Is This A Sign or A Test?

I still get a little confused about this sometimes.

I have been a believer for most of my life and I still can’t always tell when God is giving me a sign or whether he is testing me. I think many times I look for signs rather than admit that God is testing me.

Right now is one of those times. I have asked God for a clear sign about something but I haven’t seen it. I have, however, dealt with some obstacles in this situation. I think we all want that “burning bush” sign but we don’t want to be in the fire during a test.

It is certainly difficult to keep one’s focus. I really try not to make things super spiritual but there are times you just have to depend on God.

I have thought about the story of the three Hebrew children in Daniel 3.  This is where the king issues a proclamation that everyone would worship the image of the king.  If they didn’t, they would be thrown into a flaming furnace.  Well, there were three dudes named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused.  They stood up for their worship to God alone.  They told the king that God would take care of them.  The king threw them into the furnace and even turned up the heat seven times hotter.  Now, you have to wonder how they were feeling.  They had to be scared at this point.  Today it would be “Okay God where is the sign?”  but none came.  God didn’t rescue them from the fire but preserved them IN the fire.  Not only did God protect them but they weren’t even touched by the fire.

This shows us that when the time for the test comes that we might still feel the intensity of the heat of the situation but God can protect us while we are in the fire.  Too many times we whine and complain when something happens to us.  We assume that because we are a believer that we won’t have a flat tire or someone will fuss at us about something.  We have to deal with these situations just like everyone else so the important thing is HOW do we deal with these situations.

I have had to deal with people recently that has made an experience very unpleasant.  I have been tested.  I am sure I haven’t passed every time.  I always look back and wonder how I could have handled things differently.  I am easily frustrated when someone doesn’t do their job and it creates an unnecessary stressful situation for me.   Silly me to expect someone to do their job.  At times I have not been so nice and others I have.  Yes, this has been a season of testing.

I don’t propose that I am anything like the three Hebrew guys that survived the fire but it is comforting that God was in the fire with them.

So why does God test us?   I have asked that question a lot recently.  I think He does it to show us what we need to work on.  Will we trust Him or will we try to do it ourselves?  After the last few weeks, I see that I need to work on a LOT.  I didn’t get an “F” but I didn’t get an “A” on the tests either.  It’s easy to trust God and sing songs when things are going your way but what happens when someone is in your face about something?  The test is when we can’t hear the praise soundtrack playing in the background.

Life is hard and it isn’t always fair.  We have to deal with it.  Even for believers.  Crap happens to us just like everyone else.  The tests are important to teach us.  I can’t say I like them but I know they are instrumental in developing my character.  Testing hurts.

So, if you are looking for signs, you might want to consider if it is really a test.  Is it a burning bush or a fiery furnace?

And, not to offend our spiritual views, but sometimes things aren’t a sign or a test. Sometimes things just happen. Mechanical things break. People are buttheads. That’s just part of the world we live in. We don’t have to make something spiritual of everything that happens to us. The microwave is going to break and sometimes people coming out to fix it will be totally incompetent. Stuff happens. God isn’t against us and sometimes neither God or the devil have anything to do with what is happening to us.

So whether it is a sign, a test or just stuff happening to us, we can still get through it without us losing our minds. Is it easy? Nope. Can we avoid it? Nope. We can only do the best we can and make the best decisions possible and leave the results to God.

 

 

God’s Got Your Back

Have you ever been betrayed?

It hurts right to the heart.  It may be a family member, a spouse or someone you thought were your friend.  Whoever it is, it’s a difficult thing to overcome.  

God understands this pain.  It’s probably a good thing that He never gave us the ability to throw fireballs at people who wrong us or we would certainly be tempted to us it.  He’s also a God that won’t usually hurt the person that has hurt us.  

Most people want to immediately plot their revenge or be tempted to talk about the person who wronged you.  It’s very difficult not to.  We usually feel that we have some sort of right but we really don’t.  The Bible says to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) but you know that’s not so comforting when we are fresh from the betrayal.  

The best medicine for being “stabbed in the back” as we call it – is to let God heal us.  And exactly how is He able to heal us?

First we need to take it to Him.  Vent to Him about what happened.  Sit quietly and regroup.  If you retaliate then you are usually the one who looks worse in the end.  

Silence works.  Just don’t fuel it and don’t repay something wrong with doing something wrong.  God knows your hurt.  

Listen to spiritual songs that speak to you.  Many times in the past one song that I always go to is “Made Me Glad” by Hillsong.   I like the chorus when it says:

“You are my shield, my strength, my portion, deliverer, my shelter, strong tower.  My very present help in time of need.”

Sometimes it’s hard to pray or talk to God about our hurt.  He also understands our tears.  Our tears speaks words that we can not say verbally.  

Perhaps the hardest thing to do is to do good to people who do us wrong.  It’s never easy to just eat it and press on.  Even more is when the wrongdoers act like they haven’t done anything wrong in the first place.  We want to hold people accountable for their actions but the reality is that people do get away with things.  Their actions go unchecked and their betrayals are never repaid.  If we don’t recover then we will find ourselves stuck reliving the betrayal and continue to be hurt. 

I have often been stuck on the verse that says God is our ever present help in time of need.  (Psalm 46:1)  I often read that as meaning God will fight back for me but it doesn’t mean that at all.  It means He will be present to help me and heal me.  He gives me a chance to take a timeout from the situation. 

I am not one that agrees we should make allowances for someone else’s bad behavior.  I have a hard time letting go when someone needs to be held accountable.  Life just doesn’t always even the score and it’s hard to accept that.  The longer something like this lingers, the harder it is to get over it.  

Somehow, some way we have to rise above the betrayal.  If someone hurts us we have to be good at taking the hit and continue living.  The emotional wounds may heal but sometimes they will leave scars.  The scars serve as a reminder that we live in an imperfect world with hurting people.  

God’s got your back.  He knows all about betrayal and pain.  

Can God Talk?

Deaf womanI heard a podcast recently where the speaker made a comment to not limit God to speak in an audible voice.  I can understand the speaker’s point but can’t God still speak audibly at all? He apparently did it in the Bible but I often have wondered why He doesn’t speak that way today.  Not that I want to limit God but I would just like to hear him speak to me in a voice like we do with everyone else.

So why do people say that God doesn’t speak in an audible voice?  Here are some opinions I found when I put the question in Google:

“God really has spoken. And this Word is living and active. It is not a dead Word. He really speaks today through the inspired Scriptures.”  (John Piper)

So this explanation suggests that God has spoken in the Bible and that’s it.  Again, I understand this explanation and it’s true that God does speak through is Word but isn’t that still limiting God too?  Honestly, sometimes I think this “well God speaks through the Bible” can be a cop-out for an explanation.

From one of the most popular websites, gotquestions.org, it answers with:

“There is no biblical reason why God could not speak to a person audibly today.”  

But it goes on to add that God also can speak in other ways such an inner voice or mental impression.  Which is true but, still, at what place does a person get to where God speaks in an audible voice?

As eager as we would want God to speak in our voice, the fact is that we simply can’t force God to do it.  It is totally His choice when or if He does it.  We can’t orchestrate circumstances or manipulate situations to make it happen.

He has never spoke audibly to me although I have deeply desired for Him to do it.  At one time, I was obsessed with hearing his voice but no matter how much I wanted it to happen, it never did.  Instead it left me frustrated and confused.  I learned that I could never be good enough or spiritual enough to make it happen.  Nothing I could do was going to force God’s hand.

I mean, you would think that if people heard God’s voice that they would easily believe and never doubt Him again.  I know of a man that heard God’s voice and his life was changed but he eventually fell away.   You would assume that if someone actually heard the voice of God that they wouldn’t need anything else.  Sadly, that’s not true.  That didn’t even happen in the Bible.

So when does God speak in an audible voice to us?

I guess He would if He had a good reason to do it.  If there is a divine purpose or something that you are supposed to do, I would think that would be when He would speak if you are going to play a key role in God’s purpose.

Of course, I know you and I have met people who claim that God “speaks” to them all the time.    Yeah, I do the eye roll too.  Sure, He speaks to you about EVERYTHING.  I wouldn’t think that God would speak routinely to people.   Unfortunately I have found that these people seem to say that God speaks to them in order to manipulate people around them or to come across as some super-spiritual person.   I met one minister who said that when God speaks, it isn’t a negative word.  I guess he never read the Old Testament.

So can God speak in a real voice to us?  Absolutely He can.

He won’t waste it and won’t do it to prove anything to us.  Yes, I know you would think if He spoke that it would be easier for people to believe and proof to some people that God exists.  I don’t know why He doesn’t do that but He doesn’t seem to work in that way.

Regardless of the way God chooses to “speak” to us today, remember that He will not contradict His Word.

 

Does God Forget Me Sometimes?


Have you ever been forgotten?

It stings doesn’t it?

We all have experienced the pain of being overlooked, ignored or forgotten at some time in our lives. 

Sometimes I wonder if God does the same thing with us.  I don’t mean that He does it on purpose or that it is a mean thing.  It’s just hard for our minds to comprehend that He could possibly keep track of the billions of people on Earth all at the same time.  

We are told that God is omniscient.  He is supposed to be everywhere at the same time all the time.  But how is that possible?   I know He’s God and all that but don’t you feel like He’s busy somewhere else sometimes?

Well the Bible says this:

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3). 

Seriously?  Be honest with yourself.  How can you be absolutely sure God hasn’t forgotten you?  Maybe He just goes silent for a reason. 

Have you been in those silent places?

We do all the things we are supposed to do that we learned in “How to Be A Christian for Dummies” yet when we pray, nothing changes.  The sick are not healed and no one is converted.  We read the Bible yet we don’t feel God’s presence. We go to church and leave feeling worse than we did when we entered the building.  

I’m not going to give you some easy cliche answer. I will just tell you that it isn’t easy when you feel forgotten by God.  You just have to find your way through it.  That’s the best I can offer you on this subject.   I won’t tell you that God is always with you because, quite honestly, there are times that it seems He isn’t there and I have absolutely no proof that He is.   The only thing I can say is that we look back to the past at when God has been there for us.

In the Bible….

  • All kinds of stuff happened to Job.  People like to say how Job was patient or to have the patience of Job but have you read the story?  He questioned God and he complained.  He didn’t understand what was happening to him at all.
  • Joseph spent years in jail until he was remembered.  There is no record of how he acted during that time except that he did what he could do until the time came.  Sometimes that’s all we can do is to do what we know and what is available to us in our situation until the situation changes.
  • Look at Israel who spent hundreds of years in Egyptian bondage until Moses came along.  Hundreds of years is a long time to be forgotten.  
  • At the cross even Jesus felt that God had forgotten him.  Again, he still went through with what he knew and followed the will of the father even though he prayed for the cup to be passed over him.  

None of us likes to be forgotten and not many of us likes to wait for a long time.  If there’s anything I have learned about God it is that most things will take time.  Very few things are done quickly or according to our timetable.  Yep, that’s the most frustrating part.  I have always said that if I knew how long I was going to go through times of being forgotten that it would make it a little better to take.  

Even when God has forgotten us we still need to press on and do what we know to do and make the best of our situation. Just as when we are forgotten by others, we have to manage the hurt that we feel and make the choice to either get bitter or get better.  

Does God Like Me?

I know we aren’t supposed to ask that question but I am sure all of us have at some point.  Sure, the Bible tells us that He loves us and we are told God is love but I can’t help but wonder if He likes me.  

Face it.  We all have people in our lives that, if they weren’t related to us or we didn’t have to work with them, we wouldn’t even be friends with them.  They totally rub us the wrong way by just their mere presence.  We might love some people because we’re supposed to but that doesn’t mean that we like them.  Sometimes I wonder if God feels the same way about me.  Yeah, He’s supposed to love me but sometimes I don’t feel like He likes me very much.  

Sure, I know it’s not true but I’m human.  I’m not one of those super-spiritual Christians going around talking in the King James Version language.  Sadly, I have tried it before.  I tried to be everything that the church expected me to be.  I wanted to be super-spiritual but I failed at it – miserably.  I wanted to be one that was so close to God that I could pray for the sick and they would be healed and all the other things I heard was happening to others but it didn’t happen for me.  That’s not me.  So does that mean that God doesn’t like me?  I think it’s more like either God couldn’t trust me with those gifts or that it just wasn’t what he had for me.

Sometimes it’s pretty difficult to figure what God wants.

Yeah, I think He likes me.  I just don’t think I’m one of his favorites but that’s okay with me.  

Here’s some things that make us feel that God doesn’t like us:

  • He doesn’t talk back to us.  Well – not in the way we do with other people.  I have always said that’s a huge thing because God doesn’t talk back to us.  
  • The world has billions of people in it, how can He even remotely know who I am?  He does but my brain can’t comprehend it.
  • I’m not perfect.  That makes me feel that I can’t measure up but God doesn’t expect us to be perfect.  He’s not waiting to slam us when we do something wrong.
  • When I hurt where is God?  In the times I have hurt so badly physically and cried out to God, the pain only got worse and not better.  I’m not hurting today so that’s something.

So are those reasons for me to give up?   No.  Just because I can’t explain it with a sound theological answer doesn’t mean I don’t believe God likes me.  Am I foolish for believing?  Perhaps.

The fact is however, I am not God.  I can’t make God be or act the way I want Him to act.  I suppose He has his reasons.  

So what do I do to remind myself that God does like me?

  • I remind myself of the things He has done for me.  No, they aren’t many supernatural-type things that have happened but we can all count our blessings.
  • Keep talking to God.  There is no reason to stop talking although it is extremely difficult when you prayer and see absolutely no results.  
  • Listen to encouraging music.  Just recently I found the song “Never Been A Moment” by Micah Tyler that encouraged me.  Encouraging music energizes the soul.
  • Read the Bible.  Yep, still need to do this one.  I know it sounds cliche but it’s something that we need to do to remind God of His promises toward us.  Most of the time I listen to the Dramatized Audio Version of the Bible.  
  • Listen to good sermons.  This one is a tough one.  Good preachers are difficult to find who truly preach sound Biblical doctrine.  I have a handful of podcasts that I listen to.  I don’t want to hear any pimping for money or using their position for political agendas.  

I know that God probably has those days He just shakes His head at me and wonders what’s going on.  I just hope He will still like me regardless.