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In the way

Haggai 1:2-5 – “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built. Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?’Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.”
This was our message on Sunday night. And my, oh my, did it hit home.
Let me set this situation up here. The children of Israel had been released from captivity to come home and rebuild the Temple. They had remade the Alter, but that is as far as they had gotten. They had been too focused on building their homes and all the other stuff that comes along with a home in that time that they had neglected to build the Temple. And in walks Haggai. Being used by God, he reminds the people of what they had neglected – Him. And it was time to check themselves.
I don’t know about you, but I am abundantly blessed. I have a warm, safe home to live in. I have a family that dearly loves me regardless of the mood I am in. I have a good job that pays well and allows me flexibility in my schedule. I have food in my fridge and the ability to cook it whenever and however I want. I have a car that looks good and drives well. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! I am blessed.
But how often do I allow these blessings to get in the way of doing what God wants me to do? Too often, I tell you, too often. I have been thinking about writing this blog for 3 days now and every time I decide I am going to do it, one of my blessings steps in and needs attention.
Oh, I can’t do it this morning because I have to get laundry done and the lunches ready. Then I have to come home and get the floors swept and the sheets changed before I head off to work.
Oh, I can’t do it this morning because I have to go here and do that before I head off to work. Otherwise, I will have no time to do it.
Sound familiar? It is so very easy to get caught up in our blessings that we neglect to do what God has laid on our hearts to do. Hey, I get it. These things needed to be done for one reason or another. But how much more important is it to be obedient to the God of Heaven who sent His One and Only Son to die on the cross for my sins so that I could have the opportunity to have a home with Him in Heaven? Yep, that’s been in my head for 3 whole days!
God has given us so much. He loves us so much that He wants to give us good things and to love us with His love that passes all understanding. But He also expects us to follow Him and do His will. We can’t neglect His work to tend to our blessings. You notice that I said “neglect”. I think this is a purposeful decision that we make to be disobedient. I know in my own life that too often it is because I’m not listening that I don’t do what He is telling me to do. But I rarely neglect my blessings.
So today, I want to encourage you to appreciate your blessings but not to the point of neglecting God’s work that He has just for you. Blessings are sweet but they are so much more sweet when we experience them after a hard day’s work in the Lord.

Letting God…

‭‭James‬ ‭1:1-8‬ ‭KJV – “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

I know, I know. So many verses. But as we were reading this the other day in worship service, all I could see were the “let”s. And I have been thinking about what it means to “let” since then.

I looked up the meaning of the word in the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary (gotta love that website!). It said this – “Followed by the third person, it implies permission or a command addressed to an inferior.” It can also mean “to permit or allow”. Either way, each definition points to basically the same thing – permission to do something.

We are in revival this week at my church. We have been encouraged and challenged so much in the last two days, that I have not wanted to stop listening. I wanted to “let” the preacher go on preaching until he ran out of words!

We are being challenged to be salty. (That’s a whole other blog post.) But the question I want to pose today is this – Are we letting God do what He needs to do to make us into the person He wants us to be? Are we letting God challenge us enough to grow His kingdom? Are we letting God show us our sin in our life? Are we letting God lead us away from the things and situations that impair our growth?

You see, here is the deal – we can pray all day long for God to change us and mold us into who He wants us to be, but sometimes, we are the thing standing in the way of that change. We aren’t willing to “let” God do what He wants to do. I know I have this problem in my own life. Right now I have a book on my countertop that I say that I want to read. But if I’m honest, I’m afraid to read it because I’m afraid of the changes God might convict me to make in my life. I’m afraid to “LET” God change me. There, I said it. I have been asking God to show me my sin and my life and right here, right now, He just did. I’m afraid to “LET” God.

I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to tell you. This is a burden and an issue that I have just acknowledged and now is the time to step forward. I don’t know what God is going to do with me now, but I am grateful that God has been on me to write this blog post. I’m glad He never backs down. Happy Wednesday.

Chocolate cake

‭‭James‬ ‭4:13-17‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
It is a problem that we all are guilty of participating in at some time or another – choosing not to do what is right when we know better. Yes, I know, it is also known as sin – intentional sin, at that. 

Let me set up the situation.

Let’s say that you know that you have a few pounds you need to lose. It is not drastic, you just know that if you lost them (and never found them again) that you would feel better physically and emotionally. But you are at an event and they are serving chocolate cake – your all time favorite dessert. You know that you should not eat that cake. You know that it will show up on the scale tomorrow morning. You know that it is too late at night and eating that cake will result in a restless night of sleep. You know all these things. You have rationalized it over and over again in your mind. Yet…you still eat it. You really, really, really want that chocolate cake. You know the consequences and yet you do it anyway. Sin has caught you with a fork!

I tell you this to say intentional sin is tough. We can push unintentional sin under the blanket of a forgiveness prayer. But when it comes to the sins we commit knowingly, well, that requires more effort to get rid of. Yes, I know, I’m stepping on your toes, but guess what, mine are paining too!

The problem is that it is these sins that are keeping us from a closer walk with Christ. These sins will build a wall between you and Him that if left unchecked will cause serious problems down the road. That is why it is so incredibly vital that we keep that wall destroyed. It’s like letting weeds grow in a garden. If you don’t stay on top of them and get rid of them when they pop up, before you know it, the garden is overtaken with weeds and you have to spend an enormous amount of time locating what it is that you planted one day, way back when. 

So my challenge to you, and to me, is to keep those intentional sins in check. Or better yet, when you hear that still, small voice saying “don’t do it…don’t do it”, then…don’t do it. God wants you listen to Him. He wants to guide you on the path of righteousness but He won’t make you make the right decision. He wants you to do that on your own. Gotta love free will. 

But it can be done. You can say “no” to that chocolate cake. You can walk away knowing that tonight there will be no consequences because you made the right choice! 

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.

Lazarus Story

‭‭John‬ ‭12:9-11‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.”

It is always good to be in the house of the Lord. Yesterday was no exception. 

Lazarus. He was the dead man that Jesus brought back to life. He was the brother of Mary and Martha, the infamous sisters with two different viewpoints. Yet, he was one that loved Jesus and Jesus loved him. In fact, when he was dead, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35). 

Lazarus had a story. He had a story of friendship. He had a story of love. He had a story of learning from Jesus. He had a story that made other people perk up and take notice. They wanted to come and see this man that had once been dead and in the grave, yet now here he was, sitting at a table eating with Jesus. How could this be?

As followers of Christ, we all have a Lazarus story. We all have a story of walking in darkness and then walking in the Light. The people we are around might know that we are followers of Christ, but do they know how we got there? Do they know why we stay there?

This was the question posed to me during the message last night at church. It really struck a chord with me. People know that I go to church and read my Bible and try to live like the Lord wants me to live. I don’t curse. I don’t drink. I try to treat people with respect even when I disagree with them. But do I make an effort to tell them my Lazarus story?

Just so it is out there, here it is –

I was just a girl, maybe 9 or 10, when I heard Jesus whispering to my heart. I had been to church my whole life. I knew the stories. I had heard the sermons. I knew Jesus. But I had never invited Him to be the Lord of my life and Savior of my soul. My uncle was a pastor. One night, my mom, brother, grandma and I were visiting him and the family. It was a Wednesday night. I don’t remember the message at all. I just remember that I couldn’t sit still and something wasn’t right. I remember going back to my aunt and uncle’s house and going into the bathroom with my mom and telling her, “Momma, I think Jesus is speaking to my heart.” She said, “Let’s go find your uncle.” And we did. And he took me down the road to salvation. I prayed and asked Jesus into my heart that night. I remember that feeling in my heart so very well. I felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I remember how excited I was and how excited everyone around me was. It was a good night. And every since that day, I try my hardest to treasure that feeling of being completely and totally loved no matter what circumstance I find myself in that day. Looking back on my life, I can truly and honestly say that making that decision that night was the best thing I have ever done. I have never been alone since. I have had struggles and challenges and trials, joy and laughter and friendships, tears and questions and ponderings – but never have I doubted God’s love for me and His acceptance of my repentance. 

I didn’t live a life of deep, dark sin before I was saved. My Lazarus story happened pretty early in life. But my Lazarus story is one of life long love and faithfulness. Mine is a story of walking. Jesus and I have been walking together for well over 30 years. He has been working on me for that long. He has a lot to do. Have you ever heard that song “He’s still working on me”? Well, that pretty much sums up my life. 

You see, each Lazarus story is different. Each one has a different starting point and a unique set of circumstances that led that person to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And every person who has made that decision has a different path that has brought him/her this far. Yet, despite the differences, we are all headed to the same place – a eternity with Jesus. 

The purpose and goal of telling our Lazarus story should be to bring along as many people as we can. Ours is a story of redemption and love and relationship that provides others with the opportunity to experience the same thing, no matter their backstory. 

So I want to encourage you this week to share your Lazarus story. People may know that you are a follower of Christ and that you are not like everyone else around them. But do they know how you got there and why you stay there? Tell them! Listen, this is just as much for me as it is for you. 

Lessons from Sunday morning

Psalms‬ ‭46:1-11‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.”‭‭

This was our passage for the Sunday morning message. The preacher titled the message “Think About It”. Let me give you what I took away from the message.

The first thing I saw was the three “Selah”. Now then, what does that word mean? It means “to rest, ponder”. However, you can make an acronym out of it: S – Stop, E – Everyone, L – Listen, A – And, H – Hear. “Stop Everyone. Listen And Hear.” 

How often do we hear but not listen? I know I do it from time to time. I will hear someone speaking to me, but I am doing something else at the time and I don’t listen to them. How often do we read the Word of God and not listen to it? Ohhhh….that one hurt. I am the first in line to admit to reading dutifully but not listening dutifully. It is sad, really. I miss so much in the Word of God by simply not paying attention. I need to stop, listen and hear. 

Another thing I found in these verses is the reoccurant theme of “refuge”. 

Have you ever needed refuge? There was one time that we were at a theme park and it began to rain. No, the heavens opened up and we were caught in the midst of a deluge. We were seeking refuge from the storm. We found it under a bridge. It was kinda fun but also very humbling. We got to the point that we knew that we couldn’t handle the situation and we needed some protection.

We are bombarded out in the world with all kinds of yuck. We see it in the news, hear it on the radio, see it on the streets – yuck is everywhere. We need some place to get away, to escape. We need somewhere where the problems and issues of the world are taken away and dealt with. 

We need Jesus. He is our refuge. He is our strength. He is our strong tower. And when we decide to go to Him, He tells us to “be still”. Not my strong point. I’m always busy. Always doing something. Rarely do I give myself the opportunity to be still. But this is exactly where God wants us to be. We need to allow ourself to be still sometimes. 

Being still means that we make the choice to let Someone else handle things. We give over our perceived control to the One who is truly in control. And when we do this, we can find peace – that elusive peace we all desire. But it really isn’t elusive. It just requires us to return whatever control we thought we had to it’s original owner. It is attainable. 

Stop. Listen and hear. Seek refuge in Christ. 

Psalm 46 is one of encouragement. It is one that reminds us that stopping the chaos around us to listen to the Word of God provides more than just information. It provides peace. And if there is anything this world needs more of, it is the peace of God. 

On the field

Mark‬ ‭5:19‬,20 ‭KJV – “Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.”‭‭

Last night, my son made a presentation to our church regarding his recent trip to Haiti. He showed pictures, told stories and spoke about how this trip impacted his life. 

He challenged us all to be more satisfied and content with our life. We have so much and there are people around the world that have so little. But their lack of “stuff” doesn’t bother them. They are content. They are satisfied with the little that they have and are grateful for the extras that they receive. It really is all about perspective. 

And then our pastor challenged us in a different way. 

The mission field in Haiti is important, don’t get me wrong. But what about the mission field just outside our door? What about the mission field around us each and every day? What are we doing about that? 

A friend of mine once referred to my job as my mission field. I smiled and nodded at the time but the words crept into my heart and took root. What if you saw your job as your mission field? What if the people around you became your ones to shepherd in your eyes? How would that change things? Would you do things differently?

I know in my life when I decide to see the people I come in contact with as those on my mission field, my perspective changes. I’m no longer shy about sharing Christ with them. I find ways to work Jesus into the conversation. I make a point to share God working in my life with them. I’m not overly concerned with how they see me. I’m just taking the opportunities provided to me. 

It’s a paradigm shift. You change from seeing these people as ones who help you get your work done or ones that you have to treat to people who need Jesus and you’re the one bringing Him to them. 

So this week, I want to encourage you to 1) be content – be satisfied with what God has blessed you with and 2) change your perspective – see your job as a mission field. Let God show you how to serve Him on your mission field and how to be satisfied in the life He has given you.