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.

When We Don’t Get Our Way

Working For Him

“Mom, I didn’t get the job.” Emily sniffed and her voice broke. “She didn’t even let me finish the application. She just took it and said ‘It’s fine’ and then said she’d think about it.” Mom held the phone close and listened carefully.

“Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry. What happened?” Mom could tell that Emily was upset. She could almost see the hurt on Emily’s face.

“She asked me if I was applying for the host position or the bus person position. I said I wanted the host position because I didn’t like dirty dishes.”

“Oh dear,” said Mom. 

“She wasn’t very interested in me after that.” She sniffed. “That wasn’t what I meant though, and she didn’t give me an opportunity to explain.” Emily started crying again.

Mom was nodding her head, then realizing she was on the phone and Emily couldn’t see her, she said, “I’m so sorry, honey. I know how it feels to be misunderstood.”

“I’m going home.” Emily said.

“Okay, baby. But, don’t feel too bad. Maybe this was God’s way of protecting you from a bad situation. That woman might not have been a very good person to work for.”

Emily sniffed again. “What do you mean?”

“Well, remember when I didn’t get that job I wanted? I was sad for a while until I heard what it was like to work for the person that is the manager.  When I heard how he micromanaged everyone I was glad that I didn’t get the job.”

Emily huffed. “Yeah, but I hate my job now! I thought it was going to be great but it’s awful!”

“I understand.” Mom said. “But God may have placed you there for a purpose. Have you thought about that?” Emily sniffed again. “No.” She paused a moment. “Why would God put me somewhere that I’m miserable?”

“That’s a good question. Have you asked yourself why you’re miserable? Are you too focused on the negative instead of the positive? Have you asked God why you are there?” There was another long pause before Emily responded.

“No, not really.”  

“When I start to get down about not having the job I want, I remember that I am working for God, not myself.” Mom paused before continuing.  “I didn’t get the job. Maybe it was because I would have settled. I would have achieved what I wanted, not necessarily what God wanted, and I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t have trusted in God so much as in myself.”

“I guess I never thought about it that way.” Emily said. “Maybe I need to pray about God wants instead of what I want.”

Mom smiled. “I think that is an excellent idea. I’ll pray with you.”

Emily smiled too. “Thanks Mom.”

Follow up Verse

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. Colossians 3:23-24 NLT

OPERATION: ACTIVATE

Are you seeking your own plans or God’s plans for you? He has a great plan and a future full of hope for you. Pray for His guidance in your life. Work wholeheartedly and focus on serving Him instead of man (the world).  

Processing…
Success! You’re on the list.