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In the way

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethern, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26

Harsh words, aren’t they? How could Jesus, the One who loves everyone, say that we have to “hate” all the people in our life and even our own self?

Hate is a vicious word. I don’t like for my children to use this word because of the strength behind it. Good old Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “hate”, in it’s first definition, as “To dislike greatly; to have a great aversion to. It expresses less than abhor, detest, and abominate, unless pronounced with peculiar emphasis.” The second definition refers to Scripture – “it signifies to love less.” Matthew 10:37 describes what “hate” is referring to in this passage – “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (By the way, these references were pointed out to me during a sermon we had at church a couple of weeks ago – need to give credit where credit is due!)

So what is Jesus trying to get us to understand here?

Things get in the way. People get in the way. Jobs get in the way. Life can get in the way. We allow things to come between us and Jesus all the time. I am agent #1 when it comes to finding excuses and reasons why I can’t serve or be a part of something that would be a blessing to me and honor God. That is nothing to be proud of, I assure you.

I think if we are honest with ourself, we all have a hard time, from time to time, pointing others to Christ. And part of the reason for that problem, I propose, is that we let too many things come between us and Christ.

Have you ever stood in a forest packed with trees and tried to get someone else to see a bird on a branch in a tree about 10 yards away from you? You try explaining and pointing and repositioning them in front of you but they never really see exactly what you are seeing. It is really quite the circus to watch – this dancing around and pointing and jibbering about the cool bird. But because of all the trees and all the leaves and all the other things to look at, the one you want to share the beautiful bird with really can’t see it.

Same thing in our life when we have activities and jobs and family and friends and the desire to have the finest things that get in the way of us showing Christ to other people. We stand there pointing and explaining and repositioning them in front of us but they rarely see Christ because of all the other stuff that seems more important to us than Jesus. That hurts.

Ok, fine, I’m wounded now. I’m guilty. Now what?

I don’t have the answers. All I know is that we are encouraged to daily follow Jesus.  Hebrews 12:1 – “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us”. Lay off that weight and run. You see, the sin – the stuff that comes between us and Jesus – needs to be laid off. We, I, need to get those things out from between me and Jesus. I need to walk closer to Him. I need to have Him so visible in my life that I shouldn’t even have to point Him out. Other people should just see Him working in my life.

I may not have all the answers, but I can do my best to point you to the One who does – Jesus.

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Contemplations

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:6‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:”
It is a simple idea – seek the Lord. If it is so simple, why do we make it so hard? 

God has told us that He is near us.  ‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭3:57‬ ‭KJV‬‬ -“Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not.” Why do we feel He is so difficult to find? It seems that all we have to do is “call upon” Him. Why is that so hard?

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭13:5‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”  Jesus promised to never leave us…nor forsake us (that means to leave us by the wayside).

So, why do we neglect to seek the Lord? 

Pride. 

We like to look into a mirror to see what we look like. There are people that spend what seems like hours in front of a mirror trying to achieve just the right look. And then, once they walk away, it seems as though they completely forget what they look like because each time they see a mirror, they are gazing in it once again. 

What if we did that with the Word of God? What if we spent, what seemed like, hours in it allowing Him to make us into who He wants us to be and then every time we had the opportunity we looked in it again to determine how we needed to tweek things to make ourself even better for Him?

Sounds crazy, right? Or maybe ideal? 

You know, I get up almost every morning and read my Bible. But do I let it change me? Do I take it’s words to heart? Do I consistently go back to it to allow it to continually change me? Sadly, the answer is no, not always. 

Jesus is waiting for me to come looking for Him. He wants to be found. He wants to have a special relationship with me. He wants to talk to me, share with me and be my absolute, very best friend. 

So why do I make it so hard for Him?

I don’t know that I have an answer today. I just wanted to throw that out there. The day is drawing near when Jesus won’t be so easily found. Oh, He will still be there but it won’t be so easy. Now is the time to build that relationship. Now is the time to seek Him out. Now is the time to call upon Him. Tomorrow may be too late.

Faith

‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:1‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”


How does the verse and this saying work together?

We tend to think of faith as something that we strive for. It is something that Hebrews 11 goes into great detail about. It isn’t something that you go and get a refill of every time the church doors are open. 

To me, faith is more of a decision or choice that you are going to trust God no matter what. It is a firm belief that God has every thing under control. It is a reassurance that in the good times and the tough times that God will see you through and bring about His good and perfect will. 

This was a tough week for our little family. We found out about 2 deaths and lost a really important soccer game. The deaths were very sad and sudden. The soccer game, well, in the scope of eternity, our attitude matters more than the win or the loss. 

But, nonetheless, it all required faith. In the case of the deaths, I believe that God is in control. I don’t understand it, but I believe it. With the soccer game, I prayed that His will be done – that whatever outcome He had chosen, that I would have what I need to get through it. And I believed with all my heart that that is exactly what would happen. 

Faith is something that you have to practice every single day. It is trusting God to lead you in the path of righteousness when righteousness is tough to find. It is allowing God to have control of every aspect of your life from the simplest decisions to the life changing ones. It is desiring Him in and through it all.

Decide that you are going to practice faith today. You are going to allow God to do something amazing in your life and you are going to praise Him through it all. Decide that faith is not just something for the people listed in Hebrews 11. No, those people were just like you and me – followers of Christ just trying to make it through the day. 

Separation Anxiety

Hebrews 13:5 – “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

We have a little boy that comes to our church with his family. He sits with them in the pew just to my left. He is the cutest little thing. He is just coming into his personality and really beginning to interact with others. It is so cute to watch – again.

Last night at church, my husband went to ring the bell for our study time to be completed. When he left the sanctuary where we were having class, this little guy got very upset. He pointed. He whined. He squealed. Generally, he did everything in his power to express that he was not happy that this man who had been grinning at him had left. The big white thing (door) had swallowed him up. He wanted to leave and make sure this man was coming back. 

Why are we not like that with God? Too often, and way too easily, we walk away from God. We allow the devil to shut the door to all things pertaining to God. Out of sight, out of mind. We don’t get anxious about it. We just think “no big deal, I’ll get back to that later. I have other things I want to do right now.”

We need separation anxiety when we get away from God. I think that if more people experienced a sense of fear and stress when they don’t have Jesus walking their everyday life with them that we might not get so far away before realizing we strayed. 

In a way, separation anxiety can be a good thing. It means that we are paying attention. It means that we have chosen to allow someone to get close to us. It means we have interacted with them and made a connection to someone. And we recognize when they are not around. 

Do you recognize when God isn’t active in your life? Do you recognize when He is active in your life? Have you made a connection with Him that stretches when you turn aside? Are you interacting with Him and allowing Him access to your life?

I know that separation anxiety in my life with Christ isn’t as strong as I would like it to be. It’s an area to grow and work on. 

This week, be aware. Pay attention to your spiritual life. Recognize when things seem a bit off. And then, make a fuss. Do whatever it takes to get back to that right relationship with Christ. Trust me, He is always waiting just on the other side of the closed door. 

Back to the grocery store

Hebrews 10:23-25 – “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is ; but exhorting one another : and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

It is my goal to only go to the grocery store one time a week. That rarely happens. Despite my diligence in making out a grocery list, checking to see who needs what and then following that list to the “t”, I usually end up back at the grocery store for something during the week. Right now, my fridge is empty and my teenage son is starting to panic. The apple juice is gone. The milk is gone. Life might just end if the child doesn’t have apple juice and milk! 

But going back the the grocery store isn’t such a bad thing – it means that I sufficient funds available to supply the needs of my family in a spontaneous moment. It means that all the good stuff that I have purchased has been gobbled up by 2 growing teenagers. Good stuff in, good stuff out.

So, I know you have to be wondering what in the world going to the grocery store has to do with going to church. Hold on and see how my crazy brain works.

The assembling of ourselves together was not meant to be a one time a week event. We need the support and love and encouragement of one another often. When I don’t see my church family more than one time a week, I feel left out and sad and empty inside. I love vacations, but I miss being with my brothers and sisters at church. I need to share life with them. I need to hear their encouraging words. I need to laugh with them. I need to cry with them. I need to serve with them. I can’t do that one time a week. 

This life is challenging. We all face hurdles that have to be jumped. We all face knots that need to be untied. We all face obstacles that have to be figured out. How can we do all that alone? We can’t. We need help. We need words of encouragement and guidance. What better place to find all that than among people who love the Lord. 

Wrapping all this up, if I can’t make it through the week with only one trip to the grocery store, how do I think that I can make it through the week with only one interaction with my church family? God used the writer of Hebrews to encourage us to go and be with our church family frequently. He doesn’t want us to feel alone. He doesn’t want us to feel weak and neglected. He wants us around people who love Him so that we can grow and help one another out. Things that the grocery store have to offer us are life sustaining and needful. The things that our church family and serving God have to offer us are life sustaining and needful. So, get out there. Get involved in your church. See what you have really been missing by staying home when the church doors are open.

No changes

Hebrews 13:8 – “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”

On occasions, I have a chance to be still. And when I have that opportunity, I realize something – no matter how crazy and technologically advanced our society gets, the birds are still going to sing and the squirrels are still going to throw acorns and the weeds are going to grow in my garden. As much as things change, some things stay the same. 

And there is a comfort in that. Especially when it comes to Jesus’ love for me and His grace and His mercy and His promises. 

People can get so consumed with the next best thing. With Christmas coming up, retailers will be vying for our attention to their “amazing” price and “unbeatable” deals on this wonderful, new do-dad. Chances are, you don’t need that do-dad but the retailer convinces you that life will never be the same without it. Know what? They’re wrong. Now, true, life is more convenient with gadgets but will we cease to exist without the latest and greatest? I doubt it. 

My point is this – sometimes we need to take the time to be away from the “stuff” of the world and listen to the birds and the squirrels and watch the grass grow. Sometimes we need to unplug and get lost in the truth that Jesus never changes. Let me encourage you to take that time. I think I’ll take some right now and listen to the birds for a while. Happy weekend. 

Don’t let it slip!

Hebrews 2:1 – “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.”

This was our verse for worship service yesterday. It really made me pause. I had obviously thought about this verse before because it was underlined in my Bible. But I hadn’t thought about it in some time. 

We have let it slip. Oh, it’s not a surprise party that we have accidentally told someone about. No, we have let our guard slip. We have let our passion slip. We have let our sold out desire for Christ slip. 

Although the picture is far from reality, we are sticking our head in the sand like an ostrich. If we don’t acknowledge it, it’s not really there. We don’t want to offend, therefore, we ignore. We don’t want to not be liked, so we don’t stand up. 

We have let IT slip. 

The writer of Hebrews warned his readers “lest at any time we should let them slip.” What is he talking about? What is the “them”? It is what we have heard, what we have learned, what we know is true – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the “them”.

As a follower of Christ, we get into His word and we read and we learn and we take it all in. And then we let it slip. We let it fall through our fingers like sand at the beach. Easy come. Easy go. 

Brothers and sisters, this ought not be! 

We can longer sit by and watch it all slip away. What do we have to fear? Rejection? Who cares! There are millions of people out there that need to hear the Good News! They aren’t rejecting you personally. They are rejecting Jesus. Well, what about the people I work with? I have to see them and work with them every day. Yes, yes you do. And how are you living out what you take in? Do they know the difference in your heart or are you a hypocrite? Harsh, I know. But WE ARE LETTING IT SLIP AWAY! 

It is so easy to make excuses. And hey, I’m the chief leader of the group! I have more excuses than you can shake a stick at! (I really don’t understand that expression but it totally fits!) I am letting it slip away. 

I’m telling you, every time I go to the gas pump, I’m convicted. Someone there needs Jesus. I have a tugging on my heart. Sometimes I listen to it and sometimes I stuff it down. I make it slip away. Ouch. 

We need to decide to accept the challenge. Each of us need to decide that “I will NOT let it slip away. Not on my watch!” 

Here is your challenge for the week. Be aware. Be aware of the times that you let “it” slip away. Be aware when you choose to let a moment go by. Be aware when you choose not to tell someone about Jesus. Be aware of the times when you stuff your beliefs to the back of the box. And then change. DON’T let it slip away.