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

 

 

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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

10:10 Prayer

10_10 (1)
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/

Answer the Why

We have spoken about fight time. That magical moment when it is go time. We have also looked at what we can do when the going gets hard. Those times when we feel like quitting or we if not quitting when we just don’t understand why it has to be so hard. This week I want to look at why. Why do it at all?

In the Bible (Luke 7:36-50) there is this story about a woman who washes Jesus feet with perfume and tears. When I read this story, I cannot help but stand in awe. I stand in awe of Jesus who loved her, I stand in awe of the woman who wept her tears on His feet, and I stand in awe at the religious who would have cast her aside. This woman serves as an inspiration and an example to me.

She is an inspiration because she did not care who else was around. She was going to give the Master the respect that was due to Him. She did not care what was going on or who might see her. She knew who she was, and she knew what she was doing. She was a sinner. She knew this. Simon the Pharisee knew it. More importantly, Jesus knew this. It does not say what her sin was that got her labeled a sinner, but it does say that her sins were many. I think that the simple label of sinner is for our benefit. She was a sinner that is all we know. Is it not the same with us?

We are all sinners. Don’t take that as an attack or an accusation from me. It is just a simple statement of fact. It would be the same as me saying we are all human. We sin. Sin is anything that goes against the nature of a holy and perfect God. It is not an attack but a statement. It doesn’t really matter what your sin is. Some are big and some are small. Some carry more consequence than others, but we are all relatively in the same boat. We all sin against God. The point I want to make is this woman knew that but more importantly, she knew what to do about it.

What good does it do to know you have a problem if you are not willing to do anything about it? If I find out I have some illness that does not really help me. I need to know what the illness is and how to fix it. I broke my wrist once. It was swollen and I was in a good amount of pain. Because I had never broken anything before, I thought it was just a bad sprain. After some encouragement from my wife, I went to the hospital and low and behold I had a broken wrist. That was good information. Bad situation but good info. My first question was “ok now what?” I needed to know what to do with the information I had.

This woman had the information. She was a sinner. That did not help her. Knowing you are a sinner, knowing that you are separated from God, knowing that the entire community looks down on you, knowing that you cry yourself to sleep does not help. Knowing what to do about that problem does. So, she went to Jesus because she had heard all about Him. She had heard about how He went around healing people. She heard stories about how He healed the lepers, restored sight to the blind, and healed withered hands but she also heard that He forgave sins. This woman came to Jesus and washed His feet with her tears and perfume before He ever said I forgive you. She was confident that He would because of what she heard about Him.

When I think about the question, why missions the only answer I can come up with is because both Christ and you are worth it. I cannot stand that some people don’t have that confidence in Jesus. There are all sorts of theological reasons and I could give you some, but the simple truth is that there are so many people who have never heard His name or know that He loves them. That even while we were sinners Christ died for the ungodly. Why missions? Because they have to know, and I have to tell them. There are millions and billions of people who don’t know the story of Jesus. There are millions and billions of people who don’t know that God loves them. How can I be expected to sit in my home and do nothing about this? I was once a person who did not know this. I know what it is like to feel alone and outcast. But not anymore. So why missions? Because Jesus and you are worth it. Because I must!

What about you? Can you answer your why question? Why are you involved in the ministry you are involved in? Or why are you not involved? You have to be able to answer the question of why? God does not create sideline Christians. We are all called to serve in some area. Some are called to multiple areas, but we are all called.

Just a thought,

Mike

Praying in the Tension

A little while ago we spoke about Fight Time. It is the idea that there comes a time when the bell rings and its go time. We spoke about how we fight from a place of victory in Christ and being sealed with the Holy Spirit. We also mentioned how the fight is a fight and it can be hard. Today I think we should pick back up on that idea of tension. Specifically, I think we should look at praying in the tension.

When the bell rings there is this initial excitement where we are ready to go and have the faith to move mountains. We are ready for whatever the world, the enemy, or our flesh throws at us. Like He-man we proclaim, “I have the power!” but the problem is that same excitement and proclamation of power does not last. Maybe after a week, two weeks, three weeks, or four weeks we start to get tired. We wonder why the victory is not yet won. We start to question what God said. We start to wonder if we missed something. Surely if God was speaking, He would have wrapped this up by now. Surely if God was in this it would be easier right?

Well no, not necessarily. The tension we feel between what God said and what we see could be part of the plan. It could be that God is using this tension for a purpose. Honestly, I don’t want to list possible reasons why because I don’t want you to limit God, but He can use the tension for His glory and purposes.

The Apostle Paul has some words of encouragement for us. Writing to the church in Philippi from prison he says, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Phil 1:12). Paul was in jail for doing exactly what God told him to do. He was following the path placed before him and it got him locked up. I am guessing that Paul had his moments of wrestling with the tension of following God’s call and being in jail. A few verses later after talking about how people are trying to make it worse for him, he says, “yes, and I will rejoice” (1:18b). There is tension there, but Paul was praying through and telling us to pray through the tension.

It is not easy, and I am going through it right now, but we have to keep coming back to the place of praying through the tension between what God has said and what we see. One the first Bible verses I ever learned was Numbers 23:19 which says “God is not a man that He should lie nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He not said, and will He not do, or has He not spoken, and will He not make it good?” the verse has always come back to me as a reminder that God is God and I am not. I cannot understand His ways, but I can trust Him.

I believe that one of the reasons God allows the tension is so that we will keep coming back to Him. The tension is hard, but it is necessary. For me, I can see part of the reason is for humility. It is humbling to ask for help. It is humbling to ask for support. It is humbling to not be able to accomplish the task on my own. So, I accept the tension. I don’t really want it but I accept it because I trust that God is good. If we are going to fight then we have to accept that God is good because He is the one leading the battle, and He is the source of strength. So, the tension is real but so is God. Pray in the tension. Pray to the God of peace. Use the tension to draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Just a thought,

Mike

Expert Status…

I have heard that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to be an expert. That is a lot of hours. To put it into perspective if you wanted to become an expert at guitar or piano and played for 4 hours every day it would take 2,500 days to be an expert. That is almost 7 years to reach expert status. That is no breaks, no sick days, and no vacations. 4 hours every day for almost 7 years. That also does not take into account everything you need to learn to practice the new stuff. Things like reading up on new chords, scales, or whatever. Obviously, I am not an expert (I cannot even play). But I think we get the picture. Expert status takes a drive, dedication, determination, and time. It does not happen overnight. But why am I talking about becoming an expert at playing an instrument? I am not, I just wanted to put the idea in perspective.

I do want to talk about becoming expert Christians. More specifically what it means for you to be an expert in your walk with Christ. I say your walk because each one of us should be striving for expert status in our walk with Christ. We should be the foremost leading expert (besides God Himself) on all things pertaining to our walk with Christ. If we use the 10,000-hour rule as a guide we can add in the things we are actually doing to practice our walk and see when we can expect to reach expert status.

My initial thought was “I always have the Holy Spirit in me so subtract sleep and divide.” WOW, that was simple – 588 days or 1.6 years. But then I found a problem. I don’t remember being an expert in my walk with Christ all those years ago. In fact, I am still learning things.

The Bible is not silent on this 2 Corinthians 8:7, for example, says that we should “excel in everything—faith, speech, knowledge.” So it seems clear that we cannot become an expert just by existing as Christians. That would be nice but it does not seem to actually work. Well, maybe it makes a good hypocrite but that’s another story…

Instead, I want to offer three categories that I think we need to practice to help reach expert status. Also, I am going to keep the bad/good news for the end.

First up is obedience because I think a lot of the things we are supposed to practice fall into the obedience category. Giving, for example, is about obedience. Serving is another item that deals with obedience. Come to think of it the Bible is so insistent on obedience that it says that obedience is better than sacrifice. It also Jesus was obedient to the point of death. Obedience is like John says “walking as He (Jesus) walked.” That means obedience is pretty high up on the list of things to practice. So how much obedience do we need to do to reach our 10,000 hours? My guess is roughly 10,000 hours. Yeah, I don’t think we can split this one up. Sorry, it is a one for one ratio on obedience. So let’s make the math simple and say that overall each obedient act counts as one hour because some are longer and some much shorter. We only need 10,000 acts of obedience. That’s really not too bad. If we do one obedient act a day we can become experts in 27 years. But there is a problem.

The problem is it is not just about obedience. There are two other major categories and the next one is discipleship. I thought about maybe putting this one with obedience but Jesus was pretty insistent on this one thing before He ascended back to heaven so I think it should get its own practice hours. Mind you this is not evangelism. You cannot just say well I told 10,000 people so I met my hours. Sorry, wrong answer. Discipleship is taking time to invest in the spiritual formation and maturity of other believers. Discipleship is about being involved in other peoples lives and allowing them to be involved in yours. It is a process and as such, it takes time to complete these hours. So the question – what’s the ratio. Come on Mike how many hours of discipleship do I need to complete to reach expert status? Well, let’s keep this train rolling and say it’s one-to-one. So 10,000 hours or one hour a day or 27 years of discipling others and you have your hours. Again that is no breaks, vacations, or time off. But still, it’s a number.

Lastly, we come to prayer. Prayer is time between you and God. Paul says we should be praying always so there is a good reason to pray. The Bible is full of commands to pray, examples about prayer, stories of God hearing prayers. Jesus even taught the 12 to pray. I would suggest that not only is prayer a big deal it is a progressive act. The more we pray the more we need to pray. The more focused and disciplined our prayers become the more focus and discipline they need to be for us. One of my favorite passages on prayer is when Jesus says that we should keep asking, keep knocking, and keep seeking. I find that very confusing and very exciting. We have to continue to pray. In the beginning, only praying I want prayers is OK. Nothing wrong with that. It is like learning to walk and holding onto the couch or learning to ride a bike with training wheels. It is perfectly OK. But at some point, our prayers need to shift into something deeper. Something more intimate. Our prayer life reflects our spiritual maturity. So can you guess what the ratio is? Go ahead guess… That’s right it’s one-to-one. You might be thinking that this is an easy one right but the problem is the more you pray the more God delights in you and the more He refines you. The more you pray and grow in prayer the deeper your intimacy with Him becomes. The number might as well be 6 billon because the more you pray the more you become dependent on God. Besides, do you feel you have given 10,000 hours of prayer?

In the end, at best we can become experts at what it means for us to be a Christian in 27 years if we practice every single day. No breaks, no vacations, no sick days. This is nearly impossible. Nearly. The joyful thing is that the journey is part of the process. Learning what it means to be obedient, helping others in their walk with Christ, praying and leaning into the Father is the Christian life. That is what it is about. Paul says in his letter to the Philippians that was written towards the end of his life that he had not reached the goal of being fully mature or an expert but that he is pushing forward towards the goal. We keep moving forward and driving towards the end goal of maturity in Christ.

Just a thought,

Mike

Old Prayer are not obsolete

One way to help remember the truth of God is to recite old prayers. Some of these prayers have been around for hundreds of years and some for much longer. Some of these prayers are calls to remember, some are confessions of faith, and some are theological statements designed to conform our mental wills to God.

By reciting and praying them we are doing a few things. First, we are joining with millions of other Christians throughout the years who have called on God. We are intentionally giving ourselves over to something bigger than us and connecting ourselves to that thing. We are saying we stand with believers we will never know but confessing that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves. Have you ever quoted a movie you love and watched someone get the reference? Instantly there is a connection because the two of you share an affinity with something beyond your individual selves.

Second, we are conforming our minds to truths that have been passed down for years. We are making prayer statements and sometimes taking the guesswork out what to say when we pray. Sometimes it is hard to be bold in prayer so by joining in and making these statements you are boldly approaching the throne of grace. We give ourselves over to statements and make them our own. We give God room to inhabit the prayer of His people.

All of this is designed to help us remember that God is in us and that He has revealed Himself to us. In praying old prayers and standing with other Christians and we can conform ourselves to that truth. We can be reminded that God is in us working to achieve in us something amazing.

 

Lords Prayer:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

Prayer of St Columba:
Be a bright flame before me, O God
a guiding star above me.
Be a smooth path below me,
a kindly shepherd behind me
today, tonight, and forever.
Alone with none but you, my God
I journey on my way;
what need I fear when you are near,
O Lord of night and day?
More secure am I within your hand
than if a multitude did round me stand.
Amen.

Doxology:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host:
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

 

Just a thought,

Mike