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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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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.

All of me

‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:30‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”
We were challenged this weekend to love God with all that we are. Easy concept, right? Umm, no. Not so much. Not when you really take a good hard look at yourself. And that, my friend, is no fun. 

The challenge began with “Who is #1 in your life?” Well, I’m at church, on a Sunday night. The Sunday school answer is “God”, right? But when the question was asked again at the end of the challenge…the answer wasn’t God, if I was being honest with myself. And that is tough stuff right there. 

Love God with all my heart. What does that mean? As I have thought about it, I see it as loving God with all my emotion. Our heart is the center of our emotional state. When I love God with all my emotion, I make everything about Him. I choose to see His hand at work in my life. I allow Him to change and mold my attitude. Now, does that mean that I go around gushing and acting all cheesy? No. I believe that you can love God with all your heart by acknowledging Him every opportunity you get. You are deferring your emotion to Him. You are choosing to allow Him to guard and guide how you feel and respond. Loving God with all my heart.

Love God with all my soul. I think about this in this way – loving God with my eternity. My soul is something I can’t see; I can’t touch; but it is something I can give. I can give my soul back to it’s Creator by choosing Jesus as my Savior. I can allow God to have control over my eternity. Loving God with all my soul.

Love God with all my mind. Some days, I do okay with this and others days, it’s just plain ugly. In my way of thinking, this is loving God with thoughts. This is allowing God to control my thoughts. This is choosing to see things in the scope of eternity. “What would Jesus do?” It’s not wearing your heart on your shirt sleeve but rather seeing all things in the light of the love of Christ. Letting Jesus control my thoughts. Loving God with all my mind.

Love God with all my strength. To me, this is my actions. These are the things that I do or don’t do on a daily basis. This is reading my Bible. This is going to church when the doors are open. This is preparing for VBS. This is the physical action of the group. This is loving God with all my strength.

There are times when I get parts of this challenge spot on and there are times when I fail miserably. But you know what, God wants me to try my hardest. He wants me to make the choices to do things right and to seek Him daily. He knows when I am doing the best I can and when I am doing just enough to get by. This is where grace and mercy come into play. This is where I really need grace and mercy. And praise God, they never run out.

So this week, ask yourself “Who is #1 in my life?” And don’t just give the Sunday school answer. Really look hard at yourself. Ponder where your priorities really are. Happy Tuesday. 

Nuggets

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭14:7-8‬ ‭KJV – “Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge. The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.”‬‬

I’ve been reading in Proverbs lately. There are so many little nuggets in this book that it is hard to pin one down. There are so many that I read and totally get and then there are some that I just don’t understand because they are period related. But that is on me. I need to study more. 

But as I was reading this morning, I came across these two. 

We have all met them – people who think they are all that and a bag of chips, that person that knows everything and they are not afraid to tell you exactly what they think they know. They are the kind of person that I inwardly roll my eyes at. The older I get, the more advantageous I find it to just be quiet. Listening is a great art that many fail to learn. Some people feel that a multitude of words makes them smarter and better and more desirable to be around. But nope, that is so not the case. 

The word “prudent” means “acting with or showing care and thought for the future”. It means that you don’t just think about yourself and how you are presented in the here and now, but you consider the effects on the future. A person that is considered a fool just rambles on with no thought to the future.  

So what does that mean to me? It means that I want to be a person that others want to be around. I want to be known for my ability to listen and offer sound advice. I want others to see that I allow Christ to lead and guide my life, not me. Now, sometimes I am able to show this spot on. And then there are other times that I am the fool, babbling on like a brook.

I ebb and flo just like that brook. I just pray that my ebb and flowing is more in line with the footsteps of Jesus rather than those of the world. Happy Tuesday. 

Going to the water

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭32:8-9‬ ‭KJV- “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.”‬‬

You know, learning is a choice. You can’t make a child learn something. Sometime, somewhere in that little brain of theirs, they have to decide that they want to learn something before they can actually learn it. I can remember helping my kids learn their memory verses for school. (They have always gone to a Christian school.) There were times when I thought they were just going to have to take a poor grade on it because they just couldn’t get it into their little heads. But alas, somehow, they would recall it. They would remember all that we had gone over and the little tips and cues that I had used to help them remember what they were trying to learn. It was definitely a process.

Many people have pets. They work and work to teach them to do tricks or not go to the bathroom on the floor or roll over. They want them to be able to accomplish something on command. Some are successful. Some…..not so much. 

The old adage “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” sometimes stands out loud and clear for some of us. We see it in the lives of the people around us and, sometimes, we see it in our own life. 

How many times do God attempt to teach us a lesson and over and over again we fail? I don’t know about you, but I can look into my own life and see that over and over and over again. I sometimes feel like I am the horse and God keeps leading me to this beautiful, cool, abundant stream and I am just standing there like, “nope, not gonna happen.” It makes you shake your head when you see people like that. And then, when you realize that person is you….it makes you shake your head again. 

God has left a stream of abundance somewhere around you – the Bible. He has preserved His Word for all these years just so that you would have this instruction, this comfort, this Life giving opportunity. It is not hard to get your hands on, at least in America it’s not. You can get it on your phone or in book form. So many options. Yet, there are still people that will hold this glorious opportunity in their hands and look at like “nope, not gonna happen”. 

And from time to time, I am one of those people. 

So I want to encourage you today to see value, see worth, see the need for the Word of God in your life. He is leading you to this amazing opportunity to get to know Him better, to make your life more meaningful, to encourage you to keep going. Don’t just stand there and look at like “nope, not gonna happen”. Get in there and make it happen. Let Him do what He does best – making you the best version of you that there could possibly be. 

Inside the Box

Numbers 7:89 – “And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with him, then he heard the voice of one speaking unto him from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of testimony, from between the two cherubims: and he spake unto him.”

Last night, we were in Bible study at church. Our teen group is not yet meeting. We are on break in between semesters. Our preacher has been giving a study into the Tabernacle and the items found inside. Last night, he was looking at the Ark of the Covenant. 

I’ve been thinking about it last night and this morning. 

Let me give you what I have been thinking about so far. There were items inside the Ark – the staff of Aaron that budded, the Golden Bowl of Manna and the Ten Commandment Tablets. Each of these items had a specific reason why they were preserved inside the Ark. They were for rememberance and as symbols to represent the Savior to come. These reasons are very important. Yet, as the saying goes, they were out of sight and easily out of mind. You see, in my mind, there were times that the children of Israel forgot where God really is – everywhere. 

It is easy to put God in a box. We keep Him tucked away in case of an emergency or crisis or something like that. We don’t appreciate the fact that He will sit right beside you, if you ask Him to. We neglect to remember that He isn’t just in the church house. Rather, He is in our every moment. Just like the children of Israel had all these reminders hidden away in an Ark, we have all these reminders in our very line of sight and especially in our Bible. God has preserved and kept His Word all these thousands of years for a reason – to remind us. Just like He preserved and kept those reminders in the Ark, He keeps His Word, the Bible. 

Now, the children of Israel couldn’t just open up the Ark and look inside to get those reminders. We can. We can open our Bible any time we want and expose ourself to God any time we choose. But do we choose to?

Moses met God at the Mercy Seat. You see, He was there all along. He was out there and among them. They just neglected that memory. Moses had real experiences with God. He spoke with Him. He listened to Him. All of this via the Mercy Seat. 

And you know what? He is still on the Mercy Seat. It has just been relocated to Heaven. When Jesus fulfilled the Law, He went to the right hand of the Father. Just like Moses talked with God at the Mercy Seat, we can talk with Jesus Christ who is on the Mercy Seat in Heaven. 

You know, the great thing about the Bible is that it all works together. The Old Testament helps explain the New Testament. We can look at promises and prophecies made in the Old Testament and see them fulfilled in the New Testament. Yet no matter where you start, all of it points to Jesus Christ. He is the reason for it all. He is the main event. He is the Savior of the world. Without Him, it’s all just a bunch of stories. But I don’t know how you can even begin looking into the Word of God and not see Jesus Christ. I see Him in the Garden, in the Flood, in the Exodus, in the Law, in the Judges, in the Psalms, in the prophecies and so on and so on. He is everywhere you care to look. And all the promises, all the prophecies, they all point to one thing – the salvation and return of Jesus Christ.  

It really is beautiful. I would encourage you today to step into the Word and go on the adventure of a lifetime – no, of an eternity.