Read an Excerpt
The Best of God is in the Small Stuff
By Bruce Bickel, Stan Jantz
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz
All rights reserved.
UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF GOD
Who is God? Is He a mystery to you? Do you want to know Him better? Maybe you wonder if God even exists. That's okay. People have wondered about God for as long as ... well, for as long as there have been people. They wonder if He's really out there. They wonder if He made the world and everything in it. And if He did, they wonder if God still cares about what's going on.
Perhaps you've gotten past all of those questions. You definitely believe in God, but you don't know Him. You don't understand His nature—in other words, His personality. You aren't alone. For many people—even those who claim to be religious—the nature of God is a mystery. It's like God is behind some dark cloud, occasionally speaking in a deep voice to prophets and such (you know, like He spoke to Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments). Other people think God wants to prevent them from having a good time. If they get close to God, they're afraid they'll have to give up their freedom.
While it's true there are things about God we'll never know (after all, He is God), there are many things we can know. For example, when we look at our universe—whether it's through a microscope, a telescope, or the naked eye—we observe incredible design and order and beauty. That means the Designer (that would be God) must be a Being of design and order and beauty. And He must be pretty powerful.
When we look at ourselves and see that we all have some idea about God (even when you deny God exists, you have to think about Him), that means the Creator (God again) put that idea in us. Yet God is more than an idea. He is more than a symbol for good or an impersonal "higher being." God is a very real spirit Being who has always existed in the past, who exists now, and who will always exist in the future. God is personal. God is involved in our world. And God has revealed His nature to us. All we have to do is stop, look, and listen.
... In The Small Stuff
God will never send a thirsty soul to a dry well.
God is more likely to speak to you with a gentle whisper than with a loud voice.
The times when you need God the most are when you don't think you need Him.CHAPTER 2
GET TO KNOW GOD BETTER
Does God seem distant? Is He detached from you? Maybe that's because you are waiting for God to come to you. If so, then you've got things backward.
God has given us His Word, His Son, and His Spirit. That is more than we will ever need in order to understand God (and certainly more than we can absorb in a lifetime). But the next step belongs to each of us. It's up to us to read God's Word, to believe in His Son, and to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
You see, God is a perfect gentleman. He never forces Himself on anyone. He anxiously desires a deep and meaningful personal relationship with you, but He won't force the issue. It must be voluntary on your part. So, if you want to get to know God better, you must approach Him. When
Jesus taught about this principle, He presented the relationship as an invitation:
Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.
Revelation 3:20 NLT
God makes Himself available, but you must respond to His invitation. Take Him at His Word. Go to Him. Open the door of your heart to Him.
You don't have to move to a monastery to know God better. You don't have to learn ancient Hebrew or memorize the names of the twelve disciples in alphabetical order. All it takes is your time and attention—reading His Word and talking to Him. Start with a few minutes each day, and grow from there. You don't have to call to schedule an appointment. He has already extended the invitation, and He's waiting for you to respond.
... In the Small Stuff
Rather than worry about what you don't know about God, concentrate on what you do know.
You begin to seek God for who He is when you stop seeking Him for what He can do for you.
Have a passion for God and compassion for people.CHAPTER 3
REALIZE THAT GOD LOVES YOU
Love is a powerful emotion, perhaps the strongest of human emotions. People will go to great lengths to express love, and they will do almost anything to get love. So if love is in such demand, why does it seem in such short supply? To paraphrase the song, "Why is love the only thing that there's just too little of?"
The problem with human love is that it's usually self-centered. Much of the so-called love we feel could be summarized by the phrase, "What's in it for me?" We may think we love someone, but in reality we may simply love what he or she does for us.
The great writer C. S. Lewis identified four different kinds of love, all but one of which are basically self-centered. First, there's affection, which is the kind of love we can have for something other than people, such as a dog or a home or a car. Then there's friendship, a valuable love in the sense that it's the basis of most human relationships. And there's erotic love, which is beautiful between a husband and wife but a mess outside of married love. All of these are wonderful and necessary loves, but each of them depends on the object of our affection for complete fulfillment.
The only love that is completely other-centered is called agape love. This is love of the highest order. It's what Lewis called "Divine Gift-Love." When we love with agape love, we desire the best for the people we love. We are even able to love those who are unlovable.
We are capable of agape love only to the extent that we give the details of our lives over to God and allow Him to work in us. But even before that can happen, we must realize that God loves us, and that He can only love us with this kind of love. God's love is never self-centered, and God's love is always sacrificial. While we were enemies of God, He loved us. When we ran from God, He loved us. And He loved us so much that He sacrificed the Son He loved most so that we could experience eternal life.
Love is the essence of God. Love is what motivates Him to do what He does for us—down to the last detail—even when we don't love Him in return. Knowing that should give tremendous meaning to our lives.
... In the Small Stuff
Whenever you feel insignificant, remember how important you are to God.
We love God because we know who He is. God loves us despite who we are.
God's unconditional love for us should motivate us to love others unconditionally.CHAPTER 4
YOU CAN KNOW GOD'S WILL
God's will is a paradox. It's both easy to find and difficult to discern. God's will can be immediate, or it may take years to figure out. God's will can frustrate you or give you tremendous peace.
One thing is for sure. You can know God's will. Although it may seem mysterious, there's really no mystery to it. If you know where to look, God's will is there. And if you listen carefully, God will speak to you in amazing ways.
First of all, God speaks through His Word, the Bible. Everything we need for living a life that pleases God—and what could be more in His will than that?—is in the Bible. As you get to know God's Word, you will get to know God's will.
Second, God speaks through your own judgment and common sense. But beware. Your decisions will line up with God's will only if you know God personally in the first place, and then only if your relationship with God is right. When you're in this condition, you will operate with "the mind of Christ." The Holy Spirit will guide you from the inside.
Finally, and most commonly, God speaks through the details of your life. Oswald Chambers put it this way: "God speaks in the language you know best—not through your ears but through your circumstances."
You think your life is an accident? Not a chance. You're here for a reason. And what you do matters to God. Everything. Not just the stuff you do in church or Bible study (although that is very important), but in the everyday small stuff. That's where you'll find God's will most often.
Take a look at your life. Think about the moments and events—the details—and see how far you've come. Those "good things" weren't coincidences. You weren't just "lucky." If your heart has followed after God, then God has been leading you, and you have been doing His will, perhaps without even knowing it.
On the other hand, if you feel like life is dealing you one bad hand after another, and you feel sorry for yourself—and you're mad at God—maybe it's time to get back to basics. Take the focus off of yourself and get to know God better by reading His Word, praying, and associating with people who are in God's will. God wants to direct you through the details of your life. Give Him a chance.
... In the Small Stuff
Don't make plans and then ask for the Lord's approval. Ask God to direct your planning.
Remember that God's will is not so much a function of time and place as it is an attitude of the heart.
Circumstances may be outside your control, but the way you respond to them is not.CHAPTER 5
GIVE GOD TIME
If there's one thing we need in the midst of our busy, loud, and nervous lives, it's the inner peace and quiet and assurance that only God can give. It's the only way to see God's purposes for us, let alone keep our sanity.
The thing is, God doesn't yell out and say, "Hey, you're neglecting Me. Sit still for a moment so you can hear Me." Oh, He is fully capable of getting our attention when we really need it, but you don't want to make a habit of giving God a reason to chase you down (and He will).
Rather than waiting for God to whack you over the head with a spiritual two-by-four, wouldn't it be far better to give God some time each day to quietly speak to you? Actually, this is God's preference. "Be silent, and know that I am God!" He says (Psalm 46:10 NLT). Being still may be the hardest thing you will ever do, but it may be the most important. Look at it this way. When you give God time, you show Him respect. In effect you're saying, "God, You're important enough to me to set aside some time each day. I want You to teach me, and I want to learn."
Will God talk to you if you let Him? Most definitely. Not in an audible voice, but through your thoughts and emotions. God also talks through His Word, the Bible. Remember, the Bible is God's voice for us. The only way to hear it is to read it.
The doorway to letting God into the details of your life—into your concerns and dreams—is time. We know this won't be easy. Many other voices will call out for your time and attention, and many of them are worthwhile. But if you want to hear the one Voice who will make all the difference in your life, you'll need to let God in ... quietly.
Ask God to give you the desire to set aside a place and a time just for Him. The details of your life will wait. More than that, they'll take on more meaning when you give them over to God.
... In the Small Stuff
The advantage of meeting God at the same time each day is that you don't have to decide when you are going to do it.
Rising early to meet the Lord gives you a jump on the day. Meeting God at night enables you to reflect on the day. Either option is good.
The time to find moments of stillness and quiet is when it's the most difficult to do so.CHAPTER 6
PRAYER: THE GREAT CONNECTOR
One day the disciples requested of Jesus: "Teach us to pray." Jesus responded by giving them—and us—a marvelous model of prayer. What is so powerful about the Lord's Prayer, as it is known, is its utter simplicity.
Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven. Give us our food for today, and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. And don't let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Matthew 6:9–13 NLT
The key to prayer is to start simply and quietly. That's the idea behind Jesus' model prayer. We need a touchstone, a place to start. Then, as we get to know God better, we will feel comfortable sharing the most intimate details of our lives with Him.
If the Bible is God talking to us, then prayer is us talking to God. It's the primary way of connecting to the infinite, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God. Edward Ferrell wrote that "without prayer, there is no way, no truth, no life." Without prayer, you can never get close to God.
Try it. Start small. Start with the small stuff in your life. Talk to God about it in a quiet, isolated place where your self-consciousness isn't an issue. As you continue daily, your capacity for prayer will grow larger. That's because prayer is like a muscle. If you exercise it regularly, your prayer muscle will gain strength and your appreciation for God will grow immeasurably. On the other hand, if you don't use it, your prayer muscle will shrivel up and your capacity for God will shrink. And in those times of crisis when you suddenly feel compelled to pray, it will likely be a painful experience.
The good news is that God doesn't put conditions on your prayer life. His feelings don't get hurt when you don't pray. But when you do, He connects with you in a powerful way. Try it today. Try it right now. Talk to God. He's listening.
... In the Small Stuff
Prayer without effort will be insincere. Effort without prayer will be ineffective.
If your prayers don't mean anything to you, they mean even less to God.
Prayer involves listening to God as well as speaking to Him.
Excerpted from The Best of God is in the Small Stuff by Bruce Bickel, Stan Jantz. Copyright © 2011 Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.