Increase Your Decrease

”Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to fight against my will.”’  Acts 26:14 (NLT) 1242968_puppet_2

   This hit me like a ton of bricks (which hurts by the way).  Whose way am I following?  Am I like Saul?  Am I unknowingly fighting against God and His will or am I working with God?Saul was a priest, and a devout one.  He truly thought persecuting the early Christians was the right thing to do.  He believed in the cause.  He rallied to his holy crusade.  The problem was he was wrong.  He was WAY off the course God wanted him to take.  But God stepped in and knocked him to the dirt and asked him, “Saul, hey Saul!  What are you doing?  Why are doing the exact opposite of what I want?  You are actually persecuting me.  It is tough to fight against me and serve me at the same time.”

So this begs the question, what am I bringing into my relationship with God that is in reality going against His will?  What attitudes, preconceived notions and great ideas do I have that would make God tell me, “It’s hard to fight against My will Shawn.”  When I read the Bible, what context am I reading with?  My American upbringing or am I trying to read it through the eyes and mind of God?  What type of prayer am I praying?  Is it in humble supplication to God or is it full of “I wants” and “I needs”?  What great ideas do I have to change the world for Jesus?  Are they really His will or are they my selfish desires to make my ego grow? 

John, the cousin of Jesus, said in John 3:30 that “I must decrease so that He (Jesus) can increase.” 

This is my prayer,

“Dad, I MUST decrease, it must become less about me.  I must decrease, it must become less about what I want.  I must decrease, it must become less of my ideas.  I must decrease, so that You can increase.  Amen.”

Increase your decrease so that He may increase in your life!


It’s all about Him,

Shawn

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Response from a Reader

letter   The following letter is an email I received in response to a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago.  You can read the post HERE

Their is nothing a writer loves more than to know his writing has touched someone.  I am so thankful that God has allowed me this outlet to express my love for Him and my desire to beautifully reflect Him.

 

INTRO TO ME

(Response to The I’s Have It 5/19/09)…part 1

     Admittedly, I am one of the people who the author talks about whom are “increasingly dedicated to finding our purpose or God’s will for our life.”  I have prayed for God to show me a “burning bush moment” too many times to count.  When I was 11, I was in so much pain emotionally, physically, and spiritually, that I asked God to take me home.  I could not imagine why He would put me or allow me to be in a place where no one understood me, (or in my flawed perception…no one would care).

     Why am I here? What does God want from me? Why do I feel so hopeless and without purpose?  I could not hear God…the only option I had to protect myself was to close off from the pain and shut everyone out.  Through God’s grace, patience, and perseverance, (His as well as select people he brought into my life) He has helped me through many trails and temptations.  When I was about 21 years old, after an indirect effort on my part to end my life, God put Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:10 into my heart, and thanks to Him working through my niece, I made a promise to never again make an effort to end everything.  I still wasn’t able to hear God or understand why I was brought here, but I knew then without a doubt (and as I can see now looking back, that I really was here for a purpose.  Many people would tell me that I was not here for selfish reasons, and that I was supposed to be in the world, but not of it…I was set apart, but I didn’t really accept or internalize it until much later.  It is a universal truth that the Lord can take us home at any time, and everything truly is about His perfect timing and purpose for our lives.

     I continued to question my purpose, and also be frustrated at the seeming lack of interest from Him.  I kept trying to find earthly reasons for my existence.  Anyone who even barely knew or knows me would tell you that MY biggest goal in life was / is to have a family of my own…but that wasn’t, and so far isn’t HIS plan for me at the moment.  I finally gave up pushing so hard for that, and eventually (after 4 Ph.D application denials), have accepted that very seldom does anyone find out what their purpose(s) is/are.  It is clear to me that God wants us to be childlike in our faith (Mt. 18:3) and start out very small in our work for His kingdom.  As the previous author stated…and I truly believe, if we do the small (seemingly unimportant at times, though it may be) stuff (i.e. cleaning latrines in the previous article), God will most assuredly ask us to do greater and bigger things through Him, for the good of His kingdom and people.  I feel it is immensely important that we keep praying for guidance and direction (Jeremiah 29:12) and asking the people we trust for help with our mission.

     I don’t know where I am going on this earth, but I do know I am here to do His will and to do what I can to bring my small part of His plan to fruition.  The reason I can’t see anything more detailed than that is simple…I am not ready.  Thankfully, He has given me awesome, God inspired, brothers and sisters to help me on my journey, and I have been given to them to aid them in theirs.  I am constantly reminded that I must many times allow myself to “Be still and know…” (Psalms 46:10)…while I wait for His timing, so I can continue on in my service to Him.  May God Bless you as you continue to seek His truth for your life.  “Burning bush” moment or not, He is with us always (Mt. 28:20).

  First let me reiterate that you (the reader) are very important to God.  Each of us are so valuable that God sent His Son to die a horrible death on the cross so that we can be with God in heaven forever.  Nowhere in the Bible is their a verse that says we are unimportant.  However, we are also a selfish and prideful people with a heart that is naturally bent towards wanting more than we have.  In a non-Christian’s life this is expected and normal, but in a Christian’s life this is the opposite of how we should act and feel.  Christians are supposed to love like Christ, rejoice when others succeed, and be happy when God uses someone to accomplish great things for Him.  But too often we get wrapped up in self and become bitter toward God because He hasn’t made us successful (as we envision success) or we aren’t where our plan was supposed to have us.  There is a country song out that says “if you want to hear God laugh tell Him your plans.”  How true!  God has a plan for all of us, it is written out clearly and concisely in His Word.  All we have to do is read it and obey.  Like my friend said, small things before big things.  You can’t put a three year old behind theBig_Wheel wheel of a race car and expect him to win a race, but you can start him out on a Big Wheel and let him terrorize the cat.  If you want to “do great things for God” start by doing the small things really well. 

  Never give up on your dreams, just be willing to do something else if God tells you to.

 

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The “I”s Have It

burning-bush I have been noticing recently that the Christian community is becoming increasingly self focused. Everything is about “me”. We are increasingly dedicated to finding our purpose or God’s will for our life. I hear people praying for a “Burning Bush Experience”. (see Moses and the Burning Bush) We want to know how we are important to God. We pray for God to speak to us. We ask God to give us signs. We want some mystical, magical experience to help us feel important. Well, what if we aren’t important? What if we just aren’t that important? When I read through the Bible I see some amazing ways that God spoke to people. He walked and talked with Adam. He spoke to Abraham in visions. He wrestled with Israel (the person, not the nation), he spoke to Moses through a burning bush. In the New Testement he knocked Paul of his high horse and made him blind. John got to see heaven in a vision that still perplexes and fills us with awe to this day. All amazing ways in which God revealed himself. All ways that left no doubt that God was speaking. But what about everyone else? What about Joe-Christ-Follower in the New Testament? There are what, ten or eleven amazing meetings with God in the New Testament? What about the hundreds and hundreds of other Christ-Followers?
Here’s the deal, they weren’t that important. Now don’t mis-understand. They were important to God, but not nesecarily important to His plan. Everyone of the big names in the Bible that had a “Burning Bush” experience, altered history in some way. Most of them weren’t looking for it and several didn’t want it. Check out Moses, he did everything he could to get out of it. But he was important to God’s plan so God wouldn’t leave him alone.
Am I important to God? YES! So are you! John 3:16 tells us that we were so important that God sent His only Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins and yours, individually. He died for just me and just you. We are of the utmost importance to God. But that doesn’t mean we are priority in His plan. Think about this, I have been a military member for over 14 years. I have come to understand that few soldiers are “important”. Most of us are just soldiers, together we make a difference but singlely most of us don’t accomplish a lot. Well, we as Christians are also in an army of sorts, God’s army. Several references are made in the Bible to being a good soldier or training to fight. But most soldiers are just not that important.
Here’s my thoughts, feel free to disagree. Most of us have these great dreams of being a bigshot in God’s campaign but what He really needs are people to clean the toilets, take out the trash and wipe boogers off the walls in the nursery. He needs soldiers willing to fight and willing to follow. If pressed into leadership, as most figures in the Bible were, to be ready to lead but in the present be ready and willing to clean the latrine.
I have never seen a burning bush other than when we cleared our land and burned the limbs and trees we cut up. I have never been blinded by God nor have angels played trumpets in my ear loud enough to wake the dead. But I have been given orders. And those orders are clear. They are to “GO”! Go love people, go share the love of God with people. Go feed and clothe the poor. Go take care of the widows and orphans. Go make friends with the unfriendly. Go serve soup to outcasts.
Quit waiting for your “God Moment” or “God Vision” for your life and do the simple things He has already told us to do. “Love God with all your being.” “Love your neighbor the same way you love yourself.” Teach people about God. Important commands for all us unimportant people. It’s not about us, it’s about HIM! It’s not about us, it’s about OTHERS! I think that if we focused on doisoldier-1ng the small things we know we’re supposed to do instead of trying to “find our place in God’s will” a lot more would be accomplished and a lot less people would be struggling to survive.  Plus, the Bible says if we are faithful with the little unimportant things He will give us more important stuff to do.  If you want to be important you first must master the unimportant.
The mark of a good soldier is following orders, the mark of a great soldier is following orders without question.

Sometimes Life Stinks

Life has been the opposite of good for a while now. The church that my Dad and I started has not taken off like we had believed it would. We are 6 months old and we only have about 20 people. 10 of those are family. The building we are in is not kid friendly and we have lost a few families because of that. We are reaching mostly unchurched people so our offerings are not very good. Most give $5 or so a week. Hard to pay the rent and purchase supplies on that amount of money. We were hoping to be running 100 or more each week in attendance by now. So the vision Dad and I had for a church to meet needs in our community is slow going to the point of not moving.

Our whole family has been sick the last few months. My oldest has had, bronchitis, walking pneumonia, and strep, he was almost hospitalized. My oldest daughter has had bronchitis, upper respiratory infections and now she has strep. My youngest got pre-pneumonia and was almost hospitalized as well. I have had bronchitis for the last 3 weeks. My wife developed a 1/2″ kidney stone that required surgery to break up. My mom has been sick and last Saturday my dad had a medium heart attack and was in ICU. My van broke down and so did mom and dad’s truck. We are behind on our bills due to the doctor and medicine bills. And to top it all off God has been silent in my daily prayer and Bible time.

Where is God? Why are we going through this? I have narrowed it down to three possibilities.

1. We are on the right track, fulfilling God’s Purpose and the devil (yes I believe the devil exists) is fighting like crazy to stop us.

2. We are on the wrong track and God is trying to get our attention to stop and do something else.

3. There is no god and this is all a colossal waste of time and energy.

Since I believe in God and know that He is there it must be 1 or 2. So which one is it? Are we on the right road or did we get off at the wrong exit and God, like the G.P.S. in cars, is telling us to make a “U-TURN”.

Today I was reading a book in my “Currently Reading” list on the right called God.net. I read while, um, using the facilities (on the john). I read a chapter and he was talking about all this stuff going wrong in his life on what he calls “The Journey of Believe”. I was thinking that it sounded like us. I finished the chapter and finished my visit with “john” and went to get a cup of coffee. OK, I know this is kind of gross but bear with me. Before I could pour my coffee I realized I was not done conversing with “john”, so back I went. I sat down and began the next chapter, and thats where my view of this season in my life changed.

….to be continued.

Be Willing To Walk Away When The Path Is Uncetain

Part 5 on Obedience

uncertain-path.jpg     When we focus on obedience to God it sometimes becomes hard because the path is not clear.  We come to a crossroads and we have to make a decision.  Right or left?  Which turn do we take?  I am reminded of a poem I had to learn in High School, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.  You can read the entire poem HERE!   Here is the end of his poem,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

He chose the harder road, the one less traveled.  He had a decision to make and he made it.  I am not saying we always have to take the harder path, but it is important that we choose the correct path.  In obedience to God following is key.  Where does God want me to go, what does God want me to do, how does God want me to do it?  While I obviously can’t tell you the answer (I have a hard enough time figuring out my path) I can point you in the right direction.

First- God will never go against His Word, the Bible.  Numbers 23:19 says “God is not a man, so he does not lie.  He is not human, so he does not change his mind.  Has he ever spoken and failed to act?  Has he ever promised and not carried it through?”  He never goes back on His promises or His Word.

Second- He will never lead you to compromise integrity.  You will not have to lie, cheat or steal to accomplish His will.

If you have to do either of those things then it is most assuredly not from God.  However there are times when both choices would not conflict with these two principles.  That’s when it becomes tricky to navigate in obedience.  What you need is a map.  But you also need someone who can read the map.  The map is the Bible and if you are not able to understand the Bible you should find someone who can, a pastor or a mature Christ-Follower that you trust.  (Note- No matter who you go to, God still outranks them and if you feel God telling you something different than there council always go with God)

Reading your Bible is the best way to determine God’s will, but God also speaks through circumstances.  Sometimes things just all come together.  Don’t dismiss that as luck or happenstance.  God is in control of everything and therefore everything happens for a reason.

God also speaks in our prayer time, He uses a small, quiet voice and you have to listen hard to hear it.

A great study to look into doing is “Experiencing God” by Henry Blackaby.  The book is not too expensive and it will go a lot deeper than I can in a blog.   Another great book is Rick Warren’s, “The Purpose Driven Life”  I loved this one and am making it a habit to go through it once a year.

Remember- Obedience is the key that opens the correct door, if you have to jimmy the lock, your doing things on your own.