Who’s Your GPS?

“…whether you turn to the right or the the left, you ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.'” Isaiah 30:21 NIV

Recently I had to attend a work conference that was in a city a few hours south of my home town.  I’ve traveled to this city on many occasions and tend to get lost every time.  Knowing I would be doing a lot of traveling during my three day stay, I planned ahead and fully relied on my phone’s map app.  Even though it took me a different route each day of my commute, surprisingly, I never once got lost.  I did however yell at it and tell it to “shut up” on one occasion when it was insistent upon me turning left through 8 lanes of heavy traffic with icy road conditions.  It did not like my decision to turn right and then safely turn around to the proper direction when traffic allowed me to do so. HA! HA!

My favorite feature of this app is the notification it gives you of how long you will travel on each road before having to turn onto a new road.  It’s not just one notification either.  You could travel on one road or highway for fifty miles (or 80 kilometers) and receive several notifications that you are approaching your next turn, lane change, etc.  It even gives you warnings about detours and road construction before you’re near any of them.  It’s definitely been a useful tool for me for many traveling experiences since owning this specific series of smart phone.  I’ve even personalized it by giving it a male Australian voice and nicknaming it Jarryd (after Australian rugby player, Jarryd Hayne.) So yes, when I “yelled” at it, I actually said, “Shut up Jarryd, trust me, I know what I’m doing!”  LOL

Navigating life can be just as confusing and challenging as driving through a big city.  You’re apt to get lost a time or two.  For the directionally challenged like me, you may get lost over and over again.  This can lead to feeling like you’re reliving the same journey or spending your life walking in circles.  Been there.  Done that.  My entire 30’s felt like I was on a hamster wheel running a marathon that led absolutely nowhere and left me feeling defeated and completely worn out.

Did you know there’s a life GPS?  His name is God and His map is the Bible.  In fact, I’m feeling so creative today I think GPS should really stand for God’s Placement of Situations.  Is life not merely a series of situations?  How many times have you heard sayings like, “She was at the right place at the right time?”  or “He was at the wrong place at the wrong time?”  Funny, I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “She was at the wrong place at the right time” or “He was at the right place at the wrong time” though.  Have you?

God’s GPS doesn’t work like iMaps, Google Maps or even Garmin.  God definitely uses the Holy Spirit to warn us when we’re going in the wrong direction or about to make a poor decision.  However, God’s direction doesn’t always instruct us on how long we will be on a certain path or in a certain situation before He changes our circumstances, delivers us from the struggle we are enduring or even before He advises us on a major decision we are seeking His wisdom on.  In fact, there are times when people believe they are walking in the direction God told them to go and everything in their life seems to be going completely wrong.  In times like these, it’s human nature to question if we even understood God’s leading or if we took a wrong turn somewhere, right?

Joseph is a prime example of someone who could question God’s leading.  God told him he would be a leader over even his family some day.  He traveled through abandonment, slavery and false imprisonment before that ever happened (Genesis chapters 37-47). Daniel followed God’s direction and ended up in a lions’ den.  On another occasion, Daniel fasted for 21 days before an archangel showed up with a response to his prayer.  The archangel admitted the delay was due to spiritual warfare (Daniel chapter 10).  From Elijah, to David, and to Paul, the Old and New Testaments are full of examples of God’s direction leading to questionable circumstances.

Often times, people get a word from the Lord, respond with an obedient heart and willing spirit and then nothing happens.  I’ve read numerous devotionals and stories of how God spoke to certain individuals, they complied with His direction and then waited sometimes years for the results of their obedience.  This is similar to driving through a detour that seems endless, isn’t it? God doesn’t always make the directions clear and He doesn’t always give us forewarning to obstacles or detours we may face.  He also doesn’t give us a time frame as to when we will reach our destination.  When there appears to be a delay as to what He told us would happen and when it actually does happen, we can feel like we’re wandering aimlessly or even hopelessly lost.

That’s where relying fully on His word comes in to play.  The enemy will plant doubts in our minds. Impatience may take over and pressure us to give up or go in another direction.  We may even try to speed up the process and interfere with God’s actual timing.  No matter what, I firmly believe God will remain faithful in His word.  If you’ve received a word from the Lord, if you’ve especially taken an action in obeying this specific word and are experiencing a detour, trust in Him, remain faithful to His direction and believe His timing is always perfect.  While you’re waiting and wandering, stand on these two passages:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 NIV)

“…At the right time,  I the Lord, will make it happen.”  Isaiah 60:22 (NLT)

Lastly, remember this, if God places you in a situation, He will guide and direct you through it.

 

 

What if Jesus had Said “No?”

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:42‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Yesterday was Good Friday. All over the world, church services were held to commemorate and reflect on the arrest, torture and brutal murder of Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us crowds gathered crying out “CRUCIFY HIM!”, darkness fell for about three hours, the veil between Heaven and earth was torn, an earthquake occurred and Jesus cried out “It is finished!” giving up His spirit/dying before His side was even pierced. Lots were cast for His clothing and belongings. His body was removed from the cross and buried in someone else’s tomb.

The night before He died, Christ went off into the forest with three of His disciples. He was overcome with such emotion that scripture tells us His sweat was like blood (Luke 22:39-46) Jesus was in great distress. He knew what tomorrow would bring. He knew He was going to endure false accusations, betrayal, chastisement, mockery, being spat upon, flogging, beatings, having a crown of thorns pressed into His head, having nails driven into the bones of His hands and feet and eventually die by asphyxiation. All for nothing He ever did. He knew all of this suffering was for someone else. But what if Jesus listened to His flesh, gave into the anxiety that consumed Him that night and told God “No!” to death by crucifixion. What would life today be like if Christ had never died, had never conquered death and had never brought salvation for all of creation?

Let’s explore this question through the fictitious life of a man named Jess. Jess was a 33-year-old single man. He lived in a simple one bedroom apartment in a largely overpopulated city. The name of the city isn’t important for this story. Jess believed himself to be a devout man of God. He started everyday kneeling in prayer, read his daily devotions and attended church regularly. He was a faithful tither and believed he had a servant’s heart because he volunteered one Saturday a month at the local homeless shelter. Jess believed he was a man after God’s own heart.

One Friday morning, Jess awoke to his usual 6am phone alarm. He quickly rose, wiped his blurry eyes, sniffed to relieve his stuffy nose and groggily knelt down beside his bed. He humbly bowed his head and prayed this simple prayer-“Lord today belongs to You. Whatever you lead me to do, let me do it with an obedient heart.” He said “Amen”, sat down on his bed and picked up his Bible. He read Deuteronomy 8:6 “Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him.” He said “Amen” once again, closed his Bible and proceeded to carry out his usual morning routine. He left his house promptly at 7am to catch the morning commuter train to his office.

As he walked to his train stop, Jess noticed the day seemed different. The sun was just rising and his heart felt full of all the fruits of the Spirit. He even arrived at his stop fifteen minutes early which never happened. He said a quick “thank you Jesus” under his breath for the extra moments in the start of his day to be still. Suddenly he felt a nudge and heard a whisper. “Jess do You love me?” He looked around and didn’t see anybody around. Silently he prayed “Lord is that You or am I hallucinating?” God responded; “Yes-it is I. Jess, do you love Me?” Jess quickly responded with “Yes Lord I love you.” “Then feed my lambs.” Jess looked to his right and noticed a woman with a weathered face, tattered clothing and barefoot standing in the shadows. She looked like she hadn’t showered in a decade let alone had a decent meal recently. The woman made eye contact with Jess and it was as if he could feel her hunger pangs surging through his own body. Jess moved his look away from her and silently prayed “Lord-I can’t give that woman money. You know she’ll just use it on drugs or alcohol. I’d give her my lunch but then I would have to eat out and that wouldn’t make me a good steward of my money. Can’t you lead her to the soup kitchen three blocks away? They have plenty of food to feed her…” His prayer was interrupted by the sounds of a train coming to a stop. Before boarding, he looked to his right again but the woman was nowhere in sight.

Jess’ morning at work was unusually quiet and calm. The time seemed to fly by and soon it was lunch time. Instead of eating, he remembered he had to run to the corner market to pick up a few things he needed for the weekend. It was only a ten minute walk. As he was stopped at a crosswalk, waiting for traffic to pause so he could cross, he heard the Lord speak to him again. “Jess, do you love me?” This time he immediately recognized God’s voice and prayerfully answered “Yes Lord, you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep.” As Jess was about to ask God what He meant by this statement, he was distracted by a man who was walking toward him with his arms full of books, boxes and shopping bags. Just as the man approached the curb Jess was standing on, he tripped and everything in his arms went flying to the left and ride sides of him. Jess felt a nudge to help the man but he looked at his watch and knew it would make him late returning from lunch. The “walk” sign changed and he crossed the street in haste rushing to complete his errand. He looked back only once to see the man scrambling to collect his belongings but not fast enough as traffic had picked back up and items that had landed in the street were being run over by cars and taxi cabs. Jess felt a slight tug of guilt but quickly told himself “that man was carrying too much stuff. He should’ve known better than to try to carry all of that in one trip.”

Jess made it back from his errand with five minutes to spare. He gobbled his packed lunch in record time not even thinking of the hungry woman or the overloaded man on the street. His afternoon distracted him with multiple phone calls and emails along with an expense report he had to complete by the end of the day. When he decided to take a break he noticed it was ten minutes past quitting time. He hurriedly cleaned up his desk and powered down his laptop. He had ten minutes to catch his train that was usually a fifteen minute walk. He arrived at the station just as the train was pulling away. It would be a thirty minute wait for the next available train. He slumped down on a bench, let out a frustrated huff and decided to scroll through his phone to pass the time.

Minutes went by and he heard from the Lord a third time. “Jess Simons, do you love Me?” At this point, Jess felt exasperated and confused. He wondered why God kept questioning his love for the One True King. He even gave his answer aloud this time. “Lord You know everything. You know I love you.” God replied with another one liner. “Then clothe my sheep.” Jess began again to ask the Lord what he meant by this when he noticed a young boy leaning against a post shivering because he had no coat and was only wearing a thin, short sleeved T-shirt with holey jeans. The temperature today had only reached 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) and was expected to drop below 20 degrees throughout the night. Jess looked down at his name brand down filled winter jacket he was wearing, the thermal gloves keeping his hands warm and thought about the expensive stocking hat covering his head. “Lord, please provide warm clothing and warm shelter for that young man” he prayed. The thought never occurred to Jess to give up the items he was wearing on his own back. Jess and the boy made eye contact. Jess gave him a mild smile and boarded his train. He arrived home one hour later.

At home, Jess put away the items he had purchased earlier in the day, fixed himself a simple dinner and watched an hour of TV (more like flipped through multiple channels because nothing really grabbed his attention.) He checker his watch and headed to bed. Lying in bed in the dark, he thanked the Lord for blessing him with a good day and drifted off to sleep.

Jesus met Jess in his dreams. Actually, Jess found himself watching Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, praying the night before he was arrested. He saw Jesus’ anguish, he could smell the salty air of the sweat pouring from Jesus’ brow and he heard the most shocking words he never imagined Jesus would utter. “No God. I won’t do it. I won’t be flogged and crucified to save the world. Adam and Eve should’ve ignored that snake. I have so much more ministry left if You keep Me alive instead of crucifying Me. Abba-I just don’t want to do it.” Everything went dark and the earth began to shake uncontrollably. He felt himself and everything around him being swallowed up by a force so great it felt as though his entire being was overtaken by another life force. Then nothing. It was if there was absolutely no existence. He awoke with rapid breathing, a racing heartbeat and his pajamas soaked from sweat. He sat up abruptly and cried out “Lord? What was that?” But this time, the Lord didn’t answer. He eventually fell back to sleep and wasn’t awakened again until the dawn’s sunlight illuminated his bedroom.

He opened his eyes, blinked a few times from the brightness then jumped out of his bed and knelt before the Lord. “Holy God, forgive me for I have sinned. Please answer me when I ask You, Father, WHAT did that dream mean?”

Then God spoke, “My son, yesterday you told me the day belonged to Me and that you would do whatever I asked of you. Yet three times when I asked you to do something, you told me ‘no’.”

“When did I ever say no to you Lord?” “When you refused to feed the hungry, help the needy and clothe the naked.” Immediate a flashback of Friday’s events flashed through Jess’ mind. He saw the homeless woman and felt her hunger. He saw the overloaded man and heard the crunch of boxes being run over by heavy traffic. His own body shivered remember the abandoned boy with no warm clothing. He felt lowly in his demeanor and sunk his head down. “Abba God, forgive me for being selfish and not obeying you. I should’ve given that woman my lunch. I should’ve spared my time and helped that man collect his belongings. I should’ve hailed a taxi for him, paid for and allowed for him to transport those items in an easier way. I should’ve given my coat to that boy, found out if he had a home or worked to find shelter for him. But what happened when Jesus said ‘No’ to You in my dream?” God’s answer sent chills through every crevice of Jess’ body, mind and even more so, his spirit.

“Beloved, if My Son had refused to die for you, this world and everything in it would not exist. You, would not exist.” That answer kept Jess frozen in a realization of what Christ’s willingness to die for him really meant. It was the exact heart opener he needed to spend the rest of his days serving the Lord with a true obedient heart and never overlooking God’s nudges and commands ever again.

What about you and what about me? How often do we say “yes” to the flesh and “no” to God? How often do we sit through broadway production like Easter church services that re-enact the crucifixion, sing our hearts out with raised hands and shout out a few “amens”, only to later in the week take our salvation for granted and say “no” to God. Thank God for His grace, Mercy and redeeming love. Thank God for His continued forgiveness. For He knows our hearts and minds and He knows ever moment of disobedience we will carry out even before its a thought in our minds. Yet He still loves us. He still protects us. He still sent His Son for our salvation. Thank you Jesus for saying “YES” to God’s plan for His life. Jesus’ YES inevitably is the ultimate factor in what has given you and me this life and secured our enteral life. To that I emphatically say, “Amen!”

The Voice of Truth

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.””

‭‭John‬ ‭8:32‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As we go about our daily lives we engage with many voices throughout the day. Some of those voices are encouraging, some are critical. Some voices are loud and direct while others are barely audible and more passive. Nonetheless, these voices tend to skew the way we see and carry ourselves. We give a lot of power to these voices but the only one that truly matters-the one that can truly define us, is the voice of God.

But first-let’s look at the different voices. There are voices of encouragement. These are messages that build you up, strengthen you and motivated you. These can come from your family and friends who love and support you. Heck, maybe they come from Tony Robbins, Joyce Meyers, Bishop T.D. Jakes or Steven Furtick by means of a self-help book, devotional or YouTube video. Whatever the form, these voices help you walk taller, see yourself in a positive matter and display a “can do” kind of attitude.

Then we have the critical voices. These voices see your flaws and define you only by your worst moments or mistakes you’ve made. These voices condemn you, berate you and can cut deep and severe emotional wounds. They leave you seeing yourself in a very lowly manner. If you listen to them long enough these voices can lead to you feeling depressed, anxious and believing you are what these voices tell you. Ironically-these voices always seem louder and more direct than any voice of encouragement. Truth be told-these voices are liars.

The voice of truth is God’s voice. Since we are His creation, his voice is the only one that can truly define us. It’s also the only one we should be listening too. However, God’s voice isn’t always easy to hear or recognize. David describes the voice of the Lord as a thunderous roar that echoed above seas (Psalms 29:3), is powerful and majestic (Psalms 29:4), strikes with bolts of lightning (Psalms 29:7), and can split might cedars (Psalms 29:5.) In 2 Samuel 22:14, the voice of God “thundered from Heaven”, and in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 we read that the voice of the Lord is a commanding shout. Thunder, echoes, shouting-these words all describe LOUD! Yet far too often, the liars are louder than the voice of truth. How can they be, what can we do about it and who are we really according to the voice of Truth?

In biblical times, we read multiple examples of God speaking directly to His people. I firmly believe He still speaks to us directly through His word and the Holy Spirit but in today’s day an age we have to remove all distractions and get quiet before Him to really hear His voice. I believe this because of the passage in 1 Kings 19 when Elijah is at his lowest point, asking God to End his life and God speaks to him. “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (Verses 11-13.) God’s voice was a soft whisper. Can you hear whispers in the middle of noise and chaos or are whispers best heard in stillness and silence? Why else would God tell us is Psalms 46:10 to “be still and know that [He] is God.” And again in Exodus 14:14 when promising to fight for us He says, “you need only to be still.” We can’t hear God because we’re too busy, too distracted and most likely to stuck on the critical voices that tell us we are the opposite of who God creates us to be.

What can we do about it? This is going to sound simple and cliché but we can stop, drop (to our knees) and pray. We have to carve out moments of silence daily to get into God’s word, the only source of really truth, and be still before Him. We have to pray for open hearts and open ears with the God-given ability to hear His voice and then allow the Holy Spirit to guide us and speak to us. We have to be patient when we spend a day or weeks in these moments hearing nothing at all. We have to persevere and choose to stand on His truth every day. Most importantly, we have to recognize the voice of God over the voice of the creator of lies. God’s voice will always coincide with His word. God’s voice will always be pure, peace loving, gentle, full of mercy and sincere. (James 3:17). It is never condemning and will not remind you of your mistakes. (Romans 8:1, 2 Corinthians 2:5)

So who does God say we are? First and foremost we are HIS! James 1:18 confirms that with this: “He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.” A prized possession is a priceless treasure that is safe guarded, protected and preciously cared for just as God Himself, treasures, protects and delicately cares for us. We are also FORGIVEN! 1 John 2:12 states it very matter-of-fact like: “I am writing to you who are God’s children because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.” Luke 7:47 reinforces that with, “““I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love…” and 1 John 1:9 promises that “if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

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God also say we are LOVED. He confirms this in 1 John 4:19 “we love because she first loved us.” For those who have never been unconditionally loved, this one is probably the hardest to understand. How can someone love you in spite of your failures? How can someone love before you were even born? For God it’s quite simple-God is love and He creates our inmost beings. He loves us because He created us and He knows us more intricately than we or anyone else can ever know us. One of the best ways to combat our critics to let go of their harsh words and cling to God’s love for us. It’s the only way we can rise above hate and truly walk in love.

There are many more things God says about us and you can find them all in His word. We have a choice to listen to the voice of critics or the voice of truth. When the enemy strikes you with harsh words, when liars try to remind you of your past or haters criticize you out of jealousy or selfish ambition, stand on God’s truth and if you can’t cling to His love just yet, cling to this one simple verse: “But the voice from heaven spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” Acts 11:9 If you’re a child of God, He has made you clean no matter what dirty mistakes you’ve made. You are not who your critics say you are. You are exactly who God says you are. Walk as the hold of God He made you to be.