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James 4:7 – “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Let me first just say that I’m sorry. I haven’t been faithful to my blog in a really long time. God is the God of second chances and I’m claiming that one!

Now then, about this verse –

This verse was mentioned in our BTC lesson last night at church. (Side note – Man! Was the sermon given last night ever a blessing! We left church at 9 last night!  Not one time did I even want to look at my watch! God had me captivated! The message was thought provoking and heart wrenching. God is so good!)   I wanted to take a closer to look at it today. Think for a moment about the order of this verse. 

First, “Submit yourselves therefore to God.” The part about the devil comes second. You see, we think we need to flee from the devil to draw closer to God. We get it backwards. We are supposed to FIRST submit ourself to God. That means, we need to give Him control. We need to be willing to follow after Him and do what He says to do, without complaining. Submitting, to me, means giving over control in regards to decision making. I can get things done. There are days I feel like I get more done before I leave the house than most people do in an entire day. But I don’t like making decisions. I will defer that duty as much as possible. I think part of it is the responsibility aspect of it. Like most people, I want as little responsibility as possible. God is wanting me to turn that over to Him. The key is, however, that I have to be willing to follow when He leads. 

And then there is the second part of this verse – “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  Does this mean that I have some sort of power over the devil? Only when I do the first part first. When I am submitted to God, the devil doesn’t seem so difficult to walk away from. His temptation and taunting doesn’t seem quite so overwhelming when I’m walking with and submitting to God. 

So I want to encourage you today to make the choice to submit to God first. Do it now. Ask Him to be in your day. Allow Him to show you in His word how to draw closer to Him. Listen to Him when you pray and hear Him as you go through your day. And then, when the devil rears his ugly head, it won’t seem so tough to turn away. With God, things are purer, brighter and more desirable, even when it seems tough. Happy Monday. 

FingerprintsĀ 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 – “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

It’s a season of change at my house. Summer vacation has started. That means the grade transition has taken place. I now have two high school students. Friends have transitioned to non-high school life. People are moving from our everyday life to our text occasionally life. It is hard. It is sad. It is exciting. 

And as we look back over the last year, I see some heartache. I see laughter. I see adventure. I see success and I see failure. It’s the way of life. The ebb and flow of all things created. 

Yet as I see the page of a chapter in our life turning, I try to see God’s fingerprint. I see it in our continued love for one another. I see it in our attitudes. I see it in our tears for the change because we care so much. But I also see hope. I see the hope He gives in the promise that He will always be there. I see hope in the opportunity for new friends with new ideas and new dreams and new stories. 

Change happens in life just as surely as we know that the sun will come up tomorrow. Change can be scary. Change can be exciting. Change can be difficult. But in the midst of change, I encourage you to find hope. Solomon understood that “To everything there is a season”. We need to remember that as well. We need to accept that things don’t always keep us in our comfort zone. Growing doesn’t happen in that place. Growing happens when things are stressed and bothered. And that is exactly what God is doing in my house right now. Changing and growing with hope while reminding me of His fingerprints all over my life. 

Another temptationĀ 

James 1:2-4 – “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.”

Usually when I think of temptation, I think of doing something I know I shouldn’t – like eating that donut as big as your head or watching a show that you know you wouldn’t watch if Jesus was physically sitting on the couch next to you.  But let me ask this question- what if self pity is a temptation? I mean, think about it, haven’t you ever just felt the tug to feel sorry for yourself about something? “Poor little me, I have so much to do and I am so under appreciated.” 

I know I feel that way from time to time. In fact, I was there last night. I had thought my week was set. I had a large function behind me, laundry was on its way to the finish line, lunch was ready for the next day – I was set. Then, I get an email about an unexpected practice this week. Boom! Monkey wrench! Suddenly, I’m rearranging and contemplating and becoming more and more anxious because this monkey wrench felt like the Empire State Building had been dropped into the middle of my week. Now, I’m over exaggerating, but that’s what it felt like. 

I could almost see the devil in the corner rubbing his greedy little hands together saying, “Ooh weee, we got her now!” And for a time he did. So sad. I stewed. I cleaned (that’s what I do when I get frustrated). I felt sorry for myself. I was tired of doing and being everything for everyone. 

And then it happened, God started whispering to my heart. He started reminding me that He had provided my husband to help me figure things out. He had provided friends to be there when one of the kids needed a ride. He had provided Grandpa to help on Tuesday nights. He had provided. 

God was trying to grow my faith and my patience. Patience for not only my situation but also for myself. I am constantly learning that I need to chill out and let God do His thing. He must get so tired of teaching me that lesson but praise His name, He never quits. 

Strong children

Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

It has been a long school year. But at the same time, it has flown. It has been a process of encouraging my children to succeed and guiding them through trying times. 

Yet through all of it, it has been the goal of our family to grow strong children. And I think we are. They face so many situations at school and in their “recreational” time that sometimes life seems overwhelming. 

My son is the strong, silent type. You know what a first child typically looks like? Flip it around, shake it up and cover it with a cloak and you have my son. My husband and I laugh that he is an enigma. But he is courageous. He always has been. His speech was delayed as a child and that made him shy. So overcoming is almost second nature to him. 

Now my daughter, on the other hand, well…there are very few words to accurately describe her. She is definitely strong. She is courageous – she rarely lets things keep her from speaking her mind. (Not sure where she gets that from!)   But she is joyful. She is fun. She is determined. She is mighty and fierce. 

They both are such strong and amazing children. I hear of other people worrying about their children and their future. Not me, I know God has placed these two on this planet for amazing things. I’m excited to see what it is!

But we need to encourage all of our children, whether we have them given birth to them or not, to thrive. Be successful. Be brave. Be courageous. They have a Mighty God who will NEVER leave them and He has something in store for them that we can’t imagine. 

Monday night, I heard a speaker challenge a group of students in this way – What was the promise that God made to the world when He brought you into it? Live every day with that in mind and see what God will do. 

No

Matthew 7:11 – “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

It’s the most dreaded word I know – “No.” And what makes it even more unbearable is when there is no explanation. When my kids get told “no”, what is the next word that follows – “why?”  My, oh, my. How many times has that scenario played out in my life!

Sometimes we ask God for things. We ask with the right heart, with the right motive and even with the right attitude. And God still says “no”. The problem is, we don’t always audibly hear Him say “no”. We may not even hear it in our heart. It just feels like God is ignoring us, that He doesn’t care. 

Well, let me reassure you this – if you are a child of God, He NEVER ignores you. You may walk away and do your own thing and chose to ignore Him, but He will never ignore you when you make the choice to repent and turn back to Him. 

You see, some people treat Christ like a genie in a bottle. We rub that “magic lamp” with the bright hopes that we have played the game right to win His favor. People, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t just run to God when you have drama in your life. Relationships are not built on drama alone. 

I think that when I treat Christ like that (and face it, we all do sometimes) He is hurt. It hurts Him for us to mistreat Him. But God is not out to get us when we mistreat Him. He only desires repentance. 

But until we do repent, He may say “no” to some things in our life. And He does this for our good. He wants us back on track and sometimes that means saying “no”. 

I have teenagers. I love them to pieces. But sometimes I have to say “no” and sometimes the only explanation I have is “no”. My kids laugh at and respect what I call my mommy alarms. When those mommy alarms go off, the answer is definitely “no”. Mommy alarms mean that no explanation is needed or will be given because mommy has no idea why I’m saying “no” but the answer is definitely “no”.  

God knows far better than us what we need and when we need it. Sometimes the answer to our request is “no” with no further explanation given. And that’s that. 

We dislike very strongly (hate is such an ugly word) the word “no”. It means we don’t get our way. And we dislike very strongly the fact that we may not get an explanation for the “no”. But here is where trusting comes in – God loves you enough to not give you everything you want and give you only what you need. He did that with Jesus. He does that every moment of every day. 

So the next time “no” comes on your radar, don’t get all bent out of shape. Look at why God might say “no”. See it from different angles and then go with it. Remember this – Father always knows best. 

A “re”newed view

Isaiah 53:5 – “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

I teach the teenagers on Wednesday night at church. These last few weeks we have been going through the student version of “A Case for Christ”. And let me tell you, tonight’s lesson is going to be tough. I debated skipping it but I feel that as tough as it will be, my kids need to hear it. All of it. So instead of trying to determine a witty presentation of the subject matter, I’m just going to read it. 

I have to. There is nothing witty or clever about the transgressions committed against my Jesus. 

In our society, we are okay with watching movies that are gruesome and horrible. We read books that give us nightmares. We watch videos on social media that terrify us. But to careful consider the torment and brutality of what Jesus went through for us, well, that’s another story. We can’t take it. It hurts too much. 

I think that when we stop and look into history about the torture methods and ways  a death sentence was carried out in the Roman culture, we can’t help but feel burdened and grateful and incredibly sad. We hear periodically about Jesus being “wounded” for our transgressions. I don’t think that begins to scratch the surface. 

Jesus was brutally tortured for my sin. Jesus was beaten beyond recognition for my sin. Jesus was humiliated on the cross for my sin. Jesus felt the weight of His own body through the nails piercing His hands/wrists for my sin. Jesus endured what can only be described as suffocation and His organs shutting down very slowly for my sin. And I know that if I was the only person in history that would ever accept His sacrifice, He would still have done it – for me. 

And that is powerful. 

With each touch of the whip, He thought of all those through time that would choose Him as their Savior. With each agonizing moment on that cross, He thought about each life that would be drastically changed because of His act of selfless love. 

Do you think about that? Do you consider that when work piles up? Do you think about that while your folding laundry for the ump-teenth time this week? Do you consider His sacrifice and love for each and every one of us when that nut monkey cuts you off in traffic?

Probably not. I know I don’t. But I should. I believe that if we would live our life redeemed and grateful for His sacrifice, our world would change. Fear would leave. Doubt would run and hide. Compassion would be as common place as anything you can think of. 

But it’s so much easier to turn our thoughts away from Him. It’s so much easier to forget. 

I want to encourage you today to take a moment and read about His suffering. I want you to think about His sacrifice. I want you to say “thank you” and mean it from a place in your heart that is torn and burdened. 

Perfection

Titus 3:4-7 – “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

I saw a sign today for a church body that said “No perfect people allowed”. I have mixed feelings on this. 

On one hand, I’m thinking “that’s fabulous!”  Sometimes I think non-church goers make excuses in their head for not going to church because they have the perception that churches are filled with people who think they are better than everyone else. Well, not mine! We all know we are sinners saved by grace. We don’t go to church because we think we are perfect. We go because we know we aren’t! We know that the only way we are going to make it through until the next meeting is by soaking up what we can with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We know that personal Bible study is important, but worshipping as a group is important as well. We are continually learning that our righteousness is not in ourself but in Christ alone. 

And then on the other hand, I think of Jesus. He WAS the perfect person. He was all God and all man. He is the only “perfect” person allowed in a body of believers. 

So, the statement “No perfect people allowed” is somewhat correct in that no person physically walking the earth today can or will be perfect. 

I think perfection is a misconceived idea. There is no way that we will ever be complete while walking the sin-filled soil of this earth. (By the way, you do know that perfect means “complete”, right?) Jesus is the only hope we have for the possibility of achieving this goal. It is only a life in Him that opens that door. And even then, that door is in Heaven. So enjoy your imperfect life. With Christ, soon all things will be made complete.