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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. 

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. 

Accolades 

Matthew 6:1-4 – “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”

Most everyone loves attention at some time or another. We like the idea of being recognized from time to time for the hard work that we put into whatever it is we do. We like for others to see us. 

But what are we doing when no one is watching? Do we still try just as hard when we are alone?

Apply that concept to your spiritual life. Do you only acknowledge and follow after God only when people are watching or listening? Or do you choose His way each and every time, no matter what? 

I think we are all guilty, from time to time, of wanting someone to recognize our hard work for the Lord. We may do what is right when no one is looking but then we tell someone about it so that they can praise us for our choice and dedication. Ouch! 

Humility is a tough cookie to swallow sometimes. Pride gets in the way. 

I’m not sure how to end this one. I think we all suffer from the sin of pride. I think humility is something we all could use more of. I know in my own life that I struggle with pride. I like for others to know what I have done. And when I tell them, my humility that I may have had when I was engaged in the activity, goes down the toilet. 

So this week, let’s all pray that our humility will outweigh our pride. Let’s pray that our actions for Christ will not be overcome by our overshadowed by our desire for recognition. Let’s choose to delay our accolades until God recognizes them in eternity. 

Clean up!

Psalm 51:1,2 – “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.”

Last night, I took some time and cleaned an area upstairs that hadn’t been touched in a while. I removed THREE garbage bags full of trash – papers, notebooks, pens and broken stuff. Junk. Plain and simple. When I told my kids what I had done, my daughter, bless her heart, said, “Mom, did you throw away everything we own?”

You know, sometimes we let stuff pile up in our life. We let troubles, anxiety and stress take their toll on our heart and then we wonder why we are such a mess. Sometimes it is just easier to stuff things into the recess of our heart and think that we will tackle it another day. 

Sometimes we need to just go through things. We need to clean up, toss out and re-evaluate things. 

That is where prayer comes in. 

When was the last time you took time to ask God to clean out your heart? When was the last time you poured out all your junk and left it for Him to sort through? He is the One that knows the sin in your life. He is the One that can remove it. But He won’t remove it until you ask Him to. And you need Him to point it out to you so that you can ask forgiveness. 

Let’s face it – you cannot clean up on your own. He is the One that MUST do the cleaning. But He won’t clean out or toss out anything you don’t ask Him to. 

It’s Friday. That means Sunday is coming. You have today and tomorrow to ask and get the ball rolling. Sunday is a great day to finish the task. Worship Him with a clean spirit this week. And then share what has changed in your heart with someone. You know how good it feels to get things cleaned up, tell someone else!

Coming home

Luke 15:20 – “And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”

Once there was this kid who thought he knew it all. His dad had lots of money and the kid knew it. He told his dad he was going to leave. He needed his space. He wanted to go make a name for himself. So, he asked his dad for his portion of the inheritance. It was time for him to go and take his place in the world. He knew best. So, his father did as he requested. With money in his pocket and brains in his head, he set out on his own. And boy did he ever. He ended up in a real mess. He had blown his money on the treasures of this world and found himself at the bottom of the barrel. “How did this happen?”, he asked himself time and again. He had to work, something he had never done in his life. When he left, he left completely- never having contact with his family. All the while, his dad kept an eye on the horizon, hoping that one day his son would return. He had his room prepared. His clothes were laundered and his favorite food was stocked in the pantry. His dad was ready to see his son again. Then one day it happened – his son’s silhouette appeared on the horizon; he would know it anywhere. The father took off in a dead run. Nothing would come between him and his son. When the dad reached him, he threw his arms around him weeping and rejoicing all at the same time. His son had returned. Nothing would spoil this moment. “I’m sorry dad. I messed up. I don’t deserve this welcoming. Let me stay here and earn my keep, please daddy.” But the father would not hear of it. He had a festive dinner and celebration that night. His son had come home. 

Have you ever been away for a while and then come home? Hugs are shared. Greetings and questions abound. And more hugs. Your loved ones just can’t get enough. It’s great, isn’t it? The love you feel at that moment makes all the darkness of being away… go away. 

We, as children of God, sometimes ask God for our blessings and the set out on our own. We step away. We chase a rabbit, so to speak. However you want to say it, we aren’t where we should be – right beside Him. But when we make the choice to walk back to our Father, He comes running. He takes us back with arms wide open and accepts our apology for leaving in the first place. Now, more than likely, there will be consequences but that comes with the territory. Actions and reactions. But nonetheless, when we say we are sorry from the depth of our heart and truly desire to turn 180 degrees from the wrong we have done, it’s gone – totally and completely gone, never to be brought up or held against us again. 

Our Heavenly Father is watching from the windows of Heaven just waiting for your silhouette on the horizon. He is waiting for you to decide that you have had enough of the mess you have made. He is ready to run out to you with arms wide open. 

Go. Go my brother or sister. Go to Him and let Him love on you a while. Heaven knows we all need to run back to Him. 

Lose the shoes

Isaiah 40:31 – “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

We went to the movies this weekend. In one of the new movies coming out, there is a girl that wears these large, heavy shoes. When she removes them, she levitates. (I know. Weird. But roll with me for a minute.)

It made me think – we all walk around with these big, bulky, heavy shoes. We call these shoes sin. These shoes are dirty and nasty and they hold us down. They keep us from mounting up on eagles wings. 

These shoes are made out of lies that we tell ourself. Lies like we aren’t good enough. Lies like “you might offend someone.” Lies like “no one cares.” 

They are also made out of anger. Anger that keeps us from mending fences. Anger that makes us spout off hurtful words. 

They are also made out of pride. Pride that keeps us from admitting when we have made a bad choice. Pride that says we are better than someone else. 

They are made out of many more things that keep us tied to this earth and drag us through the mud. Those shoes are hurtful and unattractive, yet we wear them around like we have no other choice. 

But we do. We have the opportunity to break free of those pesky shoes and fly. Now, we can’t be perfect and sinless, at least not yet, but we can be holy and righteous. Jesus told us that if we would follow after Him and obey His commandments that we can live right before Him. That is soaring. That is real living. 

But we cannot take off the shoes on our own. For some reason, we inherently like them way too much. Jesus is the only One that can remove the shoes. When He humbled Himself at Calvary, He loosened the shoes from our feet. He broke the bondage they create. He gave us the opportunity to soar with Him. 

We all have the shoes (Romans 3:23 – ” For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”). No one can escape it on their own (Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”). It is a gift that Jesus loosens the shoes. You can’t earn it. You can’t buy it. All you can do is accept the free gift that is offered. It is the ONLY thing in life that is truly free. 

My challenge to you this week is to accept the gift and let Him loosen your shoes. They are ugly and yucky and will ever help you soar. Jesus wants you to fly. He wants you mount up on wings with eagles. But to do that, you have to lose the shoes.  

Wiped clean

1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

We have been talking about salvation in Sunday school and with VBS this week, it will be THE hot topic. I was trying to explain to my class about Jesus forgiving sins. It seems like an easy concept but is it? I mean, do you really get that when you ask for forgiveness from something that God really forgets it? How can He just no longer remember things? 

Here is the example I gave them – When we confess our sins to Jesus, we are, in essence, writing them on a chalk board. When we ask forgiveness for those sins, Jesus takes a wet rag and wipes it away, never to be seen again. Now, there is a wet spot which represents the consequences for our actions, but the sin itself is totally removed. When the wet spot evaporates, there is no way to know it was even there. You see, when we write our sins on the board and try to remove them ourself, it leaves chalk behind and we can still see what was written. It is only when we use a cloth made red by the blood of Jesus do our sins vanish. 

When we confess our sins (write them on the board), we have to be specific. We have to identify what we did wrong. We can’t just throw a blanket over it by saying “forgive me of my sins”. Ideally, when we sin, the Holy Spirit is active in our life and we confess that sin right away. He jabs and pokes us until we make that thing right, immediately. It’s like washing your hands – you should do that frequently throughout the day. 

So let me encourage you, use that chalkboard! Get things cleaned up! The time is now. You never know, you may not have tomorrow to be wiped clean.