Monday, September 26, 2016

The Trip or the Destination?

I am excited about tomorrow’s discussion and I hope you will be too. During a conversation with a few friends last week, including one going through a challenging time, it occurred to me that there was too much emphasis being placed on a particular outcome. I believe the Holy Spirit popped into my little head the notion that God is at least as interested in the process he is going through as He is the result. I shared that idea and one of the other guys built on it with the July 28th meditation from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest.  It is below:

God’s Purpose or Mine?

"He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side . . . —Mark 6:45
We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success. We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.
What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish— His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God.
God’s training is for now, not later. His purpose is for this very minute, not for sometime in the future. We have nothing to do with what will follow our obedience, and we are wrong to concern ourselves with it. What people call preparation, God sees as the goal itself.
God’s purpose is to enable me to see that He can walk on the storms of my life right now. If we have a further goal in mind, we are not paying enough attention to the present time. However, if we realize that moment-by-moment obedience is the goal, then each moment as it comes is precious."

Things to think about:
·       Can you relate to the idea that if I am obedient, God will bless me with success?
o   Does its natural corollary also follow (if I am not successful, am I being punished)?
·       What do you think about the assertion that God’s purpose for you may be the exact opposite?
o   How could that ever be a good thing?
·       Chambers says that it really the process that matters to God
o   Why would that be the place of emphasis?
·       What do you think God’s vision for you is?
o   Might be a little early in the morning for this question J
·       Why the stress on now?
·       Obedience seems to be the key
o   What results from it is immaterial
o   Is that easy or hard for you to accept?
·       Can you share a time when you thought God was working towards one end and it turned out to be something else?
o   What did you learn in the process?
·       Are you going through a process today?
o   How does this study help you think of it differently?

Monday, September 19, 2016

We'll be Back

Genesis 22:1-15

Abraham Tested
22 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.Then God said, “Take your son , your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you. ” Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you. ” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”  “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son. ”  13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided. ”  15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Things to think about:
  • When God called Abraham, his immediate response was, “Here I am”.  Unlike Adam and Eve who tried to hide from God in their shame, Abraham shows no hesitation and announces his presence.
  • After many years of heartache and disappointment waiting for an heir, Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his son. The parallels to God offering His Son whom He loves  as our sacrifice are apparent.
    • It doesn’t say that Abraham argued, cried, doubted, re-interpreted, or anything else. What it does say is that early the next morning, he got up and went.
  • I love how he tells his servants to wait there, they (not he, but they) will be back.
  • Isaac notices something is up when he asks where the lamb is. Abraham tells him that God Himself will provide the lamb. Again, no scheming or manipulating the circumstances, Abraham allows God to do what only He can do.
  • He then ties Isaac up and has the knife raised. As a parent, this is a completely unimaginable moment.
  • Then the angel of the Lord calls out to him and once again he answers, “Here I am”.
    • There is so much to be said for being where God has you and being fully in that place, not wishing or whining to be somewhere else.
  • Then God provides  the way for the sacrifice, while sparing Isaac’s life. In the case of Jesus, God did not spare His Son because there was no other suitable sacrifice.
  • The angel then speaks for God and reconfirms the promise to make Abraham the father of a great nation because of his OBEDIENCE

Takeaways –
  • Be ready, be obedient, be expectant, believe

Monday, September 12, 2016

Who's Plan is This Anyway?

Let’s look at 1 Chronicles 28:20-21. David had it in his heart to build a temple for the LORD but that wasn’t God’s plan. Instead, it was to be the work of David’s son, Solomon. In this passage, David is giving words of instruction to Solomon:
20 David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished. 21 The divisions of the priests and Levites are ready for all the work on the temple of God, and every willing person skilled in any craft will help you in all the work. The officials and all the people will obey your every command.”
Things to think about:
  •        David wanted the crowning achievement of his life to be a temple to honor God. That certainly seems like a worthy and admirable ambition but it wasn’t God’s will for him.

o   Have you ever had what seemed like a worthy ambition that didn’t work out like you hoped it would?
o   If so, how did you handle the disappointment in realizing it wasn’t to be?
  •        Solomon was pretty young and inexperienced at this stage of his life. His dad was world famous as a warrior and a king.

o   Have you ever had to emerge from the shadow of someone else? If so, what was that like and what did you learn?
  •        David instructs him to be strong and courageous. Solomon was raised in the house with the women and was used to a pampered lifestyle, not an outdoorsman and warrior like his father.

o   We too need to remember to be strong and courageous. We live in a culture of comfort and convenience so when things go slightly awry, we tend to fret and worry
o   Do you agree or disagree with that?
  •        The source of our strength though isn’t a better attitude or just trying harder. Rather, it is the LORD who is with us.

o   He will not fail you, He will not forsake you
o   Do you sense, do you know His presence?
  •        God has a plan for you, just like He had a plan for Solomon

o   He will be with us until His work for us is completed
o   What do you feel God is calling you to do?
o   If you’re still here, He’s still has more for you to do!
  •        God will provide the resources necessary for the completion of His work

o   The people around you are part of His plan. God has prepared them, just as He has prepared you

o   How can you see God’s hand in those around you?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Giving What You've Been Given

Recently I was feeling rather cheated because I had been helping a number of of colleagues get connected to potential client companies without getting much back in return. I was using my personal network for their benefit and didn’t really see much in the way of reciprocation.  While  I was having my pity party, I got to thinking about how would this story sound if it was in the Bible. What distinctly came into my mind was the phrase, “you are only giving what you have been given.” I was feeling quite possessive of the relationships I have and God gently but clearly reminded me that anything I have to offer someone else is a gift I myself have received from Him.

Matthew 10:8
Freely have you received, freely give
Things to think about:

  • Have you had a time where you felt like you were most the giving?
    • maybe it was in a relationship, at work, at church, a ministry/charity, etc.
  • James 1:17 is probably familiar to you, “Every good and perfect gift from above is from the Father of heavenly lights…”
    • Can you do an inventory of every good and perfect gift you have been given? 
    • It might be helpful to think of it in terms of your time, talents, and treasure
  • In my folly, I forgot Deuteronomy 8:17-18 - "You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”
  • 2 Corinthians 9:6-11
    • Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
      “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
    •     their righteousness endures forever.”

      Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
  • We looked at Philippians 2:3-4 recently (which apparently I have already forgotten!) 
    • Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
  • Why is it so important to develop the attitude and actions of being a generous giver?
  • What do you need to freely give today to give honor to God?
There is a PS to my story. The next day, my boss told me he was doing some account assignment reallocations and he assigned me to the single largest prospect our company has!