What You Should Do

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:10-12)

Hundreds of times I’ve found myself bemoaning some predicament or difficult decision. Often, I’m on the floor and staring up at the ceiling. Although the words may vary somewhat, they all pretty much amount to this:

“God, can’t you just tell me what to do?”

I’m a planner. So, what I really mean is this: “If You could just spell out every step for the next few months—or years—that’d be great. Maybe a detailed list?”

What I keep forgetting is that God already did that. He even put it all in a list for me in Colossians. Sure, it isn’t exactly a step-by-step guide, but close enough. His planner for our daily life goes like this:

Bearing fruit in every good work: Since He’s prepared good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), that makes this one even more straightforward. But how can we identify these? By…

Growing in the knowledge of God: He’s the one who prepared these good works. So, He’s the one we should cozy up to and learn from through His Word and consistent communication. And when we do, we get some boom to go with it…

Being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might: God is radioactive. As we walk in those good works by getting to know Him, His power rubs off. True, we don’t get the X-Men glowing face like Moses, but we can still put on quite the light show (Matthew 5:16). You get that power…

So that you may have great endurance and patience: When good works flow from our knowledge of God and His strength, we suddenly care a lot less about those worries that used to drag us down. We can endure because God’s Kingdom is present in our life right now (Matthew 6:33). With such a focus, that means we should be…

Joyfully giving thanks to the Father: Rolling in those pre-prepared good works with God-strength and God-focus makes us want to do the God-is-good electric slide (your results and dance moves may vary). We just can’t keep our mouths shut because He…

Has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light: In fact, that’s the biggest, boldest thing on our God-given to-do list. We do the good works He’s planned with His strength and our eyes on Him, all because He qualified us.

So many times I want God to spell things out for me each step of the way. And sometimes He does. But most often, He points me—gently or not so gently—back to Colossians. I’ve been given instructions for the day-to-day race that will one day end with Him. Faith means leaving the details in His hands.

Advertisements

Wakeup Call

Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! (Ps. 57:8).

Somewhere along the line, I forgot that I hate mornings. As a kid, I loathed the early morning sunshine after staying up too long and gorging on late-night TV shows. My Saturdays and Sundays and summer stirrings usually began at 1:00—p.m., that is. Even in college, I picked classes that didn’t require any matinal commitments on my part. If I could squeeze everything in from noon to four, all the better (which is part of the reason my university experience meandered through six years and countless majors).

But now, suddenly, I’m up at 5:00 a.m. And even worse? I like it.

I suppose there’s something about aging that rewires the morning-hate genes in our bodies or weakens the dawn antibodies we’ve built up over our childhood. The condition obviously overtook my grandfather, who never met a four o’clock coffee he didn’t like, and my father, who used to spring out of bed before I even went to sleep on summer nights. Genetic baggage like that will catch up with you.

So, here I am, awake to pray and scare the twitchy deer from our stubbly bean plants, awake to shush the early morning sleep whimpers from our dog, awake to roll life decisions through my recharged synapses before all the buzzes, whoops, and emails clog them up. Awake and alive.

David said that he would “wake the dawn” with his praises and prayers. Another psalmist, much later, cried for help in those dark, early morning hours. Suddenly being one of those early risers, now I understand why morning sun meant so much to them.

You see, for all my loathing earlier in life, there’s something almost sacred about the first light. No, I don’t mean God blesses one part of the day more than others; I mean that early mornings peel away distraction with rose-colored light. Early mornings smother doubts and fears in the same way they splatter dew on the grass. Those moments, before anything else bangs on the door of your brain, bring a clarity that fades away far too quickly. And I don’t want to miss it.

That’s why the boy who shuddered at the thought of eyes being open before noon is now the man who doesn’t want to miss the pre-day lightshow. It’s there that I find God waiting.

Wakeup Call

Somewhere along the line, I forgot that I hate mornings. As a kid, I loathed the early morning sunshine after staying up too long and gorging on late-night TV shows. My Saturdays and Sundays and summer stirrings usually began at 1:00—p.m., that is. Even in college, I picked classes that didn’t require any matinal commitments on my part. If I could squeeze everything in from noon to four, all the better (which is part of the reason my university experience meandered through six years and countless majors).

But now, suddenly, I’m up at 5:00 a.m. And even worse? I like it.

I suppose there’s something about aging that rewires the morning-hate genes in our bodies or weakens the dawn antibodies we’ve built up over our childhood. The condition obviously overtook my grandfather, who never met a four o’clock coffee he didn’t like, and my father, who used to spring out of bed before I even went to sleep on summer nights. Genetic baggage like that will catch up with you.

So, here I am, awake to pray and scare the twitchy deer from our stubbly bean plants, awake to shush the early morning sleep whimpers from our dog, awake to roll life decisions through my recharged synapses before all the buzzes, whoops, and emails clog them up. Awake and alive.

David said that he would “wake the dawn” with his praises and prayers. Another psalmist, much later, cried for help in those dark, early morning hours. Suddenly being one of those early risers, now I understand why morning sun meant so much to them.

You see, for all my loathing earlier in life, there’s something almost sacred about the first light. No, I don’t mean God blesses one part of the day more than others; I mean that early mornings peel away distraction with rose-colored light. Early mornings smother doubts and fears in the same way they splatter dew on the grass. Those moments, before anything else bangs on the door of your brain, bring a clarity that fades away far too quickly. And I don’t want to miss it.

That’s why the boy who shuddered at the thought of eyes being open before noon is now the man who doesn’t want to miss the pre-day lightshow. It’s there that I find God waiting.

“No” is an Answer

“Yes” is a much easier answer. We can see the tangible benefits of a positively answered prayer; we can point to that answer as a testimony of praise. “See this healing. See this financial miracle. God did that.”

But God does “no” as well.

A recent survey found that 78% of Evangelicals pray daily, but only 29% say that their prayers are answered daily. I wonder if the other 71% consider those times when God gives a “no.” It’s an answer . . . and a good one. Most of the time it’s just hard to swallow.

“No” doesn’t mean we’re wrong; it means God’s right. Our myopic vision tends to miss the millions of interacting parts of this thing we call life. God knows our thoughts, motivations, and future. We just know what we want to see happen—and not always even that.

Jesus got a “no” and gratefully acquiesced. He took the cup given to Him.

Don’t take “no” as “no answer.”

Turning on the Lights

Familiar verses trip me up. I know that may seem odd, but that’s been the challenge of studying the Book of Job. I know my familiar, super-spiritual, get-hyped-up verse is coming, and my brain wants to phase out everything until I get to it. Yes, this verse:

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. (19:25)

Great verse, but so is everything else leading up to it. In fact, that verse makes much more sense in context of Job’s clear-sighted, death-wish suffering compared to his friends’ repent-to-riches belief system. (That’s a whole other blog post.)

And other books are the same way. I know the highlight verses, and I have to beat back the urge to rush to them so that I don’t miss the good stuff for the famous stuff.

Here’s what I’ve come up with to keep my focus on the chapter I’m in:

  1. Read an unfamiliar translation or paraphrase. Whip out the NLT or The Message, and the unfamiliarity makes your mind focus. You could even tongue-trip your way through the old KJV for some hardcore challenges. I find that reading a couple translations means more scrutiny of what I read.
  2. Pray while you read. As I’m reading, I usually stop every few verses to pray over what I’ve covered. For one thing, I often need to repent of missing the mark (okay—pretty much every time), and for another, this slows me down enough to really get the point.
  3. Journal. Basically, this is prayer on paper. At least, that’s how I see it. You just keep notes of where you trip up and what you learn.
  4. Jump on the highlight verse. That is, read the book in light of the famous verse. Ask if that verse captures the theme. At least then the elephant comes out to play instead of standing in the corner.
  5. Outline it. Okay, I don’t actually do this, but some people like to outline what they read to better understand. I don’t think that way. If it works for you, go for it.

Do you have any tips for keeping your focus on what you’re reading instead of rushing ahead?

Knee Callouses

How’s your prayer life?

I usually go there. In fact, I usually go there first. I’ve never charted this, but I suspect that if I took the problems people have told me about (and my own) and plugged them into some amazing graph, the amount of prayer would be inversely proportional to the rising struggles. And I don’t mean “thank you, God” prayers. I mean knee-callous prayers.

When Paul says that those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh, he doesn’t mean an all-flash-no-boom, bottle-rocket prayer life. He tells the Galatians that the desires of the Holy Spirit don’t and can’t go hand-in-hand with our—let’s just say—less-holy desires. They’re like magnets of the same pole—they can never join together. If we live by the Spirit, we have to use the Spirit as our walking stick. Prayer keeps us standing up.

That’s exactly why I go straight for the jugular and ask about the prayer life. When it’s weak, so too is the fight, the drive. So, make sure you check your knees every once in a while.