Did You Brush Your Teeth?

It can get pretty comical when one of my sons gets caught doing something, and he lies about it.

The other night I put my son to bed and I asked him, “Did you brush your teeth?”

“Yes,” he said.

So I asked him, “When? When did you brush your teeth? Remember, I’ve been downstairs with you all evening. Then I walked you up to your bedroom. I put you in your pajamas, and you jumped in bed. In all that time, you never brushed your teeth. So let me ask you again: Did you brush your teeth?”

“Yes!” he said. “I brushed my teeth!”

“Now,” I said, “I highly advise you not to lie! I’m going to give you a few minutes. I want you to think about whether you should lie to me, because I know you didn’t brush your teeth. If you lie to me, there’s going to be a consequence. You know I don’t want you to lie! So think about it.”

My sons know there are consequences to lying. They also know that the consequences don’t come from anger. They know it’s just because I don’t want them to lie. Lying is breaking trust! So I have to teach them to be truthful. I will take away an iPad, or whatever else I’ve got to do, to let them know that they can’t break trust. We have to trust each other.

Well, after a few minutes, my son said, “Dad, I didn’t brush my teeth.”

I said, “Okay! And remember, you don’t have to lie. You’re not in trouble. I just want you to brush your teeth.”

When it comes to our children, it’s best if we’re able to encourage them. We don’t have to condemn them and we don’t have to judge them. We don’t have to use fear tactics to manage or control them. We can just encourage them.

I try to constantly remind my sons of the leaders I think they are. I tell them I’m proud of them. And I teach them that they don’t have to lie. They can always be truthful. They need to be! A truthful leader will always attract more followers than a liar.

In the same way, the Holy Spirit encourages us. Maybe you’re not lying, but you might have something else going on. You might be looking at something you shouldn’t look at, or wanting something you shouldn’t want. Perhaps you are thinking about doing something you shouldn’t do. In those moments, there’s a feeling. There’s an intuition inside of you saying, “Hey, I wouldn’t do that. Here’s why.”

That’s the Holy Spirit!

I knew my son hadn’t brushed his teeth, because I’d been with him the whole time. It’s the same with the Holy Spirit.The Holy Spirit is always with you. The Spirit sees everything you do, or don’t do. My son couldn’t get away with not brushing his teeth, because I was there the whole time. It’s the same with us. The Spirit is there the whole time! And you know what? He forgives everything.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. John 14:26

That’s what Jesus told the apostles about the Spirit, the Helper. I think that this is what families can do for each other. This is what it’s all about.

More on this next time. See you Tuesday.

The New Country of Grace

So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land! Romans 6:1-3

I blog a lot about grace, and I’m about to blog about it a lot more. I truly hope that the message of God’s grace will reach your heart. I hope your heart says, “This is it. This is what I need to hear. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is going to help me get out of my issues.”

His grace is going to help you today and every day. You might have messed up, but it’s all going to be okay. Jesus loves you and He smiles on you.

You, me, the Apostle Paul — we all have the same experience. We do not want to sin. It is not our intention to sin. And yet we do. We sin. How are we going to get out of it? It’s only by grace!

The church is an agent of grace. In church, you can hang out with other people that can honestly say, “I sin just like you.” It helps! People who have been where you are can understand what you’re experiencing. They can say, “I know that Jesus walks with me. He’s encouraging me! So I know He’ll walk with you. You can lean on Him. You’ve got to know that we are righteous and holy, and you’ve also got to know that sometimes, righteous and holy people act out of the flesh.”

Just remember what Paul says: grace abounds over sin. Because of Christ, there is now no condemnation. His grace will always cover our sin.

People challenged Paul when they heard that. They said, “Does that mean we can sin whenever we want? Seriously? We can just run around and sin, and there will be no consequences?”

And Paul replied, “That is not what I mean! I mean that once you’re of the Spirit, you will do things of the Spirit. In fact, you are living a new life now. You’re living in the new country of grace!”

That’s what Paul said. Through our baptism, we have actually moved to a whole new country.

In the new country of grace, you won’t want to sin. You’ll want to do the things of the Spirit, like love unconditionally. You’ll want to! You won’t want to gossip or tell lies.

Okay. At times, you will want to sin. After all, you still have flesh on your bone. That’s not going to change until Christ returns. So you might mess up. You will mess up. I know. I understand.

When you mess up, you will want to hide in your sin. That’s what the flesh wants to do. But that’s not what God wants. He wants to free you. His grace says, “Take my hand, and I will help you. We’ll expose your sin, because in the light, it will die.”

When you understand the grace of God, then you will know that you do not have to hide. You can go boldly before His throne in Heaven. Do you know what will happen? He won’t yell at you, or punish you. He will smile at you! He will free you! He will say, “My child, I don’t see that sin. I see you for who you are.”

Then He’ll point out all the good in your life. He’ll show you all the good of who you are. He’ll say, “This is your heart! Your heart is good! This is who you are! I want you to see yourself as I see you.”

God is with you, so don’t be afraid. Build your home in the new country of grace. When you sin, He will be right beside you, and He will restore you. He has made you, and you are good.

See you Friday.

You’re in the Right Place

Last time, I reflected on the roadblocks that God puts in our way. I think it’s important to recognize that sometimes, the obstacles we meet come from Him. We might have something we really want to do, but He knows we’re not ready. Maybe He wants to prepare us before we tackle something. So He blocks our path.

I look back on my own career, and it’s clear to me that there were many points along the way when I needed to wait. When I broke into the big leagues, at 22 years of age, I thought I was on top of the world. If God had given me fame then, or World Series success, I think I would have considered myself unstoppable. Maybe I would have had a heart for some things, but back then, I didn’t have a heart for the poor. I thought homeless people were lazy. I told them to get a job!

Why would God allow me a platform in Him when I had that kind of attitude toward people in poverty? Why would He give me a voice before I understood about injustice? I wouldn’t have used my voice, platform, or money the way that He wanted me to. I simply wasn’t ready.

God made me struggle for six years in the big leagues before giving me success. Looking back, I realize He was waiting for the right time. He was waiting until I could handle big league success in a holy and righteous way. The struggle was hard, but now I can see that He loved me too much to let me succeed right away. He said, “It’s not worth it. I can give you influence in a lot of ways, but I’ll do it six years from now — when you’re ready.”

Now that I can look back and see His plan, I’m okay with it. Obviously!

You might be itching to do something that will help build the Kingdom. But then God blocks you — while letting other people go and do it! It’s frustrating, I know. It’s really hard! Why did God call David to be the King of Israel, instead of one of his brothers? They were all older, so theoretically at least, they were better prepared for it. Imagine how they felt when God chose David over all of them!

It’s hard for us to understand why God did that, because His ways are not our ways. But He explained it for us. He looks at the heart of every man.

But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)

God knows the heart of every man. He knows I’m Kingdom-minded. He knows I want to help a lot of people by using my gifts. That’s why I try not to get frustrated when I hit roadblocks. Sometimes I fail! But I don’t give up. I’ve learned that He puts obstacles in my way for a reason. So I’m learning to be patient, and to help people from right where I am in life. I will work from here because this is where God has put me.

We are all right where God wants us to be! So if you’re feeling blocked, or frustrated, or thwarted, don’t feel bad. Be content! God has a purpose for you, right where you’re at. How about that? You’ve been chosen for it! So let it be. Once you understand that you are living the life that God has arranged for you, you will be joyful. You will be filled with praise and gratitude! You’ll say, “God, thank you!” It’s good to enjoy what God has for us. We enjoy doing Kingdom work because it’s joyful!

If you don’t believe you’re where you need to be, then tell Him. Knock on that door. Ask Him for your heart’s dream. Everything comes from Him. Our place in life comes from Him. The impact we have for the Kingdom comes from Him. So keep asking, and don’t give up.

See you Tuesday.

When God Blocks Your Path

Last time, I wrote about the joy to be found in waiting for God to fulfill His plans for us. Sometimes, like David, we have to wait. God may not fulfill our calling right away. But this doesn’t mean that we have to wait for joy. Part of waiting is the joy we can find in it! The joy is found in learning to be content with whatever He gives us, or wherever He puts us.

Sometimes, though, it’s not just a matter of waiting. Sometimes, we hit roadblocks. Sometimes, we find doors are closed to us. What then? Where is the joy in that?

When this happens to me, I have a hard time being content. I’ve got a vision, and there is so much that I want to do!

But I’ve also got a wife and three little boys that I love a lot. So when I hit a roadblock, I stop and think about it. What if that roadblock was put there by God? Maybe I’ve asked Him to open a door, and He has said no. Maybe that roadblock is Him saying, “It’s not worth it to you to chase that ministry out there. It will take you away from your number one ministry right here, which is your family.”

This isn’t usually my first thought, but I’ve learned to weigh its merits. Maybe God is blocking my path!

I do think that God closes doors. He closes them for all kinds of reasons. He might have something else He wants you to do. He might not think you’re ready. He might not want you to get so busy with new tasks that you forget what you were called to do in the first place. So sometimes He’s going to put up a wall, even if it means that you’re going to run right into it.

Whatever He does, you’re going to have to be okay with it.

I admit, I’m not necessarily content when this happens! It can be frustrating to hit a roadblock, or find a closed door. I might say, “God, I feel like you’re restraining me. Why won’t you let me run free? I can do some good here, if you’ll just let me!” But He hears me say that, and He says, “You can’t do anything good! You can only do good through me!”

That’s the real lesson here. It’s only through God and in Him that we can bring His Kingdom. We prepare the horse for battle, but the victory is His. (Prov. 21:31)

Does this mean we shouldn’t dream, plan, or set goals? Not at all! We should prepare for the things we want to do. We should dream and set goals. But let’s not forget: God delivers. If you hit a roadblock and He wants you to get around it, then He’ll just flick it out of the way.

If He doesn’t remove it, it’s for a good reason. If He’s saying not now, then it’s not now. And that’s okay.

Wouldn’t you prefer to wait until He says you’re ready? He doesn’t want you to go through a door when you’re not prepared, spiritually or mentally, to handle what will come. He knows when an opportunity is good, but He also knows when your heart is not ready. So He’ll block you if it’s not going to be good for you. And then, while you wait, He’ll prepare you.  

This is love! This is the tender love of a Father!

I know roadblocks can be frustrating. But if God is not removing them, then He’s put them in place for a reason. Getting frustrated with Him will not change that. And getting frustrated with God is not fun! Here’s an idea: if you find a closed door, ask Him to open it. If He doesn’t, then don’t fight it. Instead, try asking and listening. Then ask and listen some more. Tell Him, “God, here’s my heart. Here’s why I want to do this thing. Here’s why I’d like to get around that obstacle. I would really like to be able to do this thing, but I don’t want to do anything unless I can do it through you. So until you say it’s time, I’ll be content.”

God isn’t saying don’t plan. God says the opposite! He says that He directs your steps, but your heart plans the way. (Prov. 16:9) So let your heart dream. Ask, and listen. And then, just be open. When the time is right, and you are ready, He will make the way plain for you (Ps. 5:8). Meanwhile, there is joy in the waiting!

See you Friday.

Joy in Waiting, Being, Doing

And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. 1 Samuel 16:11-13

As a young shepherd in Bethlehem, David got his call – to be King of Israel! And what happened next? Nothing! He just went back to his sheep.

Fifteen years passed before David took the throne. It was an eventful life. He became a celebrated hero when he killed Goliath. He wrote beautiful music. He joined the household of the existing king Saul, and he made lifelong friends.

At the same time, not all of David’s life was good. I mean, not good at all! When King Saul found out that David had been chosen by God to replace him, things got rough for David. He was persecuted by Saul. It was so bad that David actually had to run and hide. He kept on the move, hid out in caves, and survived by his wits.

This was the life of the man who was already anointed king! He had been called to the throne, and yet he wasn’t ruling. He was hiding in caves!

David waited 15 years to become king. I think we want our call in 15 minutes. So David’s story is instructive. He had to wait, man. He had to wait a long time to become king.

Waiting for a call can be tough (although hopefully not as tough as it was for David). It’s so hard to wait! But there is so much joy to be found in waiting. You can still be filled with the Spirit of the Lord, just as David was. Open your heart up to God your Father, and say, “Alright, what do you want me to do? Anything you want me to do, I’ll do it. I just want to serve you.”

Tell Him, “I am a child of yours, and I would love to go out and be a part of something that’s just awesome. If now is not the time, okay! But I’d really like to go, if it would be okay with you. I would love it.” And then just see what He says. If He says no, then that’s okay. Keep doing what you’re doing. If He says yes, He’ll make it happen.

I think sometimes God wants you to ask. If you never ask, you’ll never know. That’s what the Bible says. “You have not because you ask not.” (James 4:2) But don’t forget, if you’re going to ask, you’d better be ready for the answer! If His answer is no, then you need to be okay with that. You may be disappointed, and it’s okay to be disappointed. But you need to accept His answer.

And if the answer’s yes, then get ready! You might find that you need to be accepting of that too!

And you know what? Right now, while you are waiting, God is still calling you to joy. Joy is found in doing, yes. But it is also found in waiting. And sometimes joy is simply found in being, right where you’re at. I think that’s important to God. Sometimes He wants you to just be. Be content. Be content for now. When He feels like you’re ready for what He has in store for you, He’ll call you. He’ll send you out. Trust Him on this, and until then, just be content.

In the long run, you’re going to be happier because you waited. If you do something that you think is great, but you do it outside of God, then you’re going to be disappointed. And if He lets you go before you’re ready, then you’re going to be miserable. You’re not going to like what you’re doing.

God doesn’t want that for you! What would be the point? God wants joy for you!

So wait until He calls. Find joy in the waiting. Find joy in the being. And when the call comes, you can be sure that you’ll find joy in the doing. Kingdom work is joyful work! And that’s what God wants for you.

More on this next time. See you Tuesday.

Peace is a Sign of Wisdom

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

How do we know when we are receiving God’s wisdom? The examples in the Bible give us a lot of options. Jesus famously turned the money changers out of the Temple, but he also reached out in love to Zacchaeus, the tax collector, and made a disciple of him.

So how do we know when to be loving and compassionate, and when to grab a whip and do some cleansing? How do we know when we’re doing what the Holy Spirit tells us to do, versus doing what we want to do? How do we know when we’re doing God’s will, and not just following our own will?

How do you know that the voice you hear speaking into your life is God’s?

I think you’ll know it because of the peace you’ll have when you’re sharing that wisdom. Have you seen people on their soapboxes sharing John 3:16, and they’re yelling? They’re actually sharing Jesus by telling people, “You’re going to go to hell if you don’t believe that God gave His only son for your sins!” There’s no way those people have peace in what they are doing.

I think they want to do the right thing, but they don’t know how. So they just yell it. Their faces are angry, and they spit it out. And then they say, “There, I got the Word of God out there. Now it’s not my fault if they don’t accept Christ.”

In this, we don’t see self-control. I’ve seen people challenge these soapbox guys, and when that happens, they yell even more. They don’t want to listen. All they do is repeat themselves. They just keep saying the same thing, over and over again. Someone challenges them, and they point their finger right in that person’s face, and go on yelling about John 3:16. I’ve seen it happen!

That’s not self-control. It’s chaos.

I think you have to ask God for wisdom all the time. There is a time for grabbing a whip and doing some cleansing, sure. But there are so many times in which wisdom tells us to be loving and compassionate. We don’t necessarily know which time is which, and that’s why we have to ask.

How will you know you’ve received God’s wisdom, and you’re not just acting on your own will?

You’ll know when you feel peace about what you’re doing. You’ll see the fruit of the Spirit. That’s how you’ll know.

Walking in the Spirit

I have a story for you.

A guy I know was speaking at a conference. He had some friends in town, and they asked him to meet with a woman they knew. This woman had been dealing with a lot of troubles. The friends thought maybe the guy could help her.

So he met her for coffee. They sat down together and he asked her, “How are you doing?” She told him directly, “You know, I’m not a believer.”

“Yes, I know that,” he said. He started to say something else, but she was very defensive and interrupted him. “I don’t even believe that Jesus existed!” she told him. And then she went on in that vein. She was trying, verbally, to push him away.

Finally he got a chance to speak. He gently said, “I just wanted to ask you what you want in your coffee.”

She was so surprised! She said, “You don’t want to try to convert me?” And he said, “No, I just want to have this cup of coffee with you.”

“Okay,” she said.

So he went to the counter and got cups of coffee for both of them. By the time he returned to the table, she had calmed down. They sat there together for a bit, quiet, just sipping. And then she said, “Why are you here?”

He looked directly into her eyes and he said, “I’m here to have a cup of coffee with you.”

“You know I’m not a Christian,” she said. “I don’t believe in Jesus. So if you know that, what could you possibly have to say to me?” And he said, “I can tell you that Jesus not only loves you, but He likes you.”

The woman started weeping. That’s all he said to her, and she released all her pain.

I can guarantee you that scenario is not in scripture. You cannot open up the Bible and find the place where it talks about how to handle a woman in a coffee shop who is angry and hurting. Sometimes, we have to ask for wisdom.

Suppose the guy had told her, “Your time is coming. Jesus is coming back and it’s going to be too late. You’re going to go to hell.” What if he had said that to her? He would have turned her off. She would have walked out of that coffee shop, and that chance to know Jesus would have been crushed.

But that’s not what he said. He didn’t react to her feelings or her words. He just let her speak, and he got her a cup of coffee. He earned enough trust that she was ready to listen to him. And when she asked, “What do you have for me,” he told her, “Jesus loves you, but He also likes you.”

It’s all he had to say.

Not everything you need to know is in the Bible. Sometimes you need to walk in the Spirit. And when you do, you will receive wisdom. He got her a cup of coffee and told her exactly what Jesus wanted her to hear. This is a promise fulfilled!

More on this next time. See you Tuesday.