Getting Lost

Recently I drove out to my friend’s house in the country. The drive winds through fields of cows and dips along lines of pine trees—it’s beautiful. But it’s unfamiliar to a suburban girl like me. So I plugged my friend’s address into my GPS app and followed Siri’s directions. I had been there once before (following one of her family members), so I thought between my memory and my GPS, I would have no trouble.

Oh, I was wrong.

After twisting and turning down bumpy roads that were looking less and less familiar and taking far longer to reach my destination than I remembered, I figured that I had taken a wrong turn and that Siri would redirect me. So I kept turning where he told me to turn, trusting him to get me there. Finally, I turned down a gravel road and heard Siri announce that I had arrived at my destination. I was in the middle of a field.

I was lost.

I looked at the sun setting over the isolated fields and tried not to panic. I had no idea where I was or where my friend’s house was. I was alone and I had lost my internet connection. So I walked about until I could find a signal and called my friend.

She did not recognize the name of the road I was on, so I retraced my drive as far as I could (which was not far) until I came to a crossroads where, to my relief, a tall white steeple caught my eye. I pulled into the empty, but lit church parking lot and waited for my friend to find that intersection on her map. She figured out where I was, then drove out to find me. I was still lost, but my friend knew exactly where I was. Forty-five minutes later, I was sitting at her house, laughing my fear away with friends.

My experience led me to thinking about the many times I have felt lost in my Christian life. medium_2935385278cTimes when I followed someone’s wrong directions, times when I felt alone and isolated, times when I had no idea where my next destination was or where I was supposed to go to get there.

We get lost often in life. Perhaps you are feeling lost right now. Our immediate response is panic, but it does not have to be, because the way back is simple. All I had to do was turn around and call my friend. All we have to do when we are lost is turn around and call on God.

One of my favorite chapters of the Bible is Psalm 139. In verses 9 and 10, the psalmist writes:

“If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”

I love this verse because it shows me that even when I am lost, I am never truly lost. God is always with me, always leading me, always holding me. It doesn’t matter if you are sitting at home or in the slums, if you are in heaven or hell, if you are in the city or in the middle of the sea, God is always with you.

We are never lost to God. He knows every road, even the gravel side roads, and has an aerial view of our lives. He sees every crossroad and every landmark, and He knows how to lead us back to His destination.

After I called my friend, she figured out exactly where I was—but I still had no clue where I was. So I had to find a safe place to park and wait. When I looked up from that crossroads to find a safe place, I saw that tall white steeple. When you call on God to help you, you still have to wait for Him to come and lead you back. But He has provided you with a safe place to wait for Him—His church. When you are lost and alone, you have a safe place in the body of Christ to wait for help—you have a sanctuary from the dark, cold world. Find a church, find a group of believers, and wait in safety for God to lead you back.

It’s hard to wait. We get impatient. We begin to panic. We start looking to others for direction. We try to find our own way. But if we don’t stay put, we get more lost.

There have been a few occasions in my life when I have parked beneath a white steeple for a season. There is no safer place than the body of Christ when you are lost, when you have been hurt, when you are stuck in between two closed doors and are waiting for the right one to open. I have met some of the most incredible Christians while I was waiting for God to show me where to go next. Take refuge in God’s people.

When God does begin to lead you, follow in faith. When my friend met me at that church and led me to her house, I still had no idea where I was or where I was going. It unnerved me not knowing, but I had no real reason to fear, because I was following someone who did know. When God begins to lead you, you still may have no idea where you destination is or even where you will turn next—but God knows. You simply have to trust and follow Him.

You have a direct line to God. When you are lost and alone in life, you have no reason to fear or panic. If you call on Him, He will lead you back. Call out to Him, look for a steeple, and park and wait for Him to come and find you.

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This is the Will of God

We Christians like to talk about God’s will. We know God has a will, a plan, for our lives and most of us want to find and fulfill that will. But while we know He has a will, His will is a mystery to us. God does not audibly tell us all of His plans for our lives, but requires us to walk by faith, to heed the Holy Spirit’s leading, to trust Him to lead us rather than trusting in ourselves. His will is an invisible path we seek to follow but fear we will miss.

There is a part of God’s will we can know without doubt. It isn’t a mystery we can hope to find, but a commandment to obey. It is His will for each one of us to do every day of our lives. God’s will is for us to give thanks in everything.

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
1 Thessalonions 5:18

God’s will is for us to give thanks in everything. When the sun shines, we should give medium_3726630322thanks. When ice storms hit and knock out our electricity, we should give thanks. When we can sit down to sumptuous meals, we should give thanks. When we can’t afford our weekly groceries, we should give thanks. No matter what our circumstances, no matter how desperate our needs or dire our situation, God wants us to give thanks.

This is such a difficult lesson for us to learn. No matter how hard I try, I know that a complaint slips my mouth every day. Things go wrong. People disappoint. I make mistakes. Work gets weary. I get tired. And I forget to be thankful.

But God wants me to give thanks in everything—absolutely everything.

The children of Israel struggled with this same lesson. God delivered them from Egypt, destroyed their enemies, fed them with manna, performed miracles, and led them through the desert with a cloud and pillar of fire. Yet over and over again, they had to be chastised—and even killed—because of their murmuring and complaining. Their awe of God’s goodness had worn off and they lost their thankfulness.

We are no better. I have seen God perform miracles on my behalf. He has met my needs, led me through impossible circumstances, protected me from mistakes and dangers, and blessed me beyond my imagination. But when the dust settles and I slip into the groove of everyday life, my awe wears off and I find myself not only ungrateful, but complaining about my circumstances. I want God’s will for my life, but I am missing His daily will for me.

We ought to give thanks—every day for every thing.

Giving thanks is more than feeling thankful. Giving thanks is expressing our thankfulness to God. We need to express our thanks. We need to praise Him. We need to tell others about Him.

If we don’t give thanks, then we will struggle like the children of Israel struggled. We will be given bitter water to drink, extra years of wandering through the desert, plagues. We may even miss out on God’s promises and blessings entirely. Don’t let your awe of God wear thin. If you want to do God’s will, then remember to thank Him in everything.

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Giving Love

Valentine’s Day was exciting in elementary school—we made paper hearts, ate candy, and medium_5445598713giggled over the little Valentine cards we exchanged. There were awkward moments too. In my classes, my teachers required us to give a note to every classmate, not just our friends. But there were some boys the girls did not want to give “love” notes to (and vice versa). So we would spend the night before sifting through all of the pre-packaged notes in search of the most generic cards we could find. We did not like those boys, and we did not want anyone to think we did.

As I grew up, I realized how childish such behavior was—and how much it could hurt someone’s feelings. But as an adult I have also come to realize that most of us still act the same.

As Christians we are commanded to love—not just other Christians, but everyone, as Christ loves us. This seems so simple, so easy. But the truth is, most of us are really like those children exchanging Valentine’s cards—we don’t want to give our love to everyone, but to the people we like and to the people we think deserve our love.

But I share the gospel with everyone, you say. That is not enough. Giving the gospel is telling others about God’s love, not necessarily giving others our love. Love does more than witness. It spends time, pays attention, and displays affection. It gives up possessions, says kind words, lets others go first. It sacrifices our wants, forgives our enemies, embraces our outcasts.

But most of us don’t want to give that kind of love to everyone. We want to reserve it for that handful of friends we like. But God, like our elementary teachers, has commanded us to give that love to everyone, no matter how attractive, successful, popular, wealthy, or “holy.”

Don’t reserve your love today. Give it freely to everyone in your acquaintance and in your path. Perhaps there is someone you need to forgive. Perhaps there is someone near you who has a need you can meet. Whatever it is, give it unreservedly and without conditions. God didn’t reserve His love for His favorites. He gave the same unreserved love to all men, equally—His Son. He gave all of His love to you. He wants you to do the same.

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When Work Conflicts with Your Faith

Do you ever feel like quitting your job because your work conflicts with your faith? Maybe your coworkers don’t respect your values and intentionally offend you. Maybe your hours keep you from attending the services and Bible studies you would like to attend. Maybe your responsibilities entail violating Biblical commandments you had purposed to keep. Whatever the situation, you face daily spiritual resistance and are growing weary of the temptation and persecution—and you are beginning to wonder whether you should remain where you are or look for a job that is friendly to your faith.medium_1264424156

Daniel found himself in the same situation several thousand years ago. He was a Jew who loved the Lord and had purposed to obey all of His commandments. But he lived in a pagan nation, where he studied and worked in the king’s palace. Many times throughout his lifetime his faith was challenged and he had to choose between his God and his position—even his life. His experiences exemplify several principles that can help us know how to live and work in a world that rejects our faith.

Resist the sin, not the situation.

When Daniel and his friends were commanded to eat the king’s meat and violate the Judaic law, Daniel went to Melzar, the prince of the eunuchs, and requested to be excused from this diet. When Melzar hesitated, fearing his own punishment for not enforcing the rules, Daniel offered an alternative, a test of their diet—and God worked out the rest. Daniel did not resist being put into this situation. He did not resist being tempted and tested. He resisted sinning against his God.

Daniel was tempted many times through his life in the palace. Not once did he try to escape the testing. He simply refused to sin, at any cost.

Many of us Christians resist testing. We resist situations that may test our faith and our commitment. We rarely have the chance to resist sin like Daniel did, because we hide ourselves away in temptation-free zones.

That is not what God has called us to do.

Jesus never commanded his disciples to hide from situations where they may be tempted. In fact, He told them many times that they would be tempted and that they would sin. He also warned His disciples of future temptations when they would be persecuted and falsely accused. When He did, He did not tell them to run away. He told them to watch and pray. We do not overcome sin by running from temptation. We overcoming sin by facing the temptations that come and relying on the power of Christ to do what is right.

The Christian life is not supposed to be lived in a safe bubble, away from challenges, away from unbelievers. We are commanded to go into the world, to be a light among men. We should expect persecution, temptation, trials, not run from them.

Christianity is not comfortable. If it is, then you aren’t living like a Christian. If you are experiencing temptations and troubles at work, you should not be surprised or frightened. As Peter wrote in his epistle, “think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice…if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed” (1 Peter 4:12-13, 16).

Do not run from persecution. Do not hide from testing. Do not resist when God puts you into difficult situations. Resist the sin, and allow God to use that situation for His glory.

God allowed Daniel to be tested. He put Daniel in the king’s palace. He was not surprised when Daniel was tempted. He allowed those situations so that Daniel could be refined and so that God could demonstrate His power to those people.

God may be allowing you to be tempted so that He may demonstrate His power through you. If you run away, those unbelieving coworkers may never be able to witness the power of God. You may be the only Christian they will ever encounter. Allow God to use your situation and allow Him to work on you.

Resign your fate, not your position.

When Daniel was tempted—when he was supposed to eat the king’s meat and sin—he did not resign his position in the court. He did not ask to be dismissed from his place, his title, his job. He refused to sin and resigned his fate to God.

You see, most of us would resign our position. Christians are the best boy-cotters. When a company takes a stand that opposes our beliefs, we boycott that company. We refuse to go near anything that opposes ourselves. So when our employers or other authority demand us to do something that defies our faith, we don’t simply refuse, we leave. We quit. We think we should not work for anyone who asks us to compromise our faith.

But Daniel did not quit. Daniel was a prince. He was continually promoted to the highest positions of leadership in the nation. When he was tempted, he did not quit his job, he simply refused to sin. He kept working and kept obeying God. He did not quit because God had placed him in that position. Daniel’s promotions were always a result of his obedience to God—every time he was tempted and he obeyed, God gave him favor and promoted him. He was exactly where God wanted him to be. If he had quit, he would have been forsaking God’s will, God’s favor, God’s best.

We Christians love to talk about taking a stand. But our definition of taking a stand often contradicts God’s definition. Quitting is not standing. It’s quitting. Obeying God at the risk of losing one’s life is taking a stand. So is obeying at the risk of losing one’s job. Don’t quit your job just because you are facing spiritual opposition. Quit your job if God is leading you to another position, but do not simply run away.

When Daniel was commanded to eat the king’s meat, he refused at the risk of his job. If the prince of the eunuchs had not allowed Daniel to try a different diet, Daniel still would have refused and would have faced the consequences. But he asked for an exception first. If you find yourself in a position where you have to disobey God or be fired, don’t quit immediately. Pray then ask for an exception first. God may grant you favor and work a miracle. When Daniel obeyed and resigned his fate to God, he was promoted. It may be that God has a promotion waiting for you. Or it may be that you will indeed lose your job and find something better. But let God do the work. Don’t miss God’s best because you quit. Resign your fate, not your position.

Rely on prayer, not petitions.

If we were living in Daniel’s day, we would not have simply refused to eat the king’s meat—we would have drawn up a petition, publicized the violation of our rights, and fought to have the rules changed to be fair for everyone. But Daniel prayed, then went quietly, humbly, and personally to his boss.

There are times to fight and there are times to hold our peace.

Daniel did not try to change his society. He was a captive in a foreign land. He was not in a position to change the society on his own. If he had made a fuss, if he had held conferences, written letters, or used his influence to try to change the laws, he would have lost his head without changing a single thing. It was not his place to change society. It was his place to change himself and let God change his society.

We live in a country with Christianity in its roots. We also live in a country where a single voice can often change public opinion and, through a rippling affect, change laws. But there are times when speaking up and fighting for our rights hurts our situation, rather than helping it. There are times when we, like Daniel, should go peacefully and quietly to our authority and humbly ask for help. There are times when we must silently refuse instead of raising our voices in protest. There are times when we must simply pray.

Our first response to every challenge should be prayer. Before confronting a coworker who has been troubling you, pray. Before talking to your supervisor about a conflict, pray. Before making any decision, pray. Prayer is powerful. Prayer equips us with God’s resources, army, and strength.

Daniel always prayed when temptations came. He asked his friends to pray for him (Daniel 2:17-18). Daniel relied on the power of prayer—and was thrown in the lion’s den for refusing to stop praying. Prayer was a major part of his life and was the source of his wisdom and favor. God blessed Daniel because Daniel sought Him first.

When temptations come at work, rely on prayer. God may lead you to start a “revolution” in your office, but He may lead you to hold your peace. Either way, you need the power of God on your side, which can only be accessed through prayer.

Sometimes our work conflicts with our faith. But that does not mean we are not where God wants us to be. Daniel did not purpose to live in righteous circumstances. He purposed to live righteously—in any circumstance. Whatever your circumstances may be, resist the sin, resign your fate to God, and rely on prayer. God will take care of the rest.

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Embrace It

Years ago, my mom, sister, and I were watching a home design show on one of our favorite channels. On this particular episode, a family hired a professional designer to redo their living room. The couple had tried again and again to decorate the room to their liking, but there was one feature of the room that continually ruined their plans. When the designer came into the room for the first time, he immediately recognized the problem—an awkwardly positioned wall stood in the middle of the room. It was not large enough to divide the room into natural sections. It was not centered to create symmetry. It broke the flow, blocked the view, and ruined every conventional design the couple had tried to set up. It was simply an eyesore.

The designer’s first plan of action was to tear the wall down. Then they could design the room exactly as they liked. But when the designer brought in his contractor to start the demolition, the contractor told him it could not be done—the wall was load-bearing. If they removed the wall, the roof would come crashing down. The designer left the couple, frustrated, to take a few days to work on a new design.

When the designer returned days later with his new design, he greeted them with renewed enthusiasm and presented his plan. It was perfect. It was exciting. It was simple.  “We’re going to embrace the wall.” They could not remove the wall nor could they hide it, so instead of fighting it, they were going to “embrace it” and make it the feature of the room.

When the renovation was complete, the room was beautiful. And the best, most dramatic Concrete_wall2feature of the room was that wall, which the designer had painted a dark accent color, decorated with some of the couples most treasured photos and pieces, and designed to be the focal point around which the rest of the room revolved. Because they had embraced the wall, their biggest eyesore was now their greatest asset.

After watching that show, my mom made “embracing the wall” a common phrase in our household. Anytime we were fighting against something we could not fix, she would laugh and say, “We’re going to embrace it.” Whether it was as simple as embracing our curly hair on a humid summer day or embracing a month of illness as a time to rest and grow closer to the Lord,

we would find that when we stopped fighting the problem and started working with what we had, the problem would cease to be a problem and would become an asset.

We all have walls in our lives that are awkward eyesores. They block our view, break our flow, and ruin our designs. No matter how hard we try, we can’t hide them, change them, or remove them. How do we deal with them? Embrace them.

Sometimes the way to fix the problems in our lives is not to fight them, but to embrace them. We exert so much energy fighting things that are out of our control, when what we ought to do is accept them and make the best of them.

That circumstance that God has placed in your life that you hate but cannot change is there for a reason. You see, that wall was load-bearing. It had to be there. Without it, the entire house would have come crashing down. The architect knew that when he built the house, which is why he put it there. So does God when He builds walls in our lives. He has designed the entire structure of our lives according to His plan and He knows what we need in order for our lives to stand. It may be that the circumstance you are fighting and trying to tear down is a load-bearing wall. It holds the roof above your head and, without it, your entire life would come tumbling down. It frustrates your plans and looks like a giant eyesore, but God put it there for a reason. It’s time to stop fighting, complaining, and trying to change what God has designed, and time to start embracing what God has given you.

How do I embrace the walls? First, accept them. Accept that they are there and that you can’t move them. Accept that God put them there for a reason and that you don’t have to know why. Accept that God is using them for something good, not evil. Then determine to make the best of them. Use them as an opportunity to learn and to grow closer to the Lord. Ask God to show you how to use those circumstances to improve yourself, to build something better, to help another person. God put them there for a reason—so find their purpose for you.

That couple’s living room was transformed when they decided to embrace their problem. Embrace your walls, and God will transform you.

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