see, hear, and taste the fruits of the wide array of cultures that are present here in the FM area. To not love cultural diversity is to disdain the creativity of God. I’m thankful for the fact that I get to be friends with people from all over the world.
  19. Traveling. A little over a year ago Kelly and I took a two week road trip for our honeymoon. Five years ago now Danny and I took our summer road trip down the west coast. Growing up my family took numerous trips around the US, following the Louis and Clark Trail, visiting where the pilgrims landed on the east coast, vacationing with my grandparents in Florida, and all manner of other trips. Getting to travel and experience new places is something I am grateful has been a part of my life.
  20. Legos. What would I have done as a kid if I didn’t have them?
  21. Good food. Growing up we always ate well, and my mom passed her cooking skills on to each of us kids. Good food is a tool not only for filling the stomach but for bringing people together and expressing hospitality and generosity. From the experience of cooking to the sitting down to eat together, good food is well worth praising the Lord for.
  22. Freedom in Christ. As a follower of Christ I’m not a slave to others, to my passions, or to the world anymore. No chains.
  23. Nature. I’m thankful for having grown up surrounded by woods, getting to build forts and explore. I’m thankful for my family’s annual Boundary Water’s trips and North Shore camping trips. There’s peace and hope that’s found in the wilderness that isn’t found in any city.
  24. Prayer. Not only is our God loving, full of grace, and sovereign, he also hears us when we pray to him. Being able to begin my day laying myself, my worries, my hopes and dreams out in the presence of the Lord is the main thing that moves me from frustration to peace and from worry to hope.
  25. A body that works. So easy to take for granted, but so precious. The fact that I am able to walk, to breath, to talk without trouble, to see without glasses, is something I am very thankful for.

So, that’s my 25. As I said it’s not an exhaustive list, but they are all things I am definitely thankful for. Take a moment and think through what you have that’s worth thanking the Lord for. I’ve found that thanksgiving releases us from disappointment and discontentment. Give thanks to God for what he’s provided you with through the years! He is abundantly worthy of it!

Commentary, Life, Spiritual Growth

Shame and Salvation

November 14, 2013
O my God, make them like whirling dust,
like chaff before the wind.
As fire consumes the forest,
as the flame sets the mountains ablaze,
so may you pursue them with your tempest
and terrify them with your hurricane!
Fill their faces with shame,
that they may seek your name, O Lord.
Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever;
let them perish in disgrace,
that they may know that you alone,
whose name is the Lord,
are the Most High over all the earth.
-Psalm 83:13-18
Psalm 83 isn’t a song that most people would be comfortable singing in church. It’s a prayer that names names and asks God to bring wrath and destruction against nations who oppose His people. Here in Fargo North Dakota and our mid-western church culture of niceness and peacable theology, Psalm 83 is uncomfortably violent. In our mind, anger and that kind of destructive justice can’t be associated with grace. However, the Psalmist doesn’t seem to think so. After imprecations asking God make his enemies, “like whirling dust, like chaff before the wind,” and to “pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your hurricane,” he declares the reason, “Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek your name, O Lord.” How is it that being filled with shame would lead those opposed to the Lord to seek his face? How can the Psalmist ask for God’s wrath to be poured out and expect it cause revival among the nations?Elsewhere in the Psalms we read, “For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down,” and Jesus makes it clear that pride is one of the most powerful deterrents from entering the Kingdom and salvation. Throughout his life Jesus encounters the Pharisees, men who prided themselves on their knowledge of God’s will and their own holiness.  Their pride blinded them to their salvation. They needed what the Psalmist prayed in his day when he asked God to “fill their faces with shame, that they may seek your name, O Lord.”

Shame is the rod God uses to shatter prideful souls. He brings the shame of defeat, of exposed sin, of personal failure, of loss of position, and uses them as hammers to knock the floor out from under our prideful selves. There, with the ground giving out under us, we realize that God alone can save us. We cry out, seeking his face and in his infinite mercy he answers. He saves a humble people. Humble people are the ones who can be rebuilt in the shape of Christ.

Friends, there are people in our lives who we need to pray that hard but beautiful prayer of Psalm 83 over. “Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek your face, O Lord.” When the people we minister to are self-sufficient, satisfied with the things of this life, and proud of their accomplishments than it is only the Lord who can destroy the idols of their false foundation. This isn’t a prayer of anger. It’s a prayer of sorrow and trembling, mingled with the confidence that we serve a Shepherd King who will stop at nothing to reach his lost sheep, even if it means wounding them.

There are also times where we need to receive the humbling hand of our King that presses us, teaching us the beautiful path of complete dependence upon his grace. Don’t fear it. Instead, revel in the fact that we serve a God who is powerful enough to break down every barrier that would keep him from working full salvation in us. Oh what a good thing that is!

 

Journal, Life, Spiritual Growth

Why I’ll be working full time

October 31, 2013

The next week or so is going to bring a significant transition in my life. For the last month or so I’ve been struggling between whether I should get a full time job and limit what time I have to invest directly in Threshingfloor or stick with the minimal income of a part-time position and keep more of my time free for ministry.

It’s been quite the mental tug of war. I’m confident that our Lord wants me to do ministry as a vocation at some point in my life, but I also feel the weight of needing to provide for Kelly and I, particularly as she finishes up school and we begin needing to make payments on school loans. But if I get a full time job is that acting in fear rather than in faith that Jesus will provide? Will working full time keep me from opportunities to minister to those who are under my charge in our community? At the same time, most of the people in our community work full time and therefore I can’t invest much in them during the work day.  But will I have energy to work 8 hours a day and spend 4 of my seven nights pouring myself out in ministry? But isn’t that what so many of the Lord’s people have done throughout the generations? Isn’t every believer called to an entire life of service? But…you get the point.

About two weeks ago I landed on what felt like the Lord’s leading and accepted a full-time position at a company here in Fargo. I start next Monday, November 4th. Honestly I’m not sure how things are going to work out, but through much prayer and conversation with Kelly I believe that a full time job is what I need to pursue for this season. Here’s why.

  • To test myself. Am I truly committed to disciple-making or am have I just pursued vocational ministry because it’s a familiar and enjoyable path? I love reading, teaching, and people. Ministry is an outlet for those loves. I don’t want to go into ministry simply because it’s the easy road or because it feels the safest. I want to test myself, and I believe that disciple-making needs to be something that I am committed to whether or not it is my vocation.
  • To test the Lord. If Jesus has called me to vocational ministry he will make a way for it to happen. The job I’ve taken is a “long term temporary” position, and during the months that I’m working I’ll be spending much time in prayer and pursuing ways of generating income that will free up more of my time down the road. By my calculation Kelly and I need an income of at least $2000/month to make ends meet. I’m stoked to praise the Lord like crazy when he provides above and beyond that so I can commit to full time ministry.
  • To set an example. As I mentioned earlier, the majority of the young men and women in Threshingfloor work full time. Just a Jesus set the example for his disciples in all things, I believe that leaders are called to actively demonstrate what they call their followers to. If I’m calling the people within Threshingfloor to leverage their whole life for disciple-making, I want to be living proof that it can be done when we walk in the Spirit’s power. Christian’s shouldn’t be able to point to their leader’s lives as reasons to keep their faith limited to church events.
  • To experience. How can I correctly counsel and encourage someone who is struggling to make disciples and work 40 hours a week if I can’t empathize with them? I want to experience that lifestyle so that I can more accurately discern its idols, strengths, weaknesses, and be able to shepherd the Lord’s people well.
  • We need the money. I put this one last not because it’s the least important but because I’ve questioned myself a lot on whether I’ve accepted this full time position simply out of the pressure of financial needs. I don’t think I have, but that tension is still there. Kelly and I do need money to pay our bills. However, the moment I start looking to my job as the source of my steadiness it becomes an idol. Instead I’m daily reminding myself that this job is a tool for the sake of glorifying Christ through making disciples. I’m sent as a missionary before I go as an employee.

Keep me in your prayers, family. Jesus has provided this job and that means that there’s something for me to do there that’s going to bring him glory. It’s going to be good.

Life, Quotations

Stop Worrying!

October 17, 2013

Some Gospel truth that’s been working on my brain for the last day or so. Do we really take Jesus at his word when he says,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

– Matthew 6:25-34 NIV

Fallout Revisited, Leadership, Life

Fallout Revisited : Give Yourself no Rest, O Men of God

October 1, 2013

I’ve been blogging regularly for approximately five years (maybe longer). Fallout Revisited is a series that revisits old posts that may have gotten lost in the flow of time but I believe are needed at the present time. This edition was originally posted here in June of 2009.

 

———-

“The Lord your God has given you this land to possess. All your men of valor shall cross over armed before your brothers, the people of Israel…until the Lord gives rest to your brothers, as to you, and they also occupy the land the Lord your God has promised them beyond the Jordan. Then each of you may return to his possession which I have given you.”

– Deuteronomy 3:18-20

Here Moses is relating to a new generation of Israelites what has transpired since their miraculous freeing from Egypt,. Finally, after over four decades in the desert the nation is preparing to enter the promised land. However, the Ruebenites and the Gadites have requested to stay behind in a land that they had already conquered, settling there with their families and livestock. Moses agrees, on the condition that all of the men of fighting age stay with the rest of Israel until they had defeated the tribes within the promised lands. The Ruebenites and the Gadites agree.

In these few verses (and the earlier relation of the same story in Numbers chapter 32) I see a principle that is both extremely relevant and extremely neglected in Christianity today; that of our obligation to serve and assist our fellow believers. We are not to rest until our brothers and sisters in Christ have found a rest and peace of their own. As God declares in Isaiah 62, “You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” So are we to do today, to devote ourselves to working every meaning of the word to establish our brothers and sisters in Christ.

It is not necessarily that we are to send our young men off to join with other believers in hostile territory (though it very well may be so in some cases, and I would say that if that never happens something is very wrong) but that we are not to give ourselves to lounging and pleasure and entertainment when there are others who have no such luxuries.

What massive significance this has in our western cultures! Our tendency is so much towards slothfulness and rest in the face of the fact that thousands of Christians are struggling to survive with little or no food as we sit in the movie theaters with our $5 large popcorn, $4 drinks, and candy. Such a thought should horrify us. Not only should it horrify us with its blatant lack of care for others, but it should also strike terror into our hearts when we read what the Lord declares to such a country in the book of Amos, when he says,

“You lie on beds inlaid with ivory

and lounge on your couches.

You dine on choice lambs

and fattened calves.

You strum away on your harps like David

and improvise on musical instruments.

You drink wine by the bowlful

and use the finest lotions,

but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.

Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile;

your feasting and lounging will end.”

(Amos 6:4-7)

Do those words not describe us? Oh, surely we are a people who lounge about and dine upon the choicest of foods! Think of the hundreds of new musicians every day who seek only their own glory and fame, of the numerous people who have given their lives to drinking, caring for their appearance, and seeking only their own satisfaction, completely ignoring the ruin that coats the earth.

Are there any “men of valor” among us? If so, let them rise up and go before their brothers and sisters, laying down their lives “until the Lord gives rest” to them. This faith of ours is not one that sits idly by and watches as the earth spins, declaring that God shall do what must be done. Far from it! Ours is a faith that calls men to rise from their comfort and go, in complete dependence upon God, into the darkest and most wretched parts of the world, bringing with them the full glory of the Gospel. Come, oh men of God. Give yourselves no rest until the Lord should establish His kingdom in full! Cast off the hours of television after getting home from work. Throw away the video games and fishing poles and sports and hobbies that keep you from the work of the Lord. Do not seek to surround yourself with comfort and settle in the place which the Lord has given you until He has also established comfort and peace for those who also bear His name.

Then how sweet shall the rest be as we come before that final throne to hear God himself rise and declare “Well done, my sons! You have fought the good fight and won the race.” Is not an evening’s rest much better after a heavy day’s work? Shall not the rest of heaven be infinitely more potent if we have given ourselves to that heavy work here in this life? Do not hold back! The Lord shall reward those who do as He desires, as Paul writes, “God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life.” (Romans 2:6-7)

Leadership, Life, Spiritual Growth

How to Know if God is With You

September 5, 2013

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

(Exodus 3:11-12, ESV)

How do we know if what we’re doing has the Lord’s blessing on it? How can I be sure that Threshingfloor is what Jesus has called Kelly and I to do and that we’re not just pouring time and energy into a foolish endeavor? It’s a question that comes up often.

Growing up in evangelical church culture one of the more popular prayers, especially as I and my friends neared the end of highschool was “God, what’s your will for me?” We wrestled over the countless almost-adult decisions. Should I go to this school or that school? Should I date her or not? Do I go on that missions trip or save my money? Excellent prayers to pray, but as I look back I can see in myself and my friends a fear masked by prayerful spirituality. We wanted God to give us a play-by-play of the next three years so we could know that we were doing everything right. In the years since then I’ve learned that that laying out a three year plan isn’t something that God generally does for his people.

It certainly isn’t what he did for Moses. When the Lord appears to Moses in the burning bush and tells him Moses is going to be his instrument to free the Israelites from pharaoh God doesn’t offer Moses a detailed plan about how to achieve the end result. Moses, understandably overwhelmed with the enormity of freeing hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children from the clutches of one of the most powerful nations on earth, questions, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11) Translation; “I don’t have that kind of skill! I’m not going to be able to do that!” In reply to Moses’ questioning the Lord says, “I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

God reminds Moses that He will be with him. Moses doesn’t need to worry about his skill level or aptitude at nation-leading. When God’s with you nothing else needs worrying about. So, great. God says he’s going to be with Moses. The question then is how will Moses know that God’s with him and that this whole burning bush deal isn’t some desert sun-stroke induced hallucination? How can Moses be sure this is God’s will for his life? God’s reply to this implicit question is a strange one, and there’s much we can learn from it. He says, “This shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

Is God with me?

How will Moses know that God sent him? The mission will be a success. When Moses has trooped with an entire nation out of Egypt and across a desert to Sinai, he will know it was God’s will. The Lord is calling for Moses to, like Abraham his ancestor, have faith. Step out without knowing the details of the path.

So many Christians are holding themselves back from the fullness of what Jesus has for their lives because they want a road map. They want God to prove that he’s with them. But – news flash – he’s already proven that. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are the resounding declaration of “I am with you.” He’s given us 66 books that are evidence of how God comes through for those who move in faith. Romans 14 says, “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

It doesn’t take faith to follow a perfectly laid-out path. God wants us, like Moses, like Jesus, and like so many other believers before us, to hear his Word and move forward. He wants us to step out in faith even though the way may not be completely clear. He will open or close doors as we move forward, and when we arrive at the destination he has called us to we will look back and know our God was with us.

How do Kelly and I know Threshingfloor is something we’re supposed to be doing? Honestly, we doubt and question plenty, but we’re stepping forward in faith day by day. Every open door is proof that God is with us. Every life changed by Jesus’ power is proof that this is God’s will for our life. My pray for you, fellow Christian, is that your life wouldn’t be one of sitting and waiting for the safe moment. I want you to experience the thrill of our King moving supernaturally to make way for you as you follow his lead, and to do that you need to step out in faith. He will make the way clear. When you have done what is impossible, that shall be a sign to you that God is with you.