What Would Jesus Eat?

Jesus made a statement that should make us pause before we order our next burger. “My food,” He said, “is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work” (John 4:34).

Wow. My food is to serve God. My food is to please Him. My food is to complete the assignment that God sent Me to do. My food is to do the will of My Father and to finish His work. That’s a different kind of nourishment. And one that caused Jesus’ disciples to stop and think, just as it does us. At first they were a little confused. Their leader had just finished ministering to a thirsty woman who needed more than water from a well when the disciples realized it has been a while since Jesus had eaten. So his buddies urged Him to stop and have a bite so He could keep up His energy.

But Jesus, never one to miss a teaching opportunity, responded, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about” (John 4:32). Now, if your mind is a bit odd like mine, you might imagine the disciples thinking, You’ve got food we know nothing about? Have you been hiding some of those new figs and olive Power Bars under your robe? Do you have pockets in there? Sneaking lamb kabobs from the temple concessions? Here we’ve been starving for hours and you’ve got some daily bread stuffed in your fanny pack? Why have you been holding out on us, Lord?

Maybe we’re not so weird after all, because the disciples also took the Lord’s response literally. “Could someone have bought Him food?” They asked (John 4:33). Maybe when we weren’t paying attention, one of the kids in the crowd slipped Him another Filet-O-Fish and some fries. 

When the people around us are all saying, “Get all you can! It’s all about you,” God wants us to contribute rather than to consume. When all of culture says, “Fill yourself,” God tells us to fill others. God didn’t create us to be takers. He created us to be givers. Rather than focusing on our desires, we are called to focus on the needs of others. Instead of cutting to the front of the line, we are called to wait at the end. God created us to serve.

And while at first it might seem like we aren’t getting as much (have you noticed how entitled the phrase “my fair share” sounds?), when we give our lives away, we discover a new and counterintuitive truth: When we give our lives, that’s when we find them. When we serve others, we’re serving God. We are more blessed when we give than when we receive. When we stop obsessing over what we want, only then can we find what we need.

And that kind of spiritual food, that spiritual nourishment, is far better than any burger.

Faith Forward – Part Two

Why are steps of faith so hard, especially at first? Why is it that so many of us don’t go, even when we think we’re suppose to? Even though we’re Christians, and we’re seeking God and asking His Spirit to guide us, and we feel something deep inside us that’s leading us to go and we earnestly believe it’s Him – what is it that keeps us from going? I can’t speak for you. But for me, when that happens, it’s because I’m afraid. I don’t always know what I’m afraid of but I’m afraid. I’m insecure. I’m not sure how it’s going to work out. I rationalize my way out of it, telling myself I can always do it later. After all, I am busy.

But those are just excuses. The bottom line is I don’t have faith. Here’s why that is such a big problem: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). You want to please God. You believe He exists. You’ve been seeking Him. You’ve asked for His direction. Now you need to apply faith! Take that step, make a change, move outside your comfort zone, risk failing and starting over and exercise faith in the God who loves you so much He gave His Son for you. 

Maybe you’re thinking, I just don’t think I have that kind of faith. I for sure don’t have the faith to finish something like what He’s calling me to. Then I have great news for you: you don’t have to have the faith to finish; you only have to have enough faith to start. You need only enough faith for one step: the very first one.

Take the first step of faith. Let God do the rest. He wants to anyway. This isn’t about you. It’s about Him. He’s the One telling the story of your life. He’s the Author. He’s the Perfecter of your faith.

Who knows where He’ll take your story if only you’ll let Him. Here’s how you can find out: take the first step, then just keep going. One day years from now, you’ll look back on your life and see the whole story. What’s it going to be?

“I felt like God was calling me, but I was afraid, so I did nothing”

Or will your story be, “I sensed God was calling me to do something, and even though it would have been easier to stay, by faith I went”?

You get to choose. Which will you pick? I pray that by faith you’ll have the courage to start a discipline that changes the direction of your story. I pray that by faith you will stop something that hinders your story from being what God wants it to be. I pray that by faith you will have the courage to stay the course and be faithful where you’ve been planted,. Even when it would be easier to throw in the towel and just walk away. And when the time is right and God calls you, I pray that you will find the faith to go, even when it would be easier to stay.

Just take the first step. 

Faith Forward

If God is calling you to go, you’re going to have to leave where you are. And you sure don’t want to miss out on what He’s doing, Years from now, you could be looking back on this time in your life and realize, “That was the day my life and my story changed. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, but I decided it was what God wanted, and now I’m part if this great community of believers. I had no idea how different our lives would be.”

The key is that you will need to step out in faith – leaving what you know, what you are comfortable with, what you are good at – to reach forward and grab hold of what God is asking you to do. And, here is what I know: If you don’t try, you will never know what might have happened. You will live with regret always wondering “what if…”

What if God’s calling you to get involved in some ministry or even to start a new one? As soon as a few months from now, you could find yourself sharing your story:

      • “It blows me away how much it has already changed my life to serve inner-city kids.”
      • “I never would have guessed I had so much to offer the youth at my church.”
      • “I always felt like I should help repair cars for people in need. I don’t even know how it happened, but I started fixing cars for people on weekends, and all of a sudden, a whole bunch of other people pitched in. Now we have a blast together, and we’re impacting the lives of the families we’re serving.”

None of this can happen if you never take the first step. You need to move forward in faith. Faith Forward!

Take the first step. Quit making excuses. Whatever it is that you’re suppose to go and do, write it down and remind yourself what your heart already knows. There is this ‘direction’ in your heart calling you to move forward in faith. Everyone has one…

I know what it feels like to start asking yourself questions. “God, I’m afraid. I need details! What’s going to happen? What you’re asking me to do sounds hard.”

And God may answer, “First of all, I don’t give my children a spirit of fear, so that’s not coming from me. You don’t need details. You need faith. And yes, it will be hard. But I didn’t call you to an easy life. I called you to a faith-filled life. Put your trust in Me. Let Me handle the details. I’m pretty good at them.”

So, take that step of faith. Go, even when it would be easier to do nothing. Venture where God is calling you despite what others say. Trust Him with the details. Faith Forward.

As I have been writing this blog entry I have been thinking about the book writing I have been nibbling at. I think about it more than work at it. I love to write and work with words. I love to research and collect information. I love to organize and put thoughts and materials together and come up with something that will help others, teach others, encourage others. But, I am hesitant to disrupt the established routine and make a definite, foundational commitment to writing the books that I know He wants written and written by me. 

So, in my research for this blog I came across the following comment: “Is there a book burning inside you? Set the book free. Take the first step. Quit making excuses. Start writing some notes and getting your ideas organized during your lunch breaks. Then on evenings and weekends, or early in the morning before you go to work, fire up your laptop and write.”

Ouch!

Then I remembered that one of my favourite authors wrote his first book (first of very many) while working full time in another professional job. He simply got up 30 minutes earlier and wrote one page a day. The book sold millions of copies and even became a popular movie produced by Hollywood. One page a day… 

So, I am taking my own advice – faith forward!

One Decision Away From…

The truth is each one of us is just one decision away from changing our lives forever. And, a second thought, your best decision is the one you’re about to make. For your life to be all that God wants it to be – that you want it to be – you need to understand that it’s the small choices no one sees that result in the big impact everyone wants. 

If there is a goal you want to achieve, you have to make decisions that will move you in the direction you want to go. These are not big decisions. They are actually every day, small, often mundane decisions. However, they add up and determine where you end up in life. Andy Stanley in his book “The Principle of the Path” puts it this way: “Direction, not intention, determines destination.”  And you set your direction in life one small decision at a time. 

If you want to take aim at the life you want to live, you have to make small, life-changing choices and then act on them daily. The best decision you can make is always the next one. Each decision should move you closer to becoming all that God made you to be, to turn your life in the direction of your goals and dreams  – and God’s plan for you. Most people look at others who are successful and figure they probably made just a handful of big, really important decisions. But the opposite is true. It’s the small choices no one sees that result in the big impact everyone wants. 

When you choose to forgive your spouse instead of holding on to resentment, no one sees that happen. But the evidence is clear in your marriage. People may tell you how great they think your kids are without ever realizing that their maturity happened over time, growing slowly out of small decisions, daily boundaries, and tiny course corrections you planted throughout their lives. Coworkers who see you get a promotion probably have no idea how many times you had to ignore workplace politics and just keep bringing your best every day. Even your friends who attend your college graduation might not appreciate just how many late nights you spent studying while it seemed like everyone else was procrastinating or partying.

If you could take a step back and look at your life, you’s see that every decision matters, even the little ones. Many of our daily choices happen invisibly, almost by default, like taking the same route to work every day or hopping onto social media every time we have a spare moment. Every day, we decide what to wear, where to park, when to schedule the next meeting, how to explain some report, what to eat for dinner. 

But it is critical to understand: these seemingly no-big-deal decisions add up over time. They become habits. And those habits have a cumulative effect, ultimately changing the story we tell with our lives and about our life. 

Let me give you a few examples of things people end up doing that, if they thought about it, they never would choose to do:

      • Most people who smoke never planned to become addicted to something that can kill them. They just decided to try it once to see if they liked it.
      • People who end up embezzling probably didn’t set it as a long-range goal to steal from their employer. Most likely they began by “borrowing” a little from petty cash to pay for lunch here and there.
      • People who have an affair didn’t just wake up one morning and think, “My spouse won’t mind if I get intimate with that hottie at the office.” It started back when they lingered a little after a meeting because they were enjoying the attention of a co-worker.
      • Most failed entrepreneurs probably didn’t include bankruptcy in their startup plans. They just went over budget to take a risk they didn’t properly evaluate.
      • People who find themselves hooded on prescription painkillers didn’t aspire to get arrested for driving under the influence and possessing illegal drugs. They were only looking for a little relief from chronic pain. 

It’s easy to observe problems like these and think, I would never do such a thing! Nobody wants to be that guy, the one who lost his marriage because of his secret porn addiction. No woman wants her story to include gossip, shoplifting, and alcoholism. It’s tempting to think there’s no way you could become addicted to cigarettes, embezzle from your employer, cheat on your spouse, overspend your corporate budget, or keep taking pain meds after the pain stops.

Most of us struggle to connect the small daily choices we are constantly making with the big differences we want to see in our lives. But the truth is you are one decision away from changing your life forever. And, your best decision ever is the one you’re about to make – intentionally or unintentionally (just by deciding to do nothing). 

So something to think about:

    • What is something you should “start” to do today?
    • What should you “stop” doing that will improve your daily life?
    • What is it you are wanting to run from but should really simply embrace and “stay”?
    • Where is God directing you to “go” in your walk with Him?
    • Is there someone you can “serve” in the Name of Jesus?
    • Who is it that God wants you to “connect” with?
    • What is preventing you from “trusting” God with your whole life?

Seven areas where decisions can result in a big impact.

Time To Leave?

We seem to be in a season of change. A time when we are having to leave what we know. What is safe, comfortable, and secure. Or, at least, what we believe is safe, comfortable, and secure. I am sensing deep in my soul that it is “Time to Leave” what is known and stretch; reaching out to what is yet unknown. Unknown but challenging and certainly exciting.

What about you? Do you sense something new happening in your life? Can you smell the change in the wind? Even if you don’t feel like anything is different right at the moment, it’s always a good idea to keep your heart prepared for change. Because it happens to us all: a new step of faith, a new venture, a new opportunity.

You’ll face something new or different, maybe something you didn’t see coming. You can’t avoid change. Sometimes we’re called to stand our ground when change blows in, but many times we need to take a risk and step into the change. God may have planted a restless desire (what I call ‘Divine Discontent’) in you to serve Him in some surprising way. Maybe He’s given you a burden for a specific group of people or inhabitants of a special place. Maybe He’s calling you to go. Follow that hunch and see where it takes you. Take that leap of faith. Embrace the adventure. The best way to make a big jump is to get a good running start. 

There’s a great story in the Old Testament about Abram and Sarai (who later are renamed Abraham and Sarah) that I think illustrates this perfectly. In Genesis 12, God speaks to Abram. At the time, Abram was living in a town called Haran, but he was from a city called Ur of the Chaldees. Back in Abram’s hometown of Ur, the people worshipped a false moon god named Nannar.

What’s significant here is that the one true God chose to reveal Himself to Abram, a guy whose only exposure to religion was seeing people worship the moon. God gave Abram a very simple, direct command: walk away from everything you’ve ever known. “Leave your country and your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1 NIV emphasis mine).

Leave and go.

It may seem obvious, but to go somewhere else you have to leave where you are. To go somewhere else, you have to leave what’s known, what’s comfortable, what’s predictable, and what’s easy. To step toward your destiny, you might have to step away from your security. 

Just imagine the kinds of things that must have been going through Abram’s mind. But I’ve lived here for years, God! I moved here with my dad. This is my home. I like it here. All my friends are here. My house is almost paid for. The schools are great. (I know Sarai and I were never able to have kids, but still.) My best friend lives right down the street from me. Over there is where I get my hair cut. I get my camels groomed just around the corner, and I really trust that guy. I don’t want to leave!

Abram had all these things he was used to. A life that was comfortable. And here comes God, calling him to go some place he doesn’t know anything about. But God makes Abram a promise. He says, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3).

I can imagine Abram talking back to God. “Say what? A great nation is going to come from us? Maybe you missed this, God, but uh, we have exactly zero kids. None. We’re childless. Sure, we tried for years – and trying was fun! But that never got us any results. Now here I am, seventy-five years old. It’s really kind of too late for us. Surely we can’t start having kids now. And you’re telling me you’re going to make us into a whole nation.

I wonder if you’ve ever made a promise to God like I have.

      • “God, if you’ll just help me pass this one test, I promise I’ll study next time”
      • “God, if you’ll just let me not get caught, I’ll never do this again, I promise”
      • Lord, if you’ll help me finish this big project for work, I promise I’ll start sooner next time”

I don’t know about you,, but most of the promises I’ve made to God didn’t stick. That’s because we’re not changed by the promises we make to God; we’re changed by believing the promises God makes to us.

Let’s look in verse 4 at what happens to Abram after God makes His promise:”So Abram left, as the LORD had told him to.” Simple as that. Just what God told him to do., Abram did. But what if he hadn’t? What if instead Abram had tried to rationalize everything? What might have happened?

Today, because of Old Testament tradition, we sometimes refer to God as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” If Abram hadn’t gone, God wouldn’t have changed his name to Abraham later when He made a covenant with him (Genesis 17). There wouldn’t have been an Isaac. There wouldn’t have been a Jacob. We wouldn’t know God today as “the God of Abraham” because Abram would have continued serving his old moon god Nannar.

If Abram hadn’t had the faith to obey God and step out, who knows what consequences we might be living with today? Would you refer to as “the God of Carl, Alex, and Jeff?” We can’t know. Thankfully, because Abram had faith in the one true God, we don’t have to.

Where is God calling you to venture into new territory? We are entering into a season of change. Embrace it. 

God’s Ultimate Over Your Immediate

Here is something we all need to keep in mind: “You will very likely overestimate what God wants to do through you in the short run. But you will very likely underestimate what God wants to do through you in the long run.

Remember that ministry and impacting others with the Gospel of the Kingdom and the love of God is a marathon and not a short sprint. 

Our walk with God and our daily lives is really a series of small decisions that we make and choices that come along that don’t seem to be life-changing or earth-shattering. Just small every day choices and decisions that will determine the future that we will have. The impact we will have. 

There were two brothers – Esau and Jacob. Esau was the oldest and he was a hunter. He was, of course, his father’s favourite. And because he was the oldest son he was given very special treatment as he would be the heir to his father when Isaac died. He came in one day from hunting and was seriously hungry. He made one small decision that impacted the rest of his life and the history of the world as we know it. He traded his birthright for a bowl of stew. After all, he was hungry and was not thinking long-term or even short-term repercussions of this one decision.

The same is true of us. We generally have short-term vision and think only of the immediate need or want. We make decisions based on our feelings and current situation without much thought – if any thought – about what will change in the future because of this one small decision or choice that we are making in the immediate – the now! So, really we need to let the Holy Spirit guide us in every minor and major decision of every day.

Paul told us to “let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires” (Galatians 5:16-17 NLT). As God’s Spirit guides us, we won’t be seeking the bowl of stew, another Oreo cookie, or a scoop of ice cream. The Holy Spirit replaces our lower, self-serving, demanding desires with God’s higher, Kingdom-serving, selfless ones.

Think about this for a moment. For centuries God’s name has often been tagged by the patriarchs who loved and served Him faithfully. You’ve probably heard God referred to as “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” If you pause and reflect on the story we mentioned above, you’ll see something that will stop you in your tracks.

Esau was the older brother with the birthright. When Jacob tricked him into giving away his birthright, Esau traded the ultimate for the immediate. If he hadn’t made that devastatingly destructive shortsighted decision, throughout history you would have heard God referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Esau. Esau lost his standing.

You’ll be wiser. I know you will. When faced with temptations, you’ll look beyond the moment. You’ll remember that patience is better than power. Self-control is more important than conquering a city (See Proverbs 16:32). You’ll choose God’s ultimate over the immediate. You’ll never trade your birthright for a simply bowl of stew. You’ll no longer sacrifice your destiny for distorted or daily desires.

As you realize how much God has planned for you to do in this world, I pray you will live with a long-term perspective – a Kingdom perspective – making decisions that will honour God and propel you forward over time. You sacrifice your own ego-driven agenda in order to experience the perfect timing of God’s plan and purpose for your life. Instead of demanding that you want now, you’re often infinitely better off waiting. Proverbs 16:32 says, “Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city” (NLT).

Living with patience is better than muscling forward to demand what you want before the time is right. Self-control often unlocks the door to blessings that are longer lasting and more meaningful. Patience comes from knowing you already have enough of what you need the most because you are God’s child and He knows what you have need off even before you ask. And He has given to you all that you need certainly to life and to godliness. 

 

One Of Those Days!

Henry Ford once said, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”

If you are having one of those days when everything seems to be going wrong and you are struggling just to stay sane and get through it without killing someone or simply giving up altogether …. Remember that you need to rise up, face the current ‘hard thing’ that is happening and let the ‘wind’ push you up and over. 

Years ago, during a particularly hard time, the Lord taught me that “dead fish float downstream.” And that “live fish swim upstream to span and birth new life.” Since then I have welcomed the hard days and simply see them as an indication that I am alive and facing a new challenge – another time to swim upstream and not give up and simply go with the flow and float downstream.

The truth is that life has a way of hitting us hard. You’re either coming out of a tough season, in the middle of a tough season, or heading into a tough season. How true!

I work hard to remember, in the midst of the hard time and current challenge, that “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul asks that question that then proceeds to answer it

Romans 8:32 “Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?”

Paul’s point is so urgent and all-consuming that the drives it home by asking…

Romans 8:35 “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?”

His answer is a definite NO! Paul tells us this in Romans 8:37….

“No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

Another version – a bit more expressive and accurate to the original states- “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

It’s important that we acknowledge that this promise is fulfilled not through our own power but through the power of the risen Christ, who loves us. If you follow Christ, you are more than a conqueror, more than an overcomer.

The little Greek word that appears in various translations as “conqueror,” “winner,” “victor,” or “overcomer” is the word niko, which means “to win, to be victorious, or to gain a surpassing victory.” But that’s not the word used in this passage. The word Paul uses here is hupernikao, which means “to vanquish beyond recognition, to gain a decisive victory, to conquer exceedingly.” With Christ, you are hupernikao! You are not going to just eke out some tiny, insignificant victory. No, you’re going to demolish the opposition. 

Your victory is the God kind of victory, where God vanquishes the opposition beyond recognition. Imagine Pharaoh’s army chasing the Israelites to the edge of the desert, and God parting the Red Sea in front of them. The Israelites cross on dry land, and the entire Egyptian army follows them in. Then God withdraws His hand, and whooooosh! all of them are washed away. It’s total victory!

Consider Gideon, God’s reluctant warrior, in my butchered paraphrase from Judges 6 – 8, God tells Gideon, “I want you to take on the Midianites.”

But Gideon responds, “I just can’t do it! I’m too scared!”

“No! You’re a mighty man of valour,” God tells him. “You might not believe it yet, but you are!”

“But I have only thirty-two thousand men!” Gideon whines.

God shoots back, “You’re right. That’s no good. That’s way too many for Me to get the glory!”

So God pares those down to just three hundred and tells Gideon, “Now, you guys take your weapons and your pitchers. Light some torches, cover them up, blow your horns, and break your pitchers.”

Gideon says, “Uh … I’m sure you don’t know what you’re talking about, but we’ll do it. You are God and everything … I guess.”

Then when Gideon’s men work God’s plan, the whole Midianite army turns on itself in confusion and wipes itself out. And that is hupernikao. That is who you are in Christ! You’re more than victorious., You are hupernikao

Now, what I’m not saying is that you’ll never have a hard time in life. The Bible doesn’t say that at all. Jesus makes it clear that “in this world you will have trouble.” But think about this for a minute: to be an overcomer, you have to have something to overcome. And Jesus continues, “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). 

Overnight Success?

Behind every great story there’s always another story. Rarely does success come without time, discipline, and hard work. Successful people often joke that they spent years becoming an overnight success. What many people don’t realize is that it’s the things no one sees that result in the things everyone wants. It’s the faithfulness to do mundane things well, to develop productive habits, and to remain faithful that eventually leads to success.

Old Testament prophet Daniel is a great example of this. Whether you know a lot or a little about Daniel, when you hear his name, you probably think, Oh, yeah . . . Daniel in the lion’s den. Any kid who grew up attending Sunday school or visiting vacation bible school, has heard the amazing story of Daniel surviving the night in a cave filled with hungry felines.

Let me refresh your memory, and then we’ll go back to the part many overlook. King Darius was the reigning king of Persia. As his kingdom grew, he appointed 120 satraps (similar to our present-day governors) to handle regional matters and help govern the people. The king then chose three administrators to oversee those 120 satraps. Daniel was one of the chosen leaders. Over time, by consistently serving the king with an excellent spirit, Daniel stood out among all the other satraps and administrators. Eventually the king decided to place Daniel in charge of the entire kingdom.

So Daniel was an overnight success, right? Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Don’t forget, there’s a story behind every story. Why was Daniel successful? Why was he favoured among others? Why did the king respect him so much? Promote him so quickly? Believe in his leadership? Why did God look favourably on Daniel? Why did God close the mouths of the meat-eating lions?

We find the answer in a part of Daniel’s story that many people skim over. His divine favour was the result of one small decision he made at some point in his life. We don’t know when Daniel made this decision or why. We don’t know whether someone helped him or he decided it on his own. All we know is that Daniel made one decision, starting one habit that changed his story.

As you might expect, the other leaders were fuming with jealousy of Daniel. The story continues, “Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. So they concluded, ‘Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.’” (Daniel 6:4-5)

Let’s consider for a moment some of the great qualities of our hero Daniel. Even though the other guys did everything they could do to find something wrong with him, they couldn’t find anything. Daniel was honest, trustworthy, and dependable in all that he did. He was exactly the type of person the king was looking to promote. So his opponents decided there was only one way they could trap Daniel into doing something worthy of punishment. They needed to devise a plan that involved his faith in God. They knew he wouldn’t do anything wrong. They were going to have to back him into a spiritual corner.

“So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said, “Long live King Darius! We are all in agreement—we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors—that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced. Give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions” (Daniel 6:6-7)

The king apparently liked the sound of their plan because he agreed to their proposal. No one could pray to anyone but him for the next month. And so the plan to trap Daniel was set in motion. 

When Daniel heard about the new thirty-day restriction on prayer, he did the same thing he’d done three times a day for months, maybe years, possibly decades. Daniel went to his house and prayed to God.

As a result, Dan the Man was arrested and had to stare down the big cats and prove that God was his one and only. But think for a minute. It wasn’t just that Daniel wasn’t afraid of lions or had some super courage that mere mortals can never hope to attain. No, Daniel had started a regular practice much earlier in his life that helped him face this impossible situation. To others, prayer might have seemed insignificant. But to Daniel, it was a discipline that shaped his story.

We don’t know how many years Daniel had been practicing this habit, but three times a day, every day, Daniel stopped and looked toward heaven. He worshipped God. He aligned his heart with God’s heart. He sought God’s will to be done through his life. Because of Daniel’s consistent and prayerful focus, he grew as a God follower, as a person, and as a leader.

Daniel wasn’t an overnight success. He was able to stand tall because he’s faithfully knelt before the one true king. The small, daily discipline of prayer equipped him to face the big, scary test of those hungry lions, both the peers who were attempting to destroy him as well as the big cats in the arena. Starting something small and then faithfully continuing it made his story so rich that it’s been told for thousands of years now, and still counting.

The moral of the story: It’s the things not one sees that result in the things everyone wants. 

A Crawling Butterfly

If you are a believer and disciple of Jesus; if you have turned from your sins and met the risen Christ, then you are a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

The old, the filth, the junk, the sin, the guilt, the shame – it’s all gone. All your sins have been forgiven; you’re a new creation. The problem, though, is that some Christians don’t understand what it means to be a new creation. It’s like a caterpillar becoming a new creation, the butterfly. But imagine if the butterfly broke out of his cocoon and just crawled around like a caterpillar. Some of us have been transformed to fly and yet continue to crawl around on the ground, missing our true calling and divine potential. 

So are you spiritually soaring or are you crawling right now? If you feel like you’re still on the ground, then it’s time you realized that God wants you to fly. You’re not just an average, run-of-the-mill Christian barely making it. No. If you’re a Christian, then there is nothing regular about you. You must understand that you are filled with the same Spirit that raised Christ from the grave, and there’s nothing ordinary about that!

You have access to the very throne of God; that’s not regular! You have the authority to use the name that is above every name, the name of Jesus Christ. There is nothing regular about you. And when you know who you are, you’ll know what to do. If you know who you are in Christ, then you’ll know how to represent Him wherever you go.

This is true for all Christians, not just select people who are called into full-time vocational ministry. Let me tell you something that drives me crazy. I go nuts when people try to hold me to a higher standard simply because I’m a leader in the Church. Ever area of my life gets scrutinized and held to this higher level of accountability: the way I spend my money, the way I spend my time, the way I talk to people, the movies that I watch, the words that I say. 

I’m a leader. Sure. I’ll be judged more strictly for what I teach (see James 3:1). But when it comes to how we live, all Christians should be held to the same standard. I’m not saying that I should be brought down to a lower standard. No, I’m saying that if you’re a Christian, you are Christ’s ambassador and you too should be at a higher standard in everything that you do.

Paul describes our mission this way: “[God] has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Notice that it doesn’t say that He has committed elders or deacons or pastors or missionaries. No. God has committed to us – all of us – His message of reconciliation through Christ.

If we consider the meaning of reconciliation in the context of the original Greek language, it means “to restore to the divine.” Basically, it means to help people be made right with God. It’s to take that which is broken, as we are separated from God by our sin, and to help others know who Christ is so they can be whole and made right with God. God has committed to those who are Christians the message of reconciliation. Paul concludes, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

This makes sense was we consider the job description of an ambassador. Traditionally, an ambassador serves as the highest-ranking diplomat sent as a representative from one country to another. For example, if I became the ambassador of Canada to Egypt, then I would be the highest-ranking diplomat sent to represent the Canadian government to Egypt. The same is true for you. You are the highest-ranking diplomat sent by God, from heaven to earth, to share with those around you the truth of your homeland. Earth is not your home. The Bible says that you are an alien here. This is not your final destination. You’re sent to represent the King from the Kingdom that sent you. You represent the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

So, my point: There is no such thing as just an ordinary Christian. 

So my point: When you know who you are, you’ll know what to do! If you know who you are in Christ, then you’ll know how to represent Him wherever you go. 

So my point: It is time to truly discover who you are and learn to fly; to do what God has called you to do right where you live and work and play. 

Two Are Better Than One

We are told that two are better than one. That “doing life together” is better than going through life alone. This is true in marriage but also true in friendship – deep, committed, lifetime friendships.

Two are better than one is a reference to the synergy that “together” creates. It applies to those who would assume that multiple relationships are not worth the effort we put into them; that having a spouse and /or a close friendship is all they can handle, and outside of that, it’s better to keep to themselves.

I know it’s easy to feel that way when you’ve had relationships that were complicated. I get that, because I’ve had, and still have, a few of those myself. I’ve come to realize that as much as possible I want to do life with uncomplicated people. People who believe the best. People who don’t read something into what you say, causing you to constantly watch how you say things and overly explain yourself. People who are stable and secure in themselves, open to conversation, not moody, not easily offended, not socially awkward. These uncomplicated people are not perfect, but once you’ve had complicated relationships, you have a great appreciation for the uncomplicated ones.

When like-minded, uncomplicated relationships come together, it’s far better than being alone. Especially, when there’s a common goal. There are three great reasons given in the verses below for why togetherness is better:

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. [Success] If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. [Safety] Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. [Strength]     (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT)

The writer is saying that in a healthy, life-giving relationship we help each other success, stay safe, and grow stronger. Who wouldn’t want that? See, God never intended us to do life alone. We’re all meant to do life with other people, specifically God’s people. We are formed for family.  We are created for friendship. We are created for community. The only way you can be all you are meant to be is to be connected, committed, and in community with others. When you’re in  healthy relationships, with like-minded people, you can’t help but get bigger and stronger on the inside.

That doesn’t mean that those people are perfect, nor does it mean their struggles are any less than yours. It also doesn’t mean that it’s easy or without challenges. But it does mean we should never buy into the idea that we are better off keeping our distance from people. To live life fully we need to continually work at staying connected to those who bring out the best in us. Connecting to those who are living life in Christian community. Connecting with those who want meaningful, in-depth, and long-term friendships. 

If you are trying to do life alone you are missing out on God’s best for you. You will miss out on God’s plan for your life. Don’t let other ideas, past experiences, or current fears hold you back. If you’ve withdrawn or been distant, closed in on yourself, just know that part of getting bigger on the inside means pushing past self-imposed limits to engage and be an active part of healthy relationships. 

Today would be a good day to begin that journey if you have not already started. And, if you already have connected with uncomplicated but sincere friends, let them know today how much you appreciate them.