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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! 

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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. 

Learning

Proverbs 2:10-17 – “When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things; Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness; Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked; Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths: To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words; Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God.”

I was spending some time with my nephew last night. We were learning about animals and their habits and behaviors. One fact that we learned was that a wildebeast typically have their babies at night. The babies are expected to be able to run 15 minutes after they are born. If they can’t run, the mother leaves them behind. My nephew loves animals and all sorts of facts. He is like a little sponge. He looked up at me after hearing this and said, “Aunt Melissa, there are some facts that I don’t like to know. That makes me sad.”

They say “Knowledge is power.” And in some ways, I guess they are correct. Knowledge helps you to understand the world around you. It can guide you and show the path of righteousness, if you look for it. It can show you what people truly desire. It can help you to identify when someone is trying to lead you away from what you know to be right. 

When accompanied by the Holy Spirit, knowledge can help you see your need for a Savior. 

But sometimes, we pick up the wrong kind of knowledge. We gather and allow the “wisdom of the world” to penetrate our hearts and minds. That knowledge leads us away from the path of righteousness. It tries to take away the truth. 

We need to know and understand this fact – there are two kinds of knowledge and two ways to use them. The Knowledge of God will bring peace and understanding. The knowledge of the world with bring anxiety and confusion. 

The only way that we can absorb the Knowledge of God is to get into His word. It requires us to learn about God, to know His statutes and commands and to walk with Him daily. It means that sometimes we are going to learn really tough lessons. We are going to hear things that make us sad because we are convicted by the Holy Spirit to change. We are going to read about consequences of not choosing God and will learn that Hell is a real place filled with real people who made a real decision. 

Learning is tough stuff. It requires discipline, attention and continuity. It’s not something that you casually do from time to time. It needs to be something you work at every day. Just like a diet won’t work if you follow it one to two times a week, being a student of Christ requires diligence. It is a daily task that you choose to complete each and every day. 

Am I diligent? Nope. Am I proud of that? Nope. Do I want to do better? Yep. I think this is an area that everyone could stand a booster shot in from time to time. The new year is just around the corner. I am already planning how I am going to make next year a more educational year than this year. How about you? What are you going to do next year that will draw you closer to Christ? 

Learning should be a lifelong activity. What will you do to learn more of Him today?

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. 

Lessons from a dead tree

Psalm 8:3-4 – “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

We had a pretty intense storm a few months ago that left our little yard with one small, dead tree. Now, this tree had a diameter at it’s base of about 4-5 inches – big enough to be difficult but small enough to drag around. My son and my husband had removed it and set it by the side of the road for pick up, in September. 

Needless to say, the grass was beginning to grow through it and the county has passed by it several times. It isn’t big enough to require a large truck to pick up the debris but it is too big for the lawn waste people to heave it into their truck.

So, I set out yesterday to hack this poor dead, dried up tree into pieces and stick it in a garbage can with the hopes that the lawn waste people will begin to pick it up today. And as I was sawing away with my little hand saw, God began to remind of a few things:

1. When you go after something that seems overwhelming, you have to attack it little by little. For me to try to saw through the largest branches with my hand saw and all the other limbs still hanging off the end was near impossible. I found that if I cut off the little branches, the larger ones were much easier to deal with. 

2. Persistence is the key. Have you ever tried to cut through a 4 inch piece of wood with a 2 inch wide hand saw? It takes persistence. I found that if I stopped while sawing through a limb this size, I looked like a crazy person trying to get it started again. I just had to keep going. Even when my puny arms were screaming and my strength was giving out, I had to keep going. Eventually, I got it in two but it wasn’t easy.                                                                                                                                                                         

You know, sometimes we feel like we are getting nowhere in reaching people. We feel like living our lives for the Lord isn’t enough. We feel like inviting them to Sunday school and worship services and fellowships is just not working. But God is using it. Little by little, He is chipping away at their heart. He is pursuing them in a holy manner that we can’t always see or understand. All He asks us to do is keep going. Keep doing those little things that mean more to them than we will ever know. 

3. Do your best and let God take care of the rest. He doesn’t always expect us to conquer something. Sometimes He wants us to trust Him and get out there and do something. 

The lawn waste people may or may not pick up that hacked up dead tree, but I have done all that I can. I know that I have attempted to do something to get rid of the dead tree. If nothing else, it is easier now to transport to that secret place on the other side of the retention pond where things seem to disappear into the woods. I don’t have to solve the problem. I just needed to work on it. 

You may not have a dead tree hanging out in your front yard, but I would guess that you do have something in your life that needs attention. It needs to be attacked little by little. It needs to be addressed persistently. God may or may not want you to conquer it, but He does want you to put forth your best effort in addressing it. 

Back Handsprings

1 Samuel 16:1-4 – “And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons. And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the LORD said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the LORD. And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will shew thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint unto me him whom I name unto thee. And Samuel did that which the LORD spake, and came to Bethlehem.”

My daughter is trying to learn to do a standing back handspring. She almost has it, but she just needs to have the confidence in herself to get the task done. Yesterday, I took her to a private lesson to help her overcome. The coach was great. He encouraged her. He instructed her. He led her through a series of exercises to warm up. Yet at the end of the session, she still didn’t have the confidence to do the back handspring. It is hard seeing your child face these challenges. But I know, this is more than just learning to do a back handspring. This is about life. This is about believing in yourself. This is about trusting what you know. 

Samuel was faced with a difficult task. God had told him to go and anoint another king while one was still on the throne. Now then, put yourself in Samuel’s sandals for just a moment. Samuel was watching the one that God had chosen to be the first king in Israel fail. Saul was walking away from God and His statutes at an alarming rate. Samuel was sad. He was hurt. God said to Samuel, “Enough with the mourning. Get yourself up and go anoint the new king.” And Samuel responded just like I would, “But God, Saul could kill me for this!” Yet, does God coddle Samuel and act like the warm, squishy God that society today makes him out to be? Nope. God offers no words of encouragement, no sentiments of comfort – God says, “Take your heifer and go do what I told you to do.” Now, to us, that may seem harsh and unkind. But you know what, sometimes we have to face reality and get out of our pity party and do what God has called us to do. 

God didn’t need to tell Samuel that He would protect him. God didn’t need to tell Samuel that everything would be okay. No, Samuel already knew that. Samuel had experiences in his life to remind him that God was already at the end of the situation. Samuel had the knowledge that God had already seen this thing through and knew how it would turn out. All Samuel had to do was follow it through, do what he knew to do. 

My daughter knows how to do a back handspring. She has been spotted while completing a beautiful back handspring so many times that I have lost count. She has the knowledge. She has the experience. Now all she has to do is follow through and do what she knows to do. 

I know that very soon she will stand up and flip right over safely and beautifully. But until then, I just have to support and encourage her. That is my job. That is my part. It is my turn to be the cheerleader for my cheerleader. 

This week, you may or may not face something of extreme difficulty in your life, but you might know someone who is. Either way, remember, use your experiences to apply what you know. Trust that God knows what He is doing. Don’t be afraid to face the new and difficult challenges. Sometimes you just have to pull up your pants and get the job done. 

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.”