Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: confidence

Watching with purpose

Back in the dark ages – before we all had our phones constantly in-hand – I had to pick up my wife and boys from the airport.  The three of them were returning home after visiting her parents for few weeks.  I knew the flight number and expected time of arrival, and so I parked the car and waited in baggage claim.  I was there early and with nothing to do – because nobody stared down at their phones back then – I decided to do some people-watching while I kept an eye out for them.

It doesn’t matter how eclectic your social circles are, when you’re at an airport, you will see all kinds of people you don’t normally run into.  However, one cannot simply “watch people” when they are “people-watching”; there is a certain level of discretion that has to be maintained.  The trick is to observe without others catching you doing what really amounts to some short-term staring.  Locking eyes with an observee can be awkward at the very least, and depending on the person (or their companion), being caught could lead to an uncomfortable scene in a public place.

Between the clothing chosen, the style of walk, and the expression on their faces, each person was making some sort of statement about who they were and what they were about.  There were fashion statements, financial statements, sports statements, political statements, attitude statements – a sweeping variety of stories were being told as I watched them all walk by me.  Some people treat the airport like a catwalk runway, others do their best to go unnoticed.  Some people obviously chose to wear too many clothes, but as this was summertime, many others decidedly wore too few.

As my eyes bounced from person to person and from story to story, I quickly became lost in this time-killing activity.  I hadn’t forgotten why I was at the airport, but watching for my family was no longer my primary task.  After some time, my situation dawned on me.  What would happen if my wife and kids found me and walked up before I even saw them?  Simply missing them because I was watching others would be embarrassing enough, but imagine the kind of reception if they walked up while I was distracted and observing someone who had chosen to wear as little as possible?

With that revelation, I quickly snapped back to the task at hand.  I wasn’t unaware of the other people around me, but my focus was now on what was most important to me.  A short time later, they came down the escalator and toward their baggage carousel.  I was greeted with hugs from my boys and a kiss from my wife – and I was thankful that I had made the right choice before it was too late.

We, as Christians, also have a return to watch for.  Jesus said He will be coming back, and He told many parables alluding to His future return.  However, by our reckoning, it has been many years since He said that, and there are many distractions in this life – fashion, finances, sports, politics, attitudes, and numerous others.  It’s easy to lose focus and start living selfishly. 

So let’s take a look at something Jesus said about His return:

Luke 12:43-46
Blessed is that servant whom the master finds doing his job when he comes.  Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.  But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and starts to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, that servant’s master will come on a day he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know.  He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unfaithful.

While being afraid of getting “caught in the act” should not be our main motivation to avoid selfish behavior, there are certainly consequences to how we spend our time while we wait for Jesus’ promised return.  There are significant opportunities and honors available for those who continue to do the work God has given them; but there are equally dire punishments for the servants of God who neglect their responsibilities and abuse others.

Notice that the servant never forgot that His master was returning, but doing his job and watching for the master’s return was no longer his primary task.  He convinced himself that his master’s delay would continue, so he selfishly took advantage of those around him.  He probably believed he had plenty of time to clean up his mess before the master came back.  He couldn’t have been more wrong – and there wasn’t a chance for a do-over.

We certainly don’t want to end up like that!  We want to be like a soldier found at his post, faithfully trusting the promise of the one who said He would return.  But with all the distractions we face, how can we keep our focus?  Our best option is to take the Apostle John’s advice:

1 John 2:28
So now, little children, remain in Him so that when He appears we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.

When we intentionally spend time with Jesus, we remain in Him and keep His priorities.  Doing so means we will avoid the embarrassment and shame of the wicked servant.  Instead, Jesus’ return will be a joyful occasion, one where we can be confident that He will approve what we have been doing while we watch for His return.

Keep Pressing,
Ken  

An engagement ring, the Holy Spirit, and witnessing

It felt like any other workday as everyone came in, but before I could even start with the normal Monday morning pleasantries – How was your weekend?  What did you do? – a coworker actually jumped into my path and started waving her left hand in my face.  The diamond on her ring was close enough to poke me in the nose, and as I pulled back, I could see the large smile on her face.  She was practically giddy that the man she had spent so much time getting to know had asked her to marry him.  All day long, she bounced from person to person, telling anyone she knew about their relationship and future together.

My co-worker had gotten to know this man and was already in love with him.  Most people at work knew she was dating, but didn’t really know how serious they were or if they had any future plans together.  However, when the proposal moment came and he placed the ring on her finger, everything snapped into focus.  Because of the ring and her bubbly excitement, everyone at work soon found out that she had experienced a life-changing moment and that she was in a life-changing relationship.

The memory of that Monday has stuck with me for many years.  It was so easy for her to tell others about her relationship, how special it was for her, and how her talking about it felt like a celebration of their relationship.  I’ve often compared this to how most Christians share their faith with others, and obviously there are significant differences.  I think every Christian would love to have the confidence, boldness, and excitement that my coworker had, and we often scold ourselves for not having the courage to share.  So, what do we do?  Typically, we go one of two ways: either we grit our teeth and fumble around in the awkwardness of forcing “Jesus” into a conversation, or we resign ourselves to shame for being too scared to bring it up.

However, we’re not alone in this.  The Biblical parallel that comes to mind is what Jesus told His 11 disciples just before He ascended into heaven:

Acts 1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you,
and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem,
in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the end of the earth.

When reading Scripture, one way to sharpen our Observation skills is to look for the particular order things are presented.  Us modern-day believers tend to key in on the phrase “you will be My witnesses…to the end of the earth”, and while that is where we are on this list, we need to be aware that Jesus said there was a part that comes before becoming His witnesses.

Jesus told His disciples that first the Holy Spirit has to come into their lives and that He would be the power for them to be His witnesses – and if you continue to read in Acts, you find out that is the case.  The disciples knew Jesus well because they had just spent the last 3 years with Him, watching everything He did and being personally taught by Him.  Yes, they did do some preaching and teaching under Jesus’ leadership, but that all stopped when Jesus was taken from them.  Scripture does not show them telling others about Jesus until after the Holy Spirit came.  The disciples had all the information and relationship basis to tell others, but they were lacking the boldness and power to talk about Him.  The arrival of the Holy Spirit in their lives gave them the confidence they needed to share what they already knew.

For us, we are given the Holy Spirit the moment we believe in Jesus for eternal life (Ephesians 1:13).  The point is the same, however.  The Holy Spirit is the one who enables us to witness…it’s not something that can be drummed up or done by our own strength.  And yet, we shame ourselves for not being able to do the Holy Spirit’s job!  The disciples could not effectively witness without Him, and neither can we.

Our efforts should not be in finding and perfecting a “witnessing moment” because that’s not our jurisdiction, not our focus.  Our witness is an outpouring of our relationship with Jesus.  We can only share what we know.  As such, our efforts are better used in purposely spending time with Jesus – getting to know Him by talking with Him in prayer and watching what He did in the Scriptures.  The Holy Spirit will take care of the rest.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Does the past predict the future?

Past performance is not indicative of future results. 

We see that phrase all over the place, especially when investing money is involved.  It’s the author’s attempt at a legal disclaimer: “Don’t blame me if you lose all your money by trusting this investment I’m recommending.”  And yet, more often than not, the author is basing his or her assessment of “investment worthiness” on the stock’s historical performance.  Strange contradiction, right?

Isn’t that how we treat God sometimes?  We look back at everything He’s done for us, all the times He’s rescued us…and while we confidently say the right things “I trust God with my future.”, we end up worrying about how events will unfold.  Like the unsteady investor, we’re contradicting ourselves as we attempt to point others toward Jesus.

David begins Psalm 27 with his current outlook, looks back at his past, then extrapolates these out to his future.  Do you find any unsteadiness?

Psalm 27:1-3
The Lord is my light and my salvation –
whom should I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life –
of whom should I be afraid?
When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh,
my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell.
Though an army deploy against me,
my heart is not afraid;
though war break out against me,
still I am confident.


David could look back and see that when someone was gunning for his life, God stepped in and took care of it.  We shouldn’t blow this off with the thought of “well, no one’s trying to kill me, so I can’t relate”.  There are many, many ways others will try to take a pound of flesh from us.  Ruined reputations, finances, careers, marriages, community involvement, even volunteer positions could all be targets of those who want to take us down.

Notice, too, that David doesn’t say God prevented all hardship; rather, with the benefit of hindsight, David could see how his foes and enemies stumbled and fell.  Best of all, David recognized that God was the one who handled his foes.  Instead of proclaiming that he survived the ordeal, David gives God the proper credit for his protection.

David’s current confidence and faith in God was rooted in God’s previous workings in David’s life.  So much so that David says he will still trust God even if the future trials are significantly worse.  Previously, individual evildoers threatened him.  Now, David says that even if multitudes come against him – armies or full-scale war – he will remain confident in God’s ability to handle the future.

David is not worried about the future.  He knows that he can find light and rescue and strength in the Lord.  He’s not adding any disclaimers or hedging his bets anywhere else.  Given everything God has done for us in the past, we should also be giving Him our full trust with our futures.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Encourage bravery

A plot had been devised to kill every Jew in Persia.  A man named Haman had convinced King Ahasuerus that the Jews were enemies of the state.  As a result, the king declared a day when the entire Jewish population was to be exterminated and their property confiscated.  Understandably, the Jews were distraught and terrified.

Esther 4:1-4
When Mordecai learned all that had occurred, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, went into the middle of the city, and cried loudly and bitterly.  He only went as far as the King’s Gate, since the law prohibited anyone wearing sackcloth from entering the King’s Gate.  There was great mourning among the Jewish people in every province where the king’s command and edict came.  They fasted, wept, and lamented, and many lay on sackcloth and ashes.

Esther’s female servants and her eunuchs came and reported the news to her, and the queen was overcome with fear.  She sent clothes for Mordecai to wear so he could take off his sackcloth, but he did not accept them.

Esther was scared out of her mind, and since she couldn’t go out to Mordecai, she wanted Mordecai to come to her.  Since he refused to change out of his mourning clothes, Esther had to settle for talking to him through her servant, Hathach.  After Mordecai described the situation to Hathach…

Esther 4:8
Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa ordering their destruction, so that Hathach might show it to Esther, explain it to her, and instruct her to approach the king, implore his favor, and plead with him personally for her people.

Esther’s response to Mordecai’s instructions shows that she had another fear to contend with – approaching the king was a “by-appointment-only” arrangement.  If the king was caught off-guard or felt threatened by the unannounced audience, it would cost the person their life.  Look carefully at how she conveys this situation, but also pay attention to Mordecai’s response to her fears:

Esther 4:10-14
Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to tell Mordecai, “All the royal officials and the people of the royal provinces know that one law applies to every man or woman who approaches the king in the inner courtyard and who has not been summoned – the death penalty.  Only if the king extends the golden scepter will that person live.  I have not been summoned to appear before the king for the last 30 days.”  Esther’s response was report to Mordecai.

Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, “Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace.  If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed.  Who knows, perhaps you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”

Mordecai has incredible confidence in God’s ability to rescue the nation, but he also has confidence in Esther – both who she is and her position at this time in history.  The mentor knew it was time for his protégé to act.  His message to Esther was clear:

It’s time to step up and be brave.

Sometimes they need a little push.  The protégé may lack confidence, or they grab ahold of something to use as an excuse.  But the mentor knows they are ready…it’s in the tension of this moment that the protégé needs to trust their mentor and be brave.

Mordecai wasn’t there to do it for Esther.  She had to choose to trust Mordecai’s words.  She had to choose to be brave.  Esther had to accept that she was the one who was in the best position to make a difference.

Esther 4:15
Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go and assemble all the Jews who can be found in Susa and fast for me.  Don’t eat or drink for three days, night and day.  I and my female servants will also fast in the same way.  After that, I will go to the king even if it is against the law.  If I perish, I perish.”

Esther was brave because of Mordecai’s encouragement…and her bravery was the first step toward saving her people.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Confident steps

When David was feeling at his lowest, when he could see the traps set by his enemies all around him…that’s when he finally saw the rescue he was asking God to provide.  Notice David’s response:

Psalm 57:6-8
They prepared a net for my steps;
I was downcast.
They dug a pit ahead of me,
but they fell into it!

My heart is confident, God, my heart is confident.
I will sing; I will sing praises.
Wake up, my soul!
Wake up, harp and lyre!
I will wake up the dawn.

Recall that at the beginning of the psalm, David had said:

Psalm 57:1 I will seek refuge in the shadow of Your wings until danger passes.

Now that the danger has passed, David is ready to confidently step out from God’s protective refuge.  David’s confidence comes from God answering his prayer for rescue.  With jubilant language, David celebrates God as he moves from the sheltered safe haven into the light of a new day.

God is our refuge, but we we’re not made to stay sheltered forever.  Once the danger is gone, it’s time for us live…and live jubilantly before God!

Ships weren’t made to stay in harbor.  The harbor is for restoration and shelter from the violent storms.  However, once the storms have passed and the supplies have been restocked, it is time to set sail again.

And as we venture out, we too can sing confidently – because we remember how our God has provided for us once again.

Keep Pressing,
Ken