Certainty In Uncertain Times

… Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf … The God we serve is able to save us from the furnace…but even if God does not save us… (1 Samuel 14:6 and Daniel 3:17-18).

We often remember and even hold in high regard those leaders who rise up in times of crisis or uncertainty. But I think we might be shocked if we knew exactly how scared these seemingly unflappable leaders actually were! 

The Philistines really had the Israelites on the ropes. Israel’s army was slowing melting away, as soldiers one by one were deserting and heading home. The Philistines had captured all of the sword-makers, so that there were only two swords left—one for King Saul and one for his son Jonathan. 

And to make matters even more desperate, the Philistines occupied all the strategic high ground, so that even if the Israelites were going to attempt an attack, they would have to scale the cliffs in order to do so.

For Jonathan, this situation was unbearable. So he said to his armor-bearer (keep in mind that this armor-bearer didn’t really have any armor to bear!), “Let’s go attack the Philistines.” And then he adds this line that probably didn’t instill too much confidence in anyone, “Perhaps the Lord will give us victory.” 

Perhaps?!

Many years later, when the nation of Israel was in exile in Babylon, three Jewish young men found themselves in a literal hot spot. King Nebuchadnezzar had built an enormous statue of himself and commanded that everyone bow down and worship it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had been promoted into leadership positions in the capital city of Susa, so there was no hiding in the outreaches of the countryside for them. Their disobedience to the king’s command would make them stand out to everyone. The king had ordered that anyone who disobeyed his edict would be thrown into a fiery furnace. 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were God-fearing men and knew that they could not worship any other god except Yahweh. When the king confronted their disobedience, they also responded with words that didn’t sound very confident, “God can save us, but we’re not sure if He will save us. But even if He doesn’t, we’re not going to bend our knee.” 

If?!

“Perhaps” and “if” don’t sound like very confident words, do they? 

And yet these godly leaders were totally certain in their uncertain times. They weren’t certain of the outcome, but they were certain of God’s ability to bring the ultimate victory. Even in dark times of crisis, godly leaders are certain that God is greater than their uncertain circumstances. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who has a certain confidence in God even in an uncertain crisis.

Jonathan, and Shadrach, and Meshach, and Abednego would all tell us, “Whether God was going to give us victory in the moment of crisis or not, we will remain in God’s presence! We will not compromise. We will not give in to fear. We will not disobey God. We will continue to cling to Him—rescue or not—knowing that He will be glorified in whatever way He chooses to respond.” 

These young men teach an invaluable lesson for all of us even today: Trust God no matter how uncertain the times are. 

This is part 45 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Thursdays With Oswald—Difficult Times Reveal Our Habits

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.

Difficult Times Reveal Our Habits 

     Practice means continually doing that which no one sees or knows but ourselves. Habit is the result of practice, by continually doing a thing it becomes second nature. The difference between men is not a difference of personal power, but that some men are disciplined and others are not. The difference is not the degree of mental power but the degree of mental discipline. If we have taught ourselves how to think, we will have mental power plus the discipline of having it under control. Beware of impulse. Impulsiveness is the characteristic of a child, but it ought not to be the characteristic of a man, it means he has not disciplined himself. Undeterred impulse is undisciplined power.

     Every habit is purely mechanical, and whenever we form a habit it makes a material difference in the brain. The material of the brain alters very slowly, but it does alter, and by repeatedly doing a thing a groove is formed in the material of the brain so that it becomes easier to do it again, until at last we become unconscious of doing it. When we are regenerated we can reform by the power and presence of God every habit that is not in accordance with His life. … We have to learn to form habits according to the dictates of the Spirit of God. The power and the practice must go together. … If we keep practicing, what we practice becomes our second nature, and in a crisis we will find that not only does God’s grace stand by us, but our own nature also. The practicing is ours not God’s and the crisis reveals whether or not we have been practicing. [See Matthew 5:31-37.]

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

All of us have blind spots. These are typically habits that we have left in place, unchallenged and unchanged. That “groove” in our brain is operating on auto-pilot, but those blind-spot habits aren’t serving us well. 

The role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian is to help us notice these habits in which we are unconsciously incompetent. But once the Spirit of God points these out, then we must practice, and practice, and practice until the new healthy habit has overwritten the old groove of the unhealthy habit. 

Then we will find, as Chambers points out, that in a time of crisis “not only does God’s grace stand by us, but our own nature also.” 

Times of difficulty will reveal habits—both the unhealthy and the healthy. The question then becomes: what are you going to do about the unhealthy habits? 

Thursdays With Oswald—Ordinary Preparation For Extraordinary Service

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.

Ordinary Preparation For Extraordinary Service

     What are the workshops that supply the munitions for God’s enterprises? The workshop of missionary munitions is the hidden, personal, worshiping life of the saint. …  

     We imagine we should be all right if a big crisis arose; but the crisis only reveals the stuff we are made of, it does not put anything into us. “If God gives the call, of course, I shall rise to the occasion.” You will not, unless you have risen to the occasion in the workshop. If you are not the real article before God there, doing the duty that lies nearest, instead of being revealed as fit for God when the crisis comes, you will be revealed as unfit. … 

     “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He came forth from God and goeth unto God…”—we might have expected the record to go on: “He was transfigured before them”; but we read that the next thing Our Lord did was of the most menial commonplace order—“He took a towel, and girded Himself. Then He began to wash the disciples’ feet.” Can we use a towel as Our Lord did? Towels and basins and feet and sandals, all the ordinary sordid things of our lives, reveal more quickly than anything what we are made of. It is not the big occasions that reveal us, but the little occasions. 

From So Send I You

Are you spending time every day abiding with Jesus and worshiping Him? Are you willing to do “the little things” that God gives you to do?

These are the things that will make God’s saints ready for “the big things” that come along. Don’t look for the big things, just do the ordinary things God desires of you every day, and then you will be more than ready for the extraordinary things in which God places you.

18 Quotes From Wise People In “15 Invaluable Laws Of Growth”

15 Invaluable Laws of GrowthJohn Maxwell always shares great quotes in his books! This is the hallmark of a true servant leader, who doesn’t hoard what he reads or hears, nor is he concerned about getting all the credit. Here are some of the quotes I enjoyed from Maxwell’s book The 15 Invaluable Laws Of Growth.

“Character is a quality that embodies many important traits such as integrity, courage, perseverance, confidence, and wisdom. Unlike your fingerprints that you were born with and can’t change, character is something that you create within yourself and must take responsibility for changing.” —Jim Rohn

“I’ve concluded that while nobody plans to mess up their life, the problem is that a few of us plan not to. That is, we don’t put the necessary safeguards in place to ensure a happy ending.” —Andy Stanley

“I bless you, prison—I bless you for being in my life—for there lying on rotting prison straw, I learned the object of life is not prospering as I had grown up believing, but the maturing of the soul.” —Alexander Solzhenitsyn

“Character cannot be summoned at the moment of crisis if it has been squandered by years of compromise and rationalization. The only testing ground for the heroic is the mundane. The only preparation for that one profound decision which can change a life, or even a nation, is those hundreds of half-conscious, self-defining, seemingly insignificant decisions made in private. Habit is the daily battle ground of character.” —Senator Dan Coats

“If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.” —Abraham Maslow

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” —George Elliot

“A sign of wisdom and maturity is when you come to terms with the realization that your decisions cause your rewards and consequences. You are responsible for your life, and your ultimate success depends on the choices you make.” —Denis Waitley

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” —Viktor Frankl

“The great secret of success is to go through life as a man who never gets used up.” —Albert Schweitzer

“All meaningful and lasting change starts first in your imagination and then works its way out.” —Albert Einstein

“It’s better to look uninformed than to be uninformed.” —Richard Thalheimer

“When average people ask themselves, ‘Can I do this?’ they base it on the circumstances they see. … An abundant thinker asks different questions. An abundant thinker asks, ‘How can I?’ This simple twist of semantics changes everything. It forces your mind to create a solution.” —Brian Klimmer

“It is not wise, or even possible, to divorce private behavior from public leadership…. By its very nature, true leadership carries with it the burden of being an example.” —Gordon B. Hinckley

“Never confuse the giftedness of a person with the person. Their gifts allow them to do amazing things but the person may be flawed, which will eventually cause harm.” —Fred Smith

“Great things happen whenever we stop seeing ourselves as God’s gift to others, and begin seeing others as God’s gift to us.” —James S. Vuocolo

“Your doubts are not the product of accurate thinking, but habitual thinking. Years ago you excepted flawed conclusions as correct, begin to live your life as if those warped ideas about your potential were true, and ceased the bold experiment in living that brought you many breakthrough behaviors as a child.” —Price Pritchett

“If you send a rocket to the moon, about 90 percent of the time it’s off course—it ‘fails’ its way to the moon by continually making mistakes and correcting them.” —Price Pritchett

“Self-fulfillment thinks of how something serves me. Self-development thinks of how something helps me to serve others. With self-fulfillment, feeling good is the product. With self-development, feeling good is the by-product.” —Fred Smith

I have shared a lot of other content from this book:

Thursdays With Oswald—Standing In A Crisis

Oswald ChambersThis is a periodic 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.

Standing In A Crisis

     If, when no one is watching us, we are building ourselves up in the Word of God, then, when a crisis comes, we shall stand; but if we are not building on the Word of God, when a crisis comes we shall go down, no matter what our wills are like. …

     We may be able to give a testimony as to what God has done for us, but does the life we live evidence that we are not listening now, but living only in the memory of what we once heard? We have to keep our ears trained to detect God’s voice, to be continually renewed in the spirit of our mind. If when a crisis comes we instinctively turn to God, we know that the habit of harkening has been formed. … We have to learn to hearken to Jesus in everything, to get into the habit of finding out what He says. … The Holy Spirit will bring back to our remembrance a certain word of our Lord’s and apply it to the particular circumstance we are in, the point is—are we going to obey it?

From Our Brilliant Heritage

Standing in a crisis involves two things: (1) Reading the Word of God regularly, and (2) Obeying the Word of God every time the Holy Spirit illuminates it to our heart and mind. It’s not a matter of if a crisis will come in your life, but when. Will you be ready?

Links & Quotes

link quote

“We can gather that their state [ISIS] rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.” Read more of this fascinating piece in The Atlantic: What ISIS Really Wants.

Frank Viola wrote, “Mark it down: As you go on with the Lord, your faith will be sorely tested. You will be tempted to ‘shrink back’ into unbelief. But you—dear child of God do not belong to those who shrink back.” Read more from his post The Crisis Of Faith.

Rob Bell is fast becoming irrelevant himself, by choosing which parts of the Bible he wants to follow, when he states “the Church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense” for traditional marriage.

[VIDEO] Epigenomes in the human body are like a symphony. How amazing is our Creator! Check out this artistic depiction of how this works—

12 Quotes From “The Love Of God”

The Love Of GodOswald Chambers has a way of writing about biblical truths that satisfy both the head and the heart. You can read my review of Chambers’ book The Love Of God by clicking here. Below are just a few of the many, many quotes I highlighted in this amazing book.

“In the future, when trial and difficulties await you, do not be fearful, whatever and whoever you may lose faith in, let not this faith slip from you—God is Love; whisper it not only to your heart in its hour of darkness, but here in your corner of God’s earth and man’s great city, live in the belief of it; preach it by your sweetened, chastened, happy life; sing it in consecrated moments of peaceful joy, sing until the world around you ‘is wrought to sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not.’ The world does not bid you sing, but God does. Song is the sign of an unburdened heart; then sing your songs of love unbidden, ever rising higher and higher into a fuller conception of the greatest, grandest fact on the stage of Time—God is Love.”

“God did not create man as a puppet to please a despotic idea of His own, He created us out of the superabundant flow of overflowing love and goodness, He created us susceptible of all the blessedness which He had ordained for us.”

“Drink deep and full of the love of God and you will not demand the impossible from earth’s loves, and the love of wife and child, of husband and friend, will grow holier and healthier and simpler and grander.”

“Love is difficult to define, but the working definition I would like to give is that ‘Love is the sovereign preference of my person for another person, embracing everyone and everything in that preference.’”

“The majority of us are unnoticed and unnoticeable people. If we take the extraordinary experience as a model for the Christian life, we erect a wrong standard without knowing it.” 

“God will use any number of extraordinary things to chisel the detail of His ‘lily work’ in His children. He will use people who are like hedgehogs, He will use difficult circumstances, the weather; He will use anything and everything, no matter what it is, and we shall always know when God is at work because He produces in the commonplace something that is inspiring.”

“A Christian is one in whom the indwelling Spirit of God shines out all the time.”

“Our Lord did not say to His disciples: ‘I have had a most successful time on earth, I have addressed thousands of people and been the means of their salvation; now you go and do the same kind of thing.’ He said: ‘If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet.’ We try to get out of it by washing the feet of those who are not of our own set. We will wash the heathen’s feet, the feet in the slums; but fancy washing my brother’s feet! my wife’s! my husband’s! the feet of the minister of my church! Our Lord said one another’s feet. It is in the ordinary commonplace circumstances that the unconscious light of God is seen.”

“The reason we are going through the things we are is that God wants to know whether He can make us good bread with which to feed others. The stuff of our lives, not simply of our talk, is to be the nutriment of those who know us. … It is in the solitary life that we prove whether we are willing to be made the unadvertised life for the community to which we belong—whether we are willing to be made bread or to be simply the advertisement for bread? If we are to be made bread, then we must not be surprised if we are treated in the way Our Lord was treated.”

“For a man to lay down his life is not to lay it down in a sudden crisis, such as death, but to lay it down in deliberate expenditure as one would lay out a pound note. Not—‘Here it is, take it out in one huge martyrdom and be done with it.’ It is a continual substitution whereby we realize that we have another day to spend out for Jesus Christ, another opportunity to prove ourselves His friends.”

“The test of spiritual life is the power to descend; if we have power to rise only, there is something wrong. … Spiritual selfishness makes us want to stay on the mount; we feel so good, as if we could do anything—talk like angels and live like angels, if only we could stay there. But there must be the power to descend; the mountain is not the place for us to live, we were built for the valleys. … We never live for the glory of God on the mount, we see His glory there, but we do not live for His glory there; it is in the valley that we live for the glory of God. … The reason we have to live in the valley is that the majority of people live there, and if we are to be of use to God in the world we must be useful from God’s standpoint, not from our own standpoint or the standpoint of other people. … As disciples of Jesus we have to learn not only what Our Lord is like on the Mount of Transfiguration, but what He is like in the valley of humiliation, where everything is giving the lie to His power, where the disciples are powerless, and where He is not doing anything.”

“We shall find that the spheres God brings us into are not meant to teach us something but to make us something.”

11 Quotes From “God’s Favorite Place On Earth”

God's Favorite Place On EarthI loved this book! Please read my full book review of God’s Favorite Place On Earth by Frank Viola by clicking here, but my one-word review is: Wow!

Here are a few quotes that especially caught my attention—

“Jesus talked a lot about losing, taking up our cross, denying ourselves, and laying down our lives. These are the fruits of brokenness before God. It’s not hard to spot a Christian in ministry who isn’t broken. Unbroken people don’t know how to lay their lives down and lose. They only know how to try to win. If they’re criticized they retaliate. If they’re attacked, they return fire. If misunderstood, they defend in anger. They are capable of doing all sorts of damage to others in order to save their own ministries and keep their reputations. 

“On the contrary, people who have been broken by the hand of God know how to turn the other cheek. They know how to go the second mile. They know how to give their coats when asked for their shirts. They know how to speak well of those who misrepresent them. They know how to return good for evil. They know how to lose. And in so doing, they exhibit the Spirit of the Lamb and allow God to win.” 

“All service must flow out of a razor-sharp desire to please God rather than a desire to get noticed by others. If it does not, it will lead to either complaint or criticism.”

“As high as God is going to elevate you is as deep as He digs to lay the foundation. Sometimes the brightest light comes from the darkest places. And what doesn’t destroy you ends up defining you in some significant way.”

“Suffering is worldwide and neck deep. But for the Christian, suffering has a special purpose. It’s the chiseling of God designed to transform you into the image of His Son.”

“A Spirit-led man or woman is someone who has faced tragedy, faced loss, looked unbearable and exquisite pain in the face … and has stood his or her ground. With their garments still smoking, these men and women have said before God, mortals, and angels: ‘It is well with my soul. God’s enemy has thrown his best at me, and I’m still here. I’m still on the Rock. I’ve not sunk. I’m still standing. I’ve not been destroyed, and I’ve not gone under. I will continue to follow my Lord, come hell or high water, He is still on the throne!’”

“Christ saves as the Son of God, but He feels as the Son of man.”

“Faith often takes a nosedive when we are on the brink of tragedy. At such times, we forget the Lord’s words. Sometimes confessions and creeds, as important as they are, are not enough to move God to act. Only falling at His feel and weeping will suffice.

“Every crisis in our lives is an opportunity to broaden, deepen, and heighten our revelation of Christ.”

“Basing your faith on God’s performance—what you think He should do according to what you’ve been taught about His promises—is a profound mistake. … Thus the only solid basis for unwavering faith and an unshakable devotion is to believe that God is … and that He does ‘all things well,’ no matter what takes place.”

“Christians aren’t saved from troubles or delivered from problems. We have been given an ascendant life to rise above them.”

“Sharing what one has with others is what keeps our hearts detached from earthly treasures.”

Thursdays With Oswald—Speak Out Now

This 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.

Oswald Chambers

Speak Out Now

     How many of us in times of peace and civilization bother one iota about the state of men’s hearts towards God? Yet these are the things that produce pain in the heart of God, not the wars and the devastation that so upsets us. The human soul is so mysterious that in the moment of a great tragedy men get face to face with think they never gave heed to before, and in the moment of death it is extraordinary what takes place in the human heart towards God.

From Christian Disciplines 

Many people will question their beliefs during times of crisis and change. It’s fine for the church and Christians to be there during those times of upheaval, but it’s far better for us to be there before the upheaval.

I developed a friendship with my next door neighbor for seven years and never had a chance to share very much about my faith in Christ. But when a tragedy hit his life, his first phone call was to me and then I had an opportunity to really share with him. Why did he reach out to me? Because I already had a relationship with him.

Let’s not wait until a tragedy strikes to begin to share the Good New of Jesus, but let’s speak out now. Be a great neighbor, coworker, study partner, friend, citizen now so that there is an open door for those folks to come to you when their life is in crisis.

Thursdays With Oswald—Two Ways To Handle A Crisis

This 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.

Oswald ChambersTwo Ways To Handle A Crisis

     A man must decide whether he will be identified with the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, which will mean the turning out not only of the “old man,” but of the old responsible intelligence, the old bondage, the old legalism, the things which used to guide the life before, and the forming of a totally new mind. 

     It works out this way: in your practical life you come to a crisis where there are two distinct ways before you, one the way of ordinary, strong, moral, common sense and the other the way of waiting on God until the mind is formed which can understand His will. 

     Any amount of backing will be given you for the first line, the backing of worldly people and of semi-Christian people, but you will feel the warning, the drawing back of the Spirit of God, and if you wait on God, study His Word, and watch Him at work in your circumstances, you will be brought to a decision along God’s line, and your worldly “backers” and your semi-Christian “backers” will fall away from you with disgust and say, “It is absurd, you are getting fanatical.” 

From Biblical Psychology 

When you have to deal with a crisis, there are two options: (1) Use your common sense and the good ideas of others, or (2) Do it God’s way.

God’s ways usually defy the world’s common sense.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts,” says God. (Isaiah 55:9)

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and … the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. (1 Corinthians 1:25; 3:19)

If you want to try to do it the “common sense” way, go ahead. God will let you try it, and a lot of people will encourage you to keep at it. But I think you will quickly find that the “God sense” way is so much better! Although very quickly your former “backers” and “cheerleaders” will look at you as a fanatic.

“There are two kinds of people: those who say to God ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right then, have it your way.’” —C.S. Lewis

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