Tag Archives: following Jesus

Look Back

Grace 101

 

Chuck Swindoll once said something like, “If you want to see how God is leading you, look back.”

Frankly, I never found that to be helpful.  When I look back over the path of my life I see evidence of uncertainty, compromise, and foolishness.  I see the mistakes I made and the cruelty of others and what seems like a lot of random events.

I do see the hand of God.  I see His protection and provision.  I see His work in circumstances and people.  He was certainly there and at work.  But to look back and say that was the leading of God seems strange.  God was not responsible for the fleshly choices I made.  God was not responsible for the things others did to me.  God was there; but, if He was leading, I wasn’t often following.

The Family Circus has been a popular comic in the newspapers for over fifty years.  Written by Bill Keane, it presented basic Christian values and a perspective on children and family that many enjoyed.  The comic is still written, now by Jeff Keane, and is still carried in syndication.  Those of us who raised families during the years of the comic’s popularity in the local paper saw a lot of our own families in The Family Circus.

One of the things I remember so well, and was used in the comic many times, was the fact that the children rarely moved in straight lines.  If told to go somewhere, Billy or Dolly or Jeffy would wander all over the place on their way to their appointed destination.  On any path there were distractions and obstacles that made the goal questionable.

That’s more what I see when I look back.

But maybe there is something in what Swindoll said.  God was always there.  His love was never removed.  There are points where I can see it so clearly.  He could have rejected me, maybe should have by my fleshly standards, but He never did.  He was always there.

So, perhaps we shouldn’t look back over our path expecting to learn anything more than the fact that God has always loved us and has always been there for us.  When we wandered far from Him, He was still with us.  When we did things our own way, rejecting Him and His way, He was still there.  When we found the pain and struggle of our sin or the sin of others, He was there.  He might have allowed us to go through some difficult times, but we were never alone.

David wrote something I have held onto for a long time.  In Psalm 37:25, he wrote:  “I have been young , and am now old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging bread.”  I was not always righteous, but when Jesus came into my life I found Him faithful.  He has protected and provided.  He has always been there.

And here’s the point: If He was always there with you in the past, He will always be there with you in the future.  You might not be able to see a direction or destination based on your path, but you can trust that you do not walk alone.

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How Does God Speak?

Grace 101

 

If I gave this post a title like, “Three Steps to Make God Talk to You,” do you think it would be popular?  We want that kind of approach, don’t we?  God does xyz so, to get Him to do xyz for you, all you have to do is abc.  A nice formula.  Formulas are great.  If this, then this.  Works every time.

Except that God is not subject to a formula.  He doesn’t always do xyz, so all your abc may not get Him to do what you want.  Formulas seem right and they seem easy, at least understandable, but formulas have no place in a relationship with a real person.  Real people are far less than predictable, and without serious deception or coercion, far less than controllable.  And God is a Real Person who cannot be deceived or controlled.

Because God is a Real Person and greater than us and in authority over us, it isn’t for us to make Him speak to us our way.  We need to learn to listen as He speaks to us His way.  Under grace, we are free to stop looking for formulas and control.  We are free to listen and trust.

The title I did give this post asks a question that really cannot be answered.  How does God speak?  Well, I don’t know how He speaks to you.  I am barely beginning to understand how He speaks to me.  I suppose there is a generic answer where I could list as many ways of communication as I know from God.  I know He speaks to us through the Bible, although I also believe that the Holy Spirit connects with the truth of the Bible to get that message into our hearts.  He speaks to us through circumstances, through other believers, and through that small voice in our hearts.  And, yes, sometimes He speaks in audible or nearly audible words.  But sometimes He speaks in odd ways.  In the Bible He used donkeys and birds and a whirlwind.  And some people see visions or dream dreams in which He speaks to them.  And, at times, God has spoken through prophets and elders and preachers.

But none of that is particularly helpful if you don’t know how He is speaking to you.  And I can’t tell you that.  What I can tell you is that one of the most important activities of the Christian life is to listen.  He is speaking.  Trust Him and listen for Him.

The past few years have been a season for college in our home.  I am amazed at the breaks these kids get with their professors.  If they don’t like a test grade, they negotiate.  They might be able to get a few points added to the grade or they might get a chance for some extra credit or even some sympathy points.  (I don’t remember anything like this when I was in college.)  I can just imagine a student walking into class on the first day and telling the professor, “Well, I am a visual learner, so you will have to use a lot of visuals to get your message across to me.”  Who knows what the prof would say today, but I know what mine would have said:  “Well, son, you are going to have trouble in this class.”

Those who wait for God to speak their way might be waiting a long time.  I have heard people complain about this.  “I never hear God’s voice.”  “I don’t get anything out of the Bible.”  “I can’t listen to a sermon.”  Well, maybe you should ask God how He wants to speak to you.  Have you ever asked?  He may never speak audibly to you.  That’s true for almost all believers.  Nor is it extra special or superior when He speaks to someone that way.  It’s just one of the ways.

So, how do you discern God’s voice in whatever way He desires to speak to you?  Ask Him!  Tell Him you want to hear Him, you want to follow Him.  If you look to Him as a sheep to the shepherd, you will learn to hear His voice. (John 10)

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Walk in Wisdom

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.   Colossians 4:5

 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,   Ephesians 5:15

 These passages are challenging for those who are under grace.  We are to walk in wisdom, circumspectly, not as fools.  The particular context here, explained in the Ephesians passage and referenced in the Colossians passage, is our relationship with the world and the people of the world.  There are practical dangers for the people of God in this world.

Let’s be sure we are clear on this.  I do not believe that the temptations of the world can cause us to lose our salvation or to fall out of favor with God.  But I do believe that those temptations can affect our marriages, our health, our relationships, and many other parts of our lives here and now.  For example, I see a lot of joking about alcohol among those who celebrate the freedom of grace.  That may be innocent enough, but we cannot forget that alcohol holds a serious trap for many people.  I sometimes see grace folks flirting in overt ways.  I am not a prude, far from it, but I do know that there are dangers in flirtatious relationships.  We do not want to deceive ourselves.  Not everything is safe for us.

Legalist teachers are very aware of the dangers of this world.  They would use these verses to call us to be very careful as we walk and they would be happy to provide us with rules so we could walk rightly (according to their standards).  We don’t need this.  We simply need to follow our Lord.

The call of Jesus is not for us to watch our steps.  In spite of the sound of these verses, it would not be helpful for us to try to live by a set of rules.  It has not worked and will not work.  So the believer is not called to watch where he or she walks, as though you and I could somehow discern the dangers for ourselves.  Instead, we are called to follow Jesus.  We are to watch where He walks.

Imagine that you are walking through a minefield.  The mines are carefully concealed.  The person with you knows the path through the field.  What should you do?  Should you try your best to walk carefully through the minefield, always aware of the danger?  Or should you watch the person who knows where he is going and follow him?  Seems simple, doesn’t it?

So walk in wisdom by following Jesus.

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