New Year’s Resolutions and Spiritual Dependency

With the new year just a few hours away many of us are thinking about the good old ‘New Year’s Resolutions. Often we think about similar personal changes. In doing just a little research here’s what I found out about resolutions –

Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. ‘Exercise to get in shape’ (19.7%), 
  2. ‘Diet to lose weight’ (18.3%), 
  3. ‘Save money’ (14.8%), 
  4. ‘Eat healthier in general’ (11.9%), 
  5. ‘Something for self care’ (5.5%) 

What New Year’s resolutions reveal is the deep desire in all of us to grow and develop. We look inside ourselves and desire to improve in small and large ways. As Christians this should always be our life long, humble posture before God. We call it a teachable heart, a humble attitude or spiritual dependancy. 

But just as the list above shows, our wills are at war within us. I love Romans 7 and its clear description of this battle. (v.21) “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me”. Isn’t that the honest truth? I want to loose weight but I love chocolate, fries, and, and, and!!!! I want to save money but the thing I really ‘need’ is on Amazon and it’s cheap, and it’s reviews are amazing! I love to exercise and I know I need to but Amazon Prime and Netflix has this show I need to finish!!! 

My New Year’s resolutions are split into two groups spiritual and physical. 

My physical goals for 2020 are to loose weight and stop drinking soda, especially my best friend, Diet Coke. I want to do a better job of respecting the body God gifted to me and be around to know my grandchildren. 

My Spiritual goal for 2020 is to grow in dependency upon God. I love John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”. I’ve often read that verse and in my mind I’ve agreed to that principle. I am dependent upon God. But then I go back to living ‘my’ everyday life dependent upon myself. To be honest it’s only in the ‘big’ or ‘impossible’ things do I express that dependency. There is a part of me that kind of likes independence. To prove that I can do it and that I am strong and capable. But then temptation comes or a situation arises and I’m keenly aware once again of my weakness. 

As Shane and Shane sing in their song “Psalm 46”: “Oh God who makes the mountains melt come wrestle us (me) and win”. That’s my prayer! As 2020 approaches I have been praying and journalling about what it means to live in dependency upon God. I have come up with four main ways I can express and grow in dependency:

  1. Humility – An attitude / posture towards God that freely expresses my weakness and my need for Him – in everything ! 
  2. Wisdom – Allowing God’s Word to inform my mind and control my thinking. God is greater – period!
  3. Respect – Believing and acting with respect towards God and His revealed design and desire for my life.
  4. Help – to express my dependency, moment by moment in prayer. Asking for the help I so desperately need. 

What would you add to that list? I would honestly value your thoughts and comments. Feel free to email me or add a comment. 

Cardboard Connections

When we first listed our home in Colorado I saw a post on a local Facebook page offering moving boxes. I jumped at the offer and picked up all the boxes we could need, including some specialty boxes for our TVs. As we unpacked here in Morton I thought I should pay that gift forward and so I placed a note on Facebook marketplace offering the boxes to someone who could use them. They were given to me and I wanted to gift them to someone else! Within a few minutes of posting the offer I got a reply from a guy named Gary. He said he could really use them and would be around in the morning to pick them up! 

The next morning rolled around and Gary pulled up with his wife in their pick up truck. I noticed right away as I went out to meet them that there was a wheelchair in the bed of this older truck. It became clear that the chair belonged to Gary as his wife got out and offered to help me load up the pile of boxes. She shared how he had been ill and struggled to walk and so relied on the chair to get around. I had prayed that morning that God would lead and guide me as we start this new season in Illinois. I didn’t expect Him to answer so quickly and powerfully, but then God works like that sometimes, doesn’t He?

As we placed the last box on the bed of the truck and placed the wheel chair on the pile to stop it blowing off I heard a tap on the rear glass of the truck. It was Gary asking me to come to the truck door to speak. He thanked me for the gift and I sensed at that moment that this might be a ‘God appointment’, as I like to call them. So I asked if it would be ok to pray with them, right there in our new street as complete strangers. He quickly agreed and to my surprise this guy held out his hand to hold mine while we prayed. His wife did the same thing. So here we were strangers holding hands in the street with a truck full of empty boxes. I asked God to lead and guide my prayers and I just simply prayed for them. I prayed for strength for Gary and his wife with his illness. I also prayed that if it was God’s will, would He heal Gary and allow him to walk again? 

We finished the prayer, said goodbye and off they went. It wasn’t more than half an hour that my phone pinged again and it was Gary saying thanks.  I thought that would be the end of our interaction and so I said remember Christmas is a reminder that God exists and loves you. Gary again thanked me. About an hour later my phone pinged with another message from Gary. He told me how they had got home and a plumber was there to fix a problem in his house. Gary’s wife quickly went in to show the plumber the problem. Gary shared how he was sat alone in the truck with his chair piled high in the truck bed on top of a pile of boxes and he needed to go to the bathroom in the worst way. He then shared how he remembered what I had prayed and thought he should try and walk. So he pulled himself out of his truck and slowly, carefully walked into the house. It was something he hadn’t been able to do for months. His wife took one look at him and wept. Gary again thanked me for my prayer. I replied that God is the one who is powerful and He hears our prayers as He loves and cares for us. 

This story isn’t about me at all as I’m just a regular chap, I’m not even sure of hardly any of the details of why Gary was using the chair. But I do know this: God exists and God is at work. If we ask Him, He will use us for the big and small things. I wonder if the reason I don’t see more things like Gary’s story is that I am so focused on my story I don’t slow down enough to see God’s story and how He’s connecting with a broken world that is all around us. This is a ‘Yea God!’ story. Are you willing and ready for God to use you? I am and it’s wild to have a front row seat as I watch Him do more than I ask or imagine. 

Everyone needs a rock

Can you think of a time when you have been in a state of perfect peace? You know what I mean? No stress, no worries, and nothing pressing in on you. Maybe it was during a vacation or a time when you were still. 

I would guess for most of us those times are rare. I have glimpses of peace but they are often followed by a reminder of something I need to do or something that is weighing in on my mind. 

Scripture talks about being still before God. I seek to do that but find my mind wandering easily. That is why I journal so much during my devotions and when I’m sat in church. It helps keep my mind focused. 

God is not like me at all. 

Did you know that God exists in a perpetual state of peace?  Think for a moment about God’s constant state of peace. Nothing worries or surprises Him. Nothing is too much for Him. It doesn’t ever get to a point where His peace is anything but complete and full. There is no issue that He isn’t fully aware of and completely able to lead to the outcome He has already designed. 

But we are not like God. I mean, even if you have nothing huge, like financial or relationship stress going on,  there is always day to day stuff. Driving, working with someone who you don’t get on well with, or not being able to fall asleep. I put my cup to the ice maker on my fridge door and it overflowed, all over the floor. I know that isn’t a big deal but challenges like that mount up as the day progresses. But God never has a moment when those situations are His reality. His peace is endless and perpetual. His capacity to share His peace is without limit. 

God never designed us to manufacture our own peace. He gives His peace as a gift. So when God says in this verse that He is our rock it means nothing ever shifts Him from the strong and sure foundation of peace that He is. That’s why you and I can trust Him even when we don’t understand Him. That is why peace is possible even for the most tightly wound of us. It’s a peace we need to seek moment by moment and day by day. It’s a peace that we need. 

I don’t know about you but I need that rock to lean on and draw strength from. When life is crazy, stressful, or you feel weary and worn, know that our God is our rock. Ask Him for His peace and trust in Him. 

More peace than the mountains can offer

I continue to think a lot about peace – Love this verse: Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

God is offering you a peace today that is deep and real. He doesn’t force His peace on you; He offers you His peace as a gift you need to accept by faith. Accepting that gift starts by praying and laying before Him your soul burdens. As the passage continues God encourages us to pray with Thanksgiving as we think about God’s power and love.

The result is that God brings His peace that is so real and so deep.

As I study peace in God’s Word I see two major kinds of peace:

  1. Peace with God – In I Thess 5:23 God describes Himself as “The God of peace…”. It is from the endless well of peace that God dips His hand into and offers you a portion of His peace. His peace transcends all our understating. In Hebrew the word for peace is “Shalom”. It was used as a greeting and describes a sense of security, well-being and rest. Peace with God comes through Christ and what He has done at the cross for you and I. We can know salvation and eternal peace for our souls.
  2. Personal peace – It is from that restored relationship with God that personal peace comes that is deep and real. Psalm 4:8 says “I will lie down in peace and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety”. LOVE THAT!! Jesus, in John 14, was preparing his closest followers for His impending death. He says, in verse 27 “Peace I will leave with you, my peace I will give to you, not as the world gives, don’t let your heart be troubled…..”

Peace starts by being restored with God. Any other peace we seek in life is, at best, is short lived. Peace grows when we respond in faith to Christ. Peace comes as we trust God with our everyday burdens and cares. God is in control and God has a plan. It isn’t the absence of tough times that results in peace, it’s the faith-focused trust that is expressed in the hardest of times that results in a peace that transcends understanding.

As I studied and prayed God led me to four possible reasons why I’m not at a place of soul peace:

  1. Trust – I’m doubting God – His power – his presence
  2. Prayer – I’m trying to sort the situation and not bringing it to Him
  3. Time with God – I’m not spending time in His Word and Worship
  4. Confession – I have junk in my life that I need to confess to Him and ask for His forgiveness for.
I love hiking in the mountains, its so peaceful there, but my soul needs a deeper peace than even the mountains can offer.

As I prayed and prayed about my soul angst God led me to two encouraging truths:
The future is God’s and not mine! I pray for answers but what I really need is Him!

Say to your soul – chill and trust!!

Soul angst

Winter came last week to Northern Colorado. It was over 70 degrees one day but by the next morning the temps had dropped to the mid 20s and there was snow blowing around. I feel the angst in my soul as I drive today. People who know me may say a lot of different things to describe me, but one thing I know no-one will say is this: “That Glyn, he’s such a chilled chap”. I live on the edge of angst in my soul most of the time. I’m prone to worry, anxiety and feel stressed. 

This is why one of my favorite passages is in Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. 

The prescription for soul angst is prayer which results in peace. 

Let’s define peace: 

  • Worldly peace – absence of pain – fear – worry – (temporary – experienced based) 
  • God-given peace – Shalom – abiding in God’s presence – trusting in God’s promises – confession – worship – prayer – time with God – sanctuary 

God wants you and I to know His peace. But His peace isn’t forced on us; it’s a gift we need to receive. That receiving requires a response of faith. A response that primarily looks to God and not our emotions or circumstances. 

That’s so easy to say and yet for me, especially in this season, it’s a minute by minute faith choice. We are trying to sell our house in Colorado and move back to Illinois. We are trying to raise support so I can begin working supporting church planters all over the world. 

As I read these verses again I think about the word “guard” towards the end of this passage. God wants to guard against the natural angst in my heart with His presence and His peace. So if I am not living in a place with soul peace, no matter what is going on, then it’s me that’s moved from hIm and not Him from me. 

I had a series of convicting revelations recently. I share these to encourage and challenge you in your own faith journey. 

  1. It’s so easy for me to take my eyes off of God and onto my situation or how I feel at that given moment. The result is that I am up and down depending on what’s happening. I need to grow in my faith.
  2. I regularly bring my burdens to God. I have had such sweet times with God during the last few weeks. He has met with me in such a powerful and personal ways. Yet my heart is still focused on my requests and not my God. I am learning that I want answers and think that’s my greatest need. God is teaching me that He is what I need most. I pray for a buyer for our house and for support but God is calling me to seek Him above all else. 

Christians, Social Media and Kayne West

Thanks for all those who’ve responded to my blog on WordPress, FB and Insta. There is definitely an interesting stirring right now. When I posted a few days back I only listened to the album “Jesus is King” a few times and chatted with a few people about it. I only read a few posts. Even from that little bit of background it was clear that a lot of people are talking about this.

What strikes me as interesting is people aren’t talking about the merits of the record, the lyrics or the music. They aren’t talking about how God is even able save the person we think most unlikely to come to Him. They are talking about the validity of Kayne claims. 

But think for a moment about Paul, the Christian killer and the thief on the cross, next to Jesus. Come to think of it – think about Glyn Knight. What right do I have to claim Christ? Nothing in my self that’s for sure and everything that Christ has done. People that knew me as a teen have said “I can’t believe you became a pastor”. I have no right to claim Christ based on myself – neither does Paul, the thief or Kayne. But Jesus is able to save all those who come to Him. Don’t we really believe that?

So shouldn’t Kayne West be given the same grace? Shouldn’t our first response as Christians to be praying and not judging?

I have been joining in on some FB conversations (Something I really try not to do…) about this whole discussion. Here’s a couple of quotes from a thread I was involved in – I’ll keep the authors anonymous. The convo focused on “Has Kayne really changed, is He saved?”

  • Once an ass always an ass. Just like you can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear
  • You’re not really falling for this are you? Seriously? He “finds God” and starts targeting the conservative Christian demographic because they will buy any crap labelled “Christian” regardless of the quality as long as it reinforces their views. The man is married to the queen of materialism and excess and he thinks of himself as some sort of living god

What on earth? So set aside the label ‘Christian’, as I don’t know these people so I don’t know what they claim. But – is this a respectful response? Is that how we want our kids to speak? Is that the atmosphere you want in your work place? 

As Christian’s on Social Media let me encourage you with a couple of things:

  1. Written posts / comments are more formal than spoken words. Written posts / comments are more permanent. You can see my posts and comments from way back when….. gulp.
  2. There is a portion of people who read what you write and evaluate all Christians by you. They may not know another Christian and when you are harsh and judgmental they perceive all Christians are harsh and judgmental. 
  3. Your comments are not anonymous. You have no idea who has copied and pasted what you write…..just like I did above.

It’s so essential that we never forget the truth of John 9:25 “Once I was blind but now I see…”. I, like you, am a sinner saved by grace. I have absolutely no grounds to boast and seek to evaluate myself above others. I’ve been a pastor for 20 years and have helped countless people in countless situations. I could boast in my messages, but they are average and others are way more gifted. I could boast about my people care but there have been many who didn’t feel cared for. Do I really want God to compare my boasting and judgements of others with the condition of my heart and my past?

Let’s end on a positive. Kayne has been doing these pop up Sunday services. There’s some on Youtube. He’s also done a bunch of interviews and here’s what he said in one. “I am here to spread the Gospel and let people know what Jesus has done for me”.  “I’ve spread a lot of things…… I’m letting you know what Jesus has done for me…..I’m free now…..I’m a son of God”. Isn’t that comment at least worthy of our prayers? Because you know what? 

Whatever his heart is or is not – God is at work. Here’s a couple of comments I pulled from one social media post talking about his album: 

  • Katie K “I started reading the bible last night after listening to Jesus is King”.
  • Ricardo S “I haven’t prayed in a while… I’m going to pray now

If God can use Glyn, or a donkey, can’t He also use Kayne to speak His truth? And shouldn’t we be praying for a mighty move of God to awake countless masses to His amazing grace? 

Kanye West – Jesus is King

To be honest I don’t think I have ever listened to Kanye West before. Give me 80’s and worship any time. I saw the whole awards thing with Taylor Swift a while ago, but that’s about it.

For me his kind of music ranks up there with jazz or opera. My sons love R&B, rap and hip hop. As I love my sons, I try to listen to the music they like when we are driving. So when I read about Kanye West’s new album I thought I’d give it a listen. You know what? I thought the lyrics were strong and the music blend was good. But I’m not writing this blog to share my unsolicited opinion about Kanye West’s music. Music is definitely a personal preference issue. I’m writing this blog because of what I’ve read about the album and what Kanye says in his lyrics.

On the song “Hands on” Kanye writes “Said I’m finna to do a Gospel album. What have you been hearing from the Christians? They’ll be the first one to judge me. Make it feel like nobody love me”.

I was chatting to my son this morning as we drove to school listening to this new album and I said, “Josh, this is a bold move. I wonder how people will react. ” Will his non-religious fans think he’s gone all ‘religious’ and will the Christian’s respond with acceptance or skepticism?

Well if you read the reviews they are across the board. Even Kanye knew that this would be the case. That’s clear in the lyrics I quoted above.

I can’t speak with the non-religious crowd as I am a Christian. Jesus is my King. But I can speak to the Christian crowd as I’m one of them.

Matthew 7:1-5 has had and continues to have a profound impact on me. I see in myself the quick tendency to evaluate hearts while all the time ignoring the sins in my life as mere struggles. I can so easily look at Kanye’s life and smugly think “I’m so much better. I’m a real Christian. ” I read some reviews, some say he’s a fake and he made the album to simply make money. Others I’ve read think it’s awesome.

If you read Matthew 7 we are commanded to look in the mirror and take care of our business and let that be our focus. So why do we lay that passage aside and act as though we know heart motives? That’s God’s job and He’s got it covered. I’m pretty sure Kanye isn’t going to email or text me to ask my opinion about himself. I really hope and pray God is at work and the lyrics certainly seem to indicate that. But I’m in no position to evaluate his heart. You and I can see his actions and his history but we aren’t God to know His heart motives so I think we should not be acting as though we can!

God does give us His Word to allow us to discern and we should all be doing that all the time for sure!! Is this album helpful, entertaining and God honoring? Does it encourage or hinder me? Those are great questions but the whole “I know why Kanye wrote this album…” is way beyond our pay grade so please knock it off.

If only we realized that the lost world looks at our judgments and hate and sees nothing but hypocrisy. Let’s use the opportunities God has given us to speak truth but let’s also bring an equal measure of grace and humility. Just like Kanye I am a sinner and just like Kanye I need God, just as much as he does!

When despair seems reasonable

Worry seems so natural for me. Do you resonate with that? It seems like worry is a bucket and no matter what’s going on, that bucket is always full. I have learned my propensity to worry is just part of who I am but God has done so much in my life to free me and grow me. Yet, in times of transition like I am in the middle of at the moment, it feels as though I’m running with a full bucket and trying to keep every drop from falling. 

In my head I know that worry is a lack of faith expressed. But the weight of circumstances and emotions are such that fear and worry seem to be battling with my mind. 

Worry leads to fear, which ends in despair. Despair is hopelessness expressed. 

In this clear and present reality in my life, God steps in. 

I love how present God has been lately in this season. As real as the concern for stepping out in faith is, God has been meeting me every time I come to Him in prayer, in my devotions or in listening to my pastor’s messages. This morning God met me yet again with a verse from my favorite book – James. The verse was James 1:2  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds”. Again, in my head I know this is the ‘right’ answer but I can’t say it’s my truthful countenance right now. Just being honest. 

As I have read James over and over it’s clear that God’s mission in trials is very different than mine. I want trials over with as soon as possible and if that doesn’t happen fear creeps in and despair comes quickly behind. Yesterday I became aware that despair had crept back into my mind and heart. As I thought about despair’s weight I thought how reasonable I was for feeling that way. I want trials over with but God wants me to stand up in the trial and look to Him! 

The joy encouraged in James 1:2 doesn’t come from circumstances or emotions. Joy comes from worshiping the One True God. Someone once said that prayer isn’t worrying in God’s direction.  

As I journaled and prayed this morning, God convicted me of the reality that discouragement and despair in my life comes from focusing on my circumstances and not God.

Joy comes from a God-centered focus no matter what else is going on. Despair and discouragement are present when there is an imbalance in our lives between our focus on our circumstances or our emotions and our focus on God. 

Here’s a song that was on my playlist this morning – 

‘Yes I Will’ by Vertical Worship

I count on one thing

The same God that never fails

Will not fail me now

You won’t fail me now

In the waiting

The same God who’s never late

Is working all things out

You’re working all things out

Yes I will, lift You high in the lowest valley

Yes I will, bless Your name

Oh, yes I will, sing for joy when my heart is heavy

All my days, oh yes I will

I count on one thing

The same God that never fails

Will not fail me now

You won’t fail me now

In the waiting

The same God who’s never late

Is working all things out

Is working all things out

Oh, yes I will,lift You high in the lowest valley

Yes I will, bless Your name

Oh, yes I will, sing for joy when my heart is heavy

For all my days, oh yes I will

For all my days, oh yes, I will

And I choose to praise

To glorify,…

What does it mean to be in love?

I had the privilege of officiating a wedding this past week. It was so great to see a young couple who love each other make commitments before God. I have known the bride and her family for over 20 years and so it was so good to be around life-long friends. As you might be able to see in the picture I took just before the ceremony, it was raining and windy. But that didn’t matter at all as the guests gathered to participate in the start of a brand new family! 

As I traveled back I thought about that word: ‘love’. We use the word love in so many different ways. 

  • I loved seeing long time friends at the wedding.    
  • I loved traveling with my family. 
  • I loved having a blast dancing at the wedding with my friends and family. I am not a good dancer but I sure do laugh a lot!
  • I love my wife. Officiating another wedding reminds me of the gift my wife is to me and our family. 

The Bible uses the word love in developing ways 

  • It’s used to describe the love of deep friends. 
  • It’s used to describe the love between a husband and a wife.
  • It’s used to describe God’s love for us 

I love this passage that so amazingly describes love – I Corinthians 13:4-8 – 

  • 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud
  • 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs
  • 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth
  • 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
  • 8 Love never fails

Do you know what a gift love is? 

Think about God’s love for us. As I stood before this young couple and talked about how God created love and marriage I was reminded that  love is more than an emotion. Love is a commitment. God made a commitment to love us and to make a relationship with Him possible through Jesus dying and rising again. God has made that commitment of love to you. This is the essential relationship we need to be the foundation for all other relationships.  God wants to love you by saving you, growing you, and drawing you to Himself. 

Let our love for others pour from our love relationship with our God who made a commitment of love towards us.

I Can’t Do That

In the last few months I have been reminded over and over again about the reality of my life. I am getting older. Physically that means it’s harder to run and harder to lose weight. I’ve got more aches and pains than ever.  

In this season in my life where there has been much change. I have come to the point many times of saying “I don’t think I can do this anymore”. It has been a hard season and what lies before me is too big for me. 

I have found that what I lack is best described by my lack of faith and my lack of mental energy. The weight of change and God’s plan for our lives is such that I look at our situation and once again admit ‘This seems impossible’.  We are trying to sell our house, buy a house and move. My boys will moving schools and I will be changing ministry focus. 

Humility is needed to be able to admit these things and say “I need help”. 

One day Jesus’ followers came to this same point as they looked at a situation that was impossible. In Matthew 19:26 we read ‘Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’. 

With man some things are impossible, but with God all things are possible. God uses all things to achieve His will, even our weaknesses. In times like this I have found comfort in knowing how reliant upon God I am and how all powerful He is.  

Isn’t it good to know that Jesus doesn’t expect me to do the impossible but He calls me to trust Him to do what only He can do? As I think about God’s glory, I think about His greatness and His goodness.  His greatness is shown by the reality that He can do all things. His goodness is revealed as He shows Himself at work regularly in our lives.  

Paul knew this reality in His life : II Corinthians 12:10 – Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 

In what fresh ways do you need to come before  God in humility and ask Him to do the impossible? In what new ways do you need to worship God because you know He can do more than you ask or imagine?