When I was young, I was taught that we were not supposed to question God. I was taught that if I blindly followed the teachings of the religion, all my questions would be answered when I reached heaven. This was a problem for me, because my favorite word was (and still is) “why”.
Pastor Mike asked the question this past Sunday in week 1 of his series “Questioning God” “Is questioning God a sin?” He asked those that were taught that it was a sin to question God to raise their hand; of course I raised mine. Then he proceeded to tell us that the answer depended on our motives. Wait…what?
There are a lot of stories in the Bible of people who questioned God. For example, Sarah questioned God when He told her she would have a baby at 90 years old. Jeremiah questioned the timing of God’s justice of the wicked. Habakkuk questioned God on how long He would sit back and allow the wicked to prevail. So this means we ARE allowed to question God right? Well…Yes and No. We are allowed to question God as long as our motives are proper. If we go to God with pride and pomp, we are guilty of sin.
What do proper motives really look like? One word comes to mind; HUMILITY. Life is full of ups and downs and with each turn of the road, more questions arise. Recently, I was faced with a dilemma. I am a high school teacher and in order to keep my position, I had to enroll in graduate school to earn additional certification. I did not want to go back to school because it meant more stress and time away from my family. If I did not get the additional certification, I risked losing my position and/or having to transfer to another school (which I did not want to do either). I was torn between not knowing which path God wanted me to take. I prayed earnestly for directions letting Him know that either way, I would do what he asked of me. God told me not to worry about it, that he had everything under control. But silly me, I kept asking because I did not want to make the wrong choice. So I kept questioning “God, what do I do?” over and over he kept saying, I’ve got this; just relax. I told my administrator that I would not be enrolling in graduate classes, but that I did not want to leave. If anything came up within my certification, to please consider moving me into the position. 3 weeks later, I was offered a position I was highly qualified for and a subject that I was currently teaching. This means I don’t have to start over with lessons or lesson plans, I simply have to beef them up to a higher level. God is AMAZING and he NEVER fails!
I did not go to God as if I were the authority telling Him what I wanted or expected. I did not go to God trying to bargain a deal; I was humble, confused and needed His direction. It is not a sin to question God with humility, seeking understanding in times of confusion. Ya see, God knows the whole picture, He sees everything, whereas we can only see a fraction of it.
My take-a-ways from “Questioning God” Part 1:
"How long, O Lord, will you forget me?" is a question that comes into my mind from time to time. I often feel isolated and insecure. I don't know how many of you have felt this, but I feel it on a regular basis. You know what I'm talking about...that feeling that nothing you do is good enough, that no one appreciates you, that nobody can sympathize with what you are going through.
As I sat in both worship experiences yesterday, I heard Steven Cheek give an authentic testimony that I could identify with. While honoring our fallen soldiers with his words, Steven was able to articulate how life situations can get us to the point that we feel isolated and insecure. Man was I convicted. As Steven continued his story, he communicated to us that God never forgot him and He NEVER forgets us. The next time I feel like God has forgotten me, I'm going to take a little extra time in that moment to remember God!
The fact is...our feelings of dysfunction and depression come form Satan. Let me give you an example: ME. Right now, I feel pretty useless. You see, I'm in transition. My job is (literally) to hand all of my tasks away so that I leave the church is a great spot. The task of transition is hard and has created the environment for Satan to tempt me with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, which could lead me to isolate myself. In all honesty, I almost sat in the church sound booth and watched worship rather than actively participating with you all. These thoughts continue to run in my mind as the month of June arrives. June is the month I have set aside to ensure that all of my former tasks are being performed effectively by my replacements. Ay...the futility I could feel!
Hold up though...Isn't that what God has called me to? To equip saints for the work of the ministry? How could I feel so useless when I'm doing the one job God has called me to? Guys, listen to me here: Sometimes Satan sends us feelings of uselessness when we are the most useful to God! Remember the God has not forgotten you! He hasn't forgotten me! Like Steven said, your current role is not the summation of God's purpose for our lives. Maybe your current role is a setup for God to work out His purpose in your life! Whereas Satan is setting you up for failure, God is setting you up for a future of purpose in Him.
When you get those feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, tell Satan to SHUT UP with his setup. Choose God's setup. Thanks Steven for such a convicting, powerful and encouraging word. #Psalm13
Thursday morning. The alarm rings... for the 5th time. You groan as you slowly pull yourself out of bed, knowing that you're going to be late for work if you stay there any longer. You go through your morning routine, skipping a step or two. You decide you're going to eat out today instead of packing a lunch. In your car you change the radio from your usual station or turn it off completely. You get to work and pour yourself a bigger than usual cup of coffee. All because...You're just not feeling it. As Pastor Matt spoke about #feelingit, I was reminded of a part of my Christian walk known as "the mountaintop experience". My mountaintop experience was June 2013, at a student conference in Baton Rouge. I was 16 years old, and the Holy Spirit put on my heart that there was more to my life than what I was currently living. That wrecked me. I was tired of living a mundane life and desperately wanted to return something back to the world that I was sucking oxygen from, but I was scared to pursue it for fear that it wouldn't work out. After that moment, God began to work through the rest of the speakers and songs at the conference to show me the path that I should take. The thing about the top of a mountain is... There's only one top. Everywhere else you go is not the top of the mountain. During that mountaintop experience, I thought I had arrived. After the conference was over, I was shown that the journey isn't to the top of the mountain, the journey is through the valley. The valleys don't feel as great as the mountains, but God created them both and saw that it was good. It might not feel good, but God in his infinite wisdom and perfect love has decided that the valleys need to exist too. Without the valleys, the mountains wouldn't be significant. Without bad times, you wouldn't know what good times are. Jesus Himself never said that the life of a christian would be an easy one. In fact, he said that we WILL have trouble, but there's hope."In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.(John 15:7 NKJV)By devoting yourself to the will and the service of God, dedicating yourself to reading His word and communicating with Him through prayer, you abide in Christ, and Christ will abide in you. The SAME Christ that has OVERCOME THE WORLD will live in you, and you will be transformed by the renewing of your mind, then you will know God's will. (Romans 12:2 NLT)Feelings come and go, but the word of the Lord is unchanging. Our thoughts are where our emotions come from, and by renewing your mind, our thoughts will align with God's, and His work will be made complete in us.
I was asked to reflect on today's sermon and scriptures (Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-46). When I heard the words "out of alignment and self correcting," I felt something in my spirit and knew where Matt was going. God wanted me to listen and apply it to my life. He also wanted me to stop self correcting and allow Him to align my heart, mind and actions daily.
Wow, how many times have I self corrected instead allowing the true source of life to fix me...like I have the ability to fix myself! Reading a few scriptures might give me enough strength to get through the day, but I did not spend enough time in prayer for God to empower me, show me what needs fixing or transform my life. I have to be aligned to God in order to see His power and strength. When I do this, I have MORE THAN I NEED to get through the day.
Yes, there is agony with alignment. I have to die to my own desires and follow Jesus. This (in my own life) has required me to let go of what I want and see God's perspective. When I align my thoughts to God's thoughts, I can see why He said yes or no. God always has a purpose for what He is working in me. When I don't align myself, I can become angry and apathetic. I may run away from Him instead of toward Him. I try to do it all by myself, "self correct". I am learning I can not make it without aligning myself to God daily. On the days I don't, I see everything through my own distorted perspective. When I align to His thoughts daily, He sheds light on why things are happening with me or others around me. Praying is not necessarily my custom like it was for Jesus. It should be. If Jesus needed to separate Himself from others, why would I not do the same?
Lately, I have been more like the disciples. I would rather sleep than deal with my sorrows and troubles. I begin to pray, but the weight seems so heavy. I don't wait for God to strengthen me. I begin believing the enemy's lies that nothing will change. On the days that I do wait, God shows me how big He actually is. God can and will accomplish his purposes. When God's will does not align with my own, He changes my heart to match His, my desires change and I stop looking at the natural. God is not limited by the natural. I know God is working even when I do not see it. He gives me His assurance. On those days, He shows me what He is doing, and how He is using me and others for His Kingdom work.
Oh, how many times my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak? If only I would have pushed past my own weaknesses and prayed! Why did I not get up earlier, turn off that tv, get off Facebook, and just lean in to His strength and direction? He is my Abba, Dad, and He loves me. He knows what is best for me. I praise the Lord that, in my weakness, He is so strong. Now may I press forward to seek Him, pray and wait. Yet not my will, but Yours oh Lord.
The Middle Man Week Two Follow the format, track with the template, and stick with the Scripture. While that seems like an obvious thing to do…following Jesus’ example…it is not always the easiest. Often when we are faced with a difficult situation (like rejection) our default mode is to become angry and bitter. We begin to think less of ourselves and believe the lies the enemy tells us. But when we look to Jesus who set the standard as He was faced with death, we can see a better way to handle whatever situations we face in life. However, we can only be successful if that is our default mode.
As I was listening to Pastor Matt’s message yesterday, my mind immediately went back to my teenage years. The summer before my 9th grade year, I attended a camp where the pastor reflected on the fact that Jesus traded places with us on the cross. The Spirit convicted me through his messages and I began a daily relationship with Jesus that included memorizing scripture. My mom was the kind of woman who had a Scripture verse for everything and I admired that and wanted to be like her. I didn’t know it at the time, but Scripture became the format to help with challenges that would come my way.
The first and most impactful challenge I faced came the day after my 16th birthday. My high school volleyball team was traveling out of town for a tournament and our van was hit (around midnight) by a car in a street race. I don’t remember much about what happened, but my initial response was to begin praying out loud while everyone else was screaming. In that moment, when I was literally faced with death, God reminded me of Philippians 4:6-7 which says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The amount of peace that I experienced at that moment continues to amaze me to this day.
Just like Jesus on the cross, sticking with Scripture gave me the ability to endure one of the most difficult experiences of my life and God continued to use that experience to prove Romans 8:28, namely, that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. I wish I could say that I always follow the format that Jesus set before me, but I fall short every day. I have noticed however, that my track record is much better when I default to Scripture. In order to be successful, I must make the choice daily to commit myself to Christ and read His word.
Hey guys, Pastor Matt here. We've got a blog this month! One of our own, Steven Cheek, will be writing a reflection on our current series every Monday. One of our goals this month is to consider what God may be calling us to do. Steven's blog is one man's reflection. How will you reflect? Thanks Steven for your willingness to be a middle man!
As I sat in church, I was challenged to raise my expectations in my Christian walk, to know that normal is not necessary, and to wake up in my spiritual life. Many times I find myself just attending church, trying to squeeze in a quick devotional before work, or sometimes I just simply accept my mundane life. This is not how we should live in Christ. Jesus defeated the grave and sin so that I may live in VICTORY. I must recognize to the reality that there is more to my life than just trying to survive.
When I come to church, I should come ready to encounter the majesty of God. I raise my expectations, knowing that I will be in the presence of the God who has given me a new name, a new life, and a new purpose! I know that when I go through trials, Jesus is my middle man who has promised to never leave me or to forsake me. Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father petitioning on my behalf. I know that I can go out into this world and fight from the standpoint of victory for God has the power to remove stones, sin and struggles from my life.
Through Jesus, we now have the tools to align with God and be middle men to the rest of the world. May we go forth and fight from victory knowing that the resurrected King has resurrected us.