Archive | September 2015

Listening

James 1:19 – “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”

Have you ever found yourself in a position where the only thing to do is shut up? You try talking and it only makes things worse. So you try being quiet and listening and that seems to do the trick. That was me yesterday as I dealt with preteen issues surrounding my daughter. 

Bless her heart. She is an emotional roller coaster right now. I tried consoling her and encouraging her and explaining things to her and nothing worked. So I found that being quiet and letting her get it all out seemed to be exactly what she needed. After she got through the arm slinging, tears and loud voicing of her woes, we were able to pray and talk to God about it all and a moment of peace seemed to envelope us. I say moment because the tears started again because of the relief. Yep….

I don’t know about you, but I like to fix problems in the lives of those around me. I don’t like to see others I care about struggling. I want to fix it all. But sometimes, that’s not what I need to do. Sometimes I just need to not fix things. Jesus is who they need. Not me. And that’s a hard grasp to let go of. 

James was reminding us of a vital truth in this verse – listen quickly, speak slowly and stay away from anger as much as possible. There are times when I get this truth way out of order. I neglect to engage my brain before speaking. I get mad at the drop of a hat. And listening to others? Well, I already know what they are going to say so why listen? 

I know I’m not alone out there in this one. I see the statistics of divorce and crime. But I want to choose not to be part of the problem. I want to be part of the solution. That means that I need to change my choices. I need to change my perspective. I need to change my habits. Listening needs to more of my repitoire than speaking and solving problems. 

So as I go through today, I’m going to try to listen more and solve less often. I want the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart to be pleasing in His sight (Psalm 19:14). 

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Being ready

1 Peter 3:15 – “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear”

I was working in the yard on Saturday when I saw 3-4 vehicles pull into my subdivision. They were obviously together. I live at the very first house you see when you pull into my subdivision. I see pretty much every one that comes and goes, when I’m looking. 

The people got out of their vehicles with what appeared to be Bible in hand. They were going evangelizing. I have no idea what message they were spreading. You see, when I saw them, I began praying. I began praying that God would give me what they needed to hear that day, whether it be salvation or just encouragement. And I was praying hard. I was going over the plan of salvation in my head. I mean to tell you, I was praying it up hard. I was going to be ready. 

And they never came by my house. I was really bummed. I was wondering if I scare people or intimidate them or what! Then I determined that they must have been preaching herasy and the devil didn’t want them to hear the truth, so he steered them away from my house. Either way, I was a little disappointed. 

But I was ready. And I know that God blessed me because I was willing, even if the opportunity didn’t fully arise. 

God wants a willing heart. God wants us to be aware of what is going on around us and to be willing and ready to give an answer, even if it never comes to fruition. 

The question is – are you ready to give an answer? If “Sally the acquaintance”  comes up and asks you about your weekend, are you going to tell her about what you learned at church yesterday? If “Bob the coworker” comes up and asks about little Johnny’s football game Friday night, are you going to tell about God’s mercy and grace in keeping him safe? You see, you don’t have to have the Roman Road ready to go at all times (but you should). You just need to be ready to show Jesus’s hand at work in your life at all times and in all situations. That’s what really gets people. They may have this idea that God is just “the Man upstairs” who is manipulating us daily. They need to see His loving hand at work in your life on a daily and personal level. 

Let me encourage you this week to make an effort to change your responses to glorify God. Let others see how He truly cares and is working in your life. Be ready. Be ready to give an answer that will shine His light on your life. 

New eyes

Psalm 122:1 – “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.”

Sometimes you just need to see things through the eyes of another. 

My family goes to church seemingly every time the doors are open. And that’s a good thing. Yet, sometimes I find that my joy in the moment is tarnished. Excitement is not the word I would use to describe my feelings. 

Last week, we had a new person attend our little church. And she was so excited to be there. She told me that she had been looking forward to Sunday every since last Monday. She said that she couldn’t hardly stand the waiting. And she also said she wants to be there for every thing we do. Man….

Needless to say, my heart as convicted. I take for granted the privilege of attending a sweet fellowship such as ours. I forget that there are others out there searching and seeking to find a place to feel like they are home. I forget that there are real people out there that are hungry for the Gospel. There are people out there searching for Him. 

I want to encourage you to get excited about worshiping God on Sunday. Get excited about the opportunity to spend time with your spiritual family and to have the privilege to worship our Heavenly Father. See your time through the eyes of another – someone who has never had that experience. Every day should be such a blessing. Every day should be such an opportunity. Every day should be so exciting that we are ready to crawl out of our skin. 

Watching

Luke 12:36-40 – “And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”

I work at a nursing home. Every year, we have people from the state come in and look over our daily activities to make sure that we are working within a certain guideline. When they are satisfied that we have met that guideline, they will give us certification to remain open one more year. We have been waiting for the state surveyors to come since April. Yep, April. 

On Monday, we were finally anticipating their arrival. I had to laugh to myself, though. As I walked through the entryway on two different occasions, I saw the leadership of our facility standing at the windows anxiously staring out at the road. They were like little children staring out the window waiting for a parent to come home. I know they just want to get through this interview and put this behind us but still, the sight made me chuckle. Not very often do you see the leadership of your organization staring out a window. 

Jesus is returning soon. We have been anticipating His return since He departed. But when was the last time you stood and stared out the window anxiously awaiting His return? When was the last time that preparing for His arrival as at the top of your list for the day?  If you are like me, the thought occasionally crosses your mind, but the constant attention to the task is not what happens in your life. 

Jesus was teaching His disciple about the behavior that He expects prior to His return. He expects to find us waiting – actively waiting. He doesn’t expect us to be standing at the window staring out of it and doing nothing. He expects us to be out serving, sharing and doing, just like we should be doing each and every day. It is our “reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). Jesus used the analogy of a servant. The servant is expected to do his/her job regardless if they see the master or not. The master desires to come home from his trip and find that his servants have been doing their responsibilities without him having to stand hovering over them all the time. They need to work just as hard when he is not there as when he is there. 

The same can be said for followers of Christ. He left us a manual – the Bible. He left us details on how He wants things done, when He wants them done and how our attitude should be while we are dong them. He wants to return and find us being successful. He left us The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to guide us when things get rough or we just don’t understand. He just wants to return finding us busy for Him and Him alone. 

So today, take a few moments and stare at the eastern sky. Let this moment serve as your reminder that He is coming again. He wants to find you doing His work in His way. Your life is special to Him. Your responsibilities here on earth are important to Him. Remember, the Master is coming back soon. Are you ready for His return?

Devil’s snare

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

We were watching a movie the other day and one of the pickles that the characters found themselves in was an imaginary plant called Devil’s snare. This plant will attack and wrap its vines around its victim. The more they wiggle and squirm, the tighter the plant squeezes and the more intense the wrapping becomes. But, if the victim can relax, the plant will loosen its hold and drop the victim. The key is to relax. 

Now, even though such a plant does not exist, the devil is real and he does try and entrap us into his snares. As I was thinking about what to do my blog on this morning, God brought this scene to my mind. When the devil successfully entraps us in his snare and we realize what we have gotten ourself into, we begin to wiggle and squirm. We are fearful that we will be caught or will never get out. And the more we try to wriggle out of the situation, the more it seems like the devil squeezes harder and his snares become more intense. 

But God is faithful. He always provides a way out. Sometimes you just have to search it out. And sometimes you just have to relax and trust Him. You have to choose to stop moving around in your sin. Stop trying to handle things on your own. 

Have you ever had a bumblebee buzzing around your head? When you try and swat at it, what does it do? It attacks, right? If you will just sit still and be calm, it will realize you aren’t a flower and will go away. Most people, though, freak out, start swatting and run. And what happens next? Sometimes the bee follows them. “The threat must be eliminated” is being thought by the bee. 

When the devil sees that he is going to get no where with you, and if it’s God’s will, he will turn around and leave you alone.  But sometimes, you just prove to be a challenge to the devil and he keeps going. That’s when you have to cling tighter to this verse. You have to remember that God will provide a way out. You can avoid the devil’s snare all together if you search out that escape before it even gets started. But if you find yourself elbow deep in something that you know is wrong, God also provides a way out then as well. 

It all boils down to when are you going to choose to see the way out. Are you going to realize the sin right off the bat and seek an exit immediately or are you going to wiggle and squirm in the sin for a while and then seek a way out? The choice is yours. 

It’s a new week. A new opportunity to start off on the right foot. A new opportunity to make the choice to live more like the Savior. A new opportunity to choose to get out of the sin you might be in. A new opportunity to exit those things that are keeping you from walking closer to Christ. Let me encourage you today – if you are trapped in the devil’s snare, remember, Jesus provides a way out – find it. And if you see sin walking up your sidewalk and getting ready to knock on your door, lock it. Don’t even let the devil look in the window. Sometimes the best offense is defense. 

Lessons from running

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

I try to run. I’m not fast. I haven’t gotten to the point yet where I can go long distances. But I attempt to move myself down the road at a pretty good clip about 2-3 times per week. And I enjoy it. It gives me time to think and pray and listen to my music. I like the way that it makes me feel. I like smelling the flowers and the trees and seeing the beauty of God’s creation when I run. 

Yesterday, I tried to push myself a little – start just a little earlier, go just a bit farther before turning around and then stretch out my stopping point by a few feet. No large gains but I thought my body was going to crash before I got to my stopping place. I’m tearing down this trail with the end in sight praying, “Come on God! We gotta do this! I need to do this! Get me there I pray!” And I did. And I felt amazing. And I’m sure Jesus was up in Heaven smiling because He knew that I needed to prove to myself that it can be done. 

The whole experience made me think about the life lessons I have learned from “running”.

  1. Start with an end in sight. I have learned that if I have a destination in mind and I set my mind to that endpoint, I can coach myself to get there, usually. The same is true in life. I need to remember, each and every day, why I am doing what I am doing – I’m doing my part to advance the Kingdom of God so that no one dies and goes to Hell. And some days, I have to coach myself on that endpoint. The Holy Spirit reminds me to keep going for this very cause. 
  2. Know when it’s time to turn around. I need to know when it’s time to go back. Sometimes I get going on things and forget what I’m doing. That’s when I find myself in a big mess. I didn’t turn around in time. Sometimes I will get going on something spiritual and then end up messing the whole attitude of it up because of sin. 
  3. Keep your eyes on the prize. Yesterday when I was running, I knew my endpoint. And I must have looked like a crazy person mouthing to myself, “Come on. You can do it. One more curve and you will be able to see the end. Come on.” That was the longest curve in the history of mankind. But I knew if I could just see that stop sign that life would be so much better. I knew that the stop sign meant more to me than the people that put it there intended. It meant that my run was over. When I am running through life, I have to keep my eyes on the prize – Jesus saying with open arm, “Well done, Melissa! Welcome home!”

When Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, I dare say that he never dreamed that people would be running just for the exercise benefit. But he knew that exercise is important to the body. He also knew that spiritual exercise was good for the soul. This is the type of exercise that he was encouraging the Corinthians to participate in. 

If you want a muscle to get stronger, you have to do exercises that will create tiny tears in the fibers. Those tears are addressed by the body and become stronger because the body builds them up. The muscle fibers come out stronger and ready to take on more. 

The same is true in our spiritual life. We have to go through tough times and tear those spiritual fibers just a bit to make them stronger. But just like we can’t make our muscle fibers stronger on our own, we can’t make our spiritual fibers stronger. We have to rely upon God to make both stronger. And in both instances, those fibers can’t be torn too much. It requires just the right amount of stress to create the necessary scenario for growth in strength. And only God knows what that scenario is – He created our spiritual and physical fibers. 

Let me encourage you to be aware of growth in your life. Take these little lessons from running and try to apply them to your scenario. But no matter what, make sure that you are allowing God to direct the scene and let Him encourage you to keep on going. He has the prize in His hand. 

Lip Smackin’ Evidence

I John 2:3-6 – “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”

My children are getting older. Every day I see the evidence of the things that I have have taught them being lived out in their life. For example – every since day one, I have taught my children to do their homework as soon as they get home. And they still do it. I have also taught them to work on projects ahead of time, if they can. This simple task has saved us from countless late nights. 

But the evidence is there. I see the good and the not so good things that I have taught them. Sometimes I see pointless anger pop up in them. I know exactly where they get that from – me. Sometimes I see them never back down from a verbal dispute because they KNOW they are right, even when they are not – they get that from both their dad and myself. Good and not so good. 

What about the evidence of God in their life? Do I see that? Do they see that? 

John tells us that if we know Him (Jesus), we should be keeping His commandments. And that if we are abiding in Him, we should be walking like Him. Basically, John is saying if we are living in God’s love and following His commands, there should be evidence of such choices in our life. 

Is there evidence? Would you be convicted of being a follower of Christ? 

If not, John says you are a liar. Not my words, it is the Truth of God’s Word speaking here. 

In order for a conviction to be made, there has to be sufficient and strong evidence to the contrary. It can’t be just a bit of proof here and a bit of proof there. That being said, a bit of proof will not make it obvious. 

It’s just like sweet tea – and I mean good, Southern sweet tea. There are imposters calling their beverage “sweet tea” that barely have enough sugar in it to quantify. In order for me to call it sweet tea, it has to be lip smacking sweet. (I know you know what I mean!) The evidence has to blatantly clear. 

You can have a little bit of Jesus in your life, that’s well and good considering the alternative of no Jesus at all. But in order to be a true follower of Christ, you have to allow Him to pour Himself into you. You need to allow Him to make the evidence of Him in your life overwhelming. It is your choice whether to follow after Him or not. But it is only by keeping His word that His love is perfected in you. You see, a little bit of Him should never be enough. It should be our desire to be so full of Him that others smack their lips at wanting what we have. The evidence should be so overwhelming in our walk that there is no denying His hand at work. 

So let me encourage you today to choose Him. Choose to let Him fill you up today. You have to ask for it. You have to invite Him in. He won’t just show up in your life. You have to ask Him to be present, to show you the way, to make His plan evident to you each and every day. You have to choose to follow after His commandments. You have to choose to live in His Light. Make the choice today to let the evidence shine clear.