Search Me

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  Psalm 139:23-24.

What a prayer! Praying that God would search and test your heart is a dangerous prayer. It is not only a dangerous prayer, but I think it is an incredibly faith-filled prayer because in order to pray this mighty prayer of faith you need to trust God. I don’t see any way you can pray for God to test you unless you trust Him to be gentle with you. If you are scared of God, you can’t ask Him to search and test you. Not because of what He might find but how He might react. If you are scared of God, then you are afraid of how He will respond. However, when you love and trust Him, you know even if He finds junk, He is going to be gentle with you because He loves you.

When my daughter asks me if her room is clean, she is saying “Daddy I trust you to be honest with me and not freak out because I missed something.” If (and when) I find something I am more than likely going to pick it up and take care of it for her. How much more does God help us? We must come to the same place with God. We must come to the place where we love and trust Him enough to ask for testing. The testing is for our own good. James says that the testing produces perseverance and we need perseverance to move forward in this life. The testing then becomes a time of growth and communion between us and God. Oh, how good it is to be tested by the Lord.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

 

 

Failure is not the end

As time limited creatures we often see failure as the end. If we fail, then we assume that is it and it is time to move on to something new and forget the past. The problem is that we are time-limited creatures. We lack the broad perspective God has to see that a failure now is not a permeant end to that dream, plan, or task. Sometimes failure is just a postponing. To be sure if we fail at something, we have two choices. We can either wallow in that failure or we can move forward. There is nothing wrong in grieving a failure. Some are rather big and hurt for a while. But at some point, we have to move forward. We have to dust ourselves off, dry our tears and say now what. Again, it might take a little while to get there but we must get there. I want to look at two people in the Bible that failed.

First is Jonah. We all know Jonah’s story. God told Jonah to go Nineveh and Jonah said no. Then because that was not enough for good ole Jonah, he boarded a ship for the opposite direction. The storm came, he was thrown overboard, got swallowed by a whale or great fish, repented, eventually got to Nineveh, preached the message that was given to him, the people repented, and Jonah sulked some more because he knew God would relent. Jonah failed in the beginning though. His failure was a deliberate rejection of the call of God on his life. He willfully and intentionally rejected the task placed before him and failed. But God being rich in kindness and mercy heard Jonah when he repented and allowed him to continue on and accomplish the task set before him. Make no mistake about it though, Jonah failed. But failure was not the end, it was only a delay.

The second story and granted there are a lot we could look at, is Paul. We don’t think of Paul as failing. Sure, Saul failed greatly. He wanted to wipe out the Way (Christians) and he condoned the stoning of Stephen. Saul failed big time, but Paul the great Apostle he did not fail. I think before I continue, we should clarify the word fail.

When I talk about failing, I am not talking about being a failure. I am not saying that if a person fails, they are a failure. For example, when I started a construction/handyman company it was a failure. If someone runs for president and they do not succeed, then their candidacy was a failure. Things can be failures, but I don’t think we should so quickly associate people with the word failure. It should take a lot and a lack a moral character for us to label a person a failure. People can fail in things all the time that does not make them a failure. It also does not make failing such a bad thing. Back to Paul.

In Romans 1:13 Paul says that he has often desired to come to Rome but was prevented. This means that his attempts to come to Rome have failed up to the point of him writing the letter. He wanted to and tried to but was prevented for some unknown reason. He failed to accomplish his desire to visit Rome. When we read about Jonah, we might want to label him a failure (which we should not) because he failed but with Paul, we quickly understand that it was not his fault. The thing is that they both failed. Yes, one was their own fault and the other likely was not but failure to accomplish the task was still the end result. Well, not the end…

See what looked like failure was in fact just a delay. Jonah ended up in Nineveh. He preached and the entire city repented. Because of his bad attitude, we get Jonah 4:11 which is a verse that shows us just how great God’s heart is. Jonah failed but it was not the end. Yes, his attitude never changed (at least that is recorded) but he still eventually accomplished the goal.

For Paul, he eventually ended up in Rome. From Rome, we get the Pastoral Epistles (1&2 Timothy and Titus) as well as the Prison Epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon). Without the initial failing, we would not have 7 of the books of the Bible. We would not have the Scriptures about the amour of God, the supremacy of Christ, our place with Christ and so on. We would be missing so much if Paul had succeeded at first. Not only that but when he finally got to Rome, he was able to speak to the most powerful men in the empire. What looked like failing in the begging was really delay.

We fail. It is just that simple. We cannot possibly succeed at everything every time. Sometimes it is because we mess up. That happens. We make mistakes, we are weak, we miss our shot, we get big headed, we sin, whatever. Sometimes the failing is clearly on us. When that happens. Do what you need to do to correct it. Learn, study, repent, whatever it is, do the work you need to do. Sometimes, however, we fail for reasons that are beyond us or our understanding. God stops our plans, the devil interferes, people get in the way, people don’t help, whatever. If you have prayed and you know without a doubt that you did not cause the failing then dust yourself off, dry your tears and move forward.

Failure is not the end. Yes, some doors get closed permanently when we fail to accomplish the task but that does not mean it is the end. It just means there is something else to do. Sometimes this failing is simply a delay.

Just a thought,

Mike

Identity and Freedom

Paul has a very interesting way of framing the idea of freedom. He talks about it a lot but specifically in Romans 6:18-20. This is just verse 18 but you should go read the whole thingDo you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” In the Roman world where Paul lived if you were a slave, you had no personality. There was even a special phrase for this idea: Servus non habet personam. A slave had no past, no future, no property of their own, no family name, and no personhood. They were just property. It was possible to buy your freedom but that was typically not until you were old enough to not be of any value to your master. Some were treated better than others but they were still slaves. If you were a slave, you wanted freedom but generally, there was little to no hope of obtaining it. You were personless property. You did not belong to yourself. That is the idea behind the meaning of what Paul talks about when he talks about being a slave.

With that in mind, we can add in that Paul says we are either in Christ or in Adam. It’s a clear either-or scenario.  There is no in-between we are either in Christ (sometimes called Spirit) or we are in Adam (sometimes called the flesh). You cannot be in both. This is important because Paul is framing an argument throughout all of his writing that says we exist as slaves one way or the other. The question is who the master is. What is unique is that Paul says we get to choose our master. Now by default, the master is sin or flesh.

Before Christ we were slaves to sin, we were slaves to our sin nature. We belonged to it. Sin was not something that we did as much as it was part of who we were. It owned us. We had no identity outside of it. Some of us embraced that more than others but true to the reality of the situation we all belonged to sin. Our natural default position was self-focused. Being controlled by sin means you are free from the requirements of righteousness. You belong to one master and do not need to listen to the other.

After you come to Christ the whole thing changes. We move from this position of self-focused to Christ and Spirit focused. We transition from one master to another. It’s like the old Bob Dylan song Gotta Serve Somebody says “yes Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody, Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody” and yes I just quoted Bob Dylan while talking about the Bible. You don’t get a choice in whether or not you serve but you do get to choose whom you serve.

When we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, we chose to serve Him, that’s the Lord part of the equation. We now not only have the power to stop being self-focused, but we have new requirements for service. Before when we served the sin nature the requirements were to do what feels good. Do what you want. Lookout for you. Now we are bound to the requirements of righteousness. That means we are outward and upward focused. We are called to seek the kingdom of God and let Him rule and reign in our lives here and now. We are called to walk as Jesus walked. We are called to love the Lord God with all of being and love one another.

The amazing thing is that as slaves of righteousness we are also adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High. We are no longer just slaves and servants but children who are promised an inheritance. We get something we did not have before. We get a future.  We get personhood. With the change in masters comes a change in identity. This is an amazing and glorious thing. We went from slaves with nothing to servants who are adopted by God. But that is not cause for bragging. On the contrary that is a call to surrender. In Philippians 2:6, speaking of Christ, Paul writes that Jesus did not consider equality with God something to used to His own advantage. Instead Jesus, fully understanding who He was laid down His rights and served.

That is our call. We are called to now understand our rights and lay them down. We say, yes, I am a child of God, and yes, I will one day see heaven but until then I have work to do. We place ourselves under the authority of Christ and do like He did. We submit ourselves and find our identity in God just as Christ did. We do not use our freedom for our own good but seek ways to serve and love one another. When we do this, we can rejoice that we truly know who we are.

We need to understand our identity and when we do, we can go out and do the things of God and for God without fear and with less hurt because we know who we are. We can move from a position of being a child and serving as obedient slaves and servants.

Just a thought,

Mike

A Base of Love

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Working from a base of love is a funny thing. Sometimes life is stressful and confusing. Sometimes life is great and easy. Regardless of what life is like at any given moment, we are called to operate from a base of love. This means that when life is stressful and confusing we are to look past our circumstances and move from a position of being loved and loving others. This can be hard because our stress and confusion attempt to demand our attention. They should be given attention but they cannot have it all.
When life is great and easy it can be hard because we don’t have something pressing us towards the Father in prayer, there is nothing requiring us to look past our own situation. We should enjoy the many blessings we have but we should not forget to love others. Operating from a base of love means embracing the love of God and intentionally looking past our situation to see the image of God in others. It is not always easy but it is best.
Today I challenge you to work from a base of love. First, embrace the love of the Father. Bath in that love. Let it roll over you like waves. Let it drown you like the sun. Soak it up. Then go out and find ways to express that love to others. Find someone, find a few people that need that love and drown them in it. Give them the water of life that flows from within you like a mighty river.
It’s going to be awesome!
Just a thought,
Mike

God of the Wednesdays

As Easter closes, we are left with this time of resting. A lot of the rest of Christianity will celebrate the Ascension and maybe we should too but in general, we have hit our high. After a long time of preparation, we move from this high back to the ordinary. I am anything but ordinary, so I struggle here. We like the high moments. The mountain top experiences. The event. The loud and the fast-paced. But most of life is made up of the ordinary. Most of life is lived in the mundane. Most of life exist on Wednesday.

I say Wednesday because on Monday most people are getting back to work and still have some of high left over from the weekend. We can talk to our co-workers about what happened. We can talk to other students about what we did. Tuesday we are starting to come down, but we can still relive our stories. Someone might still ask how the weekend was. Our Facebook posts from the weekend might generate a few new likes. But on Wednesday there is usually a lot of silence. Maybe your Wednesday is actually Thursday but still, you have a day when nothing is going on. A time when nothing is happening, and you are just there. As a people who generally crave excitement these days can be hard but, in the Bible, we are presented with a deep and wonderful truth: God’s steadfast love endures forever. We think of forever as a time coming but in fact right now is part of forever. There are not moments that are here and gone or will be, but each moment is a moment where God’s steadfast love endures forever.

God is still God on Wednesday and He still reigns and loves us. He is still moving and active. He is still in control. We cannot be like the disciples that stood there looking up to heaven. We must move forward living out this life of love that we have. We must move forward walking each step as Jesus would walk. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31 “whether we eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all things to the glory of God.”  In context, Paul was talking about not causing your brother or sister to stumble but it is important that he is using daily things. We are in the daily movements of life more than we are high on events. We spend more time living in Wednesday than anywhere else. It is in these ordinary times that we need to fall back on spiritual disciplines to help us remember that God is God and His steadfast love endures forever, even on a Wednesday.

  • How do you feel Gods love in the daily activities of life?
  • How do you connect with God in the mundane?
  • What are some areas you could improve on during your ordinary times?
  • What spiritual disciples do you make a practice of? (silence, reflection, daily reading (office readings perhaps?), contemplation, self-examination)
  • What is your private worship like?
  • What is your private prayer life like?

These are just some examples and you will need to find ways that work in your life, but it is important that you find ways and make them solid habits.

Just a thought,

Mike

10:10 Prayer

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During worship at church, I felt like we need to be praying big and praying specific prayers. The idea is to be praying for 10 new missions’ partners for the next 10 days at 10:10 who can give special gifts of $1000 each. That will put us at half way of our total. Will you pray with us? Or maybe you are one of the 10. We are looking for individuals, groups, churches, or even businesses that want to come alongside what God is doing and help us bring the Gospel to France this Fall. Is it a bit scary to pray bold prayers like this? Yes. Absolutely. But we often find God when stepping out in faith. So set your calendar for 10:10 each day (AM or PM or Both) and let’s see what God does.
 
If you feel led to be one of the 10 click here. We would be honored to have you as a partner https://teamexpansion.org/thefarleys/

Going the Distance

I have been thinking about Johann Dober and David Nitschmann who were so determined to minister to the slaves in St Thomas and St Croix that they were willing to sell themselves as slaves. I don’t think they ended having to do this, but they were willing to go the distance. I have also been thinking about Gladys Aylward who was so determined to get to China to be part of the ministry there that she worked for years as a maid to pay her own way. She was willing to go the distance. When I think missions, I think a lot of things, and one of those things is that we must be willing to go the distance. We must be willing to do whatever it takes (biblically) to reach the people we so desire to serve. What cost is too high?

Paul says 1 Corinthians 9:22 I have become all things to all people so that some might be saved. Yes, this means we take interest in the things that interest other people and yes it means we give up things so not to as offend but it also means we are willing to go the distance and be uncomfortable. In Acts 18:3 it says Paul was a tentmaker in Italy because the people he was with were tentmakers (he was also a tentmaker). In 2 Corinthians 11:7-15 Paul says he did not take money from the Corinthians because he did not want to offend or burden. Paul was willing to go the distance.

I don’t exactly know what it means for me to go the distance and I more certainly don’t know what it means for you to go the distance in missions. But I do know we must be willing to do it. We must be willing to sacrifice and live a life that gives preference to the call of God. It can be hard, and it can be tough, but it will always be worth it.

When we serve God when we are willing to take up our cross when we are willing to go the distance people and things change. Yes, the people around us see Christ and find hope and healing but we also change. We become filled with less of us and more of Him. We pour out our lives as a drink offering and in return, God fills us with more of Him.

So as Dober and Nitschmann said as they left for the West Indies “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering”

Just a thought,

Mike.