Faithfulness; The Choices We Make Today Determine Our Lives Tomorrow

I feel like the subject of faithfulness has come up time and time again lately. This is no small topic or theme though. The choices we make today determine what our lives will look like tomorrow.

“Evidence, evidence, evidence, will be the one thing wanted when the great white throne is set, when the books are opened, when the graves give up their tenants, when the dead are arraigned before the bar of God.” J.C. Ryle—Holiness

How can we be so narrow-minded to think that our decisions affect only ourselves? Today’s actions determine the effect we will have on our lives years from now as well as the effect we have on others’ lives. All of our decisions, actions, faithfulness, faithlessness, generosity, greed, successes, failures, plans, dreams all work together in unison to shape the people we become. Kinda scary, huh? How are we cool with doing anything we’re unsure about now that we know our every move affects our future? This is where it becomes important to trust and rely on the scriptures. One of my new favorite verses is Jeremiah 10:23 “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his step.” So who ultimately establishes the way a man should go? Psalm 37:23-24 tells us:

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.

Knowing that God is sovereign, the question becomes, “But will God really work things out for me? What if this idea I have doesn’t pan out? What if I lose my job? What if God calls me onto the mission field? How am I supposed to be faithful if God Himself won’t even show me what to do?”

What was once an exciting graduation commencement speech of “The future is an ocean and you are the captain of your soul! Set sail and claim your destiny. You deserve it!” goes from anxiously unsettling to downright scary.

We pose the real question, “Is the future really not in my hands?”

According to scripture, no.

Yet we have confidence.

God is not going take us where we’re not supposed to be. We are in the palm of his hand it is HIS plan that is being worked out in our lives.

 Philippians 1:6 says: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” When God begins a work of salvation in a person, he finishes and perfects that work. Thus the verb “bring it to completion” points to the eternal security of the Christian.

That, my friends, is faithfulness.

God will never start anything that He won’t finish. You may be going through a tough time at work, at home or in your life somehow, God is not finished with you. There’s this internal shaping, this molding that God is working on your heart to turn more like His.

The choices we make today determine our lives tomorrow. That is true and it is Christ who works in our lives to orchestrate what tomorrow actually looks like.

So how do we stay faithful to God?

By remembering His faithfulness we are spurred on by the hope of the gospel, that confidence. Christ is our confidence. Christ is faithful, so we are to be faithful.

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How To Rob God

My last post entitled “Stewardship” was all about how to be a faithful, obedient servant. As I thought more about it I remembered the outstanding debt I owe. What debt?

For years I drove around the country with some friends playing music. At night we’d either crash on someone’s floor, stop at a Wal-Mart parking lot and sleep in the van or drive on through to the next town. We even invaded some Lowe’s storage sheds on one occasion (Funny story behind that one).

In recent years I’ve been home working, plugging into my church community and trying to find my niche. As bands come into town I do my best to go connect with them and support them as so many did when I was in their shoes. I keep saying that I’ve got an outstanding debt to repay for all the hospitality that was shown to me. There’s nothing like a hot shower, warm food that’s not from a can or gas station and free wi-fi. So naturally the door to my house stays open when bands or friends need a place to crash.

How this ties in with stewardship is seeing and understanding our role in accommodating and serving those in need with the resources at our disposal. The bible talks a lot about tithing and giving away with the attitude of a servant. A lot of that is trusting the Lord to be faithful to replenish and restore to us what was rightly His in the first place.

Malachi 3 God tells us that,I the Lord do not change.” He says that we are robbing Him when we withhold our tithes and offerings.
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” 

Think back to a time when you really needed God to move and make something happen and in His perfect timing he came through and radically showed Himself to be faithful. Have we grown so thick and stubborn that we forget how good He is? His promises are true. He will never give us more than we can handle(1 Corinthians 10:13).

When we withhold from Him what he has faithfully provided us we are in a sense saying, “I earned this myself! It’s mine to keep or use however I please.” By not freely giving back into His hands we are not only withholding a blessing for someone but withholding from ourselves as well.

If God is the giver of all things, can we not trust Him to take care of us in our times of need? Like the widow in the temple(Luke 21) let us be willing to give back to God even out of our poverty and allow Him to pour out His blessing upon us.

As stewards of the Almighty, we all have a debt that we can never repay. Yet as slaves of righteousness(Romans 6) we are obligated to obey as faithful servants. Kind of an odd picture, right? We are slaves yet we serve through love because of the great love bestowed upon us. Thank you, Father!

May we not continue to rob God with our entrusted time, energy and resources but be ever willing to offer them up to Him as faithful stewards of the call.

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The Anxious Fruit Tree

How do we deal with anxiety as believers? 

We’re told in Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” But what happens when we can’t see what God is doing, where He’s leading?

The Bible talks a lot about anxiety and how we’re not to worry about what we can’t control. And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” Luke 12:25-26

The only reason we’re anxious is because we’re trusting in ourselves. We need to even-keeled and to trust in Him and His timing knowing that He steadily has a plan. Whether God is blessing us or we’re going through trials, the only reason we see these valleys and mountains tops is because of us. But my valleys turn into my mountain tops because God is shaping my heart to accept what He is doing and see it as a mountain top as opposed to seeing it as a valley.

I put myself in the valley because I’m not trusting God. Yet in reality, because of my salvation I should always be on the mountain top.

However, when you see people who are excited for the LORD and always on the mountain top, that’s awesome, that’s not a bad thing but it’s not going to last. If you’re trying to ride this adrenaline wave of God all the time, that is destined for failure and you’re going to get depressed. What is that based on? There will be suffering but the only way you’re going to see it as less than joyous, less than a mountain top, is because your heart is not prepared or you’re not trusting in the LORD and what He’s doing.

Every time I go through a valley God is proofing me. He’s preparing me. He’s trusting me with this ridiculously burdensome thing in my life and He’s walking me through it and He’s making me better for the Kingdom, better to preach the Gospel. He’s giving me more things to praise Him for delivering me through.

Whenever I was going through a rough and stressful time of trying to find work, wondering where my niche is, getting distraught and breaking down trying to control my future, I should have been like, “I’m gonna sow and whatever God reaps, God reaps. I’m just gonna trust what He’s doing.”

Jeremiah shares his wisdom in 17:7-8:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Being a man or woman of God is tough, especially when we can’t see what He’s doing. If we’re wanting to stand the test of time as believers and remain faithful to Him we need to put down some roots. Roots that matter. Roots that bear fruit.

Let us not grow anxious in the year of drought but rejoice for we are planted by the only stream that gives living water. Let us not be anxious nor cease to bear fruit.

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The Solution To A Lukewarm Christian Life

I mentioned recently that I’ve been rereading Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love”. It’s incredible all the little things you can find when you read through a great book a second time.

Chapter 2 of Crazy Love is called “Serving Leftovers To A Holy God.” In this section he breaks down the idea of a lukewarm Christian and basically says “There’s no such thing.” As Jesus said, “I’m going to spit that person out of my mouth because that person is not a true follower of mine.”(Revelation 3)

So this whole idea of being a lukewarm Christian is really an oxymoron.

We all have plenty of things in our lives that we don’t think truly affect our Christian walk. Chan makes a good point on that here:

“Recently I saw a bag of potato chips with a bold declaration splashed across the front: “Zero grams of trans fat.” I was glad to know that I wouldn’t be consuming any trans fat, which research has shown is detrimental to my health. But then I flipped  the bag over and read the ingredients list, which included things like “yellow #6” and other artificial colors, and partially hydrogenated oil (which is trans fat , just a small enough amount that they can legally call it “0 grams”). I thought it was incredibly ironic that these chips were being advertised in a way that makes me think they are not harmful yet were really full of empty calories, weird chemicals, and, ironically, trans fat.

It struck me that many Christians flash around their “no trans fat” label, trying to convince everyone they are healthy and good. Yet they have no substantive or healthful elements to their faith. It ‘s like the Laodiceans, who thought they had everything until Christ told them they were poor and wretched. They were all about declaring, “Look, we have no trans fat. We are wealthy, or we have good families, or we go to church every week.” Obviously, it’s not what you advertise that counts; it’s what you are really made of.”

You can try to pack your life full of stuff that all looks good on the outside but what good is that? Don’t flaunt your life as not having all these “bad things” but fill it full of life and faithfulness to Him.

The solution to a lukewarm Christian life is not trying harder.

The solution is to fall madly in love with Jesus Christ.

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Our New Born Identity

The other night I was re-watching The Bourne Legacy. I’m a huge fan of the original Bourne trilogy with Matt Damon so this movie was right up my alley. I remember doing research after watching the third installment, The Bourne Ultimatum, and seeing what it would be like to be an FOO(Field Operations Officer) for the CIA. A lot of training, studying, background checking and waiting just to see if you even qualify for the program. Sounds like a huge hassle.

Still it would be cool to travel the world, speak multiple languages, know how to drive anything that moves, defeat assassins with no more than a ball point pin or a rolled up magazine. Having multiple identities/passports and a stash of secret cash in multiple foreign currencies at your disposal is also pretty gnarly.

During one scene in The Bourne Legacy Jeremy Renner’s character Aaron Cross is fleeing with Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) from her burning Maryland home. As they drive they’re being passed by multiple fire trucks and Cross tells Shearing “You’re June, June Monroe. Where are you from? Where was the last place you lived?” He’s forcing her to accept the situation and change her alibi in case they get caught.

Spoiler alert: they end up getting away but not without an epic chase scene at the end of the movie(as all Bourne films do).

It kinda got me thinking about how we’re often so quick to crumble under a little stress or to change our alibi when faced with a tough decision. When we’re up against the ropes it’s too easy to jump ship and claim anonymity.

And yet, the two characters had burned all their bridges(houses) and were on the run. They had no other option than to leave everything and flee.

To make a terrible illustration, we’re to give up any and all connections to our former lives before Christ. When we receive His redemption and are adopted as sons and daughters into His family (2 Corinthians 6:18) we must follow after His plan for our lives.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Luke 9:23-24

To be identified with Christ is to be given a new identity and new credentials because of Christ’s finished work on the cross.

I seriously didn’t think of this until just now but stick with me on this one, it’s great: we have a new Born Identity through Christ’s Supremacy which offers no Ultimatum but to follow in His Legacy.

*mic drop*

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Seriously though, if you haven’t seen these, do it.

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Foot-In-Mouth Faithfulness

I used to hate Arkansas.

Let me rephrase that: I used to hate I-40 east. But if you’ve ever driven even 10 miles down the interstate in my old ’93 GMC 15 passenger band van with 6 other sweaty dudes with no AC in July, you’d understand. Times have changed, freon has been recharged, vans have been totaled and replaced, and I’ve seen enough Arkansas Tourism commercials to cause me to completely recant my former beliefs. Cell reception aside, I’d take Arkansas over most anywhere else in America.

300x300 One night we played at a venue named “The Hole In The Wall” in Atkins, AR. Literally. I was standing behind our merch table watching a band perform when I sent out a tweet saying, “I still have yet to form an opinion about this…band?” Immediately after their set finished, one of the guys(who I didn’t know at the time) walked off stage, pulled out his phone and said, “Hey Clay, explain this tweet to me.”

Shocked at being called out, put on the spot and flabbergasted at the power of twitter, I started sputtering. “What the heck?” I thought. “You really can’t just say whatever you want and never face the consequences.” The band guys were gracious and humorous about the whole thing and we ended up becoming fast friends. They’re still two of the most far out and ridiculous people I’ve ever met.

Being confronted about my words really put me to thinking. Many of us are firm and decided in what we think, say, or post online but are we really faithful to what matters most when we’re up against the wall?

Many of us are faithful to our ideas about Jesus Christ, but how many of us are faithful to Jesus Himself? Faithfulness to Jesus means that I must step out even when and where I can’t see anything.

How about our faith itself?

Faith is not intellectual understanding; faith is a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.

This is where obedience comes in. We must ask ourselves, “Am I going to obey and trust Him or will I compromise my words when the waters get rough?”

Thank God for grace.

Thank God for friends with a little extra salt in their pockets to sprinkle on a situation when I say dumb stuff. Our Father does the same thing.

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