God is the prime mover, but He is not a fast mover. As prime mover, God set all things in motion. As a general mover, God is frustratingly slow. Two stories serve to demonstrate.
The pace of Luke 8 seems fast and furious. Jesus is healing. He is teaching. His family is looking for Him. He is caught in a turbulent storm that He calms while crossing the sea. He casts demons out of a maniac man who lives in a graveyard. There is a lot happening. The more He does, the more attention He draws and the crowd grows.
When it seems like the stories have reached fever pitch, Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue falls at Jesus‘ feet and asks Jesus to accompany him to his house. His twelve-year-old daughter is sick and dying. Jairus is desperate for Jesus to heal her. Jairus thinks he needs Jesus to move fast. Jesus is more interested in helping Jairus go far.
As much as Jesus has going on, He complies and begins the walk toward Jairus‘ home. The next part of the verse sets the scene, “As Jesus went, the people pressed around him” (Luke 8:42). Imagine a throng of people, each of whom has needs, vying for Jesus‘ attention as He walks. The scene is loud and chaotic.
All of the sudden, Jesus stops. Unknown to the crowd, a woman with a blood issue has touched the hem of Jesus‘ garment and is healed. She has dealt with this problem for twelve years and had spent all of her money on physicians who all failed to help her. Like Jairus, she is also desperate.
Her problem probably caused her to have a constant menstrual flow. An issue of blood in Jewish culture was not merely a physical problem, but a spiritually crippling one. Because of the flow of blood, she was constantly unclean and would not have been allowed to enter into the Temple for worship.
Jesus stops. Though the crowd has no idea of what happened, Jesus knows. With all that is going on, Jesus is able somehow to focus on one thing. The Master is not a multi-tasker.
In the midst of a throng of people that is described by Luke as a “press”, Jesus addresses the crowd and asks a question: “Who was it that touched me?”
The Bible says that everyone in the crowd denied it, yet Jesus must have persisted to know. Peter, wanting to bring some logic to the situation, tells Jesus that it is impossible to know who touched Him. It is a press of people. A press is a group so large you have to keep moving, but you are stopping. Who touched You? Everyone is touching You!
Yet someone touched Jesus in a way that power came out of Him and He knew it. Eventually, the woman reveals herself, and Jesus simply says to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” - Luke 8:48 (ESV)
Luke records nothing of Jairus’ reaction in this moment. As the father of two daughters, I cannot ignore the man. Luke says little of him in the scene at this point, but I can see him. Time is running out. In his mind the solution is in hand, but far from where it really needs to be. We must keep moving.
For a man who needs Jesus to move fast, walking would be difficult enough; stopping and taking the time to poll the crowd for a mystery toucher would have been excruciating. In Jairus’ mind his total focus must have been on the fact that it appeared by stopping for the woman, Jesus was going nowhere.
It is inexplicable, but there are times in walking with God, that when it seems we need Him to move the most, He stops.
The progression to the next part of the scene is heartbreaking. The Bible says while Jesus was still speaking, as if He is putting the final touches on His statements about the triumph of the woman’s faith, Jairus receives the most devastating news. A nameless woman in the crowd may have been healed, but “Jairus, your daughter is dead.” The bearer of the bad news follows up his statement: “do not trouble the Teacher anymore.”
For the nameless woman, the stop was the beginning of new life. For Jairus, the stop appeared to be the end of life. Don’t trouble the Teacher anymore. He’s too busy dealing with other things.
Read the rest - #THEWALK, now on Kindle for just $3.49. Get your copy today.
In the new year we often commit ourselves to reading. If reading is part of your resolution, please consider my book #TheWalk that was released last October. #TheWalk is a great choice as your first book for the new year.
Why #TheWalk? January is a month of regret and resolve. Our regrets often give birth to our resolutions. The 7 pounds I gained from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day has served to make dieting a top priority in my life. While weight, reading, saving, and time considerations often dominate the top of our list, there should also be some more lofty goals somewhere in the mix. Instead of only considering what we may lose, save, or manage, how about considering some things you would like to finish, start, or even create?
It is difficult to be different. If you want your situation to change, you must change. The failure to be different is what usually trips up our resolutions. John Maxwell said, "You'll never change your life until you change something you do daily." It is at this point, daily change, that I believe you will find #TheWalk most helpful.
#TheWalk is not about doing more, but doing less. It is not about meeting life goals as much as it is about doing something different daily. No matter how big or how small the objective before us, there is only one way it can be accomplished; one step at a time - walking!
#TheWalk was born at the beginning of 2014 out of my own frustrations of having great ambitions, but feeling as if I had accomplished very little. While praying through Psalm 119:133 God opened my eyes to a revolutionary principle that has changed my life - steps.
Rather than asking God to help me arrive at certain destinations or to accomplish certain long term goals, I now ask God one simple question each day, "What step do you want me to take today?" Breaking life down into steps has made me more content and effective in everything I do. I believe #TheWalk can do for you what the journey of preaching and writing it did for me - #TheWalk helped me be different.
Here is a short excerpt from the book that I hope you will find to be helpful. I pray you will have a great 2015 and that you will consider adding #TheWalk to your book list this year.
Honestly, I’m not a big fan of the circus. Even though there is a lot going on in the three rings, something about the chaos of it just doesn’t hold my attention. Trapeze doesn’t do it for me. If you are a circus clown and you are reading this book, I’m sorry to offend you, but what you do in the circus doesn’t connect with me. However, I would love to know how so many of you get in those little cars. Other than that, I’m not a fan of the clown. The dog trainer part of the show is absolute torture for me. They are about to fire a man out of a canon. Do the circus people seriously believe that a poodle hopping through a hoop is supposed to psyche me up for the human cannonball? Get the little dogs off the floor and let’s see a guy fly through the air like a missile. I see dogs everyday. Missile men - not so much.
There is one point of the circus, however, that grips me. Bring out the lions and the tigers, and I’m all in. Those massive majestic animals are mesmerizing. Put a guy in there with the real potential of being mauled right before my eyes - I’m all over that - from a safe spectator distance, of course!
Have you ever noticed that the lion tamer takes only two things into the cage with him? He takes a whip, which I can understand, and a chair, which I cannot. Yet in that infamous image of the lion tamer that is etched in our minds, you see only two things in his hands, a whip and a chair.
Most of the time when we watch the lion tamer work his craft, we are excited by the whip, but think little of the chair. But the chair is the most important element of all. The whip has little to do with influencing the animals.
With the whip, the lion tamer controls the crowd. We love the crack of the whip and, as humans, we are sympathetic to the sting. Indiana Jones may do it for humans, but Indy does nothing for lions. The whip may capture our attention, but it is with the chair that the lion tamer controls the beast.
Lions have an impeccable ability to focus. When the end of the chair is extended toward a lion, the lion becomes almost paralyzed. Now, instead of focusing on one thing, the leg end of the chair presents the beast with four. The otherwise perfectly focused animal doesn’t know what to do next. He has too many choices to make.
A powerful creature out of focus is ineffective.
I find myself like the lion a lot of times. I have so much in front of me that I lose focus and become ineffective. I find myself looking at the leg end of the chair way too much.
In a lot of ways, it is easy to become confused and paralyzed in your walk, wondering what to do next. You have too many things in front of you at one time. This is why priority is so important. When it comes to your walk, the first thing determines everything. With so many things in our vision, how does one possibly narrow it all down to one thing? The good news is that God has made it an easy choice for you. Remember, God has ultimately called you to do only one thing, walk in a way that pleases Him.
Jesus said it like this, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” - Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV)
What we eat, drink, or wear is the leg end of the chair. Jesus teaches us that if we can get those things in the right order of priority and make the one thing the main thing, all of those other things God will provide. Remember, He is the provider for those who walk with Him.
That word seek, Jesus uses in the passage, means “to walk with focus.” It describes investigation and searching. You can’t seek several things. There is an old proverb that says, “He who chases two rabbits captures none.” The only way you can truly seek something is to get it down to one.
If you could get four or five things out of your face and bring one thing into focus, it would help you go further. Why, because according to Jesus in Matthew 6:31-33, the first thing determines everything.
You make a critical mistake if you believe that God is not interested in the details of your life.You may feel that God is uninterested because you are unimportant.You may not be one of the 40 most influential people under 40 in your city.You may not be a leader in your company.The only picture of you in your high school yearbook is the one they made you take in front of a cheesy background in the cafeteria.You may not think anyone is interested in your steps, but, if you walk with God, He is interested in each one of them.Look at Psalm 37:23 again.If you delight in His way, He will take delight in yours.
Another mistake is to believe that God is interested only in the big things. Whom should I marry? Where should my kids go to school? What should I do with my life? Psalm 37:23 doesn’t say God is interested in your leaps. God is interested in your steps. If you will learn to acknowledge God on your way to taking the plunge, you will find that He would not have walked you to the edge of the cliff in the first place. Even big decisions which require great risk are the culmination of many steps.
I like the choice of the New Living Translation. The NLT says, “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.”The qualification for God’s involvement is not the size of the step, nor is it the size of the person. For the godly, God is involved in every step.
A news story surfaced last week about a 19 year old man in Great Britain who became addicted to selfies. He would spend 10 hours a day taking as many as 200 pictures of himself until he could find the perfect one to post. Ultimately, when he realized he could not take the perfect selfie, he tried to kill himself.
In a widely circulated article “Parents, A Word About Instagram”, blogger Sarah Brooks helps parents understand a potential pitfall of the social media phenomenon by saying,
“Have you considered that your child is given numerical values on which to base his or her social standing? For the first time ever your children can determine their “worth” using actual numbers provided by their peers!”
“Let me explain…”
“Your daughter has 139 followers which is 23 less than Jessica, but 56 more than Beau. Your son’s photo had 38 likes which was 14 less than Travis’ photo, but 22 more than Spencer’s.”
“See what I mean? There’s a number attached to them. A ranking.”
Brooks goes on to say
“They’re definitely paying attention. And it’s definitely affecting them.”
“It’s not just about assumed popularity anymore. It’s explicit. It’s quantifiable.”
“At arguably the most awkward time in their lives, a crucial time of development when they are trying to figure out who they are and where they belong, this is what they’re up against. A quantifiable popularity ranking.”
If we lay the worth of our soul upon the altar of public opinion we will find ourselves empty, confused, and eventually destroyed. The young man who was addicted to selfies explains the highs and lows of what Brooks calls “quantifiable popularity.”
“People would comment on them, but children can be cruel. One told me my nose was too big for my face and another picked on my skin. I started taking more and more to try to get the approval of my friends.
“I would be so high when someone wrote something nice but gutted when they wrote something unkind.”
Truth is, you only need one “like.”
In Psalm 16:11 David says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word usually translated “presence” is actually the word “face.”
We don’t need a perfect picture of ourselves. We need a perfect picture of God. Before His face is everything our selfie fails to deliver: a trending future “you make known to me the path of life”, satisfaction “in your presence is fullness of joy”, and something eternally pleasing, “at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
There is something powerful about taking the focus off of ourselves. Negatively, it disarms the false value and potential pain of “quantifiable popularity.” Positively it changes the question. Does God like it? Changing the question changes everything.
The question could be asked of every area of our existence. My attitude, does God like it? The way I act as a student, a parent, a worker, a neighbor . . . does God like it? Is God pleased with the way I act, think, and talk? Ironically, you can’t please people, but believe it or not, there is a way you can become pleasing to God (1 Thess. 4:1).
If we find what God likes, according to Psalm 16:11, something incredible begins to happen. “You make known to me the path of life.” A God who perfectly knows you and the future begins to unleash trends and blessings that could become viral in your life. Instead of trying to please followers and friends, which leads to never ending waves of tossing confusion (Eph. 4:14), we have only one path to consider. We need to please the Lord.
“In your presence there is fullness of joy.” The Bible teaches that God loves for His people to be overjoyed. He is the originator of paradise, the architect of the Promised Land. If you learn to like what God likes you can have your fill of it.
“In your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” There is no version of the selfie that can bring eternal pleasure. This is the truth at which the young man from Great Britain crashed. But we have a God who offers His people everlasting pleasure. If we live to please people we enter into a black hole that will empty the soul. When it comes to “everlasting” there is only one like that ultimately matters.
You only need one like.
If you do not know the Lord as your Savior, repent of the rat race of the sin of quantifiable popularity. Take your soul off of the altar of public opinion and find grace in the God who offered His son for your sin. Be born again today (John 3). You only need one like.
I have been sharing a series of sermons with my church family (www.libertybaptistchurch.ws) entitled The Walk. The Bible uses the metaphor of walking more than 200 times to describe the way one does life. As I stated in a previous post entitled (What You are Missing by Googling God), the metaphor is fitting because walking, in Biblical times, was a way of life.
Last year, while driving, I passed a man dressed in military fatigues carrying an American flag. I noticed him, but I moved on quickly and gave it very little thought. The next day I saw the same man standing with a group of people on a street corner in a different town, at least 15 miles from where I had seen him the day before. That weekend I was hosting a retreat for a group of leaders at a facility located at the summit of a mountain. As I left the retreat center that Saturday, guess what I saw. Same guy, same flag, only now miles away, and 3,000 feet above the town where I had seen him just a few days before.
After doing some research I found out that his name is Mac McQuown and he is on a journey to visit the capital buildings of all 50 states and raise awareness about the needs of US military veterans. As of 4/6/2014 Mac had completed more than 2,800 miles of a walk that will take him at least 6 years to complete.
As much as we enjoy those miracle stories of conversion in which someone is drastically and radically changed, it is important to understand that the Christian life is not so much about the miracle moments as it is about progress. I pray for certain things in my life to happen quickly, but they rarely do. The interest God has in my life has less to do with the momentous and more to do with the mundane. There is nothing more mundane than walking.
Small amounts of incremental change leads to great amounts of progress.
The Christian life is very pedestrian. It is about steady progress. It is not about majoring on what happened to me "one incredible day" it is about the way I am thinking, behaving, and doing life EVERYDAY. The Biblical metaphor of walking is powerful because it teaches us not only about the pace of progress, but it teaches us that God expects us to infuse Biblical truth into everything we do, no matter how pedestrian it may be.
Mac's walk helped me to realize that drastic changes occur step by step. As I drove past him the first day I only took brief notice of his walk. I literally only saw a few steps and I moved on, but so did he. Three days later, as I turned to drive down the mountain I had a stunning realization, while I slept, ate, and "did life" Mac kept walking. In three days, he had made it further than me. Apparently he continues to move along. I am still here.
What you do everyday makes a huge difference. Just make progress.
Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:10
I am excited to begin a new series of sermons at Liberty this weekend entitled the walk. The journey into this series began for me a few weeks ago during my morning prayers. I was praying through Psalm 119:129-136 and the Spirit brought me to a halt at verse 133, "Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me."
My mind was immediately flooded by a number of Bible verses that speak about our relationship with the Lord as a "walk." I continued to dwell on this verse throughout the morning and I went about my tasks. I couldn't get my mind off of the idea of walking with the Lord. My wife always says God speaks in themes. That afternoon I made contact with my lifelong friend Chris Altman, student pastor at Roopeville Road Baptist Church in Carrolton, GA. Chris has invited me to speak to his students for several years during their summer camp. I asked him what his theme was for this year so I could begin to prepare. Guess what he said, "WALK."
O.K. God, got it!
Here is what I am going to focus on this Sunday, PACE. If we are going to do life at "Godspeed" we must walk. God walks wherever He goes. There is a lot we are missing in life because we are not doing life at Godspeed. Allow me to share with you this Sunday (8:45 and 11 a.m.) some things I have learned about PACE, doing life at Godspeed. Here are three things God hit me with yesterday afternoon just before I rushed out of my office, hurriedly running to accomplish another task.
God is not nearly as impressed with my schedule as I am
God is not nearly as aggravated by my limitations as I am
God is not nearly as interested at all I have to do as I am
God says "no" to stuff all the time, why can't I?
I make time to hear what everyone else has to say and every opportunity they have to offer, how in the world then can I say I don't have time to walk with God.
Our walking with God is a matter of some constancy: It signifieth our course and trade of life, and not some accidental action on the by: A man may walk with a stranger for a visit, or in compliment, or upon some unusual occasion: But this walk with God, is the act of those that dwell with him in his family, and do his work.
It is not only to step and speak with him, or cry to him for mercy in some great extremity, or to go to church for company or custom, or think or talk of him sometimes heartlessly on the by, as a man will talk of news, or matters that are done in a foreign land, or of persons that we have little to do with: But it is to “be always with him.” (Luke 15:31.)
“To seek first his kingdom and righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33.) “Not to labour (comparatively) for the food that perisheth, but for that which endureth to everlasting life.” (John 6:27.) “To delight in the law of the Lord, and meditate in it day and night.” (Psal. 1:2.) That his “words be in our hearts, and that we teach them diligently to our children, and talk of them sitting in the house, and walking by the way, lying down, and rising up,” &c. (Deut. 6:6, 8.) That “we pray continually.” (1 Thess. 5:17.) “And in all things give thanks.” But will the hypocrite delight himself in the Almighty, or will he always call upon God?” (Job 27:10.) “His goodness is as the morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.” (Hos. 6:4.)
Richard Baxter, William Orme, The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter, vol. 13 (London: James Duncan, 1830), 179.
Bio of Richard Baxter: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/131christians/pastorsandpreachers/baxter.html
I am beginning a new series of sermons on Sunday at Liberty entitled "The Walk, Conquering Life One Step at a Time." This morning I spent some time with the Lord reading Jeremiah 1. Here are a few things we can glean from his walk.
What do you see? Jeremiah is an unusual "prophet" book in that there are no miracles or fantastic visions for interpretation. God told Jeremiah to look at things he sees along his path everyday, but to look at them in a new way. God asked Jeremiah a simple question, "What do you see?" I see an almond branch. I see a boiling pot. Suddenly Jeremiah really began to take notice of things he saw everyday. God used those mundane things to speak into Jeremiah's life. As you pass through your day today, what do you see?
Never stop the conversation. The most tragic thing about our "quiet time" is that often it becomes our "only time" with God during the day. If your quiet time is in the morning, this should only be the beginning of your conversation with God for the day. If it is in the evening, it should merely be the final talk of the day, not the only one. As Jeremiah walked along his path he was in conversation with God. Let's talk about what you see. Let's talk about your fears. "Your only a youth (Jer. 1:7)?" Let's talk about that.
Dress for success. God told Jeremiah to "dress yourself for work (1:17)." Walking with God is not a Christianized version of empty spirituality. God does not speak to us so that we may be merely blessed, or calmed, or deep. God speaks so we know how to serve. There is a mission to be accomplished. Look for ways throughout the day to fulfill God's commands.
Keep it Biblical. Notice that Jeremiah was not allowed to go off on the tangent of his feelings, nor was he left to artistic interpretations of life. Jeremiah was told to keep focused on God's commands (Jer. 1:17b). It is important to fill our minds with Scripture instead of merely filling our minds with thoughts. Notice Jeremiah was not left in his conversation with God to begin his sentences with qualifiers that have become all to common in Christian lingo, "I think God is . . " or "I feel like God is . . ." Jeremiah's path was marked with divine revelation not human reasoning.
Don't be afraid of a less than good day. Too often our Bible reading and our time with God in prayer is set on one grand and selfish accomplishment, "Help me have a good day." I'm not saying that God is opposed to good days, but I am saying that God is also not opposed to difficult ones. God prepared Jeremiah for a fight (Jer. 1:19). What if we were less concerned about a good day and more concerned with being prepared for what is coming our way? "Do not be dismayed by them, lest I may dismay you before them (1:17). God did not promise Jeremiah a good day, but He did prepare him to fight a good fight, to be a great prophet, to preach a great word!
Walk with God today. Take notice of things you see everyday, but see them in a new way. Never stop the conversation with God. Get ready to respond to the work He has for you. Ground yourself in the Word. Trust less in your own thoughts and feelings. Take every thought captive for Christ. Don't be afraid of a less than ideal experience. God is not looking for good days, he is looking for great people who walk with Him throughout the day.
The breakneck speed at which we do life has made one of the Bible's simplest teachings almost foreign to us. Steps.
We are driving, texting, talking, and updating. Our pathways are guided by intricate systems which communicate our exact coordinates to global positioning satellites instantaneously. We are told where to turn and exactly what time we are projected to arrive at our destination. For the most part, we are unaware of our surroundings as we do life at smartphone speed.
When the writers of Scripture describe life you can tell that they lived at a different speed. They use words like "walk" and "steps." When Paul says repeatedly in his letters for us to "walk worthy (Ephesians 4:1 or Col. 1:10)", he is not only admonishing them to pay attention to how they live, but he is reflecting life's speed. They walked everywhere they went. Walking was a way of life.
David says in Psalm 37:23 that the "steps of a man are established by the Lord." In Psalm 119 the Word of God is illumination for the writer's feet and a light for his path. Again, the proximity of the verse suggests life at close range, at walking pace. Later in the same chapter, verse 133, the writer asks the Lord to, "Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me."
Because we have grown accustomed to life at digital speeds we want instantaneous results. Yet we forget. We may be able to Google information, but you cannot Google holiness.
Because we are guided by GPS we can drive to any destination and have no idea how we got there. Life with the Lord is not merely about arrival at a destination, it is about steps. It is less about praying about where we want to be and more about paying attention to where we are and how the Word of God applies today.
We need to be asking more questions like "What's next?" rather than questions that begin with "When?" Your phone may know exactly "when" you will arrive, but God is less concerned with the "when" and more concerned with the steps.
In the past we asked for directions. Now all we want is an address. In later days we received directions based on scenic milestones. Turn at the barn, over the hill. There is a massive oak tree in a field. Now we drive to an address and see nothing.
The Bible wants you to see what's along the way and take time to think about why it is there, who built it, what's the story, and what does it say about the next step?
We may live a multi-tasking digi life, but somehow we need to break it down, especially our journey with the Lord, into steps. Slow it down. Be deliberate with the day. Become less frustrated with where you want to be, and more intentional about where you are.
Read the Bible not because you are "supposed to" but because you are looking for something to guide you today. When you read a verse dare to ask why it is now a part of your day. What is God saying to you today about that verse? What is God saying about your day, through that verse?
Pray about less general things and ask for more specific things. Talk to God about people you will see today. Quit asking about God's will for your life and start asking Him about His intent for you today. Prayer and the Bible are not merely us giving God our coordinates. God's intent is for these to be vital windows into today. Stop Googling God looking for instant answers. God is less concerned with supplying you an instant answer. He is more concerned with directing your steps.
Walk with the Lord. All you need to do today is take a step.