What to do when God is silent…

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For some of you, this post today might come really close to the heart.

I believe there are some, maybe many who are deeply concerned about something. Maybe its a financial matter, maybe a damaged relationship (or no relationship at all), maybe it’s a health issue, maybe its an aging parent issue.  You get the point. These are all matters of the heart and some times trying to understand how to deal with the issue gets painful and exhausting.
Besides the weighty concern that this issue is, what can seem to add to the frustration is that God is so silent.  You may feel all alone and wondering how much longer this exasperating experience will go on.
Let me encourage you if you are in this situation–nothing is hidden from the eyes of God. He sees all. He hears all. He knows all.
“So,” you wonder, “where is this living and  loving God when I need Him most?”
I once heard a story about a bunch of guys swimming in a pond. One of them was an expert swimmer.  As the day went on, one of the guys started to drown.  His friends noticed what was happening and looked to the expert swimmer, who was on the shore, to save their friend who was going underwater.  However, although he heard everyone screaming for his help, he didn’t move.
This only frustrated  all the guys all the more, who with panic in their voices, yelled even louder for their friend to rescue their other friend, but the expert swimmer  remained silent and did not move.
At that moment, the guy who was bobbing up and down, did not come up again. The water became calm…..for just a moment.
Because instantly, there was a splash, then waves, then two bodies surfaced.
Upon seeing the one man go under for the last moment, the expert swimmer got his green light to break his silence, go in, and with sheer precision, save his friend.
When they two men reached the shore, the expert swimmer was literally attacked for his cold-hearted, lack of response.
Seeing the anger of his friends, the expert swimmer quieted the crowd and confidently said that the way he acted was calculated.  He mentioned that if he had sought to rescue his friend when he first went under water, they probably both would have drowned.  The adrenalin of the one would have taken them both down..  So the expert swimmer said, he had to wait until his friend stopped trying and basically gave up.  Then, he could save him without there being any resistance.
Friend, that story illustrates what might be happening to some of you.
The expert swimmer on the shore in your life is God. He is watching all that you are struggling with, but truth be told, you might not yet be ready for His help because you are trying so hard to do it yourself. Your actions and attitudes may reveal that you don’t want or are unwilling to receive God’s help.  Maybe you are still holding on to so much bitterness or unforgiveness that you are not willing to part with it. Maybe you just can’t bear being out of control and admitting you need help. Maybe you are scared.
Whatever it might be, understand that God is watching.  His silence does not mean He does not care, or is unable to help.  Maybe His silence is really what’s best for you, giving you time to understand the true condition of your heart and your need for His help.
So, God just waits on the shore in silence.
Is He capable of helping–definitely!
Does He care about you- definitely (Jesus died for you on a cross because of His love for you so much)!
Will He stay silent forever-doubtful–just maybe its time to stop trying!

A successful team…

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“A successful team is many voices with a single heart.”    John Maxwell

Whether it’s at work, at church, or even in our family, we are a part of some kind of team.

With that in mind, and believing that we all want to be a part of something greater than just ourselves:

 

How accurately does the quote mentioned above describer our team experience?

Are the teams you are involved with “successful”?  In what ways could your team be more successful?

Are all the voices of your team members being heard?  In what ways can you encourage more engagement from those often involved?

Have you ever been told…

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Has anyone ever said to you, “relax, you are over-thinking this?”

When someone says that to you, or even, if you heard that being said, the issue is that someone is making something more complicated than it ought to be.  With over-thinking comes more stress and less enjoyment, and less of a quality performance.    Earlier today, I felt like I was being told by God you are making this faith thing with me more complicated than you ought.  It was that “Power of a Whisper” idea that Bill Hybels of Willow Creek has written about.

The impressions that came to me were almost like bullet points:

*Keep in mind, your faith in Me is about relationship, not religious-activity checklists, or do’s and don’t’s, etc.

*Keep in mind that I am the God of all grace.  In 1 Peter 5:10a, the Bible says that He is “the God of all grace”.  Other verses mentioning that He is a God of grace would be Ps. 116:5, 2 Cor. 9:14, Nehemiah 9:31 and so many more verses could be listed–okay, I  see that–He is a God of grace.

*Keep in mind that I am a God of mercy, for instance, as in Luke 1:78, Romans 9:18, Daniel 9:9, Ps. 59:17, and again, so many more verses could be listed.

So, what’s a simple explanation of the difference between His being a God of grace, and a God of mercy.

I’ve heard many explanations about these two words over the years, but the NON – over-thinking, simple explanation was this:

When you come to God in a needy, humble, dependent kind of way, He is the God of all grace.  He is there to help.  He loves to come to the aid of those who are “poor in spirit”. He loves to make Himself and the wisdom of His ways clear to those who can recognize they don’t have it all figured out.  Sometimes He will help in ways we don’t or can’t understand at the moment, but He will be there to help.  Why? Because He loves you and I.

However, when you come to God after you’ve tried doing things your way, He will give you mercy. Why? Because again, He loves you and I.  He understands that we are prone to being selfish, and independent, and prideful and that every once in a while (or more), we slip up.  He anticipated that and sent His Son to cover your sins and mine and to extend forgiveness to us.  We just need to ask. Thank God for Good Friday and Easter Sunday!

Well, that listening session with Him made me see things in a simplified kind of way.  It’s all about relationship with Him. That’s the bottom line.  I need to:

  • put no confidence in the flesh
  • be way of thinking of myself more highly than I ought
  • realize that apart from Him, I can do nothing
  • and whether I realize all this right up front and call out to Him for His grace (His help and power), or I realize it all after I’ve first tried doing it my way (which never ends well) and then come to Him after I’ve blown it (first for forgiveness, and then for His grace), either way, in relationship, I need to keep things simple, and be as one dependent on Him all the time, inseparable if you will–kind of like a branch abiding in the vine. (ref. John 15).

Wise words from YODA

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I won’t embarrass or frustrate any one I personally know on this one, but there are some individuals, I can see their faces now that if they say they will do something, I know it will be done. I can just count on them. Their word is gold.

Unfortunately, I also know some others that if they tell me they will do something, I have a great uncertainty it will get done (if ever). These individuals are so frustrating because they are so unfaithful. It drives me crazy.

“Do, or do not.  There is no “try”.    a quote from Yoda to Luke Skywalker.

I love these words from the fictional character, YODA (he is fictional, right?) because they speak of resolve and commitment.  It’s an “all-in” mindset that if I say I will do something, it will get done.

How well does this describe you?

Does your word matter?

Maybe it’s because I’m a goal-oriented person, but I love this saying from Yoda because it conveys to me the idea of vision and priorities.  It challenges me to set my mind on accomplishing something to experience some desired result.

But it takes it one step further.  What Yoda’s quote suggests to me is even something more than just wanting to see a completed goal because any one can wish for good things to happen in their life.  Can’t you?  If you were to take just a few minutes to look at all the things going on in your life, can’t you just imagine improvements or desirable things to make your life better?

Of course you can.  I can too.  But what Yoda’s quote says to me is that besides seeing a vision of good things, it conveys to me the issue of setting priorities and being intentional.  It means moving beyond vision and mere talking about accomplishing some desired result one day (just “trying” in a “whatever” kind of attitude”) to the idea of commitment –I’m going to make adjustments in my life to make this happen.  I love that resolve.

So, my friend, are you willing right now to listen to the advice of a little, green person and stop saying “I’ll try….” to “I will …” ?

Are you willing to start getting very purposeful about accomplishing the things that are most dear to your heart?

“Do, or do not.  There is no “try”.

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As a further help to you in striving for excellence and being intentional about meeting your goals in life,  please check out my Foundations Life Management app (and do it with a friend):

(If you have downloaded the app and are using it, I would so appreciate you telling a friend (s) about it.)

You can visit either the App Store (for IPhones) Foundations Life Management app for IPhone devices

https://appsto.re/us/ejC7fb.I

or go to the Google Play Store- https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.FoundationsLifeCoach.Foundations&hl=en

 

Is there a danger in focusing on results?

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Being a goal-oriented person, I understand that performance matters.  What benefit does it bring to a situation if all that is really going on is mere talk?   In most situations where a committee is involved, my experience has shown that there is too much discussion and not enough getting things done.

However, try telling your boss, or those who follow your leadership,  or your investors when you missed your organization’s goals that results don’t really matter.  You might as well turn in your 2 – week notice at the same time.

Achieving results is about initially having a vision and then with laser-like focus working to meet that goal. It’s a destination you want to reach and work for.

But two  key questions are “Do we have the right focus in mind?”  and “What is our response when we achieve our goals?”

The context of this post today comes from my recent reading in 1 Chronicles 21 where I read that King David gave way to Satan’s temptation to carry out a census of the people.  It appears that the root of this temptation for David was pride.   After defeating many opposing nations, David seemed invincible and his wealth and fame continued to skyrocket.    This is where the problem of success happened for David.   Similar to the pride demonstrated by a foreign king, years later, King Nebuchadnezzar in the Book of Daniel, chapter 4 as he reflected on his kingdom,  (“30 As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’), David too, took pride in all his success.

Hear me out on this:  while David, earlier in his life,  was concentrating on the process of his obedience to God, depending on Him for all his decisions and looking to honor Him in everything he did, things went well.   However, when David paused to reflect on all his success, it was though he got off on a highway exit that  brought judgment from God.  When David camped out on thinking about all his success,  he succumbed to Satan’s deception and rather than acknowledging all of God’s favor and praising Him for it,  David patted himself on the back and thought about what a great king he was.  For David to request that a census be taken was just a further effort to puff himself up for seeing tangible numbers on how vast his kingdom had become.

We too, can do that — can’t we?

Pastor and church leader, have you ever just stopped and looked at the number of people in your congregation and patted yourself on the back for your great leadership?

Business owner, have you ever walked through your office and patted yourself on the back for how many employees you have and how successful your bottom line is?

Individual, have you ever stopped to look at your latest 401K balance and marveled at how much money you have and patted yourself on the back for what a wise investor you are?

Friends, let us be careful with this very subject of results and drive.  Again, I get it that results matter.  I am not naïve in thinking they don’t.  But what I’m getting at is that I think there is a better way to get and handle results than we see demonstrated by King David in this particular situation.   I believe this better way is for us to concentrate on our efforts, the process, if you will,  and then leave the results  and recognition to God.

For example, take an issue like getting a driver’s license–that is, the goal.  But what gets us to accomplish that result is not wishful thinking or mere talk– it’s doing certain things like reading and understanding the rules of the road.  Getting a license also requires having a certain amount of supervised  hours behind the wheel and getting actual experience.  In that process, it means being focused on doing things well.  It means reducing distractions while you are driving and completing the practice hours so you LEARN how to drive well.

After you do all these things, you should accomplish the goal of getting your license. But, at the risk of getting into a future accident, don’t ever lose sight of what helped you initially get your license in the first place; it was having an opportunity to do so in the first place,  it was getting instruction from others, it was learning to excel in the process of being a good driver.

Besides this example of getting our license, I could have also mentioned other examples, like getting a certain job position,  reaching a financial retirement number, getting to a certain weight goal, or achieving certain sales goals.   The result or goal gives us a vision for where we are needing to head, but I believe our focus should be on excelling at our responsibilities in the process of accomplishing these things.

And when that time comes when we reach a destination point, how should we handle meeting that goal?   I believe our first attitude and action should be that of being grateful to God and others for their contributions in our life.  Towards God, we should be thankful for His goodness in helping us have the opportunity to be involved in reaching this goal. We should be grateful for our health, the physical and mental abilities to work at the task.   We should also be appreciative for the help and contributions from others in supporting us in numerous ways.

With all that said, where does personal pride come in?  Displaying personal pride is a distasteful thing to others, and an offensive thing to God.  Patting our self on the back and telling our self we are great is the last place we want to go to.  As the Bible so clearly tells us: “don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought”

Meeting a goal and accomplishing a certain result is not though a destination, but merely a rest stop to see where you are, and then to chart out what more needs to be done.  As  1 Thessalonians 4:1 and verse 10 tell us, “excel still more”.  You can always learn more and do things better.   That is the process.  That should be our focus.  Let’s be faithful in doing our part, and leaving the results (and honor) to God.

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As a further help to you in striving for excellence in all your own individual areas of responsibility, please check out my Foundations Life Management app (and do it with a friend):

(If you have downloaded the app and are using it, I would so appreciate you telling a friend (s) about it.)

You can visit either the App Store (for IPhones) Foundations Life Management app for IPhone devices

https://appsto.re/us/ejC7fb.I

or go to the Google Play Store- https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.FoundationsLifeCoach.Foundations&hl=en

Beware of answered prayer (and the “rush”)

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Well, that’s an interesting headline, right?

Many Christians, probably most, have had the common experience of finding themselves in a difficult situation and then they do what is wise: they turn to the Lord.  Because He is so faithful, so merciful, and so gracious, we pray to Him and then, not surprisingly, we often find an immediate answer to our prayer.  God is so good we think.

At some point, another similar crisis experience happens.  As it does, we are quicker to respond to Him  (our last “victory” has spawned this glimmer of confidence)  to obey the verse that says, “cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares about you”  (1 peter 5:7).    Again, we find ourselves being able to give witness to the Bible truth that says “call on me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you” (Psalm 50:15).

Ever so slowly, many of us will begin connecting the dots.  When I have troubles (and we all do)>>>>I can pray to God >>>> He will answer my prayers.  I said earlier, “slowly” because most of us will turn to God only when the situation has gotten beyond our control.  We acknowledge first, to ourselves, and then to God that we can’t handle a particular situation and we need His help.   The reality though is that most of us, I have to believe,  live our lives, when they are not in crisis mode, as though we don’t need God.  Honestly, I think most of us feel pretty capable that we can handle the routine of life and we know how to get by.

Today, I have two very powerful insights to share with you (at least they are kind of rocking my world):

The first is the reality that I have to be careful of listening to lies.   The Bible says very clearly, “the heart is deceitful above all things, desperately wicked, who can understand it” (Jeremiah 17:9).  The Bible also says, “…not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think” (Romans 12:3) or not to put any confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3). Our pride is a dangerous, very dangerous trap.

In other words, to have a belief that you only need to, or should go to God when you can’t handle things is setting yourself up for massive failure.  You can’t trust yourself.  The Bible clearly says a person who does is building on a foundation of a heart that is totally unstable. We need God all the time.  We are to act like a beggar, totally needy on God’s provision for our lives—in crisis times and in routine times.

The second reality is meant for an “on the edge” kind of person. You know who you are. You are the type of person consumed by ……  Maybe its work. You keep pushing yourself (and others) to do more and more, produce more and more and you get to a point where you are crying out to God to help sustain you as you go through this hectic season…. and He does.

But, as you take a moment to catch your breath, you recognize the rush of pushing yourself so much and the way God helped you through it that it leads you to begin to crave the next “over the top busy time” where you can again look to God to help you do more than you know you are capable of doing.

Now mind you, I’m not talking of just lay people, you know, people at secular jobs who seek this spiritual experience of God helping them survive and thrive during insanely busy times.  I’m also referring to church workers who push their ministry involvements in the same way.  Inwardly, they crave the rush, the flow of pushing themselves to the brink and looking for God to do something, only God could do.

As an example of this, please read, Luke 10: 17-20.  The disciples were sent out by Jesus to minister and they came back with reports that even the demons were subject to them.  Understandably, the disciples were focused on the new ministry power they had in Jesus’ name. However, Jesus tells them to reset their thinking. He says, father than focusing on the ministry results and experiences, rather rest and rejoice in the fact that your names are written in the Book of Life.  Rejoice in your relationship with the Father.

Let me be very careful to make a few more comments on this last train of thought. I totally get it that we are to live by faith. I totally understand we are to be busy about ministry and looking for God to intervene and show Himself strong in bringing healing, deliverance, and freedom in to people’s lives and circumstances.  I am totally in agreement with looking to Him to move in these kinds of ways.

The caution I am encouraging us to be on the look out for is when our focus is not really on God, but on the rush.  In such a subtle, deceptive way, that rush kind of feeling can become an idol that we pursue, sadly to say, more so than God.

In a similar kind of way, giving gifts at Christmas is a good thing, but when we value more the gifts we receive,  rather than the giver of those gifts, there is a problem.

Prayer is obviously a good thing.  Having the experience of answer prayer, personally, or in ministry or at work is precious.

But, never lose sight on our need to be dependent on Him all the time, 24/7,  and in our reliance on Him to pursue the enjoyment and the awesome opportunity of relationship with a living and loving God.  Praying is a part of that relationship.  However, so is praising Him, just talking to Him, listening to Him, studying with Him, singing to Him, and just meditating on His presence with us and the awesome power and mystery of the Gospel.  We have the privilege of  knowing, and walking through life in a personal relationship with God—-that alone should be the rush we seek.

If you are having big struggles and challenges, then maybe you need to…

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As I look back at my life, (I’m 56 years young today), I understand that I didn’t start thinking maturely, until my mid-late 20’s.  I was very foolish, immature, and self-centered for many, many years.

As I gave my life to Jesus Christ in my young twenty’s, and began desperately seeking His wisdom and life to embed my life, changes began happening. Although I still did (and often still do) things I wish I didn’t, I began to exercise better thinking and habits. Transformation was happening.

Since the early 90’s, I have been involved in a lot of mentoring kind of relationships.  I have listened to a lot of people talking about their difficulties  in their lives.  My heart has broken many times over the stories I heard from people as they shared the struggles they were having in their lives.

It’s interesting to me that as a follower of Jesus Christ, I know I have a tendency (as do so many others that I have come in contact with) to ask God to immediately fix my problems, or better my circumstances RIGHT NOW!

I say, “interesting” because it’s always a balance kind of thing.  My thinking is partially right-on because I am looking to a living and loving God to help me with my problems. That’s a good thing.  This Holy, Sovereign, and Creator God has the power to alter circumstances and He has love in His heart to help me when often, I am the one responsible for my own difficulties.

But balance is required in my thinking (and maybe in yours as well) because often God in His wisdom does not do some kind of “supernatural deliverance” from my hard circumstances, but rather gently, offers empathy (that He understands my feelings), encouragement and hope (that together, we will get through this), and strength to be steadfast and persevere  as I get back upright on my feet in time.

And this is key, in this “resetting of my focus”, He also offers guidance, a road map if you will from the Bible to order my steps and decision-making.  This road map for success and help in my current crisis is typically not glamorous, or dramatic  (as I sometimes want a living God to demonstrate), but nonetheless is sure and is solid truth, BUT…. this guidance does require my obedience.

I can say, I know a lot of Bible verses, but unless I submit myself to obeying these truths, I can’t expect any real results and neither should you.

I leave you with three key Bible verses and a Bible story to further clarify what I’m trying to convey to all of us who need help in navigating the challenges and struggles of life:

Psalm 119:105 – “Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path”  (NASB)

Proverbs 3:5-6  (ESV)- “trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NASB)- “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

2 Kings 5:1-14  – it’s the story of a man named Naaman. Please read the story yourself, but here is the summary.  Naaman was a soldier who was also a leper.  A little Jewish girl who was taken as a prisoner saw the need of Naaman and said that he should go to a prophet in Israel and be healed.

Naaman lit up with hope. He listened to the girl and went to Israel, expecting a healing ceremony, if you will.  He was looking for something glitzy to happen in healing him.  The prophet Elisha did hear of his leprosy and his desire to be healed, but rather than any show of healing, simply gave Naaman instructions to dunk himself in the Jordan River seven times and he would be healed.

Naaman, at first objected, because his thought of cured supernaturally was fixed on someone waving their hand over him, reciting something, you know some kind of spectacle. . But that was not the way the prophet instructed him.  Naaman was simply expected to obey and exercise faith.  At first, reluctantly, but later with humility and expectancy, he obeyed and he in fact, did  experience a miracle.

It was not that the Jordan River held miraculous power, but rather that the supernatural did play out in his obedience spoken through God’s word, in this case through the lips of a prophet.

So, in conclusion, my friends, the living, loving, and God of miracles still exists-TODAY.    If you find yourself camped out in the midst of overwhelming challenges and struggles in your life, rather than looking for a microwave kind of quick resolution of your problems and circumstances,  come to this Sovereign God as did Naaman; in obedience, with humility, and expectancy.  Take one “dunk” of faith at a time. Miracles still happen, but maybe not as you might expect, not as quickly, or dramatically as you might think.  But they still do happen.

Blessings.