This past Monday, my daughter, Avonlea, turned 1 year old. ONE! It’s crazy how quickly this last year flew by. And it’s been too. much. fun!
I’ve held her.
Changed her diaper.
Given her baths.
Read to her.
Prayed with her.
Laughed with her.
Cheered her on as she learned to crawl.
Tried to keep up with her as she’s learned to walk.
Picked her up after she’s fallen and bumped her head.
Said the phrase “Say _________” hundreds of times as we are teaching her words.
Been amazed by her HUGE personality!
Cleaned up after her mischievous adventures (the picture above shows that quite well).
And I’ve fallen more and more in love with her as each day passes.
She’s my “Avie Rose.”
The last couple of weeks I’ve noticed 2 new things.
First, I’ve repeated a tiny, 2-letter word more than any other time in my life. Every parent knows which word I’m talking about.
And the funny thing is, I’ve had to say “No” in connection with other words I rarely had to before.
Toilet. Toilet paper. Outside. Leaves. Eat. Mouth. Etc.
You get the picture.
Second, Avonlea isn’t just developing mentally and physically, she’s developing her will. That precious gift given to us by God to freely use. That ability to make choices. To act and react. Yup. She’s learning that quickly. And I knew it would come, although I, like every naive first-time parent, thought it wouldn’t be as pronounced with my child. Ha!
With those 2 things in mind, get this story. It was dinner time and we had all 3 sat down at the table. Rachel and I began to eat, but Avonlea’s food was still a bit too hot. As Avonlea reached for her food, I pulled it back and said to her “Not yet, Avonlea. It’s too hot.” She got distracted by something and maybe 15 seconds later reached for it again. It was out of her reach this time and she was growing frustrated as she strained for it. I looked at her and said in a serious, slightly raised and concerned voice, “No.” She immediately started crying and then made a face that I’m pretty sure had we been filming could have won her an Oscar. It was dramatic to say the least!
I was shocked by her ridiculous reaction to that 2-letter word. Rachel and I both laughed a bit, as we watched Avonlea transform into a drama queen. And then I quickly became bothered by it all. I thought, “I know she’s only 1, but shouldn’t she be obeying me when I ask her to do something? I mean doesn’t she love me? And not only doesn’t she obey me, but she gets upset at me for just saying ‘No.’ And not just upset, but in tears. I’m not even mad at her. What’s going on?”
As I began to rationalize with my 1 year old, I was immediately confronted by how I react when God says “No” to me.
Have you ever been there?
Maybe you’ve prayed for something and the answer, by way of the prayer not going your way, seems to be “No.”
Maybe you see what everyone else is doing around you and you want to do it, but it goes against a verse in the Bible where God has said “No” to doing that very thing, and you get angry.
Maybe it “feels right” to do what you are being enticed to do, but you know God has said “No” to doing it. Maybe you give in.
Maybe you feel stuck in this season of life and there is a shortcut you could say “yes” to, but God is saying “no.”
Maybe you want to do something right now, in the moment, but God is saying “No. Later is better. Wait. Be patient”
Maybe you are tired of even considering following God, because you feel he’s all about the rules. He’s judgmental. And the answer is always “no.”
Let’s be real: maybe you’re done feeling guilty for doing what everyone else seems perfectly content doing. And if God would just get out of your conscience life would be much easier. You could watch porn, have pre-marital sex, lie, cheat, steal, etc. with no worries.
If any of these describe you, I’m with you. I’ve been there. But hold on, take a deep breath and keep reading.
In each moment we all ideally want all of our desires to be answered “yes” and for that “yes” to not be delayed. We want what we want right now. Immediate gratification is the name of the game. And daily we are marketed to in countless ways with messages that reinforce our desires: “You deserve it. Take all you want. Enjoy it. No boundaries. Don’t wait. Do it now. The answer is ‘yes.'”
The scary things is there are obvious consequences to this way of thinking and living.
The scarier thing is since God doesn’t at all operate like this, we often get upset with him, see his answers as irrelevant and irrational, and in the end, see no need for him at all.
What we are really doing is distrusting God’s character. And we are missing out on a much better life.
What if the next time God says “No” to your desire, you stopped and considered that maybe he knows something that you don’t? Maybe he knows what’s best for you and a “No” answer is exactly what you need.
When I was in seminary, one of my professor’s said this: “God’s commandments are to keep us from something bad and to save us for something better.”
That has stuck with me to this day. And I believe it always will.
When God says “No,” he is not trying to make your life miserable. He is not trying to make you miss out on what everyone else is doing. He is not punishing you. He is not trying to put fear in you. He is not mad at you. He is not trying to give you unattainable standards. He is not all about rules.
He actually cares about your life more than you or I ever will.
When I said “No” to Avonlea eating the hot food it was because at my core, I wanted what was best for her. I didn’t want her to get burnt and I wanted her to enjoy her food at the right time. It was an act of grace for me to warn her and give her boundaries.
Have you ever considered it’s the same way with God?
So, the next time God says “No” to something in your life, remind yourself of 3 things:
1. God wants what’s best for me.
2. God wants to keep me from something bad.
3. God wants to save me for something better.
Then obey his “No” and see how that works out for you. I’m betting it goes better than obeying your own “yes.”
Last week I had the privilege of attending the Exponential East conference in Tampa. Exponential is a conference dedicated to church planting and multiplication. Rather than each local church focusing solely on getting larger, this conference desires that more churches are planted, campuses are launched, leaders are developed, etc., so more people can be reached for Christ. It’s about the capital “C” Church (the Kingdom) growing. Pretty sweet.
With that said, Exponential invited over 175 speakers (not just the big name Christian leaders in America, but little known leaders from around the world who are making a significant impact) and offered 150+ workshops that complemented the conference objective. I attended workshops on discipleship, evangelism, leadership, creativity, vision, being missional, cultural engagement and much more. To say I was mentally drained after the week is an understatement. But it was sooo good! It was refreshing. And it stretched and challenged me in just about every way I could be, which is always healthy.
Since the majority of you who read this were not at the conference, I wanted to give you a taste of some of the content in a tweetable format. If you’re a church leader you’ll eat this up. If you’re not, it should be encouraging to you that leaders are having these worthwhile conversations.
Here are my top 25 quotes from the week!
1. There are 3 reasons people don’t share their faith: 1) Fear. 2) They aren’t passionate about Jesus. 3) They haven’t seen Jesus “work” for them in their life. – Jeff Vanderstelt
2. Christians who are seeking another Bible study to fill their time are normally just using that as a substitution for obedience to God. – Jeff Vanderstelt
3. You choose who you lose. Stop worrying about making everyone happy. Instead, make the right people unhappy. – Steve Stroope
4. Does your prayer life match the responsibility God has entrusted to you? – Joby Martin
5. Passion moves people’s hearts, not rightly exegeted texts. – Shawn Lovejoy
6. Your role as a leader is to raise up other leaders. It’s not about you just sitting in an office and coming up with ideas. – JD Greear
7. You want your team to have buy in not just compliance. – Steve Stroope
8. The best vision is a shared vision. Let other people contribute to its development and then let them own it and run with it. – JD Greear
9. We have to care more about how our people are doing than what they are doing for us. – Joby Martin
10. The stuff that wears you out and that you aren’t good at is someone else’s unique ability. Learn to delegate. – Steve Stroope
11. Leadership is anticipation. It’s solving problems before anybody knows there is a problem. – Steve Stroope
12. The cross is not a tragedy it’s a strategy for His kingdom come. – Danielle Strickland
13. What if the lack of growth of the American church has more to do with the leader’s idolatry of success and bigger buildings than it does with the hard hearts of the people? – JD Greear
14. People aren’t primarily moved or changed by bullet points or sermons. They are changed when you give them a different story to live into. – Michael Frost
15. God captures not by force, but by the imagination of his fallen creatures. – Michael Frost
16. “What we need in America is multiplied weakness; tear filled pastors.” – Derwin Gray
17. Encoded into the DNA of suburban American is “be safe”, “build houses,” “renovate your kitchen,” “send your kids to the best schools.” Left to their own devices they will be sucked into the American dream. The only thing that will draw them out is story….Stop only telling people that Jesus died on the cross for their sins. Tell them what it could look like if they lived like Jesus. Tell them the story of God and what it could look like if they saw heaven. – Michael Frost
18. We often never become who God has created us to be because we allow ourselves to be who everyone expects us to be. – Dave Rhodes
19. Influence is what happens when everyone is gathered. Impact is what happens when everyone is scattered. – Dave Rhodes
20. Jesus didn’t just come and die on a cross. He lived before us. Why? To show us how to live. – Hugh Halter
21. Close proximity to people doesn’t mean you condone their behavior. It just means you are with them like Jesus was. – Hugh Halter
22. To be self-righteous is to think that others’ sins are worse than yours. – Hugh Halter
23. In today’s world nobody belongs anywhere because everybody belongs everywhere. – Michael Frost
24. A transactional gospel translates to people who don’t need discipleship. It’s simply a transaction. I receive Christ and I get out of hell. We need to recover the full gospel. Follow me. Come and die. It’s all of life. – Bobby Harrington
25. Jesus is not a footnote to our story. He is the story. – Derwin Gray