Tag Archives: God’s Will

Take Your Cross

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

(Mark 8:34)

“We all have our cross to bear,” says the popular proverb, but most who say so have no idea of the meaning of Jesus’ words.  He spoke them right after rebuking Peter, who thought that he knew better than Jesus how to accomplish God’s purposes.

Jesus had been explaining that He must suffer many things and even die before He would rise again, but Peter thought there must be a shortcut.  Jesus replied (if I may summarize Mark 8:33-38), “Get behind me, Satan!  There are no shortcuts!  The cross must do its work.”

The work of a cross was to shame, to make the offender suffer, to kill him and to give warning to others about the consequences of crossing the authorities.  But these aren’t the purposes Jesus has in mind.  God’s perspective on the cross is very different from Satan’s.

Both have death in mind, but Satan used the cross to kill the person; God uses it to kill the self.  When Jesus says to “take up (your) cross,” He means that we should willingly carry the tool that God will use to kill our sinful nature and make us more like Christ.

What the “cross” looks like is different for every person.  For some, it’s a challenging circumstance that brings them to the end of their own resources or abilities. For some, it’s something difficult and painful from their past.  For others, it’s a disability, a limitation, a weakness, a failure…  It could even be a persistent struggle with sin.  It’s whatever God uses to bring us into complete dependence upon Him.

Too often, we give Satan power to use these things to shame us, to make us suffer and to destroy us.  Instead, we should turn them over to God, who makes ALL things work together for the good of those who love Him.  God is not the author or creator of the cross, but He will use it to put to death anything that is not like His Son.

Where Satan intends shame, God develops humility.  Where Satan intends suffering, God develops dependence.  Where Satan intends death, God gives life.  Where Satan intends a warning, God provides a testimony.


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Filed under Change, character, christianity, comfort zone, Daily walk, failure, Hardship, sacrifice, sanctification, Spiritual Growth, spiritual warfare, temptation

Don’t Be the Last to Know

When World War II ended in 1945, Japan had about three million troops overseas, about a third of them dug in on islands throughout the Pacific. These men were thoroughly trained in the Bushido code, which held that it was better to die than to surrender.  Many Japanese soldiers had been cut off from the main army during the Allies’ island-hopping campaign and continued to resist. Sporadic fighting continued for months and in some cases years after the formal surrender.

Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda had been stationed on Lubang Island in the Philippines when it was overrun by U.S. forces in February 1945. Most of the Japanese troops were slain or captured, but Onoda and several other men holed up in the mountainous jungle. The others were eventually killed, but Onoda held out for 29 years, dismissing every attempt to coax him out as a ruse.

In 1974, a college dropout by the name of Norio Suzuki was traveling the world, looking for, as he told his friends, “Lieutenant Onoda, a panda and the Abominable Snowman, in that order.”  He found Lieutenant Onoda and became friends with him.  (While he may have since seen a panda, reports suggest that he is still looking for the Abominable Snowman.)  Despite Suzuki’s encouragement, Onoda refused to come out of the mountains unless ordered by a superior officer.

Suzuki returned with photographs of him and Onoda and convinced the Japanese government to go after Onoda (they had declared him officially dead years before).  Finally, the government officials located his commanding officer, who went to Lubang in 1974 to order Onoda to give up. The lieutenant stepped out of the jungle to accept the order of surrender in his dress uniform and sword, with his rifle still in operating condition.  Surprisingly, he wasn’t the last Japanese soldier to surrender.  Teruo Nakamura was discovered in December of the same year on Morotai Island in Indonesia.

Sometimes we become so invested in fighting our battles that we fail to recognize that everyone around us has moved on to other goals.  They knew (long before we ever recognized it) that the battle was lost, that it was no longer worth fighting.  Leaders need to know when to cut their losses and move on – sometimes even from a good cause.

As Christian leaders, we have a Superior Officer who will tell us which battles are worth fighting, but we have to evaluate, and we have to ask.  When our activities stop producing fruit, we should consult God before we redouble our efforts.  It may be that He has moved on to other priorities, and there is no sense wasting time on our pet projects when there won’t be an impact at their completion.  In addition, it is also good to ask God to order our priorities when we are in the process of transition or when we’ve reached a natural stopping point.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

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Filed under Change, christianity, God's Will, priorities, Prioritize, Priority

Response Time

What do these events have in common?

· A worldwide flood

· The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

· Wrestling with Jacob

· The burning bush

· The plagues of Egypt

· Bread from Heaven

· The march around Jericho

· The bronze serpent

· Balaam’s donkey

· Making the sun stand still

· The sign of the fleece

· Healing Naaman’s leprosy in the river

· Making the sun go back ten degrees

· Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace

· The hand writing on the wall

· Jonah in the big fish

· The virgin birth

· Walking on water

· The transfiguration

· The cross

They were all done once or for a period of time and never repeated. These aren’t the only examples – just some of the most notable. God doesn’t seem to like to repeat Himself. And even when He does, He is being intentional in order to teach us something through comparison and contrast (e.g., there were two miraculous catches of fish, but the nets only threatened to break before Christ’s work had been completed on the cross).

Sometimes, we look to God’s Word for a formula that will tell us exactly what to expect from Him, but God won’t be put into a box. Most often, God is doing a new thing in a new way, but we miss it, because we are looking for Him in the place He showed up last time. As a result, our response time for joining Him in His work is pitifully slow. So slow, in fact, that He’s usually done before we get there.

I think God uses so much variety in how He does things, because He knows how quickly we tend to ritualize spiritual things. We want to capture and domesticate them, bring them within our comfort zone. As soon as we see God move, we write a book and proclaim “The Ten Easy Steps to…” We set up an altar and worship what He did rather than who He is.

God is predictable but only in the ways that matter. His character is unchanging, and His purposes are sure. He is always building His Kingdom, and He’s always looking for those who will join Him in the work. But His methods for accomplishing His purposes will change regularly.

We are better prepared to join Him in His work if we study the character of God rather than His interventions. We are more likely to know His will if we seek it out for ourselves rather than copying what we see other Christians or churches are doing. Then we will know the types of things He is likely to do even if we don’t know how He will accomplish them, and our response time will be dramatically improved.

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A Prophet Without Honor

When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed.

“Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”

And they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.  (Matthew 13:53-58)

“And they took offense at him.”  Why?  He had just amazed them with his wisdom and his power to do miracles.  What’s offensive about that?  Jesus was teaching them truth from God’s heart and healing the sick and the lame.  Their hearts should have been overflowing with gratitude.

But instead, they took offense.  Not because of what He did but because of who He was.  He was a “homegrown” celebrity who outshone His friends and neighbors.  “How dare He!”  “Jesus should have been content being ordinary like the rest of us.”  “He’s making us all look bad.” Like crabs in a bucket, they couldn’t be happy about someone else’s success, because it seemed to diminish their own.

Today, we have many examples of “prophets without honor:”

  • A high-school or college classmate who becomes a success.
  • A co-worker who gets the big promotion.
  • A team within the same organization that develops a recognized best practice.
  • A sister church or ministry that is experiencing incredible blessings.
  • A family member who follows God’s leading in their life down a different path.

We tend to discount these peoples’ success and fulfillment, because we “knew them when…” We don’t like it when people or groups break out of the image we had of them.  We feel that we had them locked up tight with our astute evaluation of their character, abilities and potential, and we expect them to stay put.  Rather than reconsider our assumptions, we prefer to come up with reasons that explain how what they have achieved cannot be genuine.

I’ve seen so many examples of this.  I’m too frequently guilty of it myself, so I think I can call it what it really is: PRIDE.  It’s the Sin of Compare-a-Son: judging our own worth in relation to our evaluation of the worth of others.  It’s One-Up; One-Down: believing that we can’t be good unless we are better than.  And it’s all a lie from the Pit.

Satan loves getting us tied up in these distractions.  Our comparisons keep us focused on others rather than on God.  They cause us to spend time in self-justification that we could be using to follow God’s unique path for each of us.  His will is not in the direction of the other person’s success; it’s on a path He has set out for us individually.  We should allow them to be them and us to be us.

God has abundance for us!  We don’t have to fear someone else’s success.  We should rejoice in it with them and then turn to God in confident expectation:

“Whatcha got for me, God?

I’m ready to be blessed in the specific way you have planned for me!”


Filed under Abundance, christianity, expectations, Interpersonal, Life's Purpose, Pygmalion Effect, Relationships, Religion, Spiritual Growth

Prayer Radar

Though most of the world doesn’t know it, we are in a spiritual war. Good battles Evil every day in the unseen realm to claim the territory of men’s and women’s hearts. Angels take their orders from the Almighty General, who, despite His unlimited strength and wisdom, often waits for our prayers to determine where to attack. Those prayers signal to the General what we think are the prime targets in the fight.

If you are a Christian, you’ve been dropped behind enemy lines. Your mission: to save as many prisoners of war as possible before the war ends. But before you get discouraged by the immensity of the mission you’ve been assigned, know that God doesn’t expect you to save them all yourself. He has a plan, and you have been strategically placed to execute your part.

Your primary weapon is prayer, but you can’t effectively pray for everyone you meet. God has placed certain people in your life – both Christians and non-Christians – and those are the ones God expects you to pray for. These people are on your Prayer Radar.

Take out a pencil and a sheet of paper, and draw four concentric circles like the ones shown below. This will give you three donuts and a donut hole. Label these as shown with the words “Family,” “Friends,” “Associates,” and “Others.”

Now, write names of these people inside each of the appropriate circles.  “Family” and “Friends” are probably self-explanatory.  “Associates” might be people that you work with, your neighbors or just people that you come in contact with on a regular or semi-regular basis.  “Others” are people that you don’t come in contact with regularly but whom God has placed on your heart for some reason.  They could include leaders, politicians, entertainers, missionaries, church leaders or world figures (to name a few).

Continue to ask God to bring names to mind of people He has placed on your Prayer Radar. There are no accidents when it comes to the people around you. God put you in their midst for a reason. You were either sent to cover their six (watch their backs if they are already Christians in the battle), or you were sent to rescue them from the Enemy.

Pray for those on your Prayer Radar every day, or select a particular group to focus on each day of the week.  Then watch to see how God works in their lives.  It will be transformational for them and for you.


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Filed under agape love, christianity, Covering, family, God's Will, Interpersonal, love, prayer, Relationships, Religion, spiritual warfare, Spirituality, unconditional love

Like Pulling Teeth

My daughter’s front two teeth were loose once when she was six, but she wouldn’t let us pull them. They were blocking the progress of her adult teeth, and we were worried that they might cause the permanent teeth to come in incorrectly.

I tried offering different methods of pulling the teeth, from eating an apple to a warm washcloth to a string of dental floss looped around them. For brief moments, she would agree to the pulling, but when we sat down to do it, she always shied away from the procedure.

I tried offering increasingly attractive incentives, starting at a quarter and moving up to a toy shopping spree. They all sounded good to her in the beginning, but her fear got the best of her when we sat down to pull the teeth. It didn’t matter what the reward was, she couldn’t bring herself to let me pull them.

Eventually, the teeth fell out by accident. Same result but no reward.

The whole ordeal reminds me of how I sometimes am with God. He shows me what He wants me to do, but it’s really scary. When I’ve got my eyes on the blessings that following Him will bring me, I’m excited and motivated to do it. But as I get closer to the edge, my fear overcomes me, and I no longer have the courage to follow through.

However, the longer I wait to do God’s will, the less of a blessing I’ll get. The best blessing comes when He shows us, and we do it immediately – without question. It’s not as good if I ask for a sign first. It’s even less of a blessing if I ask for multiple signs. Eventually, God will do His will without me.

Same result but no reward for me.

What a shame. God wants to bless us by using us to accomplish His work, but He’s got limitless other ways to get it done. He won’t wait on us forever. The time to drop everything is when He first says, “Follow me.”

What has He called you to do that you are not doing? God will accomplish it with or without you. Swallow your fear and follow.

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Filed under Challenges, christianity, faith, Fear, God's Will, overcoming obstacles, parenting, Religion, Spiritual Growth, Spirituality

Cracked Pots

There is a story about a farmer who had to make a long walk each day down to the stream, where the clear water flowed.  To carry the water back, he used two, large, clay pots that he had fashioned with his own hands.  These he hung on either end of a long pole that he carried across his neck and shoulders.

Though both pots had seen some years, one was still in perfect condition.  The other, however, had a large crack in it, so that when the farmer arrived back home after his long walk, he often had only half the water with which he had started.

The perfect pot was proud of its daily accomplishement, a full pot of water delivered to the farmer’s hut, and it disdained the cracked pot for its inefficiency.  It thought to itself, “I am glad that I am not like this worthless pot beside me.  I faithfully bring all that I’m given back to the hut of my master.”

And to be sure, the cracked pot was ashamed of the way it wasted water on the way back to the hut each day.  If only the crack were not so large or the distance from the stream not so far….  It thought to itself, “My master has been so good to me, and I continue to fail him day after day.  I’ll speak to my master and ask his forgiveness.”

So, the next morning, as the farmer was tying each of the pots to the long pole he used to carry them, the cracked pot spoke up.  “Master, forgive me; I’m a cracked pot.”

Amused by this sudden revelation, the farmer responded, “I’ve always known that you were cracked.  I was there when it happened.”

“Yes, but I’m ashamed that I’m only able to bring half a pot of water back to the hut each day.  If I were whole like the other pot, I could bring back all that you trust me with each day.”

“If I had wanted two full pots of water,” the farmer replied, “I would have replaced you a long time ago.  Have you not noticed the many flowers on your side of the path as we make our way back to the hut each morning?  I planted them on your side, because your crack makes it possible for me to water them each day as I walk.  The other pot doesn’t share its water with the path, so nothing grows on its side.”

The Moral of the Story

God is the farmer, and we are the pots.  He takes our cracks and uses them for His Kingdom and His glory.  Through them, He pours Living Water on a dry and thirsty world.  No matter what mistakes we have made, no matter what our imperfections… God will use them if we let Him.  Romans 8:28 tells us that:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  (emphasis mine)

ALL things.  that includes your prodigal years, your physical “imperfections,” your disabilities, your sickness and disease, your insecurities, your failed marriage, your broken relationships, your demotion, your bankruptcy, your lack of intelligence or good looks or charisma or whatever.  God uses everything – if we let Him.

And don’t kid yourself.  We are all cracked pots.  Not one of us is perfect.  The “perfect pots” may look perfect on the outside, but they are cracked on the inside because of their pride or because of something else they are doing their best to hide.

The difference between most of us and the “perfect pots” is that we are giving God opportunities to use our cracks.  He can’t use “perfect,” because “perfect” won’t admit that it needs God.  Remember, God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  If we pretend that we can do it ourselves, we rob Him of an opportunity to work through us.  If we do it in our own power, we get the glory.

The “perfect pot” was proud of what it accomplished in its own power.  But what it missed was the chance to be part of something greater than itself.  God never asked us to store His blesssings.  He asked us to pour them out as we walk with Him.


Filed under christianity, God's Will, Life's Purpose, Religion, Spirituality, Thirst