Dry and Empty

DryHave you ever been so thirsty that the Sahara Desert seemed like a rain forest? Have you ever got into your car only to find it so empty that you had the best prayer meeting of your week as you prayed your car to the gas station? Dry. Empty. Two words we don’t like to hear and they are especially difficult to hear when we walk through dry and empty times in our spiritual lives. We pray, fast, worship and read God’s word but it all seems to go nowhere. We seek God but He is nowhere to be found. Moses spent 40 years wandering in a desert, Paul spent three years in a desert and Jeremiah preached his entire life without one convert. Dry and empty times do not mean we are lost, in fact we may be exactly where God wants us to be. It is often in our empty and dry times that we become most sensitive to God. It’s in these times His voice becomes more defined and His direction becomes clearer. While our world likes the words successful and powerful to describe great men and women, God often chooses to use words like broken, yielded and surrendered to describe his most powerful men and women. Going through a tough stretch? Feeling empty and broken? God takes an empty vessel and fills a house full of jars with oil. He takes empty water pots, has them filled with water and turns them to wine. If you’re empty and dry, don’t be overly concerned, God likely has you right where He wants you. Keep trusting and believing!

 

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Run Your Race

runFor seven hours, thirty-six racers competed for thirty-three slots in the Indianapolis 500 yesterday. For months, plans had been made, sponsors gathered and hours of practice had taken place. At the end of the day, regardless of the investment, three drivers weren’t good enough; they didn’t qualify. I am thankful that my salvation isn’t predicated on qualifying. It’s not my work but the work that Jesus did that makes the difference. Jesus took care of our qualifying. He went to the cross, shed His blood, resurrected and ascended. That finished it. His work on Calvary qualifies us for salvation, eternal life and heaven. Our job? Simple, run the race. Believe that Jesus’ work qualifies us. Obey His Gospel. Have a relationship with Him. Seek Him daily. Live in repentance and be water and Spirit filled as He said in John 3:5 – 6. We don’t have to be perfect, we don’t have to live in fear and we don’t have to worry that there are only so many spots. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “come ALL who are weary and heavy burdened.” It’s not based on men, organizations or good works, it’s open to all who come to Him humbly. I love how the author put it in Hebrews 12, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” Today, I have three words for you. Run your race.

Divine Direction: Trust

Logo6It’s a given, tough times come. When they come they either build trust and draw us closer to God or weaken our confidence and we find ourselves drifting away in doubt. It’s our response to difficult and challenging moments that determines much about our future. Having the ability to trust God involves understanding that everything isn’t logical or rational and to trust God when life doesn’t make sense. The more that we are around God, His presence, the more we have the ability to trust in Him. Why does Simon Peter have the faith to step out of the boat? He had been around Jesus and learned to trust His word. Sometimes God allows us to experience more than we can handle. On one occasion Jesus was in the boat with His disciples when suddenly a storm developed. Panic ensued, fear overwhelms the crew and suddenly they find themselves crying out for Jesus’ help. Who could have imagined? Jesus was in the boat, but still a storm came. What lesson is learned? Just because Jesus is in your boat doesn’t mean you won’t have storms. But even better, if Jesus is in the boat have confidence that the storm won’t sink you. In a storm? It’s likely that Jesus is using the storm for His purpose; to take your faith, your ability to trust Him, to a new level. Going through a tough time? Remember Paul’s words in Romans 8:28, we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

Divine Direction: Connect

Logo6Digital Friendships. They give us the impression that we’re connected, but the reality is that we live in a time when we are lonelier than ever. A friendship, it use to mean physical connection. It meant sharing an interest, understanding each other’s goals and enjoyed doing life together. The average American now has 300 Facebook friends but only two actual friends and a quarter of Americans say they have zero friends. We all need someone (and to be someone) who cares, who listens, who will let you vent and will let you cry. We have become a society of isolation. We push a button, pull into our garages and shut the door behind us. We go into different rooms and watch tv and movies. We set around the same restaurant tables, but separated by our devices. We have become alone, together. In Genesis 2:18, right at the beginning of time, God said of Adam, “it is not good for man to be alone.” Isolation is one of Satan’s greatest tools. When did Satan tempt Jesus? When he was alone. The great challenge of our day is to protect and build relationships, to connect. How do we do it? Three things to look for as we fight for connection. A friend that will challenge you, make you better. A friend that will help you grow in God and grow your faith. A friend that will tell you the truth, especially when you don’t want to hear it. If we can find the right friends, we may be one friendship away from changing our destiny.

Divine Direction: Stay!

Logo6There will always be moments when we are tempted to cut our losses and run but often God is saying, “stay.” Ruth is a beautiful example where logic seemed to be saying go back, but faith was saying, “stay.” Ruth 1:16 says, “But Ruth said, do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”I believe Ruth understood that the moment was more about who would be her God than her physical circumstances.She believed in Naomi’s relationship with God, and because of her decision to stay, she was catapulted into an introduction to Boaz. There are two things that we need to do if we are going to be where God wants us. First, ask some questions. Where is God asking me to “stay?” What does God want me to pursue? More family time? More spiritual development? If so, stop pursuing your dreams and follow His. Second, be a finisher. God often uses the very things that we hate, that hurt and are difficult to rewire and transform us. If you’ve quit something that you should have stayed with, have the courage to make it right. Joseph stayed with the process and the closing line to his story was, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” I challenge you, find your “stay” and see where it takes you.

Divine Direction: Serve!

Logo6Jealousy, envy, gossip and hurt. Just a few contaminants that can get in our hearts and make us toxic. These toxins steal joy, peace and happiness and leave us discontent and dissatisfied. How do we turn it around? One of the quickest ways is to turn our focus from ourselves to others; to serve. Pouring out of ourselves is one of the quickest ways to refill our hearts with joy and happiness. By nature, we are all self-centered. What parent had to teach their child to say, “mine?” God’s nature is the opposite of human nature. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself.” Serving is to love people, hurt with them, pour into them, to listen; It is to share ourselves. True service expects nothing in return. God wants us to be contributors, not consumers. Which are you?  A consumer drops their kids off in a class, grabs a cookie, gets some coffee, enjoys the service (maybe, if the music fits my taste and the message doesn’t convict) and goes home for the week? A contributor’s life says I’m here to serve, how can I make a difference, how can I bless someone. We must remember that the church exists for the world. Serving must not be something we do, but who we are. Make it a life goal to serve. Put it into practice this year, set aside seven days or partial days to be a part of something that impacts others. Being a servant should be the core of our Christian identity.

Divine Direction: Go!

Logo6Stepping toward our destiny may mean we have to step away from our security and each time we are willing to take a risk, to do something unfamiliar or uncertain, we learn more about God and to trust Him more.Going where God wants us to go often means leaving what is comfortable, predictable and easy and often God has to stir us, make us uncomfortable or challenge us to think in a new way. Waiting for lunch, Simon Peter deals with a disturbing dream that defies everything he believes. Three separate times a sheet drops down challenging him to eat food that was considered “unclean.” Confounded by the dream, Simon Peter doesn’t realize the dream is preparing him for a new realm of belief and understanding of God. As the dream comes to an end, a man from the house of Cornelius comes asking him to preach the Gospel. The dream leads to a “go” that brings the Gospel to a new ethnicity of people. With every “go” there is a risk verses reward challenge, and either we ourselves or our adversary, makes the risk look larger than the reward. In reality, it is just the opposite, the reward is almost always greater than the risk. Why are we hesitant? Because fear loves to overwhelm faith. We want details, we rationalize, when God is saying, “trust me, go.” Where is God asking you to go? Stagnation in our walk with God and life is not God’s plan. Step into your “go” and watch where God takes you!