Author: menwhobelieve

I hate death

The recent murders in Aurora have reminded me that I hate death.  It screams of an inherent wrongness.  It is counter intuitive to the relational wiring of who we are as humans.  You hear it shouted through the words of Rebecca Wingo’s father when he wrote an emotional Facebook post in the aftermath of his daughter’s appalling death.

“I lost my daughter yesterday to a madman, my grief right now is inconsolable, I hear she died instantly, without pain, however the pain is unbearable.  Lord why, why, why????,” wrote Steve Hernandez.

We were never created to experience the tragedy and separation of death.  Yet we are stuck in a cosmic paradox.  As spiritual beings we are meant for eternity.  Yet our eternal spirits reside in fading flesh.  A flesh that suffers the results of sin, sickness and the evil that Man may perpetrate on a daily basis. 

From birth forward we pursue, chase and embrace relational connection.  While at the same time drawing closer, day by day, to the moment of our own passing.  This is not how it was meant to be.  We were intended for unbroken union.  Union with one another and union with a loving God.  At worst we were intended for “see you later”.

Officiating many funerals over the years, the one unifying factor is the power of relationships.  Rich, poor, young, old; relationships are what connect us.  They add value to our present.  They define us.  When they are taken from us, they are what injure us the most.  Even when death brings a release to those suffering through horrible pain or disease, it still feels inherently wrong.

I find hope though in a God who understands the contrariness of death. He is intimately acquainted with the earth shattering power of abruptly severed relationships.  Jesus’ death on the cross represented the only time in eternal history when the Trinity was severed.  In the moment that Christ drank full from the cup of sin and death the relationship between He and the Father was broken.  Where there was once unity and oneness, separation and death took their place.  Thankfully, Jesus emerged victorious from the tomb having defeated death and now offers that same victory to all who trust in Him.

The victory of the empty tomb reminds me that death does not have the final say.  It reminds me that Jesus has made a way to lovingly restore the relationships that death attempts to take from us.

Revelation 21:3-4 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Yes, I do hate death.  It is tragic, painful and heartless.  But I praise God that it does not have the final word.  Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross demonstrates God’s compassionate understanding of the unnatural tragedy of death.  Death is in fact “unnatural”.  It is not what was intended.  What a great battle is lost when we acquiesce to the lie that death is part of the natural order of life. 

Life is the natural order. 

God’s every act is to restore what sin and Satan have broken.  Jesus said, “I have come to give you life.  Life abundantly!”  It is this hope, this restoration of relationships, this redemption of present pain that carries me through to the time when all will be restored to its natural order.  Please join me in praying for all those impacted by the senseless killings that they would experience restoration and redemption.

Joel Thomas

speaking well of your spouse

After years of counseling many couples, my wife and I have developed a handful of anecdotal analytics based on the answers to simple questions that help assess the health of a marriage.  In no particular order they are:

  1. Do you assume the best in your spouse during times of conflict?
  2. Do you consistently affirm what is true to your partner?
  3. Do you leave the past in the past?
  4. Do you trust that your spouse speaks well of you to others?

In a future post I’ll peal back the intent and impact of each of these questions.  For today though I want to focus on question four.  How you and your spouse speak of each other reveals loads about your character and care for one another.  In “Christianese” it is the loudest witness your marriage makes in the world.  James 3:5-6 has this to say of the power of our words,

5So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. 6And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself.  NLT

Therefore we stand an enormous amount to gain when we “tame our tongues” and speak well of our spouses.  I recently read a great article by Michael Hyatt that speaks wonderfully to this very issue.  Allow his words to both inform and transform the way you speak about your wife to others. 

Joel Thomas


As a leader, the health of your marriage directly affects the impact of your leadership. I have witnessed this time and time again. Being effective at work or in ministry begins by being effective at home.

Early in our marriage, Gail and I attended a church led by a dynamic, thirty-something pastor. He was an extraordinary communicator. He was a wise and empathetic counselor. As a result, the church grew rapidly.

But as we got better acquainted with him and his wife, we started noticing a disturbing trend in the way they related to one another. They would often make disparaging remarks about the other in public.

At first, it seemed cute. Their comments seemed playful and humorous. Everyone laughed. But over time, they became more and more pointed, thinly masking their frustration with one another.

We ultimately left that church. But several years later we learned they suffered an ugly divorce, both admitting to multiple affairs. They lost their family, and, of course, their ministry. To this day, it grieves me to think about it.

Conversely, I noticed that Sam Moore, my predecessor at Thomas Nelson, always spoke highly of his wife. He would often say, “I hate to leave her in the morning, and I can’t wait to see her in the evening.” They have been married now for nearly 60 years. Last time Gail and I were with them, they were holding hands. It was obvious they were still in love.

In reflecting on these two experiences, I am convinced that praising your spouse in public is one of the most important investments you can make—in your family and in your leadership.

This is important for at least five reasons:

1.You get more of what you affirm. Have you ever noticed that when someone praises you, you want to repeat the behavior that caused it? This is just human nature. It can be a form of manipulation if it isn’t genuine. But it can be a powerful way to motivate others when it is authentic.

  1. Affirmation shifts your attitude toward your spouse. Words are powerful tools. They can create, or they can destroy. They can build up, or they can tear down. I believe most people have a drive to align their actions—and their attitudes—with their words. If you start speaking well of someone, you start believing what you say.
  2. Affirmation helps strengthen your spouse’s best qualities. Encouragement is also a powerful force for good. All of us need positive reinforcement. This is why when we are losing weight and people notice, it gives us the strength to stick with the program. This is true in every area of life.
  3. Affirmation wards off the temptation of adultery. When others see you are happily married, they are less likely to proposition you. It’s like a hedge that protects your marriage from would-be predators. You simply stop being a target.

5.Affirmation provides a model to those you lead. To be a truly effective leader, you must lead yourself, and then you must lead your family. Your marriage is a powerful visual of how you treat the people you value the most. When you speak highly of your spouse, your followers are more likely to trust you. It takes your leadership to another level.

Affirming your spouse in public is an investment that pays big leadership dividends. In a world where fewer and fewer marriages last, it can be a difference-maker.

Question: How have you seen this play out in the lives of those who have led you?

You can read more from Michael Hyatt by clicking the following link:



Lessons (re)Learned

Last week my wife and I said, “See you later” to one of our favorite couples.  They boarded a flight Thursday morning that ended up taking them and their two-year-old son to Chang Mai, Thailand.  They will be living and working there as missionaries for at least the next three years.  It has been an honor and a blessing to help mentor and pray for them as they have prepared for this new season.  Over the weekend I took some time to reflect on their journey and decided to share two lessons I was reminded of along the way.

1.  Complete the last thing you know God asked you to do.

So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Deuteronomy 5:32

Three years ago Nate and I were sitting at a local coffee shop and he was visibly frustrated.  His tension seemed to pour out of him like thick espresso.  He knew clearly that God had called he and his family to live and work oversees; yet here he was “stuck in Denver”.  Not moving forward with this dream was eating him up inside.  We would talk often throughout the week about how difficult it was living day in and day out feeling like he was wasting his time.  Yet as we dug deeper I came to understand that God had asked Nate to complete his degree before moving forward.  It became more and more clear to both of us that God had a specific order to His plan to send Nate and his family oversees.  First things first.  Nate needed to finish his schooling before God would open the doors to the next season of ministry.  Once Nate came to terms with this he was able to push himself forward, finish his degree and complete the last thing he knew God had asked him to do.  Amazingly, within weeks of graduating, God opened doors for Nate and his family to come on board with IMB (International Mission Board).  Nate’s years completing his studies was not wasted time.  It was an intentional part of God’s preparation for the next step in his journey of faith.

Too often I have tried to force God’s timing rather than focusing on the last thing I knew he asked me to do.  Greatness in the Kingdom depends on our willingness to maintain a disciplined focus on the specific tasks God has placed before us.  Sometimes, the most proactive response is to put our head down and complete the current task in front of us.

QUESTION: What is the last thing you knew God asked you to do?

2.  Pursue unity in your marriage when making decisions.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.             Genesis 2:24

Once Nate’s degree was completed, God began opening very specific doors for He and his family to come on staff with IMB.  As they progressed through the process they were presented with several places they could serve internationally.  With options though, came disagreements.  Nothing major, but significant enough to create some tension in the marriage.  There were times when Nate was tempted to push through his idea, his vision and his timing.  To his credit, he chose the wiser path.  Any time there was disagreement or discord, he chose to wait and pray it through.  The level of decisions they were facing was of such a scope they needed to be made in unity and harmony.  He may have been able to push his will through, but instead he chose to wait and engage his wife fully in each decision.  His approach proved to be a good one.  Choosing patience and prayer allowed him to honor his wife and leave room for the Holy Spirit to bring greater unity in their marriage.

This is such a great lesson for husbands to learn.  Many times in my marriage I have pressed ahead without the full “buy in” of my wife.  Never has this strategy proved beneficial.  Biblically and spiritually speaking, once you are married God sees you as one.  His desire is that you act as one.  Therefore when you reach an intersection with your spouse—and there is no agreement—the first response should be to pray and wait.  If your wife is seeking God’s will as you are, then trust Him to speak to her as He has to you.  Avoid playing the part of the Holy Spirit.  Just as it would be destructive for your arm to move in one direction and your leg to move in another, it is also destructive to move in opposition to the oneness you share with your wife.

QUESTION: How can you better seek unity when wrestling through decisions with your wife?

Joel Thomas

A Father’s last wish

After reflecting on Father’s Day I wanted to share a short story I came across from the Gideon’s.  It is a terrific reminder both of the power of God’s Word, and the power a father has in the life of his children.

There was a young Colombian Girl who received a new testament in her school. She read the New Testament until one day her father caught her reading it…and told her not to read it any more because it was full of lies and fantasy.  


But the girl kept on reading until one day her father came home unexpectedly and found her with the New Testament.  Without a word he grabbed it from her hands and put it in his pocket.  


The next day the father went off to work where he was a mining engineer. Several hours later sirens went off in the community announcing that there had been a cave in at the mine. The father—along with all the other men—was trapped. Rescue workers took 5 days to reach the men, but it was too late. All 31 men died including the father of this little girl.  


Curiously, workers found the man clutching the New Testament between his hands.  When they opened the front cover they read a note, “To my daughter – Keep reading this New Testament, it is true and right, and I will see you one day in heaven.”  Then they turned to the back page where the father had signed the commitment card after having said the sinner’s prayer.  George Rennau

I want you to notice something important in this story; the father chose to lead his child in matters of faith – even in his death.  His last thoughts were not of sorrow or fear; they were of how to hand down his fresh new faith to his child.  We have been called as men of God to reproduce Christ like vision, values and beliefs in our children.  The question then becomes, will you (and I) fulfill our God given responsibilities to lead our families in matters of faith?  

In the ancient world the whole household followed the religion of the father; and the father lead their whole household in worship toward God.  Are you and I willing to accept this challenge and lead our households?  My prayer is that on this Father’s Day, each of us would boldly declare as Joshua did, “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)


“You will achieve the things you celebrate.”

My wife read this quote to me a couple years ago.  Unfortunately neither one of us can remember who said it.  Yet it has become a phrase that I revisit weekly, if not daily.  I am regularly asking myself how I can spend more time celebrating things in my life.

This principle is so true as to be almost lost in its simplicity.  It is such a basic truth that experts tell us it is the preferred way to train dogs.  As attractive and cathartic as a rolled up newspaper and a raised voice may be in response to your pet’s bad behavior, they will learn faster (and easier) if we praise them when they act as we have instructed.  Positive affirmation always trumps negative reinforcement.  This is the case with dogs and is overwhelmingly true when applied to human interactions.

I think of my kids.  I can choose to expend lots of energy feeling frustrated by their poor choices, and then take that frustration out on them.  Or I can recognize the many positive steps they’ve made and choose to celebrate them.  It is refreshing and humbling when I decide to go with the latter.  Celebrating their small steps forward honors them, disarms me and lays a solid foundation for future conversations.

I could go on and give examples where this principle has worked in my marriage, at work, with my neighbors and so on.  Rather than do that, I want to hear from you.  Leave a comment and share how celebrating a moment has led to greater achievement or deepening relationship.

. . .but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found! Luke 15:32 MSG

Joel Thomas

closed, open, or free?

How we respond to difficult situations often defines us and reveals the truth of our character.  The two responses I have heard frequently described are the “closed fist”, and the “open hand”.

Closed Fist –

This is our default stance.  This is about our perceived sense of control.  There are many reasons that this approach is wrong and unhealthy.  The bottom line though, is that attempting to close ranks around our issues and control them through a closed fist response is based on faulty reasoning.  Stated simply—control is a lie.  We do not control the situations in our life.  We are fully deceived if we think otherwise.  Attempting to “take control” of our situations is to attempt to knock God off His throne.  No amount of grasping will move Christ off His position as Sovereign over all creation.  I bring into question His reign and His right to rule when I attempt—lamely I might add—to control my circumstances.  Christ alone is in control.  He is unshaken, undeterred and not confused in regards to His role in my life.  Attempts at control only exhaust me and distract me from the trust I must place in the Father’s hands.

Open Hand –

I have heard this phrase time and again from many Godly mentors.  The theory is that my trust will be most fully displayed when I release my grip on what weighs me down.  Uncurling our fingers from around our greatest anxieties and fears is a cathartic exercise that provides greater opportunity for the Father to minister to our needs.  And yet, an open hand is a level of control.  There is still a lie at work in the Open Hand approach.  We are tempted to pat ourselves on the back at our trust and faithfulness from unclenching our fists from around our concerns.  Yet the truth is that we are still connected.  By very definition, an open hand is still holding the weight of whatever the fist was clinging to.  Have we given Jesus more access to our concerns?  Yes.  But we have not ceased to carry the burden.

There is a better way.  A way of freedom.  A way of true release and faith.

Hands Off –

This approach is excruciating.  It is the final step towards our release from anxiety and fear.  Letting go.  Completely.  The Hands Off approach is coming to the throne of the King and submitting our past, present and future entirely to Him.  It is the final step toward real freedom.  Removing our hands transforms our fears into offerings.  We leave them with the Father and walk away in the freedom, faith and joy that He will work all things for our ultimate benefit.

Where are your hands today?  Clenched?  Open?  Or free?

Joel Thomas

Are you convinced?

It has been a couple of weeks since Easter and I find myself reflecting on how the resurrection transformed those that witnessed it.  From the women who encountered the empty tomb to the Apostle Thomas’ reaction to the risen Jesus, the resurrection dramatically altered those that embraced its truth.

Transparent struggling seems to be a growing trend among Christian leaders.  There can be inherent power in a leader’s willingness to step out from their façade and admit the private questionings and doubts that plague them.  Unfortunately we have blurred the lines between honoring transparency and celebrating doubts.  In the past couple of weeks I’ve heard leaders share how they are: uncertain if Heaven is a reality, uncertain if the Resurrection was bodily or metaphorical, and uncertain if a literal Hell awaits those that refuse the free gift of salvation.  This is troubling for many reasons.

As leaders we are called to shepherd well.  If the shepherd is uncertain where to find clean water or fresh pastures, or uncertain how to protect the flock from predators—then he is not ready to be a shepherd.   He needs to gain more experience.

Look at the example of the Apostle Thomas.  When he hears that Jesus has risen from the dead, he has doubts.  Reasonable doubts.  What he hears from the other disciples is mysterious and outside his personal experience.  We can all appreciate and empathize with his response.

They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”  John 20:25 NLT

I can relate to Thomas.  It wasn’t like resurrections were a common occurrence.  These were fantastic claims.  It is easy to brand Thomas as a weak believer but he is not a bad guy.  He is merely honest about his need to experience first hand what the others had already experienced.  He is committed, but not yet convinced.  He is committed to the teachings of Christ but has yet to have a personal encounter with the risen LORD.  This changes eight days later.

Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them.  The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them.  He said, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands.  Put your hand into the wound in my side.  Don’t be faithless any longer.  Believe!”  “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. John 20:26-28 NLT

Thomas has an almost involuntary response to his personal experience with the risen Christ.  “My Lord and my God!”  It is as though these words leap from his chest unrestrained.  Thomas has moved from committed to convinced.  History tells us that shortly after this experience, Thomas headed off to India and spent the rest of his life sharing the Gospel and testifying to the truth of the resurrection.  That is what conviction and certainty will do in our lives.

Moving from committed believers to convinced followers demands action.  Certainty of our core convictions becomes the fuel that ignites our passions and drives us to share our story of transformation with others.  Please do not misunderstand me.  There is much I do not fully understand about my faith.  I don’t understand how Jesus can be fully God and fully man.  I don’t understand how my prayers affect and interact with an omniscient and omnipotent God.  I don’t always grasp the power of the Holy Spirit in my daily life.  These are not doubts though.  They are mysteries.  Mysteries that point to a much larger and grander picture of redemption than my five senses are able to grasp.

Transparency is a laudable trait for leaders and pastors.  We need to be intentional and avoid speaking from pedestals.  Yet our positions require us to lead with certainty and conviction.  If there are core issues of faith that you are uncertain of, or unconvinced of, then take the example of the Apostle Thomas and share boldly with God what it will take to convince you.  Jesus was gracious to provide Thomas with the certainty he needed.  He has been equally gracious to me and will be for you.

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 29:13-14 NIV

Joel Thomas

Turning Points

Turning points.  A point at which a decisive change takes place.  A critical point.  A crisis point.

There are many such points littered throughout history.  Shots fired at Fort Sumter on April 12th, 1861 that began the US Civil War.  Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany launching The Reformation.  Adolf Hitler’s choice to invade Poland in 1939 that led to World War II.  Rosa Parks’ unwillingness to give up her seat to a white person on December 1st, 1955 that began the Civil Rights struggle in earnest.  All are examples of profound turning points in US and world history.

Interestingly though is that very few, if any contemporaries understood the importance of these moments at the time.  They did not have the benefit of historic hindsight with which to evaluate these powerful moments.  Rosa Parks, for example, did not set out that day to initiate a countrywide Civil Rights movement.  She was simply tired of putting up with injustice and discrimination in her own life.  The world never anticipated the blood-drenched repercussions of Hitler’s invasion of Poland.  Turning Points are notoriously difficult to anticipate.

Maybe that is why the disciples were unable to grasp the enormity of their final Passover meal with Jesus.  After spending three years together, they had shared this meal at least once, if not twice before.  It was special, as the Passover was to all Jews; but not history changing.  The disciples did not appreciate nor understand that they were rounding the corner on the most important Friday in cosmic history.  Jesus’ institution of a new covenant—“This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood”—along with a new commandment—“do this in remembrance of me”—was met with shrugs and general confusion.  The greatest Turning Point of all time was not appreciated by those present at the turning.  The disciples were so unfazed by Jesus’ new instructions that immediately following this new Holy Communion, they began bickering over who of them would be greatest in the Kingdom.

You and I however share the benefit of history.  We know about the excruciating sacrifice of that first Good Friday, the sadness and confusion of that Saturday and the holy unrestrained joy of the first Resurrection Sunday.  We cannot claim ignorance of the power and importance of this most preeminent of Turning Points.  The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the fulcrum that all of creation turns upon.  Do not let this weekend, this yearly commemoration pass you idly by.  Honor and bless the LORD by spending all the time necessary to soak in the potent meaning of His death and resurrection.

The marvel of heaven and earth, of time and eternity, is the atoning death of Jesus Christ. This is the mystery that brings more glory to God than all creation.   C. H. Spurgeon

Joel Thomas

Hiking ahead

Last weekend I went on a backcountry snowboarding trip to Fowler hut with a guy I’ve been mentoring and his younger brother.  Fowler hut sits at 11,500ft and is a five and a half mile hike from the trailhead.  That’s not typically a bad hike.  What I overlooked though was the more than 2500 vertical feet we would be climbing while carrying all our food and gear for three days.  It turned into a fairly grueling uphill slog.

After about three hours we trudged through the last pines onto a traverse just above tree line.  I was tired.  More than that, I was frustrated and annoyed.  I had struggled (and failed) the entire hike to reposition my pack so that it rode on my hips and not my shoulders.  My shoulders felt like someone had taken a cheese grater to them, then slowly smeared fresh lemon juice into the raw skin.  Needless to say, I was ready to get to the hut and take off my pack.

On the traverse we met up with members of the group we would be sharing the hut with.  They were feeling the effects of the steep climb and had pulled back to a slow plod.  Leaving one from our group with them, I turned to Jeff (the younger brother) and said, “I’m ready to be there.  Let’s get after it and knock this thing out.”  He agreed wholeheartedly and we took off.  Pain, frustration and weariness became the fuel for our final push to the hut.

Off the traverse we came down into a saddle around 11,000ft. and were presented with a choice.  Turn right, or turn left.  There were an equal number of tracks in either direction.  Jeff and I knew that the hut was just a few hundred feet down from this saddle.  But we didn’t know which direction.  The guys behind us were the only ones with a map.  Driven to get to the hut, and not wanting to wait for or hike back to the other folks, we made a choice to go left.  We pushed hard for another half mile along some of the sketchiest sections of trail.  Things were not feeling right.  We should have been there by now.  Jeff and I decided to stop and wait for the group to catch up.  No one came by.

After about twenty minutes it became clear that we had ventured off in the wrong direction.  I was angry.  I so badly wanted to be out of the cold blowing snow and in a warm hut without my pack knifing into my shoulders.  Unfortunately, I could only be angry with myself.  No one had forced me to blaze ahead.  I had willingly left those with clear directions behind me.  My impatience and lack of wisdom was biting me viciously in the backside.

Swallowing hard on my pride and irritation I said to Jeff, “We need to turn back around.”  He wasn’t any happier with this decision than I was, but understood the reality of the situation.  So once again, off we set ourselves back up to the saddle.

As we crested over the ridge into the saddle, his brother was standing waiting for us.  Great.  Turning and hiking to the right, the hut came into view shortly and within and few minutes we were all lying down on our beds stretching out our weary muscles.

In my haste and annoyance I had added an additional mile and around forty-five more minutes to the hike.  I had pushed into unknown territory without the benefit of a map.  I ran ahead of those with clear directions.

This is an issue God has been speaking into me for some time.  Last week I read in Numbers 14 the story of how the Israelites rebelled against God’s instruction to move into Canaan.  Moses explains to them that because of their unwillingness to obey, God will allow an entire generation to perish in the desert before they will enter the Promised Land.  The elders of Israel mourned this instruction but then decided to try crossing into the land anyway.

So they got up early the next morning and set out for the hill country of Canaan. “Let’s go,” they said. “We realize that we have sinned, but now we are ready to enter the land the LORD has promised us.” Numbers 14:40

They were ignoring God’s clear instruction.  Moses tries to warn them against getting out in front of God.

But Moses said, “Why are you now disobeying the LORD’s orders to return to the wilderness? It won’t work. Do not go into the land now. You will only be crushed by your enemies because the LORD is not with you.  Numbers 14:41-42

Moses lays it out for them in no uncertain terms.  “It won’t work . . . the LORD is not with you.”  They wouldn’t listen though.  They were frustrated, exhausted and annoyed by their long hike through desert.  They were willing to leave God’s directions behind them if it meant achieving their goal.  The result of their decision is no surprise.

Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the highest point in the hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the LORD’s covenant moved from the camp.  Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah.  Numbers 14:44-45

The Israelites left God’s prophet—Moses—and the physical representation of His presence on Earth—the ark—literally behind them.  They made the most critical error any of us can make, they got out in front of God.

When we run ahead of God we deny His sovereignty and lose the benefits of His instruction and covering.  When we get consumed with our own frustrations, desires and pride we are in danger of running ahead of God.  What did the Amalekites and Canaanites do to the Israelites as a result of their foolishness?  I love this phrase, they “beat them down”.

Foolishly hiking ahead on my way to Fowler hut resulted in more time; more vertical feet and feeling more beat down by the trail.  I had gotten in my own way because of my need to have things on my terms and in my timing.  All of that was avoidable if I had stopped, let go of my desires and wisely stayed close to those with clear directions.

God has clear directions for all of us.  My prayer is that we won’t become distracted and impatient then foolishly run ahead of His will.  If you have moved out in front of God, stop.  Swallow your pride, turn around, retrace your steps and learn to walk alongside the Father.

Joel Thomas

Fat and Happy

Acts 1:8 You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

We are called to be heralds for the King to a dark and unbelieving world.  We are the vessels of “new wine”, of the good news—the Gospel.  It is the King’s divine plan to utilize and mobilize us to expand His message of redemption, peace and joy.  Unfortunately, such a plan is in direct opposition to social entropy.  We—especially as Americans—have mastered the art of finding what is comfortable, and resting there.  We seek out environments that will allow us to feel fat and happy.

This is entirely understandable.  We crave environments where we can be known, accepted and at peace with those around us.  Creating that level of honesty, vulnerability and acceptance takes time.  It takes a high level of relational and emotional investment.  Once we have found such a group, why would we want to leave it?  Why wouldn’t we rest in the warm agreeable embrace of those that know and love us?  We wouldn’t because the expansion of the Kingdom is dependent on our propelling the message outward—to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, “and to the ends of the earth.”

If the Church we read of in the book of Acts had sought only to find a contented equilibrium with its “current” attenders, Christianity would never have expanded and grown.  Most likely, if adopted by the early Church, such an attitude of complacency would have led to a slow fade and eventual eradication of the Gospel. Thankfully that was not their attitude.  Their attitude was that of Christ Jesus when he proclaimed, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

We must battle against our very human need for comfort.  We must seek situations where will be challenged and stretched.  Pursuing situations where we must trust in the leading and blessing of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, if you are in a small group that is large yet unwilling to multiply, it is time to accept the Lord’s instruction to “go into all the world”.  If you are attending a church that seems content to “fortify its walls” rather than “take new ground”, then it is time to challenge others to read, meditate and respond to the instructions of Christ.

God’s will for your group or church is not to get complacent and comfortable with the holy huddle that has formed.  His will is that you would support one another as you faithfully multiply and expand His Kingdom through new relationships.  This can be scary and uncomfortable, but it is an essential part of the world-changing plan of the High King of Heaven.

Joel Thomas