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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.

Seeing the Super

Ephesians 3:14-19 – “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”

Do you enjoy superhero movies? I do. I love watching movies about people who can do extraordinary things yet are able to completely blend into a crowded street.
Why do followers of Christ act any different?
Have you ever thought for a moment about the fact that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the work of God in every day life? Seriously, think about it.
Now, how often do we engage our “super power”?
When Paul was writing this to the Ephesians, there were no movie theaters down the street showing the latest film about someone who could fly or lift semi trucks with one hand. No, these were every day salesmen and women, farmers, weavers, moms, and young people who were doing their best just to survive. Yet, here is Paul asking God to strengthen them in His Spirit and to know and comprehend His love that is seemingly unthinkable. He was asking God to show these people God’s super power.
When times like a career change or big move comes up in our life, we are quick to look for God to move and work. We know that He has control of our future and we quickly desire to see Him at work. We are 100% confident that He will provide the strength and wisdom to do what He wants us to do.
But what about the every day stuff like paying for someone else’s drink in the drive-thru or letting that person who waited until the last minute to merge in or dealing with the animal that loves to gnaw on your pillows outside – how do handle those situations? Do we engage our super power then? Do we ask God how to handle those situations? Do we trust Him to give us what we need not to honk at that person?
You see, Love is a super power. It has the ability to conquer a multitude of issues and problems – 1 Peter 4:8 – “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” (If you aren’t aware, “charity” is the Old English word for love.) Love has the ability to go out there and pay for someone else’s drink without them knowing who did it. Love has the ability to calmly allow someone in front of you in traffic. Love has the ability to not get mad at the crazy animal that chewed up your pillows and to be grateful that it only chewed up 2 of them. Love has the ability to allow God to work in the biggest and most life changing issues you face because you know in the deepest part of your heart that He can do all things.
So what I want to encourage you to do today is to engage your super power of Love. Let God have His way and to show you His love. Look for it like you would look for that last dime you need to get coffee at the gas station. Search for it diligently. And ask God to strengthen you in His love and guide you in His wisdom. He is just there waiting for you to ask Him to engage your super power.

 

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. 

Identity Crisis

1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:19-20‬ ‭KJV – “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”‭‭‬‬

I have an exercise for you today – get out a piece of paper and write “I AM” on the top of it. Then below that, I want you to write words that describe you – character traits, career choices, hobbies – anything and everything that describe you. Then, I want you to cross out all the words that describe your personality, your career, your hobbies and anything else that describes you. Now, I know that you are thinking, “Good grief Melissa, that was dumb to write it all down and then cross it all out.”

Here is the point –

We tend to think of ourself in certain ways. We see ourself as defined by words that man has made up to describe things and actions. But is that really who you are? Are you really nice? If I had to guess, if you’re like me, not all the time. Are you really hard-working? If you’re like me, laziness creeps into your life sometimes. You see, the words that we describe ourself with are temporary and unreliable. In reality, they limit us. They put us in a box or in a column that restricts who we can truly be. 

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, oh dear, you are so much more than adjectives on a page. You have been created and designed for a special purpose that it is your duty to fulfill in this life we live on a daily basis. Adjectives on a page don’t begin to describe the beauty and purpose that God has in store for you.

BUT, you have to make a choice. You see, you can see yourself as the world sees you all day long. Or, you can see yourself in the Light of Heaven and find freedom. 

Those adjectives you used to describe yourself are bars around you that keep you from reaching your full potential. The world will tell you – “It’s your life. Live it how you want to live it.” Oh, that may sound like freedom and options and all sorts of wonderful things, but in reality, when you are in control of your life and you are trying to figure out how to live it, things get messy and restrictive. 

But when you let Jesus drive your life, when you let Him describe who you are and what He wants you to do and how He wants you to do it, things begin to loosen up. You are no longer bound by the limits the world places on you. You are allowed to dream big and hope fully. And you can do this because you don’t have to worry about how things are going to work out. You know that when Jesus is in control that everything works out in His time and according to His will. You just have to follow and not stray onto your own path. 

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately trying to tell me how to be the best version of myself and how to improve my quality of life and so on. But the one thing that all of these “professionals” have failed to mention is the importance of Christ in my daily life. He is the One who makes every little thing I do worthwhile. 

So, today is Thursday. The weekend is just around the corner. Take some time to think about how you see yourself. And then, ask Jesus how He sees you. And then, make His perspective, your perspective. When you realize that your identity isn’t found in the limits of the world, you’re scope opens up in a whole new way. “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭19:26‬ ‭KJV)

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Gifts

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:10-11‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
This last weekend, my daughter was in a school performance of “The Little Mermaid”. There were so many talents displayed – song, dance, prop prep, costumes, sound management, makeup, acting – just to name a few.

And these kids had worked hard. They had been practicing for weeks and weeks to prepare for these few nights in April. They had long rehersals, extra time at home and an occasional Saturday meeting. There were lines to memorize. Dances to learn. Props to prepare. Costumes to fit to people. Seriously…hard work.

They presented this hard work beautifully. These young people are incredibly talented. They are hard working and dedicated to the task at hand. I have seen this over and over again in the last 3 years that my daughter has participated in the spring play. There may have been a year that they weren’t too excited to present the play, but they still gave it their all and didn’t quit until the curtain went down on the last night. 

They were all using their gifts. 

When we think of gifts, we think of big things like presenting God’s Word or teaching or being a missionary or singing in services. But our gifts can come in many shapes and sizes. Some are obvious while others are inconspicuous. But regardless of the attention they receive (or don’t receive), they are important. And we must use them – daily. 

For example – I am a planner and an organizer. I like to know what is coming, when it will get here and how I will handle it. I plan out lunch and dinner every day. I have the menu listed in my kitchen for everyone to see. I do this to serve my family and to provide a sense of stability to our day – things may be crazy today but at least I know what is for dinner. Crazy, I know, but this is how my brain works. Not everyone can plan things. For me, this is a gift. 

You see, I think that we overlook little details like planning and chalk them up to just being able to do things like that. But I choose to see it as a gift that I can give my family. Occasionally, I will let that gift seep over into other areas of my life. I have been known to plan events at church. I create treatment plans for my patients all the time. I help plan vacations for the family.  I organize the house on (what seems like) a daily basis. 

But in all these instances, I am serving someone. That’s the part I think we miss – the reason behind what we are doing. Yes, I do it to make my life feel easier but the main purpose is serving. And in serving, I am helping the people around me. I am showing them Christ in my life. 

I don’t know what gift(s) God has given you. I don’t know if they are flashy or private, obvious or inconspicuous but I do know that your gift(s) are important and God means for you to use them to bring Him honor and glory. I know that He is disappointed when you don’t use them. I know that He gave them to you for a reason. And I do know that you and I both need to get out there and use them more and more. You never know when His gift He has bestowed upon you might lead someone to the greatest Gift anyone could receive – salvation through Jesus Christ.