“You Can Go Your Own Way”

(John 10:11-15) 11 I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd gives up his life for his sheep. 12 Hired workers are not like the shepherd. They don’t own the sheep, and when they see a wolf coming, they run off and leave the sheep. Then the wolf attacks and scatters the flock. 13 Hired workers run away because they don’t care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and they know me. 15 Just as the Father knows me, I know the Father, and I give up my life for my sheep.

Why is it so difficult for us to fully trust the Lord?  We like to say that we do, and sing songs about how we do, but our actions speak otherwise.  In God’s word, we have an unparalleled reference for living — the only truth that exists — yet we continually disregard the guidance and wisdom therein.  Instead of trusting the Good Shepherd, we follow every hired hand that comes along.  We are like magpies…distracted by any and every shiny thing that catches the eye. 

When I was little, I remember seeing a cartoon about the Pied Piper.  As I watched all of the children follow the piper from the town, I was worried and distressed.  I had always been warned and trained by my parents never to trust just anyone…and certainly not a stranger!  I feared for the fictional children on the screen!  Why?  Because I had been taught to know and to trust only the voices of my parents and certain loved ones.  Not everyone has good intentions, and not everyone has wisdom.  People are, because of a natural inclination toward sin, flawed.  People tend to lie, be selfishly motivated, and at times are downright evil.  Not to say that no one is to be trusted in the least, but certainly never more than we trust in our Heavenly Father! 

When you are troubled, what or who do you turn to first?  Do you pray?  Do you open your Bible?  Do you call your parents, or a good friend?  Answer that honestly.  Yes, there are those who are placed over us, in the Lord, as leaders who help provide spiritual guidance, but what good can these people do in your life if you haven’t taken the first and most important steps in seeking out what God has to say? 

9 The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed,

    a refuge in times of trouble.

10 Those who know your name trust in you,

    for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.

(Psalm 9: 9-10)

We have to do our part, stop wandering off so much, and stop placing so much confidence in what the world has to offer!  We must develop some discernment and train our ears to the sound of God’s voice…so that we hear His direction and are able to receive from Him all that is offered and promised to us in His word.  When we seek Him, we will find Him.  We will know His name and His voice.  In seeking Him, we come to trust Him…truly. 

As for me, I don’t want to go my own way.  My way has only proven to lead me into places of sorrow and regret.  My way is a path shrouded in the darkness that is my own ignorance.  Proverbs 3: 5-6 tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” 

You see, we are not simply a job for God to do…something with which to pass His time.  We aren’t borrowed or rented property.  We have been bought with a price…the price of God’s own son.  We matter to Him…more than anything.  Our Good Shepherd will never leave us to be devoured by the enemy.  We can trust Him…always.  We just have to put that faith and trust into action, and stop giving ourselves and others so much credit.    

Commit everything you do to the Lord.

    Trust him, and he will help you.

(Psalm 37:5)

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that when I am a lost sheep you correct me and guide me back to pasture.  Help me to trust you in all things, not just some things, and to come to better know your voice as I endeavor to seek you more each day.  Amen.

Teach Me

Make your ways known to me, Lord; teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation;
I wait for you all day long

The Lord is good and upright; therefore he shows sinners the way.
He leads the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
All the Lord’s ways show faithful love and truth
to those who keep his covenant and decrees.

Occasionally, my wife and I will have a disagreement. — I know…That’s crazy talk! Who ever has a disagreement with their spouse?! — But every now and then we find ourselves not seeing eye-to-eye on a given subject. Since we’re both pretty strong-willed, neither one of us is afraid of arguing our viewpoint. Usually, we are able to come to some sort of agreement without too much difficulty, but occasionally one of us will feel strongly enough that we dig in our heels and hold our ground.

I remember one time when we were having an argument and Elizabeth diagnosed my problem.

“You know what your problem is? You always think you’re right.”

Of course I do! If I thought I was wrong, I would change my opinion! If you can show me new information that I didn’t have before, or a flaw in my reasoning, I’m happy to reconsider my stance. No one intentionally gets the wrong answer. That would just be foolish.

The real problem, though, is when we don’t know what we don’t know. Ignorance is dangerous and can lead us down paths where we don’t want to go. Rather than being stubborn and opinionated, we must train ourselves to be humble and teachable. That is what the Psalmist is writing about in this passage.

Throughout Scripture, God is calling us to a higher way of living, a better way. The rules and restrictions that he places upon us are not arbitrary or capricious. They are intentionally designed to help us live the life of abundance and blessing that God desires for us. God calls us to be holy and righteous because that is the only way that we can accomplish what we were designed to do…to have fellowship with and worship God.

But holiness and righteousness do not come naturally to us. In fact, because of the distortion of sin, holiness and righteousness are the exact OPPOSITE of what comes naturally to us. So we must constantly be evaluating ourselves, adjusting our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors to fall in line with God and what he is doing in the world around us. But we can’t do that if we are not humble enough to learn his ways.

Life is hard. Making the right choice is difficult, and sometimes it feels like we’re just taking a shot in the dark. But that is not how God intends it to be. He has not left us to our own devices. He has shown us the way, through the Law, and through the example of Jesus Christ. Are we smart enough to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers and that God knows best?

Commit to living every day according to God’s ways. Seek him out and He will speak light, life, and wisdom into your day. I can’t imagine doing better than that on my own.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for your revelation to us and patient instruction while we figure things out. We acknowledge the limits of human understanding, and seek to follow your ways instead. Help us to cultivate humility and a teachable spirit at all times. In the name of Jesus we ask this, Amen.

“You May Not Know How, You May Not Know When”

(Psalm 126: 4-6, The Message) And now, God, do it again—bring rains to our drought-stricken lives. So those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest, So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

Summer, 1988…I was 7 years old, just out of second grade.  We lived in South Carolina and we were in the midst of a typical southern summer…muggy, scorching hot, and days so long you might find yourself praying for the sun to set.  At 7 years old, I didn’t understand what drought meant.  I heard about it on Good Morning America while I munched on my PopTarts and sipped my Tang from a crazy straw, but I didn’t experience it…other than being asked not to leave the hose turned on in the yard.  At 7 years old, I saw TIME magazine in the dentist’s office, and I knew there were farmers in trouble…fires burning in California…but I didn’t experience that.  My daddy was a preacher…I didn’t depend on the rain to ensure my livelihood.  To me, rain meant mud and thunder and a cool-down from the summer heat.  I never considered it a source of LIFE.  I didn’t know, because I hadn’t lived without it.

A drought sort of creeps up on you.  It’s not like a tornado, which is sudden and quick.  It’s not like a hurricane or flood, which is expected and passes soon.  A drought starts slowly, so slowly that maybe you don’t really notice how dry it’s been until things around you start to wilt and die, and when it’s in full swing, a drought devastates every component of our domain.  It is a genuine hell on earth. 

Just like the land becomes dry and thirsty, our souls go through times that seem like a dusty hell on earth.  However, in seasons when it seems useless to even try, we cannot lie down in the dirt and give up.  Instead we must continue on, in faith, and we must proclaim, “And now, God, do it again.”  He’s done it before…and that word “again” implies our faith in Him.  So what is a drought to us?   It’s a trial.  And what does the Word tell us about trials?  “7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”  (1 Peter 1:7 NLT)

So welcome the drought, and continue to plant your crops…even in despair…because it is through being forced to go without the things we’d never just give up on our own that our faith is perfected.  No trial lasts forever…no devastation is beyond repair…and when God allows drought we must keep moving in faith with arms open wide in expectation of the harvest and blessing ahead.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.  (James 1: 2-4, The Message)

The drought of 1988 lasted well into 1989 and impacted our entire nation.  It was the worst natural disaster to take place since the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s and was so until Hurricane Katrina hit in 2004.  To the people directly affected, it must have seemed like eons passed before the rains finally fell and rejuvenated the earth.  Yet in the larger scope of time, it was but an instant.  It is a part of history, from which we are able to learn and use that knowledge to face similar difficulties in the future.  Experiences give us wisdom, and they are the foundation of our faith.

Prayer:  Father God, I trust You in all things.  Thank you for teaching me what it is to be without, and for helping me to understand that YOU are my source of life.  Amen.

“Promises, Promises”

(Psalm 119:147-148) 147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. 148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.

When the weight of life begins to fall
On the name of Jesus I will call
For I know my God is in control
And His purpose is unshakeable
Doesn’t matter what I feel
Doesn’t matter what I see
My hope will always be
Your promises to me.
– “Your Promises” by Elevation Worship

Because of humanity, because we are a mess, because of SIN…life is a guaranteed trial.  I don’t care what you say, who you are, or what you do…your life will not always be easy.  It just won’t!  We’ve been given many promises by God, and no, that’s not one of them…it’s just a consequence that we must endure for a time.  Into our lives, sin brings chaos and hurt, and there’s no stopping it sometimes, but as children of God we have been given all of the wisdom, power and authority needed to rise above. 

In every situation we have hope, but the thing about hope is that you have to take ownership of it and once it is claimed you then have to decide where to place it.  You can place it in other people, you can place it in your career, you can place it in your church and all of the “good” things that you do to support it, but none of the above will ever hold out for long.  People fail us, jobs and careers can be lost, and yes even churches fall apart.  Do as you wish, but there is only one placement for your hope that is sure to stand above the waters and that is God’s word. 

As a believer you lay claim on His word, by your faith, that it is true.  So…when you read it and meditate on it, you are ingesting THE TRUTH.  God’s word is filled with many things, all of which benefit our walks through life in some way, and every word is perfect and established.  Therefore, we have what we need in order to pilot our way through this expedition.  Through His word we have our history (which gives us His plan), we are given our commission (which is our purpose), and we have access to the countless promises from God (which give us HOPE). 

Without hope, purpose and plan fall apart.  2 Peter 1: 3-4 tells us, “3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” When we are able to place our hope in the promises, the “very great and precious promises” of God, we are empowered to fulfill the purpose and the plan set before us from the beginning. 

Gaining access to these promises does, however, require something from you.  It requires discipline.  You will have to read, you will have to meditate, you will have to actually CONVERSE with God, and you will have to make time for these things.  Yes, it is all easily accessible, but acquiring strength in spirit is a lot like building physical strength…you have to put in work.  It is a commitment, and what we all eventually learn about commitment is that sometimes it just doesn’t matter how you are feeling at the moment, or how things look through your natural eyes, because the foundation of a covenant is the promises that were made.  When the anxieties, hurts, and disturbances of life make you feel things that are contrary to the truth, if you will go back to the Word…to His promises…you will find that your Heavenly Father is deeply committed to loving you, blessing you, and ensuring that you fulfill your purpose. 

(Jeremiah 29: 11-14) 11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for the hope that is found in Your word.  Help me to remember it when my feelings take charge and my sight is skewed, so that I do not hinder my role in Your purpose and plan.  Give me strength to be more disciplined in my pursuit of You and my commitment to Your will.  Amen.

“Come to Me”

(Matthew 11: 28-30, The Message) “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

If you have come to the place where you are so tired that you’re saying it every day, and you’re dreading doing the things that you once loved to do, then you’ve gone too far for too long. 

When we think about strongholds in our lives, our minds typically go to the “big” things like anxiety, depression, or addiction (to name a few), but did you know that being overtired can also be a stronghold over you?  A stronghold is something that is part of your life that you cannot seem to bring under control.  Strongholds are lies told by Satan, with which we have come into agreement.  These things take hold of parts of (or even all of) our lives, and we have adopted them as our norm.  Becoming too tired is a direct result of overcommitting and lack of self control.  We have to learn, at some point, to use wisdom when we are asked to do things.  We have to ask ourselves, “Is this too much for me right now?  Can I fully embrace this commitment with a Godly spirit of excellence?  Am I saying yes to this because of my flesh or because of my spirit?”  The lie here (that becomes a stronghold in our lives) is that if we say no we are not being good friends, children, spouses, parents, employees, or even Christians. 

The Bible reminds us in 2 Corinthians 10: 3-5, “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”  Every lie that Satan tells is evident when we recognize that if it is contrary to the word of God, if it keeps us from knowing and serving God with full and complete joy, then it is a LIE!  We have to expose these lies for what they are, and cast them down, as we have been given all of the power and authority by Jesus Christ to do! 

Being continually beat down, tired, sluggish and stressed is NOT part of God’s will for your life…nor for any of our lives.  It is bondage.  It keeps us from Him, it keeps our family lives in disarray, it tears down our physical wellness, and it slows our minds…leaving us vulnerable to spiritual and mental attacks from the enemy. 

So what do we do about it?  Well first of all, say no…and say it a lot, at least for a while.  Slow down and breathe.  Take time to enjoy things and people again.  Mediate on the word of God and ask the Lord to reveal the things in your life that have led you into bondage and allowed this stronghold to be built.  Then tear that sucker down!  Replace it with the good things that God intends for our lives, and make the Lord your fortress and shield against these kinds of attacks on your spirit. 

Remember 2 Timothy 1:7… “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  We have power over the enemy when we recognize his wiles and reject his lies. 

Today and every day, begin anew, with a refreshed spirit and a new perspective on how you intend to lead your life from this point forward.  We have to be our best selves if we want to make any sort of difference in this world. 

St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Do few things but do them well.  Simple joys are holy.”  There is something quite sacred about taking the time to experience joy, and to be clear and focused enough to do few things with great excellence.  The result is a tremendous testimony and a positive witness to the grace and blessings that come from God our Father.  Do not let Satan lie to you any longer.  You do not have to be so tired. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I cast down the strongholds of stress and exhaustion in my life and I replace them with joy and rest.  Thank you for making me whole, for giving me peace, and for helping me have the wisdom to see the lies of the enemy and the boldness to say no to the things that will cause me to become burned out and exhausted.  I embrace your perfect will for my life.  Amen.

Pure, Clean, but… Oh!

Job 11:4-18- “For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God’s eyes.’ But oh, that God would speak and open his lips to you, and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom! For he is manifold in understanding… “Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? It is higher than heaven- what can you do? Deeper than Sheol- what can you know? It’s measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea… If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him… Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear. You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security.”

My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God’s eyes… But, oh!…

I’m very grateful for my upbringing. I was taught about Jesus at a young age, and I’ll forever be thankful for that. But, because a “Christian life” has always been something I’ve lived, there have been occasions (that lasted longer than they should have) in which I subconsciously felt like I reached some metaphorical pinnacle of Christianity. (My doctrine was pure, and I was clean in God’s eyes.) But, overtime, He reminded me that I had much learning, growing, and humbling to do.

No matter how long we’ve known the Lord, how experienced we are in His calling, or how much we’ve studied His Word, we will always have more to learn. Always. (Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? It is higher than the heaven… longer than the earth… broader than the sea…) The moment I felt like I had certain things figured out… BOOM! He opened my eyes to an issue I never even realized I had. When I got that under control, BAM! He revealed to me another attitude that wasn’t right. Don’t get me wrong; He has always been loving and gentle- but He also wants to be exhibited through my life… so my actions, attitudes, tactics, and words all need to be structured by Him.

When we become convinced that our endeavors and earthly comprehension is enough to teach us sufficiently, we’re at risk of possibly hurting others. (James 3:17) Our confidence should rest in Him alone. Only He sees, knows, and understands all things and all people. We only see one point of view, and until we ask for His wisdom in each situation, we tend to act in ways that would only achieve our own temporary success. However, when we request His leading on a situation, He understands enough to achieve eternal victory for any and all associated with the said situation. His knowledge is unfathomable!

Realizing that we will forever have more to glean from the Lord should not make us weary, but excited! When He shows us areas we can improve on, it’s not to belittle us, but to make us more equipped for greater feats and accomplishments. (Read about Solomon. — 2 Samuel 12:24 – 1 Kings 11:43; 1 Chronicles 28, 29; 2 Chronicles 1-10; Nehemiah 13:26; Psalm 72; Matthew 6:29, 12:42) Wisdom is the most luxurious thing one can possess. (Proverbs 16:16) Following after God’s guidance doesn’t make life harder for us, but much easier! And, He promises to impart as much wisdom as we ask for! (James 1:5) Understanding the significance of that is the very beginning of wisdom, (Proverbs 9:10) so once you’ve gotten to this point, realize the access you have through Him! God is infallible. He makes no mistakes. What better Teacher could we have? He is ready and willing to bestow His wisdom to us any and every time we ask… what a blessing to be a child of the most wise King of Kings!

Prayer: God, You are the very source of wisdom. You are all-knowing and never fail. Thank You for being so generous in sharing that wisdom with me. May I always walk in it… I love You, Lord. In Your name, I pray. Amen.

“Nothing Compares to You”

(Psalm 71: 19-21, NLT)

19 Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens.

    You have done such wonderful things.

    Who can compare with you, O God?

20 You have allowed me to suffer much hardship,

    but you will restore me to life again

    and lift me up from the depths of the earth.

21 You will restore me to even greater honor

    and comfort me once again.

One of the biggest reasons that people question God, and sometimes turn from Him,  is that they simply cannot accept the fact that a God who created us and loves us would also allow us to suffer. 

Well, I can only speak from my own experience, but when I was a kid, I required a lot more discipline than most other kids.  I was always into something, I had very low impulse control, and I was curious.  Add to that the fact that I was rebellious too, and you had a kid that kept her parents on their toes at all times.  As I got older, I talked back and I don’t think I ever made curfew one time.  I simply did not use any wisdom at all.  My parents, being the loving and determined parents that they were, tried every type of discipline they knew to try.  I got spankings, I got grounded, I got sent to my room to sit on my bed and “think about it” for several minutes, I got pinched at church when I talked (every Sunday, mind you), I got lectured (a lot), I was taken on many a guilt trip, and my parents even tried reverse psychology by removing my curfew and restrictions for a while (which, believe it or not, actually worked some). 

So many times during those formative years of my life, I would lament and wallow in my “suffering” at the hands of my parents.  I would think, “How can they do this to me if they love me??  It’s not FAIR!”  Actually, I probably yelled it out loud a few times as well.  In my immaturity, and because of the sinful state of my heart, I correlated their use of discipline with a lack of love.  My parents didn’t make me feel unloved — my actions and decisions led me to a place of bitterness.  And like most everyone who is at fault, I was looking for somewhere, besides myself, to place the blame. 

When I finally got myself together…sorta…my heart was softened toward my parents.  I began to see things through the lens of God’s truth.  I finally understood the importance and meaning of loving discipline.  When I opened my heart to this truth, my whole world changed.  I was in right relationship with my parents for the first time in so many, many years, and I began to enjoy my time with them — appreciating them for who they were as people, rather than resenting them for being my parents (and good ones at that)!  Let me tell you…that was SO liberating for me!  I realized, there is no one who can compare to or replace a loving parent.  No one.

So know this very important thing today…accept it, and bury it into your heart:  GOD LOVES YOU!  And when He allows hardship to come your way (and yes, He absolutely does allow bad things to happen to “good” people), there is a reason for it — which is most likely…yep…discipline.  Not one of us is exempt from God’s correction and guidance.  We are all subject to it, because we are all His children.  He wants to see us grow, develop, and flourish — in every part of our lives.  So when we are in the wrong, He corrects us — when we are standing still, He nudges us — and when we fall down, He lifts us up…even higher than we were before.  He truly is a goodgood Father to us.  Perfect, in ALL of His ways…discipline and all!

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I know that sometimes I need Your discipline in order to grow in spirit.  When I am dealing with the grief and misfortunes that You have allowed into my life, give me eyes to see Your purpose in it all.  Guard my heart from bitterness and ignorance, so that I may always move forward…past the hurt and anger…into Your favor and grace.  Amen.

Senseless Horses and Mules

The Lord says, “I will guide you
along the best pathway for your life. 
I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”

Many sorrows come to the wicked,
but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord. 
So rejoice in the Lord and be glad,
all you who obey him! 
Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!

Brutally honest relationships are awesome. Whether it is a spouse, member of your family, a coach/mentor, or just a good friend, we all need someone to save us from ourselves at times. Because of the relationship…trust, respect, and affection…that exists between you, this other person can confront you about a subject that would otherwise be very upsetting or offensive and hopefully provide constructive criticism to get you back on the right path. There is something about the human mind, the way it works to rationalize our own choices and behaviors, that makes it necessary to have this outside perspective to overcome our natural blind spots.

There have been many times when getting ready for a particular event that I would turn to my wife and ask, “Do I look stupid?” (referring, of course, to my wardrobe choices and not my face). I am self-aware enough to realize that I have all the fashion-sense of a cinder block and she always looks amazing, so I’d say she’s pretty well-qualified to help me look my best. Because she loves me and I trust her judgment, I can rest assured that she won’t let me make a fool of myself. It’s comforting to know that she is watching out for me.

King Solomon understood this concept, and described it like this: “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” (Prov. 27:6) On the surface, this is counter-intuitive but when you look at the motivation behind the wounds and kisses, you see who really has your best interest in mind.  In another passage, he wrote, “In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.” (Prov. 28:23) Flattery feels good in the moment, but it does nothing to help you grow as a person.

Hearing the truth is not always fun. In fact, sometimes it is downright painful.  However, if we can push pass the pain and resist the defensive reflex, we can actually find ourselves in possession of some very valuable advice. We have found wisdom that can help us to be and achieve what we were designed to be and achieve!

When I was reading the passage from Psalm 32 at the top of this post, it felt a lot like these situations that I have been describing. Typically, I am not a big fan of being compared to a “senseless horse or mule.”  But if I’m being honest with myself, there have been many times in my life that this was probably an accurate description of my walk with Him. God would show me the direction to go and because I was too scared or lazy or stubborn or proud, I would resist going where I needed to go! In retrospect, it’s embarrassing that I would even act like that. 

A lot of people think of God as trying to impose some kind of arbitrary morality code on us just because He can.  This reduces God to a cosmic version of “Because I’m the dad and I said so!”  In reality, when you look at God’s law from a logical point of view, you see that He really is just trying to help us live the best kind of life, to avoid unnecessary consequences and experience the “abundant” life that Jesus talked about. 

As we learn to walk with God, He will continually show you new areas of your life that need to be brought into obedience. It could be that God is asking you to finally get your financial life in order, or to clean up your potty mouth, or get rid of some negative thought patterns that are holding you back. The journey that you take and the issues you face will be as individual as you are! 

Just as water needs to keep moving or risk growing stagnant, God knows that we must keep progressing or we will fall back into old sinful patterns.  That is why the Holy Spirit will not leave you alone.  He will never stop pushing, pulling and prodding. The question, then, is how you will respond.  Will you resist like a stubborn, old donkey, or will you follow God’s lead?

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, many times you have called us to obedience, and we have failed to heed the call. Forgive us for our stubbornness and help us to develop a sensitivity to Your guidance.  Give us the wisdom to discern and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit so we can live the life of abundance that You have promised us.  Amen.

Who Have You Been Talking To?

(Proverbs 9:8-10) Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. 9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. 10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

In a world full of tweets, facebook posts, and snapchats, we have an ample supply of opinions. Some of the opinions given are not worth the space they take up. On the other hand, there are some people who have been given a divine gift to share wisdom which, when heeded, can encourage and develop an individual’s spirit. I’m always interested in receiving good advice from mentors that I trust. They can say anything and I will receive it with humility. However, there are others whose opinions are not that important to me. I may listen, but I quickly dismiss their words because they are not meant for encouragement. Instead, they are more interested in “selling” me something.

America is rife with opinions right now. The recent political elections have driven a wedge between democrats and republicans, husbands and wives, parents and children. News media outlets are touting their stories as the only ones worthy of consideration. 24 hour news shows put “reporters” in the unenviable position of being “commentators.” Hollywood personalities use their celebrity to broadcast personal opinions about the social dilemma of the day. People wake up in the morning anxious to discover what may have been tweeted in the night. And now, they don’t know if what they are hearing is legitimate or “fake news.”

The writer of Proverbs suggests that we should be careful who we speak to. In verse 8, he contrasts reproving (correcting) a scoffer and a wise man. He says one will hate you while the other will love you. In verse 9, he tells us that if you instruct a wise man, he will use it for advancement in wisdom and learning. The simple truth is there are some people who will not receive your words no matter what. In fact, they may become infuriated by any effort to influence their thinking.

There is a New Testament principle that applies here. Matthew 7:6 says, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

We may think we have the answers to the world’s problems. In fact, we actually do have THE answer. It is Jesus. But, not everyone believes that. Sadly, there are more who will reject the message than those who will receive. We shouldn’t shirk back from sharing the good news that we have. But, the writer of Proverbs clearly and accurately states that only the wise will hear, receive, and be transformed. Instead of vehemently arguing with those who will never believe, sow your seed among the seekers of truth. It will produce a much greater harvest!

PRAYER: Father, thank you for writing Your wisdom upon the tablet of my heart. I’m thankful that my heart is full of divine wisdom; that my mind and spirit are shaped by Your words of life. Provide opportunities for me to drop the seed of wisdom into the soil of tender hearts, so they may grow into Your likeness. Amen.

This Will Hurt Me Worse Than It Will Hurt You! | Part 2

(Luke 18:15-17 HCSB) 15 Some people were even bringing infants to Him so He might touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 Jesus, however, invited them: “Let the little children come to Me, and don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of a timely rebuke. In Luke 17, Jesus instructed His disciples to rebuke their Christian brothers who were guilty of sin. The purpose of the rebuke was to move the offender towards repentance so that forgiveness could be experienced. He encouraged them to be patient and committed to the process of restoration. He instructed, “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:4 HCSB) Clearly, Jesus was serious about the importance of a timely rebuke.

In Luke 18, we are exposed to an example of an untimely and inappropriate rebuke. Yesterday, I suggested that we don’t like to give rebukes, nor do we like to receive them. But, that is only partially true. Let me explain. We live in a world that is contrary to Scriptural principles. Whether it is abortion, addictions, pre-marital and extra-marital sexual activity, stealing, killing, etc.–anything that rubs against the grain of our beliefs–we feel the need to “rebuke” those who are involved in these activities. We post angry comments on social media, memes which support our “Christian” viewpoints; political rants designed to “rebuke” those who have a different opinion.

In Luke 17, the rebuke was timely and appropriate because it was an interaction between Christian brothers and sisters. But, the rebuke given by the disciples in Luke 18 was focused on people who had not yet become Believers. Obviously, they were intrigued by the ministry of Jesus, but they were simply “flirting” with him. They wanted to see what He had to offer, so they brought their children so He might touch them.”  The disciples became frustrated with the extra attention, and the additional effort required to maintain the crowd.

Their rebuke missed the mark on at least two accounts. First, it was motivated by selfish frustration rather than love. Second, they rebuked unbelievers who did not realize they were doing anything wrong.

Jesus turned this experience into a teachable moment by “inviting” them to see the situation as an opportunity for ministry.  He told them, “Let the little children come to Me, and don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” He was not at all disturbed by the additional work that the children and their parents created for him. Jesus gently “rebuked” the “rebukers” for their inappropriate and untimely “rebuke!”

PRAYER: Give me the wisdom and desire to see the kingdom of heaven through the eyes of a child. Provide discipline and discernment as I interact with individuals in my circle of influence; discipline to know when to speak and when to remain silent, and discernment to know the difference! Amen.

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