Stop Being Scared to Admit This

Hindsight is 20/20, especially if you’re the people of Israel.

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Twelve spies go on a secret mission to explore the Promised Land. Ten come back terrified, warning the people not to proceed. Two beckon the people onward to embrace the promise of God. The people listen to the majority of the spies, and as a result, the nation of Israel spends 40 years in the wilderness.

The next day, the people of Israel say, “Here we are. We will go up to the place that the Lord has promised, for we have sinned” (Numbers 14:40). Then the people of Israel go up, and they get creamed.

Because We Want To

Why did the people of Israel sin? The answer is simpler than you think.

Because they wanted to.

Israel didn’t go into the Promised Land because they didn’t want to – there were giants there! Israel rose the next day to fight the giants because they wanted to – they didn’t want God to punish them!

Desire is the source of sin.

James 1:14-15
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

The idea is this – disobedience comes from our hearts, resulting in our actions.

It’s All about the Heart

We need to start being more honest with ourselves.

We disobey God because we want to. And when we feel frustrated and vow to never fall into that trap again, we do anyway. Why?

Action is the product of desire.

No one says this truer than James:

James 4:1-3
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

The same way we pursue sin could be said of the way we don’t pursue God.

If you don’t want God, you won’t follow Him. If you aren’t pursuing God, it’s probably because you don’t desire Him.

And we need to admit that.

Be Transformed

Leaving it at that would be a pretty crummy thing to do. So let’s ask: How can we change our heart to desire God?

Answer: Ask.

You can’t do anything. Paul says that pretty straightforward:

Romans 7:18
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

A couple chapters later, Paul says this:

Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind….

“Be transformed.”

The action is passive. Being transformed by God is something He does to us, not something we could ever do to ourselves. Without the Author of life, we can’t breathe. Without God’s work, we can’t desire Him.

Cry out to God. You can’t do anything to change your heart, but that God has done everything required to change your heart.

Francis Chan shared a simple prayer: “Dear God, help me to love you more.”

When we ask God to increase our love for Him, He answers! And when He gives us a greater desire of Him, we’re only led to ask again for an ever-increasing love for Him.

Ask, and be transformed.

John 7:37-38
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

Why do we disobey? Because we want to.

Why do we desire God? Because – by the mercies of God – we want to.

How to Not Do Everything and Still Have Joy

In my quiet time this morning, I felt pressured, even a little desperate. I realized in a moment of introspection that I’m incapable of carrying all of life’s responsibility.

Life is a juggling act
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My life is made up of several callings, including:

  • A boyfriend
  • A roommate
  • A son
  • A brother
  • A friend
  • An employee
  • A writer
  • A Christian

I feel inadequate because I realize– I can’t fulfill every role completely. And this balancing act won’t get easier; it’ll get harder.

Someday I’ll be a more serious writer. Someday I’ll get a promotion. Someday I’ll get married. Someday I’ll have children. We call this wild juggling act “life,” and it’s hard.

The Burden of Now and Not Yet

This burden I carry (and I would guess very similar to the one you’re carrying) has two sides.

First, there’s the now. We feel like life is so slow it’s not even moving. We kick into survival mode and get trapped in the mundane because that’s the only option we see today.

Then there’s the not yet. We feel dissatisfied because we wish we were farther along. We’re tired of waiting.

Two Life-Altering Truths

If my satisfaction were dependent on me, then I would work harder, focus deeper, and ultimately fall short. Working hard and focusing aren’t bad, but I’m convinced they’re byproducts. Faithfulness and joy come from two life-altering realizations:

  1. God is sovereign
  2. God is for you.

These two truths change everything. My ability to fulfill all of life’s requirements is flaky at best. God has never failed:

Isaiah 46:9-10 For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

God accomplishes everything He intends, and He intends us good.

Romans 8:28 And for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

Faithfulness and joy become the overflow. Even if I don’t see how today affects my future, I’m faithful – God will work His purposes. Even if I fail, I’m joyful – God is working my life for good, insufficiencies and all.

By being faithful, I open the door for what God wants to do. By being joyful, I keep my eyes open to see Him work along the way.

The tension is real. So is the hope in God.

Psalm 43:3-5 Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

While We Were Still Weak

Tonight, I felt myself simultaneously slipping and paralyzed because of a hundred good things.

I grew up learning about the will of God. Romans 12:2 calls His will, “good, acceptable, and perfect.” That’s where I want to live.

Yet often I find myself so scared of missing the will of God that I don’t do anything at all. Or maybe I get so frustrated at my apathy that I lash out in action – not carefully considered action, but spontaneous (and ultimately meaningless) action.

We worry and we think. We talk it out or we write. These things merely help us to see our own minds and the confusion inside. It’s what we do next that matters most.

Come to God

Come to Him tired and panting. Come to Him, weak and frail.

Today I chose to fast, and it’s only now that I realize I’ve been fasting with wrong motives. I’ve used fasting as my excuse for God to accelerate movement in my life, forgetting that knowing God is about a relationship, not a race.

I want to do the best I can for Him, yet I won’t truly do excellently until I realize I can do nothing at all. All of my best ambitions are dirt, and all of my self-glorifying schemes are scum in comparison to knowing Jesus (Philippians 3:8).

Writing, serving, working – isn’t it true that we get lost in these things at the expense of the greatest thing? Not that these are wrong, but that we use them as an end in themselves (or perhaps more accurately, as an end to ourselves).

My open prayer to God

So here I am, Lord. Desperate. And for the first time today, I’m willing to admit it. I’m not just needy; I’m destitute. I’m not just hungry; I’m famished. And You’re okay with that. You need me to stop proving how much I can do on my own and simply admit that I don’t know that much. I can’t do that much. Heck, I can’t even make it a day without food.

But You’re God everlasting. You never fade, never pale, never get tired or worn. And in an amazing miracle, Isaiah 40:31 says I can renew MY strength by waiting on You.

Maybe life isn’t about proving how far I can get. Maybe life is about proving how far You went – all the way to the cross – so that I could come to you in my need and be satisfied.

Psalm 32:6-7
Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

Romans 5:6-8
For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous man, though perhaps for a good man one would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

“God isn’t waiting for you to clean up your act before you come to Him.” I told that line to a guy on the street yesterday. But now I need to hear it for myself.

If I am ever to be the man God wants me to be, I must die. I must come to the cross, look upon the man hanging there, and sing:

“Jesus paid it all!
All to Him I owe!
Sin had left a crimson stain;
He washed it white as snow!”

For the Mornings You Feel Distant from God

If there’s ever a question about faithfulness, it’s on us, not God.

“If we are faithless, he remains faithful—
For He cannot deny Himself.”

Those words written by Paul (2 Timothy 2:13) need to sink into my soul.

For the mornings I feel distant

Yesterday morning I was angry with God. The issue I faced wasn’t significant in light of my day. What really frustrated me was the distance I felt between God and me.

I didn’t know why. I searched my heart to see if I needed to repent, confessed my anxieties, reassessed the way I do morning prayer and reading. And still I felt distant.

My struggle with feeling distant from God is more an example of my failing self-sufficiency—works-righteousness.

[share-quote author=”Tim Keller” via=”TonyReinke”]Anxiety is the result of a collapsing false god.[/share-quote]

In some ways, I can do nothing to draw myself nearer to God. Yet I can do much to humble myself into realizing how near He is to me by the blood of Jesus.

For the mornings I feel distant, I need to take my focus off what I’m doing and put it on what God has done.

“If we are faithless, he remains faithful—
For He cannot deny Himself.”

Busyness is not faithfulness

I don’t want to waste my time. But what does that mean?

  • Does it mean having a career that is ministry-related?
  • Does it mean the longer morning devotional time, the better?
  • Does it mean always being busy?

Not wasting my life has far more to with faithfulness than busyness.

Faithfulness starts with God. I must recognize God has never stopped being faithful to me. Whether I feel close or distant, God is near. He is faithful to His promises, both to shower affection and to discipline His son (Zeph 3:17; Prov 3:11-12). Both of these are love—love that is steadfast and faithful.

This year, “steadfast love and faithfulness” is my theme. I want to align my life with God’s steadfast love. Checklists don’t matter compared to God’s heart.

Thank you Father that You are faithful.

“If we are faithless, he remains faithful—
For He cannot deny Himself.”

Friendship—It Matters

In the summer of 2010, I met a kid named Nick at a summer camp where I worked. When I met Nick, I decided that I wasn’t going to let this connection slip past me. For a semester I forced myself to call him week after week and invite him to my youth group (if you didn’t know, phone calls were a major phobia for me). Many weeks he wouldn’t come; on weeks that he did, he seemed lost from the lessons.

When I left my youth group for college, I seriously wondered if anything I had done would last. I kept Nick along with a couple other friends on a short list of people I was committed to pray for through the school year.

Coming back for the summer, I saw Nick weekly during Ultimate Frisbee with friends from church. There wasn’t any incredible ministry, just living life and being a friend to him. When my friend’s graduation rolled around, I was convicted to ask if there was any way I could pray for Nick. When I saw an opportunity to sit down with him, he surprised me by starting the conversation.

“I’ve never really told you this before,” he said sitting next to me, “but I just wanted to thank you for all you did for me.” He then told me how thankful he was that I had invited him to youth group, how thankful he was that I had introduced him to some guys that are now some of his closest friends. All this paled when he told me how much closer he was to Jesus because I had lived and loved like Christ.

So what about you? Do you wonder if your actions really show through to your friends? Take a rain check on your worries and keep living as Christ to them. We honestly cannot overestimate the power of praying for our friends and living as Christ’s ambassador with them.

2 Corinthians 5:20
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.