Awakening

Look, you mockers be amazed and die! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it. – Acts 13:41

With all that is going on in the news these days, between the attacks around the world to the politics here in the US, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people say, “Where is God?” or “Why would God let something like this happen?” or “God must have abandoned us because of our falling away from him.” But, my friends, I fully believe that God is as active as he was yesterday and as he was the day before that.

But these questions still abound. Where is God and why isn’t he doing something. The verse above from Acts was something Paul said in response to those people who mocked and persecuted him and the other early Christians. Here he quoted the book of Habakkuk;

The Lord replied, “Look at the nations and be amazed! Watch and be astounded at what I will do! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” – Habakkuk 1:5

Habakkuk is an amazing book that I’ve not studied much before and honestly I can’t recall being talked much about, but in my initial reading this morning, I would think it was written about the world today. Here we have a prophet asking questions of God of “Why is there such violence?” God gives him an answer! I plan on doing a deeper study and probably blogging about my findings in the near future as I see so much wisdom in this book and the answers God provides. But that’s for another time.

Awakening

What do I mean by awakening? Well, I think that once we think God is not moving or active in our world, we tend to fall back within ourselves and become resigned that we live in a fallen world. However discouraging the world may seem or how absent God may feel, John Piper said it best,

God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of 3 of them.

I’ve just began reading Awakening by Matt Brown which gives us insight and reminders of how God is working each and every day in this world, despite our not seeing it. We find ourselves in situations each day that we don’t understand why God allowed it or how God will use it for his Glory, yet we don’t see the big picture like God does. Remember Paul spent time in prison unjustly, yet God was advancing the gospel among the guards and making Paul’s brothers in Christ bold in their freedom and in Paul’s strength.

Be awakened by how God is moving in the seen and unseen. As Matt Brown says on his site, “…open our spiritual eyes to what God is doing, which will in turn catapult your faith to all God has purposed for you.”

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Refuse to give the enemy his victory

I’ve often wondered what it would be like if life didn’t come with trials.  What if life was all candy and roses?  What if we could live life without the suffering of illness and loss?  Or live without the stresses of work and paying bills?  What if our children were perfect and never gave us grey hairs?  Unlikely to happen, but how we handle tough situations can determine the course of our future.

The enemy likes to use tough times to try and break us down and make us less useful to God.  He is cunning and knows that a Christian that if focused on God’s work is unstoppable and his efforts to thwart God at every moment, drives him to take our focus off of God and put it on ourselves.   I’ve noticed, that when I get more focused on God, the trials and stresses rise.  When I feel God tugging me in a direction to go, everything that life throws at me seems to be pushing me away.  The enemy isn’t stupid, he knows that God has great things planned for us.  If he can keep us from our full potential in Christ, then the enemy scores a victory.

But the awesome thing is, we have power over that….we can refuse to give the enemy his victory.  Not an easy task by no means, but we can do it if we keep our focus on Christ.  Through the haze of trials and struggles, look for the bright light that will lead us back to Christ.  When we are feeling lost and alone, be still and you will feel God’s presence waiting for you to find it again.  When we feel that we are down and buried in troubles, know that the hand on our shoulder, lifting us up is that of Jesus Christ.

When Paul talks about his “thorn in his flesh”, which was the enemies way to attack Paul and keep him from being all that God had planned, he say’s he asked, in fact begged the Lord to remove it.  But the Lord’s answer was always,

My gracious favor is all you need.  My power works best in your weakness.  – 2 Corinthians 12:9

God is given all the glory when we endure an attack from the enemy, but keep our sights on Christ.  I always envision the devil running away and cowering in fear when the hand of God lifts up the believer whom the devil was trying to hold down.

But we always have a choice…..when we are attacked, when the enemy tries his best to hold us back, whether through depression or anxiety, or a physical ailment, or perhaps just a busy schedule, we can choose to be burdened and kept from experiencing God’s full grace (which is always enough) or we can reach out our hand, find Christ who is right there and pull ourselves forward in Christ…and when we do that, we are refusing to give the enemy his victory over us, but we are accepting the gift of Christ, whom has already won the war.

Putting God in a Box

I was blind and now I can see!   John 9 brings us the story of Jesus healing the blind man.  Let’s step back to this time.  We meet a man that has been blind since birth.  He undoubtedly had heard that Jesus was in the area.  I’m sure he had heard of the miracles of Jesus, saying a word and sick child is well, a word and a lame man walks again,  just a word and a man rises from the dead.  He’s heard the stories of this Jesus and the power of God that he contains.

When Jesus approaches him, his excitement must have risen….”This Jesus will say a word and my blindness will be healed.”  His excitement must have been hard to contain.  But what does he hear?  Jesus talking with his disciples about him.  Then Jesus spits on the ground, makes some mud and rubs the mud in his eyes.  The blind man could have easily said, “Wait a minute….Jesus had healed people with just a word, but all I get is some mud in my face.”   He could have thought, “I got a raw deal, this isn’t going to work.

But no, Jesus tells him to “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam“.  So what does the blind man do?  He goes and washes his face….and what miracle of miracles….he can see!   He could have thought, God works through Jesus by his words….but he didn’t put God in a box.  He believed that he could be healed and he was.

Expect the unexpected

Another step in my process of living with abandon to kick of my year of Thanksgiving, is to try and not put God in a box.   God works in wondrous ways, in ways that bring glory to His name.  He works in ways that we may not expect, but we can take comfort that God’s perfect plan is in motion and His ways are better than ours.  I often pray about a problem and I already have a solution in mind.  “This is the way God should solve my problem.”   We’ve just placed him in a box of our own making.  God can’t be contained.

The Jewish leaders in John 9 questioned the now formerly blind man and his family about his healing.  They had put God in a box and was convinced that God only operated in a certain way.  They said to the man while questioning him.  “Give glory to God by telling the truth, because we know Jesus is a sinner.”  Why did they feel that Jesus was a sinner?  Because their notion was that God didn’t heal in the fashion that Jesus did, or He didn’t heal on the Sabbath, or he didn’t heal someone who had been born blind or any number of stipulations and restrictions that they had put on God’s power to heal.

The blind man had a bigger view of God.  Listen to his words:  “Why that’s very strange!  He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know anything about him!  Well, God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will.  Never since the world began has anyone been able to open the eyes of someone born blind.  If this man were not from God, he couldn’t do it.”  This healed man believed that God could perform a miracle.  He didn’t place God in a box.

Expect the unexpected when praying to God about something.  Expect God to work in ways that are beyond what we can ever imagine and we won’t be disappointed.   Our God is bigger than any box!

Do Something Amazing in Your Day

The Lord replied, ‘Look at the nations and be amazed!  Watch and be astounded at what I will do!  For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.’  -Habakkuk 1:5

These words were spoken to the prophet Habakkuk when he cried out to God wondering where he was in his day and his world, which was filled with violence and corruption.  God responded with these words, “Watch and be astounded at what I will do!”  Isn’t that an amazing statement?  I can picture God sitting on his throne saying, “Just wait and see….this is gonna be cool!”

While I am striving to live with abandon, I am presented with so many opportunities to do amazing things.  I believe that God puts before us each day, situations where we have the opportunity to be a blessing to someone, to do something amazing in the name of Christ.  Something that will be glory to His name.  God is moving, he’s not waiting around seeing what we will do, but we are part of his plan.  I want to look for those opportunities that come before me each day.  Say a kind word to someone, help someone with something they are struggling with, pray for someone, work hard and cheerfully at something that is not fun.  I plan on doing something amazing in my day.

God is in charge and he has a plan.  Even when we in the midst of trouble and God seems silent and distant, he is moving.  His plan is in motion.  Just watch and you’ll be amazed at what God will do.  This is gonna be cool!

God Speaks to us to Deepen Relationships

This was the message recently at our church, that God speaks to us not to impart some special wisdom or knowledge, not to just tell us what we need to do….but to deepen his relationship with us.  God speaks to us in so many ways, but he will find the most effective way to communicate with you at the time he wants to.

For me, the main ways he has communicated with me in the past is through Scripture and during my private prayer time.  However, at this church service, he really spoke to me through the message and through the worship time….in fact, this has been two weeks in a row, that the message has spoken to me in such a profound way, that it could only be God driven.   I won’t got into details, other than to say that I’m excited about what God revealed to me.

I will talk to something else though, how God has deepened my relationship with him today through his message.  What he showed me today was that he really does care about me and what I do.  He is a very personal God, not one that is distant or scary, but one that I can have an honest chat with, one that I can find comfort in, one that I can rely on.   God wants to be a part of our daily lives.  He wants to come to work with us, to spend our day together.  He is not satisfied with us just spending time with him on Sunday for an hour.

Imagine the time spent with your parents, or your spouse, your children or a best friend.  It would be almost impossible to have a meaningful relationship if you only interacted with them for one hour per week.  My wife and I interact throughout the day.  She’s the first person I see and speak to in the morning and usually the last at night.  We often communicate in person or electronically (if we’re not physically together) often.  And she’s always on my mind, when we are apart.

What if we had that kind of relationship with God.  What if he was the first person we spoke to in the morning, “God, thank you for this new day!”  What if he was the last person we spoke to at night, “God, bless us with a restful night.”  What if he was always on our minds throughout the day?  Just as with your spouse, when you spend more time and communicate more, the relationship deepens.

And the beautiful thing is, by including God more in your day, it doesn’t come at the exclusion of others.  In fact, I feel that the more I speak with God, the deeper my relationship with my wife and children becomes.  The more I spend time with God throughout the workday, the more productive worker I become.  It’s not a zero-balance scenario where you add more time with God but have to take away time from others…..no I feel it’s an exponential growth scenario.  Spend more time with God and the rest of your life explodes with his grace and blessings.

My one bit of advice this day, is to spend more time with God, speaking with him and reading his word and you’ll be amazed at how he responds.

Give it all to God

Yesterday we went to a graduation party to celebrate the high school graduation of a friends son, a young man that I had coached throughout the years in football and baseball.   When we arrived and greeted our friend, we asked her how she was doing and if she was happy that all the work and stress of preparation was over.  She instantly said that it hadn’t been that stressful as she had given it all to God.  And you could see…..she was happy and looked to be pretty stress free.

What a great inspiration to me she was.  The way that she enjoyed life, despite any stresses or anxieties about getting ready for this party, was great to see and humbling as I tend to stress over trivial things.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you. -1 Peter 5:7

Go first to God with your anxieties, for God’s solution is just a prayer away.

A Plan for Success

I’ve noticed that some of my recent posts provide some good biblical advice, however, they are also things that I struggle with and need to work on myself.  Those of you that are new to reading this blog, may wonder where the name for my blog comes from, Exceptional Christian.  It is most certainly NOT a description of me.  It is my goal to be more like Christ each and every day, in words to become an exceptional Christian.  It is my bar I want to reach.  As I read those recent posts of mine, I see how far I have yet to go.

How do I reach that bar?

I’m not sure I’ll ever reach that bar entirely.  That bar is Jesus Christ.  Can any of us ever truly obtain his level of perfection?  I don’t think so.  But if we set our sights high, we’ll work hard to get there.   So now we know we all have a lot of hard work to do to even come close to reaching that prize.   But what do we do to get there?  Let me point out what I feel is the first and perhaps most important step (perhaps it’s the only step)

Ask God for His help!  Invite him to be a part of every activity of your day, no matter how big or how small.  God wants to be a part of your life in every way, not just when we are at church and not just when we are on the mission field or talking to a friend about Christ.  No he wants to be a part of everything we do.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.  Trust him, and he will help you.  -Psalm 17:8

I full believe that God wants us to succeed at everything you do.  He is eager to bless us.  We just need to ask.  It may really be that simple.  I’ve noticed that as I’ve been making a conscience effort these last few weeks to commit whatever task I’m working on to him and ask for his help, those tasks have gone smoother, answers to problems have come quickly and easily and I find I come out feeling more satisfied with the work I’ve done.

It is an area I need to work on still.  In fact, writing this post, I wrote the first few paragraphs before God stopped me and I felt a prompting from him saying,””Here you are Jason, writing a post about inviting me into every activity, and I have yet to be invited to help write this post.”  Be assured, I stopped and asked for forgiveness and asked him to join me right away.

So what do I do now?

Well, stop reading this post and ask God now to help you build the habit of inviting him to help you in everything.  Ask him to remind you when  you forget.  Do that now, I’ll wait.

So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, realize that you just invited God to work with you on something.  He’ll come, he will help.  Now actively look at things you’re doing, no matter how mundane or simple and commit that work to him and ask him to help, and then TRUST that he will.

  • Doing yard work?  Ask for help.
  • Writing a blog post?  Ask for his help in providing the words to say (this is what I did moments ago).  It does not matter if it is a Christian blog or some secular topic, ask for his help.
  • Are you at work?  Ask for help being the best employee your company could ask for.    Bring God to work with you every day.  Look at each project or task at work as an opportunity to work alongside God.  Remember, HE is the best at what YOU do for a living.  (God, is the ultimate software developer).
  • Ask him for help raising your children.
  • Ask him for help when you travel.

That list could go on and on….remember nothing is too small or unimportant for God.  He will not get tired of helping you do the little things.  And he will be there when the big things come along.  If you bring him along with you, things will go more smoothly, the results will be better, and you will experience more joy and satisfaction.  Try it and you’ll notice a huge difference.