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Don’t DIY

Genesis 15:1 – ” After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”

“Do-it yourself” stuff is all the rage. There is an entire app just for one to look up anything and everything that you can do for yourself. There are stores devoted to getting things around the house “fixed up” by Harry Homeowner himself. We like to do things ourself. In a world where you can get just about everything done by someone else for a price, it feels good to know that you accomplished some great feat all by yourself.

But there are some things that we just cannot do ourself – salvation, for one thing. We cannot attain our own salvation. We can’t work for it. We can’t buy it. We can’t steal it. It has to be given to us. Praise God! I don’t think I could handle the stress of trying to accomplish that task!

There are other ways that we try to out-do God. We try to protect ourself. Now, sure, there are things that we can do, items we can have on hand and such, that will protect us. Security systems, firearms, pepper spray, self-defense techniques, car seats and seat belts, wellness visits to the doctor – these are all ways that we can protect ourself. But as a follower of Christ, we have the best protection we could possibly imagine – we have God as our shield.

When I did a study of the armor of God one time, I learned that the to used for “shield” isn’t some small, dinky, upper body covering thing. No, this “shield” is more like a door that you hide behind. It is huge and all-protecting. You don’t have to worry about anything getting past that thing! The only way to get hurt while having this shield in your armory is to leave it behind.

This is the protection that God is offering everyone who puts their faith and trust in Him. This is the kind of protection He was offering Abraham. This is the same protection He offers you and me today. How cool is that??

In the last part of this verse, God describes Himself as Abraham’s “exceeding great reward”. Now, we LOVE rewards. We love accolades. We love bonuses. We love experiencing and seeing the fruit of our labor. And we want it now. No delayed gratification- that’s for the birds!  We are like that little girl from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. We whine and ball our fist and get all red faced while screaming, “I want it now!”  We never have been good at waiting.

God had promised Abraham a son. Abraham and Sarah were just as bad as us about waiting. But God had promised to be Abraham’s “exceeding great reward”. God promised to be all the reward that Abraham would ever need and/or want. He has made that promise to us today.

It’s the idea of being forward focused. It’s remembering that the best is yet to come. It’s accepting that things may never be the best while we are here and serving Him, but one day, oh one day, I can’t even explain how good things will be. I can only read and try to comprehend how good Heaven will be. I can’t imagine that kind of reward. But I believe with all my heart, that if God said it and/or promised it, that it is a guarantee!

So let me encourage you today – stay behind the shield and remember that the best is yet to come. Sometimes that can be challenging. We don’t want to wait for God to rescue us. And we certainly don’t want to wait to get our reward. But just like that ketchup commercial used to say, “The best things in life come to those who wait.”

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Temptations

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 .”

My husband teaches the teen Discovery group at our church on Wednesday nights. This week, his lesson was on temptation.
He had the kids to fill out note cards with times when they feel tempted. One that was very common, that I really don’t think about, was their language around their friends. You know, I remember those days when sometimes you just really wanted to talk like the people you are around, but you remember that talking like that is not the right way. Nowadays, I still have people who chose words that I don’t speak but it doesn’t bother me as bad. But I do notice that people notice that I don’t use foul language and they will try to curb their language or apologize when they use words that they know I don’t say.

Ok, back to the thought. Temptation. We all face it each and every day. I am trying to cut back on my sugar intake. We are going on a really nice trip this summer and I don’t want to look like a beached whale in my bathing suit. So, cut back on the sugar. Well, it seems that everywhere I turn there is something sweet to eat or drink. It has been a challenge to go to my favorite restaurants and not drink my beloved sweet tea. But I’m doing okay. I have only had two small cookies and one gluten free brownie in the last three weeks. I have decided to go back to real creamer because I just can’t take the taste of sugar free creamer any more.

My point is this – when we are tempted, it won’t be more than we can bear. You can go through it without fear of doing it alone. Jesus walks with you. And if you go through it, He will provide a way out of it. Sometimes temptation can be avoided. But sometimes it is unavoidable. You just have to go through it.

And when you reach the other side, you are stronger. You have faced the temptation and you have rejected it and because of that rejection to sin, you have added another layer to your armor. You are more spiritually strong. You are more mentally strong. You know that if you can face this temptation, you can face any other one that comes your way as long as you are walking with Him.

The Game

Psalm 27:1-3 – “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.”

My son plays soccer at school. He loves soccer. And though he plays for a Christian school sometimes they face opponents that are not followers of Christ. That can be difficult at times.

Yesterday, they faced an opponent who has been known to play in a very unsportsmanlike manner. We had heard about several of the previous games against other schools in which this team received several yellow cards for not playing the game properly. We had also been told that the parents were not friendly to their opponents. All in all, our team was a bit fearful of a negative and harsh game.

I don’t know about the rest of the parents but when I get into a position where I feel threatened or my child is threatened (and I know this ahead of time), I pray. I pray a lot. I pray for everyone involved. I pray that God will intervene and smooth out the path. I talked to my son about playing with integrity and not letting your anger get the best of you.

You see, high school soccer is a great life lesson not only for the players but also for the spectators. The players learn to be aware of their opponents and their playing style. They learn how to perform under pressure. They learn to control their emotions so that they can play as a team. The spectators learn to support success – no matter whose success it is. They learn that you don’t have to be in the middle of things in order to be helpful – sometimes your presence means more than any action you can take.

We are all going to have times in our life when we come up against some nasty foes, and we need to know to whom we need to turn for help – Jesus. Israel faced all kinds of foes that wanted to destroy them, that did not play fair. They had people trying to get into their heads with all kinds of crazy ideas. They had people who tried to destroy them from the inside out. Do you think your life is any different? Do you believe that on a daily basis that there are forces set to destroy you and all that you believe in?

Unfortunately, we all have battles in one form or another each and every day. We all have foes that don’t play fair, who try to get into our head with crazy ideas and who would love nothing more than to tear us to pieces.

Ok, Debbie Downer is done because here is the kicker to it all – WE WIN! If you have Jesus Christ leading you in the battle, you win every single time. It might feel like you have lost, but if you learn something to makes you grow closer to Him, you win. You see, it is so much about your attitude and perspective that it is not even funny. Maybe your foes are tearing out the bad stuff so that Jesus can grow the good stuff. Maybe you need to learn how to be strong mentally. You have to know what you believe and why you believe it to grow in that direction. So, you need someone to challenge you.

God can work in any situation. And He can grow us if we are willing to let Him. He can protect us, if we follow Him down the right path.

Yesterday was a win for our boys soccer team. They won not only because they scored more goals than their opponents but also because they didn’t let the other team bully them or get into their heads. They were physically and mentally strong. And most importantly, they showed pretty good sportsmanship – it wasn’t perfect, but really, none of us are. And us spectators had the opportunity to support the athletes of both teams in their successes and failures. It was a good game.

So let me encourage you today, princess, to be on guard and know when to run to the Refuge. Don’t let the devil get into your head. You got this. Play like you mean it.

Overwhelmed

Psalm 61:2 – “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Sunday is a day of praise and worship. It is supposed to be a day of rest. It is supposed to be a day of peace and reflection.

For some reason, my life missed that memo. Yesterday was a wild and wacky day for me. We had a potluck at church to celebrate our pastor and his family being there for 15 years; I had to present our Operation Christmas Child information; I am leading the youth in their Christmas program; laundry had to be done so that the family had clothes for this week; projects had to be completed that are due today for school (that is a whole other blog on forgiveness and patience right there!) – my brain and my heart was overwhelmed. And the devil knew it. He made sure that I was feeling every minute. I’m running around he church building like the Tasmanian devil. Everyone is asking me if I’m okay. “You looked stressed,” they would say. “Oh no, just busy.”

And then I get home. The insanity starts all over again. One hopes that her home is a place of refuge and peace. Mine was anything but that. We only had so long at home yesterday; we had Christmas program practice last night. We had to get homework and laundry done at a lightning pace. That, my friend, causes stress. And stress like that oozes. It’s like a nasty blister. When one person has that kind of stress, it leaks out onto everyone else. And that makes all the attitudes nasty. I was the one leaking yesterday.

I was overwhelmed. I wanted to have the right heart and attitude, but I just couldn’t find it. And that was my problem. I was looking for it in me. I have been at this life for long enough to know and understand that I can’t find it in myself. But I forget. I chose not to remember. I thought I could handle it all on my own.

But I can’t. I have to run to the “rock that is higher than I”. That is where peace is. That is where love and understanding abides.

So, as I was getting out of the car last night to go to practice, my husband says to me, “Have a good attitude.” And I responded, “I hope so.” And somewhere in between the car and the door, I ran to the Rock. Peace overtook my heart and mind. Practice went smoothly. I got to hear my darling husband bring the message for evening worship service and it truly touched my heart. God reminded me over and over again just how truly blessed I am. I learned yesterday, again, that when I take my eyes off of myself and choose to see Him that things go much smoother – life is much more manageable.

The day after

Titus 2:11-14 – “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

Have you ever disappointed yourself? You get caught up in doing something that has no eternal value and you find that you have wasted three hours. Wasted. Totally gone. No way to get back that time – ever. Then you come out of your stupor and think about all the things that you could have done in that time – all the things you should have done. And then you come across this verse and the guilt continues.

We were encouraged this weekend at church to live each day with the thought in mind that today could be the day of the Lord’s return, to look for that “blessed hope”. When I came out of my stupor of wasting time, I realized that I was not living this verse at all. I was not being a peculiar person. I was not zealous of good works. I was frustrated and mad at myself.

It’s tough to have a good rest of the day after that. I kept thinking of all the things that I could have done in that time. I asked God to forgive me. I know that He did. I John 1:9 reminds me of that assurance. But the question is, how am I going to make today different? God has given me life this morning. He has given me another opportunity to live out these verses. He has provided me with breath and choices today. Today I have to choose to live more like Him.

Princess, I want you to know and understand this – when you mess up, Jesus stands waiting to forgive you. And when He does, you have to forgive yourself. You have to choose to turn and walk away from that bad decision and move on. You can’t wallow in the could have and should have beens. That is exactly where the devil wants you. He wants you to feel sorry for yourself for the choices that you have made. When you do that, you aren’t being peculiar. You are acting like everyone else.

These verses in Titus encourage us to be different, to see things differently. We have a reason to do so – Jesus. All that Jesus went through for us, all that He suffered, and all He asks is that we choose to be different and follow after Him. Life is going to happen. You will make bad choices. Jesus will forgive you. It’s what you do after that forgiveness that makes you peculiar and zealous of good works. So get out there, princess, and look for that blessed hope while you are living a life worthy of Him.

Group chats

Psalm 51:1-3,7 – “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

So, I have a unique example of sin for you today. My daughter has an iPad. She texts her friends on it. It is all good, right? Nope. Have you ever heard of group chats? Let me just warn you, if your child wants to join a group chat, just take my advise and say “no”. Usually, there is nothing harmful about them. But let one or two girls get a little hormonal and…well, let’s just say it all hits the fan. And another bad thing, some parents don’t monitor their children on the devices and they are texting until all hours of the night! Ugh! AND it takes an act of God to get them off the dumb things!

Ok, my ramblings have brought us here. Sin. Sin usually looks okay at the beginning. Your just testing the water, right? Just one toe in. And when you get comfortable in it, things start to get a little murky. Then, the water starts swirling around a bit. And the next thing you know, you are getting sucked down into the depths of it all.

Only an act of God can save you now. And praise God, He provided that act in His Son Jesus Christ! Our choices usually start off innocent and full of promise. These are choices that we make without thought of consequence or actions required. It just looks fun. It just looks harmless. But things can get out of control quick. And then your only lifeline back to the path is Jesus. And He is always there waiting for you.

Now that you know the way out, how about prevention. I’m all about keeping the bad away. Think. Think before you act and think before you speak. Listen, this is just as much for me as it is for anyone! I’m the queen of open mouth, insert foot! I think we all could do a better job of evaluating things before we act. It would certainly save Jesus a lot of rope!

So princess, whether you are considering a group chat or some other choice in your life, consider the possibilities of your choice before you jump headlong into it. I have heard several times before: Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay. So, just be on your guard.

Oh, Paul…..

Romans 7:15,17 – “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that I do. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.”

As I’m pushing 40, I am very mindful of my weight. I hear all the time that trying to loose weight after 40 is really tough. I want to loose it before I turn 40.
But it is not looking good. Peach cobblers, cookies, sweet tea and bread are just a few of the culprits keeping me from loosing a little bit of weight.

Every week, I tell myself, “Ok, this is the week. This is the week you are going to leave sugar and wheat alone, except for my coffee in the morning because I have to have my coffee. But other than that, no go!” Hasn’t happened yet.

It’s frustrating! The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak. Hence, the verse above. I know exactly how Paul feels. Now, I’m sure that he was talking about something far more spiritual than overeating, but the same principle applies.

I know that to loose weight I have to stay away from sugar and wheat. But I consistently find myself eating them both. And not just a little bit. It is usually to the point where sin is involved – gluttony. Nasty little sin. That which I know I should do, I do not. And that which I don’t want to do, I do. (Melissa translation)

So, what’s the solution? Theoretically, throw all that junk away. But I hate throwing away money.
No, what I need to do is just exactly what I have been telling you to do about reading your Bible – choose to do it. Choose not to eat the things that you know are bad for you. But don’t go at it alone. Ask for God’s help. Yes, He wants to help you loose weight too. He wants to be a part of every aspect of your life. If it is important to you, it’s important to Him!

So princess, if you find yourself in a similar situation, just remember – we can do. But we have to do it with help. We have to do it with Him.