No Looking Back

…He steadfastly set His face… (Luke 9:51). 

Jesus wasn’t about to be deterred, delayed, or detoured from fulfilling His Father’s mission. 

Some of the other Bible translations fill in this meaning:

  • resolutely (NLT) 
  • steadfastly and determinedly (AMP) 
  • gathered up His courage and steeled Himself (MSG)
  • “to turn in a certain direction, confirm it, and resolutely follow it” (Strong’s Concordance)

Jesus could do this for at least three reasons—

  1. He knew “the time had come” (see v. 51 and John 13:1, 3) 
  2. He knew the joy at the end of the journey (Hebrews 12:2)
  3. He knew His Father loved Him (John 3:35, 5:20, 10:17)

A mark of a godly leader is one who resolutely follows God. No matter what!

Jesus calls His followers to the same path He walked—“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62)

It’s hard because people reject a resolute man. 

It’s hard because the accommodations along the way are uncertain. 

It’s hard because I have to give up my right to myself. 

But the reward is incomparable—Heaven forever with Jesus!

This is part 33 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Thursdays With Oswald—Becoming Carefully Careless

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Becoming Carefully Careless

     Faith is our personal confidence in a Being Whose character we know, but Whose ways we cannot trace by common sense. … Common sense is mathematical; faith is not mathematical, faith works on illogical lines. …  

     To have faith tests a man for all he is worth, he has to stand in the common-cents universe in the midst of things which conflict with his faith, and place his confidence in the God Whose character is revealed in Jesus Christ. …  

     Most of us are pagans in a crisis; we think and act like pagans, only one out of a hundred is daring enough to bank his faith in the character of God. …  

     Jesus does not say, “Blessed is the man who does not think about anything”; that man is a fool; He says, “Be carefully careless about everything saving one thing—your relationship to God.” … Many people are careless about what they eat and drink, and they suffer for it; they are careless about what they put on, and they look as they have no right to look; they are careless over property, and God holds them responsible for it. Jesus is saying that the great care of the life is to put the relationship to God first and everything else second. Our Lord teaches a complete reversal of all our practical sensible reasonings. Do not make the ruling factor of your life what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, but make zealous concentration on God the one point of your life. … Jesus Christ says, “Reverse the order, get rightly related to Me first, see that you maintain that as the great care of your life, and never put the concentration of your care on the other things.”

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

It does seem illogical from our human perspective to not think about the basics of life first and foremost, but Jesus is clear and consistent in His message to us that God should be THE priority. Seek Him first and all the other things fall into place. Be “carefully careless” about everything except your relationship with Jesus! 

Don’t be a pagan atheist in a time of trial. Don’t be that 99 out of a hundred that abandons God when times are tough. Instead, be that “one out of a hundred [that] is daring enough to bank his faith in the character of God” no matter what the circumstances are! 

8 Quotes From “Defiant Joy”

For anyone going through a trying time, Stasi Eldredge has given us a timely reminder of how we can tenaciously and defiantly cling to the joy the God gives us. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Ignoring reality does not breed joy. Pretending that what is true does not exist is not holy defiance. The seeds of joy can only be firmly planted in the pungent soil of the here and now while at the same time being tethered to eternity. Joy is fully rooted in the truth. Joy embraces all the senses and is fully awake to the laughter, the wonder, and the beauty present in the moment as well as the sorrow, the angst, and the fear. Joy says, ‘Even so, I have a reason to celebrate.’” 

“Defiant may not be a word we would normally associate with the living God, but it can actually be quite fitting. Defiance means resistance, opposition, noncompliance, disobedience, dissent, and rebellion. And when it comes to things that would destroy our souls, that is exactly the right response.” 

“Joy is not happiness on steroids. It is not happiness squared. … Joy is connected to God and reserved for those who are tapping into His reservoir, who are connected to His life. Joy is rooted in God and His kingdom, in the surety of His goodness, His love for us. It is immovable. Unshakable. Joy is available at all times, day and night, because God and His kingdom are always available to us. … Joy is the heartbeat of heaven, the very light that emanates from Jesus’ heart, so as we grow closer in relationship with God, we’ll also grow in joy.” 

“Joy and breakthrough are not opposed to suffering But are available in the midst of it. Suffering is not a failure of faith on our part; its presence does not mean the absence of the presence of God. We can live with suffering and joy simultaneously.” 

“Joy is deeply rooted in the availability of God and His kingdom right here, right now. Sometimes we find breakthrough. Sometimes we find a deeper knowing of God in our suffering.” 

“Here is the truth we must remember in the middle of this sometimes painful healing process: we matter to the heart of God. He hasn’t taken His eyes off us. He thinks of us constantly. He has hopes and dreams for us. God planned on us before He made the stars, and He planned on us being His. He planned on us sharing our lives with Him on this wild adventure. And His plans are good.” 

“God drops things in our laps at just the right time. He puts barriers in our paths that look like roadblocks but are really gifts in disguise, beckoning us to take a closer look at what’s going on inside of us. We can either step over them or choose to pick them up and examine them for the potential they may hold.” 

“When the sadness refuses to be silenced and the feelings arise that this is not the life we had signed up for, we can either go to shame or go to God.” 

I’ll be sharing more quotes in the near future, so stay tuned…

How To Get Wisdom

Steve Martin had a comedy routine where he said, “I will tell you how to have a million dollars and never pay one cent of income tax on it. First, get a million dollars.” 😂 

Solomon says something in Proverbs 4 that on the surface sounds just as comical: “I will tell you how to have wisdom and reap all the amazing benefits from it. First, get wisdom.” 

Here’s what he wrote: “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding” (v. 7).

The Hebrew word for “get” means acquire, create, buy, possess. But Solomon uses this verb in the imperative sense—which means it’s not a suggestion, but a command! He doesn’t say, “It’s a good idea to get wisdom,” but, “There is no other way: you must have wisdom.”

Throughout the Proverbs, Solomon personifies wisdom as Lady Wisdom. She is constantly calling out to people, “I have what you need. Come and get it.” James tells us the same thing, “If you need wisdom, ask God for it” (see James 1:5).

So… how does one get wisdom? Simply by wanting to have wisdom, and then going to the right source. In the rest of Proverbs 4, Solomon echoes the same thought—

—“Prize her [Wisdom], and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.” (v. 8)

—“Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life.” (v. 13)

—“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart.” (vv. 20, 21)

—“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (v. 23)

How do you get wisdom? You go to Wisdom and get what she has to offer!

Defiant Joy (book review)

I’m always intrigued by oxymorons. You probably know what these are—when two seemingly opposite things are put together to make something memorable. Like a fine mess, or deafening silence, or seriously funny. Or defiant joy.

Usually “joy” is paired with descriptives like pleasurable, or bubbly, or uncontainable. But “defiant”? Stasi Eldredge makes the case that we need to fight to hang on to joy—that our pursuit of joy against all odds should be, as her book is entitled, Defiant Joy. 

Stasi shares many of her painful life lessons that led her to the conclusion that joy has to be clung to tenaciously or it can be stripped away quickly. Defiantly clinging to joy doesn’t mean a bury-your-head-in-the-sand denial view of life. It is facing the challenges squarely and honestly, and still recognizing that the joy Jesus gives is greater than those circumstances. 

In fact, one of the first quotes Stasi shares in her book is this truism from C.S. Lewis: “Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” Talk about a powerful oxymoron! 

I so appreciate the transparency and candor Stasi exhibits as she pulls back the curtains of her own battles for joy. She honestly shares her darker moments with us, tells us where she’s still working, where’s she had breakthroughs, and the applicable lessons we can all use. 

I’m sure everyone one of us will have to face joy-threatening circumstances. The principles in Defiant Joy will help you overcome those circumstances while still tenaciously clinging to joy. Read this book for yourself or read it with a friend going through a difficult time. You’ll be glad you did.

I’m a Thomas Nelson book reviewer. 

When Your Walking Is Your Praying

Have you ever been in the right place at the right time to experience something wonderful? Maybe you got to meet someone important, or you got the job, or you got the money, or you got to ride in that fancy car. 

Some will call you “lucky” or say you “caught a break,” but both of those statements imply that something unexpected happened to you. 

Is it still “lucky” to be in the right place at the right time if you knew ahead of time that it was coming? For praying Christians, to be in the right place at the right time when we are expecting God to provide is called “an answer to prayer.” 

David prayed, “In the morning, Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3). The Aramaic word for prayer means “to set a trap.” If we pray, and we live in expectation, then it isn’t luck when we’re in the right place at the right time, but it’s a “trap” that caught the answer to our prayer. 

Our daily walking can be our daily praying, as long as we’re walking in faith in the direction God pointed us. 

One man who—literally!—walked this principle out was Elisha.

Before we look at Elisha’s expectant, prayerful walking, let’s look at his prayer request—

When they reached the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “What can I do for you before I’m taken from you? Ask anything.” Elisha said, “Your life repeated in my life. I want to be a holy man just like you (2 Kings 2:9 MSG).

Elisha was essentially asking to be like Elijah’s firstborn son, to be his spiritual heir. This was the original promise God gave when He told Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor (1 Kings 19:16). From that point onward, Elisha steadily walked in expectation of God answering this prayer. 

Elisha wouldn’t stay in a place of military victory, or in a significantly spiritual place, or even in a place surrounded by godly leaders. Elisha wouldn’t be held back by a lucrative family business, or the warning words of friends or his spiritual mentor, or even the seemingly uncrossable Jordan River. He kept on walking (see 2 Kings 2:1-15).

He kept on walking.

He kept on walking until “suddenly” God showed up and answered his prayer. 

But was it really “suddenly”? Elisha knew it was coming. He believed what God had promised. He clung to it even when Elijah told him he had asked “a difficult thing.” Elisha kept on walking until he was in the right place at the right time to receive all that God had planned. 

If you have prayed in faith, start walking. Settling anywhere else is robbing yourself of a blessing and robbing God of glory. 

Just keep walking! And let your walking be your praying. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t settle. Don’t stop eagerly expecting that the next step you took could be the “suddenly” you’ve been waiting for. Just keep walking!

Join me this Sunday as we learn a valuable lesson from another bold pray-er from the Bible. 

Poetry Saturday—In Light Or Darkness

 

If God says “Yes” to our prayer, dear heart,
And the sunlight is golden, the sky is blue,
While the smooth road beckons to me and you,
And the song-birds warble as on we go,
Pausing to gather the buds at our feet,
Stopping to drink of the streamlets we meet,
Happy, more happy, our journey will grow,
If God says “Yes” to our prayer, dear heart.

If God says “No” to our prayer, dear heart,
And the clouds hang heavy and dull and gray;
If the rough rocks hinder and block the way,
While the sharp winds pierce us and sting with cold;
Ah, dear, there is home at the journey’s end,
And these are the trials the Father doth send
To draw us as sheep to His Heavenly fold,
If God says “No” to our prayer, dear heart. —Jessie E. Schindle
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