An interest in my stepdad’s guitar at age 15 sparked an interest God has used to guide my life. I’m sure God works in a similar way with you. In fact, I know He does.
(Photo: By Pisethinfo. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
More than 30 years ago, I started playing songs on the guitar by John Denver, Jim Croce, Don Francisco, Gordon Lightfoot, and Dan Fogelberg.
I was hooked. I lived and breathed with the instrument. In a few years, I had written more than 100 of my own songs. It seemed this is what God wanted me to do with my life. I decided to pursue the dream of becoming a Christian artist.
- I majored in music (classical guitar) from North Texas State University (now UNT).
- I attended Dallas Theological Seminary so that I could learn to write theologically sound songs.
- I had an influential person with connections in Nashville who promised to introduce me to the right people.
I was ready. Cue the lights. Then God uplugged my guitar.
Playing guitar for all these years has taught me more than music. It has taught me these 3 lessons.
If you think about it, King Solomon never started out to build pagan shrines. It was his failure to deal with the tiny spiritual cracks in his heart that produced a life of compromise and dissatisfaction.
(Photo: Design Pics, via Vivozoom)
The backwash from Solomon’s life reminds us how we only kid ourselves when we think we can have a healthy walk with God and still keep our hidden life of compromise on the side.
The good news? We don’t have to.
One morning when I was in Jerusalem, I chose to have my devotions on the Mount of Olives at sunrise. Making my way through the Old City’s dark and narrow streets, I passed beside the Temple Mount and exited the city on its east side.
(Photo: Overlooking Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Photo: צולם ע, via Wikimedia Commons)
After climbing the steep ascent of the Mount of Olives, I sat near its summit as the sun began to warm my back. Turning to Matthew’s Gospel, I read about Jesus leaving the Temple, predicting its destruction, and sitting on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24:1–5).
Looking across the Kidron Valley at the Temple Mount—now crowned with a Muslim shrine—I thought about how Jesus’ prediction proved true. Because Israel rejected Him, they ultimately lost the very objects they hoped to secure through His death—their Temple and their nation (John 11:48).
Suddenly I heard a sound that jerked my mind in another direction.
I always get a kick out of the road tests automakers perform on one another. As objective as the tests claim to be, the goals remain clear. GM tests Ford to show Ford’s weaknesses. GM tests GM to show its strengths.
When Ford does the testing, however, the purpose completely reverses. (Funny how that works, you know?)
Actually, this type of testing is biblical. Both God and Satan perform tests on you and me. These road tests reveal how the rubber meets the road in our Christian lives.
But the two tests have two completely different goals. Can you tell the difference?
I recently upgraded my iPhone and had a problem transferring the data from my old backup to the new iPhone. So I called Apple.
As I talked to the tech during the data transfer, he really wanted to screen-share so he could see what was happening on my computer, but the connection wouldn’t work.
Because he couldn’t see my screen, he continued to ask me every minute or so what the status was on the progress bar. Finally, I said something like, “Look, asking me about it isn’t going to speed up the process. Feel free to work on something else, and I’ll let you know when it’s done.”
Did he think when it was done I would say nothing?
Then it struck me. We do the same with God.
After my grandfather died years ago, I planted an oak tree in his memory in our front yard. The skinny stem stood only 8 feet tall (like Granddad did). I planted it on a windy day.
(By Almonroth. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
A few hours later, my neighbor hollered: “Hey, Wayne, your tree was really leaning over in the wind!” I grabbed the trunk and slightly bent the tree over. The whole base moved, because it had no root system yet. So I staked it down.
Two years later when I bent the tree, the base didn’t move. But you know what? The tree looked the same. No visible change. Its goal for its first two years was its roots, not its limbs and leaves.
That little sprig offers a contrast (and a lesson) to you and me.
If you’d like a journey of inspiration, pick up the brief Autobiography of George Muller. You’ll find yourself amazed at God and encouraged to pray more.
(Photo: George Muller)
More than once, I’ve read the journal of George Muller. I return to it when I need some encouragement to pray and trust God with the impossible.
After my last read, I decided it was time to write down some good takeaways from Muller’s life that I could apply.
I’ll share them with you.
The strength of a man’s virtue must not be measured by his efforts, but by his ordinary life.
Okay, let’s make a quick list. If you had to write down what you need, what would top your list? Let me take a stab at what you might write.
(Photo: courtesy of ooomf)
If you’re like most folks, your list of what you need may read something like this:
- I need a new iPhone, Android, techie-whatever.
- I need more money and more time.
- I need my spouse to listen to me.
- I need more respect at work.
- I need a friend.
What DO you need? Ask that question to ten different people, you’ll likely get eleven different answers. But your needs aren’t subjective.
God has revealed what you need.
Life is full of moments that expose our doubts. In spite of all the Scripture we’ve learned and all the past victories the Lord has given us, occasionally something will happen that causes serious doubt.
Maybe it’s a financial situation that undercuts future security. It might be a miserable marriage. Perhaps it’s a pastor or a leader who has failed. Maybe it’s our own failure.
Whatever the reason, seasons of doubts and confusion can come even to the most committed followers of Jesus:
- John the Baptist struggled with doubts about his own beliefs about Jesus (Matt. 11:2-3).
- The apostle Thomas found the resurrection of Christ something he had to see before he’d believe (John 20:25).
- Some of the disciples had doubts about Jesus’ appearing to them, even at the Great Commission (Matt. 28:17).
I confess, I’ve had my doubts as well. Sometimes circumstances literally demanded I doubt God.
I will never forget one evening during my first few days in Jerusalem. A simple walk gave me an essential reminder that helped relieve my doubts.