Bad Habits

Let’s talk about bad habits. I have picked up some old bad habits since the quarantine that I am eager to get rid of. Sometimes when stressful events occur, we default to the flesh and revert to that “old” man that we used to be. I had high expectations for this time away from my normal, busy life, but instead of the good things I wanted to accomplish, bad things began to manifest. As Paul said in Romans 7:14-20,

“So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.”(Romans 7:14-20)

I think we are all subject to feeling this way at one point or another. The good things I know are right, that I want to do, I don’t do them. The bad things that I hate, those I do. I love God and I want to please Him and be obedient, but my flesh wars with my spirit. Sometimes the flesh wins a battle and sometimes the spirit. Thankfully, I know the spirit will win the war! He continues to proclaim,

21”I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” (Romans 7:21-25)

No one wants to admit they are a slave to anything. The negative connotations of slavery, being owned by someone (something) else and having no power or authority over your own person, makes people defensive. Yet, we continue to make ourselves slaves by the choices that we make. Sometimes we can make better choices and sometimes we cannot. However, praise be to God that our bad choices do not dictate the outcome of our lives. That alone belongs to God.

 1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. (Romans 8:1-2)

This does not excuse our bad behavior and choices. We will have to answer to God. He gives us the freedom to choose the right thing, but He also gives us grace when we choose the wrong thing. He desires that we make the good, right choice and tells us that we are not alone.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) (Romans 8:9)

12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. (Romans 8:12-14)

When we accepted Jesus as our Savior, He accepted us as well, warts and all. He knew our nature because he had lived as we have lived. He understood our temptations and cravings, yet He made provision for forgiveness. He has given us all we need to be victorious overcomers. Don’t give up!

15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)


7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Settling For Less

My neighbor has a garden every year filled with vegetables and flowers. I can look out my breakfast room windows and watch it form from freshly turned dirt to abundant harvest over the course of the seasons. Having worked in a garden growing up, I know the hard work involved in raising and tending to a garden. There are hours and hours of hard work in the hot sun, hoeing and weeding and fertilizing and harvesting. The amount of work you put in affects the yield you receive in the end.

Our spiritual lives are like that garden, too. The hard ground of our hearts has to be broken up in order to be ready and effective for the planting of God’s tender seeds of instruction and direction. Any clods, (or strongholds), need to be busted up so that they don’t interfere with the planting of the Lord. Then we have to put in the work of being obedient, living a holy lifestyle, and submitting to God. The amount of work you put in affects the yield you receive in the end.

I am not insinuating that you must work your way into heaven. I’m just saying, if you’re like me, being obedient, living a holy lifestyle, and submitting to God is hard work! The devil knows all my pressure points and when to apply them. God is greater, but sometimes I am weak or apathetic or just plain rebellious. Mostly rebellious. Just like in the parable of the sower, some of the seeds fell on good ground and some didn’t. 

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13:3-8

I have different types of ground in my heart. Some of it yields to God easier than other parts. There are A LOT of clods. Every time I think I have them all busted up, another works its way to the surface. What is most disappointing is when I think I have one busted up, only to find that it was much bigger and deeper rooted than I thought, so it resurfaces. It is at those times that I get the most discouraged and stop working. However, I also think it is at those times that God gives me the most grace and mercy. He knows that I am struggling to bust up the clod, but he waits patiently for me to ask Him for help. Since I am notorious for trying to do things on my own and in my own strength, He is patient. He doesn’t want me to settle for less of a harvest than He had planned for my life, so He gently prods me and waits for me to return to the work in the garden.

God wants the same for you. In Ezekiel 18: 31-32, God says,

 “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” (NKJV)

If during this time you have been settling for less of a harvest than you know God has planned for you, take a moment to repent and turn back to Him. He hasn’t left you. He has been patiently waiting for you to “But when he came to himself, “ (Luke 15:17). So go get your garden tools and get back to work. It’s not going to be easy, but with God’s help, you can get the weeds back under control and your harvest can still be great.

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:9

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Cocoa Powder

Trust God and Be Obedient

Sadie came in the back door and took a deep breath. Mmm, brownies. When she rounded the corner into the kitchen she stopped. There were stacks of brownies everywhere! Sadie reached out to take a brownie off the stack nearest to her. “Stop right there!” 

“Mom, you scared me to death! Where were you?” Mom chuckled. “I needed more baggies. Hands off those brownies. Those are for the bake sale tomorrow.” Sadie’s shoulders fell. “We can’t eat even one?” 

“Not unless you want to pay for it.” Mom opened the baggies and dropped the brownies into individual bags. “Do you need any help?” Sadie really wanted to get her hands on a brownie. They smelled so good. 

“Sure, you can clean up and put all the ingredients away.” Sadie spied the cocoa powder sitting there without the lid. She picked it up and inhaled deeply. Mmm, chocolate. What if she just ate a spoonful of the cocoa instead of a brownie? All that chocolaty goodness made her mouth start to water. 

Sadie grabbed a spoon and Mom spoke. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you. It doesn’t taste as good as it smells.” Sadie smelled the cocoa again. “Trust me.” Mom said. 

“It can’t be that bad.” Sadie said. She took a big bite, then grimaced and choked, blowing cocoa powder all over the sink and counter. “Yuck!” She spit the powder in the sink and used a cup to rinse her mouth, her eyes watering because of the bitter taste. 

“You know, this reminds me of our devotion this morning,” said Mom as she helped Sadie wipe the counter. “Remember how Satan made the fruit so appealing Eve began to doubt she could trust God’s word?” 

“Just like I didn’t trust you about the cocoa powder.” Sadie mumbled. Mom nodded, continuing. “Sin looks appealing, but when you get a bite, it is bitter and makes your soul sick. The cocoa smelled good, but you didn’t trust me when I told you it doesn’t taste good.” 

“Yeah, I think I’ll remember this lesson the next time I’m tempted not to trust you.” said Sadie. Mom hugged her. “The same goes for trusting God. Next time you are tempted to sin, remember the bitterness that will follow and trust Him. Obedience won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth.” 

Follow Up Verse

The LORD watches over those who obey him, those who trust in his constant love. Psalm 33:18 (GNT)

F. I. T. – Follow It Through

Do you wonder if God is trustworthy? Should we be obedient to Him and his commands? The answer is Yes! He only wants what is best for us. The Bible says that if we are obedient and trust God, He will bless us.  Be obedient and trust God. He has good plans for us and will give us a hopeful future.

Consider Your Ways

“Consider Your Ways” What does that mean to you? I had been searching for where to go next in my Bible reading and was feeling decidedly unsatisfied. I had completed several Bible studies that were all very good, informative, applicable and challenging. However, I was still feeling like there should be more.

After much prayer and procrastination, I came across a blog post that mentioned Haggai 1:6. Haggai? I wasn’t sure I’d read that correctly so I pulled out my Bible and started to investigate. Sure enough, I found the passage and upon reading some of the background related to the book of Haggai, I knew that this was my next stop.

One thing I found incredibly interesting was the fact that Haggai’s “ministry” only covered a period of slightly less than four months. I had been dealing with the loss of yet ANOTHER job after only a year and nothing on the horizon to replace it so the fact that he was used by God for such a brief time really fascinated me. I know that God places us where He wants and when He wants, but I was still hurt and feeling like a failure. After I read that his ministry was so short, I started to think about how that related to MY life.

Perhaps I had been looking at my situation incorrectly. Instead of bemoaning the fact that I didn’t have a steady job that was dependable, maybe I should consider that God was using that situation to make me depend more on Him and not my job. This cut deep. I am very much an independent person that wants to pull my own weight and contribute. When I don’t feel like I am doing that, I am attacked by feelings of worthlessness. I know that I am not alone in this. I also know that my worth is not determined by anything other than Christ and His sacrifice for me.

However, knowing this and actually living it are two different things. It can be hard to remember when you are pressured to provide for your family. This was the situation that Haggai was addressing. The exiled people were returning to Jerusalem in order to rebuild the temple. Along the way, the people had become sidetracked by providing for themselves instead of fulfilling their purpose; rebuilding the temple.

The book of Haggai opens with a conversation between God and His people:

 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak,[a] the high priest:

2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’”

3 Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

The people had become more focused on providing for themselves than on rebuilding God’s temple. I think we are all guilty of making ourselves (needs, wants, desires) a priority over God. The people were remodeling/updating their homes, adding cedar paneling, (crown molding, new paint, grand landscaping, new appliances and furniture) instead of contributing to the rebuilding of God’s house. Because of that, God spoke through Haggai a convicting question and an admonition to consider their ways:

5 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.”

6 “You have planted much, but harvested little.

 You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. 

You put on clothes, but are not warm.

You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.”

Well, if you are like me, you have put a lot of time, energy, effort, and resources into your own “garden/farm”. (Your provision for your family) But, it never seems to be enough. (Your harvest is small).

You eat and drink but are never full. You are consuming everything in sight but it still isn’t enough. (Your appetite is bigger than your resources). Do we really need all that stuff we are accumulating? Will your kids die if they don’t get the latest “whatever”? Consider your ways.

“You put on clothes, but are not warm.” (We are doing things that we think will fix the situation but somehow it just leads to more trouble). We are putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. We can’t correct spiritual problems with physical remedies.

“You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” (We are being wasteful). I don’t know about you, but I definitely know the feeling of bleeding money. It seems like every day there is a new bill, something that has to be bought for school, the rates went up on something, or something breaks down and has to be fixed or replaced. That’s not even counting the maintenance and upkeep or the things we want to do. Mostly our purse has holes in it because of poor or selfish choices. Don’t misunderstand, there are many people who DO NOT earn enough to properly care for their family. I am speaking to those of us who do but maybe waste too much on “stuff”, “status”, or “entertainment”. 

This all boils down to two sentences:

You are not living a satisfied life.

You lust for more.

Consider your ways.

So the question now is, what do we do about it? It’s honestly as simple as making a choice. Will you choose to live a less selfish life in order to “rebuild” God’s temple? The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:19:

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;”

The people that Haggai was addressing were rebuilding a temple building. We are the temple. The Holy Spirit resides in us. We no longer need a physical building for God to inhabit because he lives in our hearts. We should still gather together to worship, honor, and praise Him. We should gather to serve and love and encourage other believers. The Bible instructs us in Hebrews 10:25 not to forsake assembling together because we all need to be encouraged and held accountable.

Now, how do we apply this to our lives? It is easier said than done. We have to make a choice of will. We have to choose to spend time with God in prayer. We have to choose to spend time reading God’s Word and asking tough questions like:

What do you want me to know, see, understand, or change because of this?

How do I need to reorder my priorities?

How can I model this for others?

Then we actually have to follow through (another choice of will) on whatever it is that God reveals to us. So many times we know what it is that God wants us to do; we just don’t want to do it. I’ll confess that following through is one of THE hardest things for me; and I am sure others also struggle with this.

I hope that this has somehow inspired you or made you feel less alone in your own situation. (Reposted from August 2017)

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

A Few Good Men

Have you felt like things were spiraling out of control recently? I know I have. With all that is going on in the world right now, most of us are terrified to leave our homes, unsure about the future, and trying to resist caving to panic and fear. Our front line workers and essential employees are fighting to help stem the spread of the pandemic that is sweeping across our nation while still providing the goods and services we need to keep going. We have good men and women working and serving everyday to help others.

All the good notwithstanding, we must consider possible reasons behind the state of the world at this moment. It is time for self-reflection. Is there anything I can do to contribute?

Most people, even unbelievers, know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The two cities had become so full of sin that The Lord Himself came down to investigate and see with His own eyes. He stopped by Abraham’s tent and foretold of their coming son, Issac, and then made his way towards the two cities.  He did not hide what He was going to do and Abraham interceded on behalf of the people of the cities. Abraham begged the Lord to spare the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, even though they were so sinful, for the sake of the righteous who might be living there. Abraham begged that if fifty could be found, would The Lord spare them? The Lord agreed to spare them for fifty. Abraham risks further wrath by arguing for smaller numbers five more times, until he gets to the number ten.

“Finally, Abraham said, “Lord, please don’t be angry with me if I speak one more time. Suppose only ten are found there?” And the LORD replied, “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.”(Genesis 18:32)

However, as we all know, ten righteous people could not be found. The two cities could have been saved by a few good men. 

What about your city? Are there ten righteous? Can it be saved?  The Bible tells us in 2 Chronicles what to do in times of trouble.

At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (2 Chronicles 7:13-14)(emphasis mine)

Are you the swing? Is your “city” counting on you to be one of the righteous? Are you living like it is? If not, humble yourself. Pray and seek God’s face. Turn from your wicked ways. What would happen if we all chose to live like we were the deciding factor in saving our city?

It is time for self-reflection. There is something you can contribute. Prayer. Pray for personal, local, and national repentance and protection. Sacrifice. Stay home and practice social distance when you must leave on essential trips. Understanding. Follow rules and guidelines to help stop the spread. Leaders are doing all they can, lift them up in prayer so that they can make wise decisions. This is an unprecedented situation and therefore calls for an unprecedented reaction.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones. (Proverbs 3:5-8)

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

#Prayerlife

Taylor shouldered through the people gathered at the entrance to the event center. “What’s going on?” he asked his friend Drake, who was busy looking around. Drake jumped. “Dude, you scared me. I told you not to sneak up on me like that!” Taylor laughed. “Man, you in a crowd full of people. How you gonna say I snuck up on you?” The two boys bumped fists. Drake turned to Taylor. “You think we can get his autograph? This place is crazy pumped. He might not stay around long enough.” Taylor smiled. “I’m staying all night if I have to. I don’t care how long the line is.” They were finally wanded and waived through. 

When the youth minister had broke the news that Kanye West was going to perform at the conference, the room had exploded. Everyone was bouncing off the walls. Ever since Kanye had announced his conversion to Chirstianity, Taylor’s entire youth group had been praying for him. They had talked and recognized that Kanye was in a strategic position to affect millions of people for the cause of Christ.

Taylor and Drake found a place to sit and made their way back out to get drinks from a vendor. Their youth minister had told them there was no way they could sit together as a group so they were told to break into groups of two or three and find somewhere to sit. They’d meet up in the lobby before leaving. The lines for the vendors were long because there were so many people. Drake looked around anxiously. “Man, I hope we don’t miss him waitin’ in this line.” Taylor nodded his head. Drake turned toward Taylor. “Are you listening to me?” Taylor nodded again. Drake noticed that Taylor had his eyes closed. “What are you doing?” Taylor finally opened his eyes wide and stared at Drake. “I’m tryna pray man! You keep interruptin’!” Drake held up his hands. “My bad. What you prayin’ for?” Taylor looked up at the ceiling and tried to avoid the question. “Taylor!” Drake crossed his arms and stood there with raised brows. Taylor looked at the ground and rubbed the back of his neck. “I was praying that we’d get to get Kanye’s autograph.” Drake rolled his eyes. “And how does that benefit the K.O.G.?” Taylor laughed. Their youth leader had shortened Kingdom of God to K.O.G. and created a song to the tune of O.P.P., which they later found out was some dirty song from the 90s. 

“I guess it doesn’t. I just really wanted to meet him. I know he hasn’t always been a good role model but I’ve been praying for him.” Drake nodded his head. “Yeah, me too.” They finally made it to the front of the kiosk and were about to place their order when some guy in a hoodie rushed up and broke the line. “Hey man, can I get ahead? He shook Taylor’s hand and quickly ordered from the vendor. “I need a water.”  Taylor was too shocked to react. As he released the man’s hand he caught a glimpse of his face. Taylor’s mouth dropped open and the guy put a finger to his lips as he grinned. He disappeared as quickly as he had appeared. Drake ordered and bumped Taylor. “What’re you gettin, man?” Taylor came to himself and placed his order and paid. As they walked back to their seat, Taylor realized that God had answered his prayer above and beyond more than he had asked for.    

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Ephesians 6:18

OPERATION: ACTIVATE

What is your prayer life like? Have you positioned yourself to receive all that God wants to give you? Live holy, love God, love others. Pray for others, especially those in places of authority or influence for the Kingdom of God. 

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

The Tyranny of The Urgent

Now! Right Now!!

We often get caught up in the rush of everything. Rushing to work, rushing to school, rushing to church, rushing to activities and obligations we signed up for, but now regret. Do you feel pressure and stress rising yet? I do. My heart rate became elevated just writing about it because a million things are running through my mind. Things I was already supposed to do, things I am working on right now, things that are on the horizon that will have to be addressed soon. 

Suddenly I realize I have allowed my life to fall victim to the tyranny of The Urgent. And, just like any tyrannical dictator, The Urgent seeks to be the ultimate ruler in my life, usurping the legitimate ruler’s sovereignty. The Urgent is going to use any means necessary to maintain its oppressive rule over my life.

Unless I fight back. 

Only by recognizing that I have succumbed to the tyranny of The Urgent can I rise up in revolution against it. I will have to recover the weapons I have surrendered because of distraction. That’s just how coups work. The dictator sets up a distraction and then slips in the back and takes over. By the time you realize what happened, they’ve convinced you to surrender your weapons and your freedom. There is no mass uprising because you’ve been distracted by small things being fired at you in rapid succession from every direction.

So, who or what is The Urgent? The Urgent is a cruel dictator who seeks to keep you so busy and wound up so tight that you start to see everything as critical and requiring immediate attention. This increases your stress levels and begins to destroy your relationships as others try to meet your unreasonable expectations. Some situations are urgent, but if ALL of your situations are urgent, you should probably reevaluate what is going on in your life. Are you creating an environment of urgency because of procrastination? Reflect and ask God to show you what needs to change.

Now, how do we fight back against The Urgent? 

Number One – Prioritize. In order to avoid falling victim to The Urgent, we have to have priorities and we have to uphold them. The Urgent likes to swoop in during a crisis situation because a crisis gets you off track. The Urgent wants to keep you off track and erase any progress you might have made so that you feel defeated. 

Number Two – Don’t Give Up. When you get off track (because it will happen occasionally) get back on as soon as possible. Don’t STAY off track.

Number Three – Stay Close. Staying close to the true sovereign of your soul is the best protection against The Urgent. When you are in a close relationship with God, it’s not as easy for The Urgent to take over. Put on and USE the whole armor of God to stand firmly planted, not giving ground to the enemy. Most importantly, praying so that you are in constant communication with the One who has given you the righteous victory through His blood.

Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Ephesians 6:11-18

We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 2 Corinthians 10:4

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Real Love

Luke and Grandma

Luke crossed his arms and kicked the wall in the corner where he was standing.

“Luke Jenkins, you better not be kicking my walls!” Luke stuck his head further in the corner.

“I hate you!” He screamed. He was so mad. He couldn’t believe his grandma had put him in the corner. All because he wanted to finish his game. It wasn’t fair!

“Well, that’s too bad, because I love you too much to allow you to behave badly and be disrespectful.”  Luke jumped. He hadn’t heard Grandma come up behind him. 

“You want to talk about what happened?” Luke turned his head back into the corner. “No.”  Grandma got the rocking chair and sat down behind Luke. Soon she was humming and fanning herself. She wasn’t speaking; just rocking, fanning, and humming. Finally, Luke couldn’t take it anymore. “It’s not fair. I don’t deserve to be in the corner.” He said. Grandma just kept rocking, fanning, and humming, the soothing sound calming Luke. As he listened, he recognized the tune. What A Friend We Have In Jesus. It was one of Grandma’s favorite hymns. Luke started thinking about what had happened. Grandma had asked him several times to put away his tablet, but he didn’t want to. He just wanted to finish his game. She finally took it from his hands and turned it off. He had exploded at her and tried to take the game back. As he stood there, he was glad his face was in the corner. He was so ashamed of his behavior. Tears started to pool in his eyes. “Grandma?” Luke whispered shakily. “I’m sorry.” 

Grandma just kept rocking and fanning. “What are you sorry for?” She asked. 

Luke felt shame wash over his face. “I’m sorry I was disrespectful to you. And, and, I’m sorry that I yelled at you. I don’t hate you Grandma.” Luke turned and reached for Grandma’s open arms. He fell into her lap and cried on her shoulder as she rocked him and whispered “Shh, I know,” over and over. Finally, when he had stopped crying, she sat him up and asked, “Are you ready to learn now?”

Luke wiped his eyes. “Yes ma’am.”

“Good.” Grandma said. She looked into Luke’s eyes. “Luke, do you love me?

Luke felt sad. “Yes, Grandma. I love you.”

Grandma looked deep into his eyes. “Are you sure? Do you know what love is, Luke?”

Luke was puzzled. “I think so.” He said. Grandma lifted Luke off her lap, rose from the rocking chair, and held out her hand to Luke. “Let’s go make sure.” She said. Grandma led them to the kitchen table where her Bible was laid open. “You sit right there in my seat.” Luke sat before the Bible as Grandma sat to his left. “Flip over to First Corinthians chapter thirteen. Start reading out loud at verse four.” Luke found the scripture verses and began to read. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Grandma looked at Luke and asked, “Luke, did you act like you loved me?” Luke looked back at the verses again. He finally understood what Grandma was saying. If he loved her, like what the Bible said love was, he wouldn’t have acted the way he did. “No, ma’am. I’m sorry. I guess I didn’t really know what love was. I thought it was letting me have anything I wanted.” Grandma nodded. “The messages we get from the world tell us that, but the Bible tells us the truth. Now, I’m not the only one you needed to apologize to. You also need to talk to Jesus. Ask him to help you love like He loves.” Luke nodded. “Yes ma’am. Will you pray with me?” Grandma opened her arms for a hug. “Of course, child.”  

Follow Up Verse

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

F. I. T. – Follow It Through

Do you love others like the Bible says we are to love? Are you listening to the world or are you listening to Jesus? Pray and ask God to help you love like He loves.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Listening

Another Nicholas Story

Anna sighed as she threw her backpack into the seat beside her and buckled up. 

“How was school today?” Mom asked as she pulled out of the car rider line and onto the street.

“It was okay, but Nicholas got in trouble again.” Anna said.

“Again?” Mom asked. “What did he do this time?” Nicholas had become the central character of many after school discussions and teaching points.

“Today, he was jumping chairs and running in the hall. Mrs. Baker told him to stop several times. When we went to PE, he threw a ball at Kyle and hit him in the face. After that, the teacher sent him to the office. I don’t know why Nicholas won’t just listen. He acts bad and gets in trouble every day. It’s like he wants to get in trouble.”

Mom shook her head again. “I understand that feeling.” Mom said.

Anna met Mom’s eyes in the rearview mirror as they waited at the stop sign. “You do? What do you mean?”

Mom pulled out onto the road and continued the conversation. “Well, sometimes I act that way with God. I know He has to be shaking His head over my behavior when I don’t listen. I try to do things my way instead of God’s way and that’s when I get in trouble, or sin. I don’t want to be disobedient to God, but I do want to have my way. Maybe that’s Nicholas’s problem. He doesn’t want to be disobedient to the teacher, but he also wants to get his way. That doesn’t always happen.”

“Wow, I’ve never thought about it like that.” Anna said. “All this time I just thought he was bad. Maybe he doesn’t listen because he doesn’t know how.” Mom pulled into the garage and turned to Anna. “Anna, that is very insightful. I hadn’t even thought about it that way. Sometimes I want my way more than God’s way and I don’t know how to listen. How much easier would our lives be if we just learned to listen and were obedient to what God has already told us in His Word?”

Anna clapped excitedly. “Oh, that’s like my memory verse for this week. It’s James 1:22. “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” 

“Good job Anna Banana! That’s something we ALL need to do.”

Follow Up Verse

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” Luke 11:28

F. I. T. – Follow It Through

Are you listening to what God says and doing it? If not, ask for forgiveness and then do what God says.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Purpose Revised

After thinking about my identity, I began to start thinking about my purpose. For the longest time, I have been confusing my purpose with my identity. What I am, or see myself to be, is my purpose, therefore, what my medium of employment should be. Like, my job had to be “God ordained”, and if I wasn’t in a certain job, then that couldn’t be the right job because God had led me to do this other thing, right? (LOL) 

I based all my future expectations on this one step in my life. Then that step was supposed to lead to the next logical step. However, as we all know, God usually moves in mysterious ways, not logical ways. He even warns us that He’s going to fake left when we think He’s going right. Proverbs 3:5-6 states: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” 

The Good News Translation says it even better: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know.” (LOL) This led me to a purpose revised.

A Purpose Revised

For over ten years now, I have been chasing, fighting, and forcing my way into something that was MY plan and MY expectation, but not necessarily God’s purpose for me. When He revealed my misconceptions, I felt a bit foolish, but He comforted me with a few facts:

#1 – Nothing is ever wasted. No trial, tear, or heartache and no joy, accomplishment, or victory will sit on a shelf unused.

#2 – Training will be ongoing until I get to heaven. I cannot be perfect here. And, just because He uses something to teach me a lesson, doesn’t mean I should focus on that method to the point of obsession, excluding all other methods. I don’t always have to learn the hard way.

#3 – Purpose has TWO definitions, neither of which are my identity.  As a noun, purpose means the reason for which something is done or created for, or for which something exists. We have a collective purpose as Christians to tell others what Christ has done for us and what He can do for them. As an individual, the verb definition, to have as one’s intention or objective, is more suitable. Therefore, I can choose my medium of purpose so that it is specific to me. 

For example: My intention or objective (purpose) is to tell others what Christ has done for me and what He can do for them through writing. I can write devotionals to help others draw nearer to God, I can write Bible studies to help people learn who God is and how He wants to interact with them, I can write fiction stories that teach Biblical truths in a way that might reach those who wouldn’t otherwise pick up a Bible.

Conclusion

The point is, my purpose is the same no matter what. It doesn’t depend on the type of employment I have and it is not to be confused with my identity. And, a lack of employment doesn’t mean that I am not fulfilling my purpose or that my identity has changed. Jobs, like seasons, change over time.  God moves us as He sees fit. He is our security. 

Also, our identity is found in Him. If you try to find it anywhere else, you will be discouraged and disappointed every time. 1Peter 2:9 says 

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Likewise, Galatians 2:20 says

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Then John 15:15 reminds us

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

Why? For what purpose? Ephesians 2:10 says  

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Expedition: Present and Future – You are NEW

So my final questions to you are these: What is YOUR purpose? And what have you PURPOSED to do in your life? Your present and future will be affected by what your answers to these questions are. You will have to make a choice. You will have to choose to let some things go (bitterness, unforgiveness, expectations). You will have to choose to pick some things up (discipline, accountability, responsibility), and then move forward in the revised version of life.  Philippians 3:13-14 says

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

We have to know who we are and live intentionally every day. How can you tell someone else who they are in Christ if you don’t know who you are?

This expedition won’t be easy so I suggest you find a few trusted friends to help you along the way, because being a hero is hard. We need someone to help us carry the burden. Even though we are heroes, we are still human. And no matter how much we say or demonstrate otherwise, we need other humans for help and support. It’s too hard to make it alone.

“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

This is the ultimate lesson that every superhero learns. We are stronger together than we are apart. And this is the lesson that God wants us to learn, too. He is always with us, so we are not alone. We are stronger together than we are apart.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

Holy Father,

Thank you God that you have provided all we will ever need to be victorious in Christ. Thank you Lord that you love us with so great a love that it can never be diminished. You will never love us more or love us less based on how we perform. Jesus, show us who we are in you so that we can show the world who you are in us. 

In Jesus’s name, Amen! 

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.