Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Resistance is NOT Futile

 


I don’t think anyone has ever said, “Lucky you.  You’re on a diet.  Wish it were me.”

Nothing is exciting about being on a diet.  It's neverending and hard work to resist unhealthy foods.

In one more day, we will be entering a new year, many people in the United States will be considering lifestyle or spiritual changes in their life.  Maybe you've made the decision to exercise more, read the Bible through, make a greater effort to pray, or maybe drop a few of those extra holiday pounds.


When it comes to resisting holiday treats, I freely admit, this year, I struggled.  I didn’t do well walking away from the Christmas cookies, candy, chips, or second helpings.  


I should have done better.  I knew better.  I could have resisted, but I choose not to, and now I'm paying the price.  

 

When it comes to struggling with the strength to resist, no one did it worse or better than Peter.   You could say he was two different people.  


He was the disciple before the crucifixion that denied Jesus three times.  And he was the powerhouse preacher after his Holy Spirit's baptism on the Day of Pentecost.  He stood boldly and proclaimed to the crowds that Jesus is the Christ.  And he did that without fear.   


He understood from his past failures the need to resist fleshly desires and resist our enemy, the devil.


I Peter 5:8-9 (NIV) cautions all Believers: 


Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.


The purpose of the book of 1 Peter was to encourage the Believer that even in times of great suffering and persecution that we have the power to be victorious in and through difficult times.  


When it comes to the church's persecution, an extra cookie doesn’t seem such a big deal, and neither are some of the battles we may be holding on to as we get ready to cross into 2021.   


Next time you are ready to go to war over something that is not that critical remember—resistance is NOT futile.

  

Through Christ, we have the power within us to live in this world without losing hope or being hostile to others.  


We are to trust in the Lord and look for His return.  

 

 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

"Left in the Dark"

I want to run and hide when someone says, "Have you heard this joke?"

If the joke is at all complicated, the humor will be lost on me.   Then I'll have to fake laugh to not hurt the person's feelings.

There's a phrase that comes to mind when this happens.  It's "left in the dark." 

When I'm the one left in the dark, it's not fun and especially not when those who may try to explain something to me are a little bit condescending.  You know who you are!

It's interesting that only a few days before Christmas, in our area, it's the darkest day of the year.  But Christmas is coming, and with it comes the light.  In John 1:4-5, this verse says...

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men

And the light shines in the darkness

and the darkness did not comprehend it. 

Every Christmas, the whole world celebrates the birth of Jesus, the light of man that came into the world.  All humanity does not look at this day as a celebration of the birth of Christ.

Still, as brightly as this Light shines, people still miss the opportunity to be in the Light, and they remain in darkness.

The whole world sees the beautifully decorated Christmas trees, the presents wrapped in colorful paper, the amazing food laid out on the table, yet they are left in the dark when it comes to the best Gift of all.  

It's obvious that Christmas is all about Jesus, but still, mankind is left in the dark.  They don't comprehend the Light. 

As you celebrate this Christmas, make room for your Light to Shine in the darkness and patiently help those who don't comprehend the Light.  

We don't want anyone "Left in the Dark."

Not on our watch!

 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

"And how did that make you feel?"



"And how did that make you feel?"  

This is a question our friends who are Christian counselors often ask.  We tease our counselor friends that they fill their time with clients answering a question with a question.   

"And how did that make you feel?"  

I know when I'm asked that question, I could talk for an hour non-stop.  

In the book of James, the author uses the trick of the counselor when he asks these questions. 

What causes fights and quarrels among you? 

Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  (James 4:1)

James could have sat back after those two questions and got an ear full.

These questions which begin the chapter of James 4 are actually connected to the meaning found in chapter 3.  

James continued a single thought from chapter 3 comparing the results of living by the wisdom of heaven versus living by the wisdom of the world.

Worldly wisdom tells us that to be happy we should identify what we want and then go after it at all costs.  Many people may think...and what could be wrong with that?  

Well, the problem with worldly wisdom is that it only looks inward, focusing on what's good for ME and what I want. 

When we put our feelings above our sisters and brothers in Christ, then we are focusing on our wants above others'.

Here is a quote, I came across in reference to this verse.  (source unknown) 

This un-heavenly wisdom is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic, leading to disorder and all kinds of evil practices.  James scolds his readers, who, though they are Christians, are continuing to live by the world's warped wisdom.

OUCH!  James might as well have been foretelling the events of 2020.  

The community James wrote to were in conflict.  In the above counseling questions, he asked them, what is causing your fights and quarrels?  

If the early church was anything like Christians in 2020, the first thing they would have done when asked this question from James, "What causes fights and quarrels among you?" They would blame those who disagree with them.  

"It's their fault because..."

Why did these Christians willingly choose to fight and quarrel with each other? 

I'll answer that...because they didn't trust that God knows the future and all things are within His sight and control.

As Christians, can we really do whatever we want even if it hurts other people when we feel we're right?  

I say, "NO!"  

No, we can't hurt people with our opinions or our words whether they are spoken or written.  

In humility, we should acknowledge that our wants, desires, and plans are submitted to the Lord, and trust Him...even when things don't go our way.

Okay, I have to ask, "And how did that make you feel?"  


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

You're Being Watched

 


In July of 2020, my son's family moved into our home due to being displaced from Covid.  Within moments of their arrival, my then three-year-old grandson was relentless in asking me to play with him.  Every time he saw me he'd say, "Grandma, will you play with me?"  

I'm not kidding.  He'd ask 10-20 times in a matter of a few hours.

A few weeks into this madness, I decided to set some boundaries for my own sanity.  

I decided four times a week after dinner we'd play for 30 minutes the game or activity of his choosing.  Then before we started to play, I'd speak into my Apple Watch and say, "Set timer for 30-minutes."

The setting the timer action had gone on for months, then out of the blue the other day, this funny little boy looked at me, put his wrist to his mouth, and spoke these words, "Set timer for 30-minutes."

I couldn't stop laughing.  Don't ever think the people in your life aren't watching you.  

In Hebrews 13:7, in the NIV, it says, Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.  Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

There is an old saying that the sincerest form of flattery is imitation.  When my grandson imitated my actions, it made me laugh, but also I was proud.  His actions of imitating me blessed me.  He had taken notice and when he thought the time was right, he imitated me.

Is there someone special in your life who is watching your actions?  Maybe it's a friend, relative, neighbor, your church community, or an unbeliever, would you be proud or happy to have them imitate your faith in action?  

Remember, you're being watched.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Repairing Relationships





I'd like to believe every time a person has the courage to tell someone they are sorry, that the other person will be humble, merciful, and forgiving.   But that's not always the way the, "I'm sorry," happens.  

When a sorry is coming, sometimes it’s good, if a little groundwork is laid beforehand.  

At least that’s what Paul did in the book of Philemon.  He prepared the ground for Onesimus to seek forgiveness.  

The New Testament book of Philemon is a small, one-chapter book made up of 22 verses.  This book tells the story of a wealthy landowner named, Philemon and his runaway slave, Onesimus.  

In those days, the Roman Empire had given slave owners the power to put their runaway slaves to death.  Paul's letter to Philemon paves the way for the runaway slave, Onesimus to return to his master to make things right.

There are three main characters in this story.  

·      Paul, the writer of the letter.

·      Philemon, the one who was wronged.

·      And Onesimus, the guilty one seeking forgiveness. 

If I had to pick a hero in this story, it would be the slave, Onesimus, he had everything to lose by returning to his master.  Yet, as a new believer, he wanted and needed to make things right.  

Paul's letter is skillfully crafted to help Philemon the slaveowner do the right thing, but to be sure Philemon does the right thing, Paul says this in 1:18 (NIV).

If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.

There’s someone else in the New Testament who also willingly took the wrongs of others.  When Jesus hung on the cross for the sins of the entire human race, while those around Him were hurling insults.  

Jesus prepared the way, "Father, forgive them…" 

When it comes to repairing broken relationships, forgiveness is the glue.  

 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Spiritual Coupon

  

I get coupons in the mail and at the store all the time.  These coupons are for food items or things as large as furniture.  Whenever I get a coupon, I look them over and make a decision to redeem them, save them for later or toss them in the garbage.


It doesn’t matter to me that the coupon has value.   If I don’t want that item, the coupon isn’t remotely enticing to me.  

 

On the other hand, I hate it when I save a coupon, and then I forget about it buried in my purse somewhere and find out later that it’s expired.  I missed out on something of value that I wanted or needed.

 

There is a small verse, in a small book, in the New Testament that sorta reminds me of a “spiritual coupon.”

 

In Titus 2:11, the ESV says this, 

 

For the grace of God has appeared, 

bringing salvation for all people.

 

If this verse came in the form of a “spiritual coupon” it might say something like this, 

 

  • ·      Available for centuries. 
  • ·      Expires at death or the Rapture.
  • ·      When redeemed the value is eternal life.
  • ·      Who can use this coupon? Whosoever will…it’s free to everyone.
  • ·      How to redeem? Ask/Pray (Your own words are acceptable.)

 

Have you redeemed your "spiritual coupon?" 

 

You don’t want to let this “spiritual coupon”  expire, throw it away, or save it for another day.

 

Best to redeem it NOW!

 

 

 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Not Because We Deserve It


I'm all about getting what I deserve. 


Let me clarify that…if what I deserve is AWESOME!  But, if what I deserve isn't so wonderful, I'll take a hard pass on that.


There’s something about that word deserve.  It can depict a reward worthy of something good...or bad.  When I think of deserving, my mind usually goes to the good, not the bad.  


"Hey, wait a minute.  I deserve ice cream too."


When I was a child...you know this isn't going anywhere good.  I may have rightfully deserved discipline on, let's say, many occasions. 


There were five children in my family.  We rushed on the scene in less than 7 years.  I was number four in the birth order but held first place in naughtiness. 

 

I could go on and on here listing all my childhood infractions, but they are probably nothing new to your own childhood misbehavior.  


If, you also skipped school in the 1st grade and spent the afternoon alone at the park--multiple times.  Or at the age of nine, you took a black crayon and scribble on the hardwood floors for no other reason than you were hiding and there was a black crayon so...obviously you would scribble all over the floor with the black crayon. 


Or maybe you also pulled a few choice pieces of your sister's clothing off the hangers and then told your parents she didn't hang up her clothes, and you got money for doing that.  That's called positive reinforcement.  


You will be glad to know that for most of my childhood failures, I got what I deserved, and getting what I deserved help form me into a better person.  But I'm thankful that when I choose God, He chooses Grace for me instead of giving me what I deserved.


In 2 Timothy 1:9, Paul the Apostle talks about the wonderful things we received from Christ even though we didn't deserve it.


For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.


One day, all mankind will receive exactly what they deserve.  


I'm thrilled beyond words that for this very underserving child, that God saved me and called me to live a holy life because that was his plan for me from the very beginning of time.


I love the definition of GRACE; unmerited favor.  When we each experienced God's grace, we received something we didn't deserve--forgiveness.


It's not because we deserve it, but because He showed His grace.

 

 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

All People

You know, sometimes there are people we don't really jive with.  

Maybe they are a bit irritating, or they don't follow social boundaries.  Maybe they never learned the art of listening without sharing a one-upper.    And by this I mean, if you had a flat tire on the way to work, they had all their tires slashed once at the mall.  You know that person.

You don't want to be unkind, but really, those people will never have a place in your inner circle.  

Right?  

You'll be kind.  You'll be polite, but they will never be the one you invite over to watch a Hallmark movie, go out for lunch, or go on a girl's weekend out.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, from the NLT we are given a pass on having to include the people I mentioned above in our inner circle.  You know, the ones who are disagreeable, ornery, or can't seem to ever live up to our high standards.   

Well, guess what?  You don't have to go out to dinner with them or spend the weekend doing puzzles in front of a roaring fireplace.  

But here is what God's Word does ask us to do.   

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.

Surly, when Paul the Apostle was writing this letter to Timothy, he couldn't have meant that in 2020 we were to pray for ALL PEOPLE!

Why in the world would I ask God to help someone I didn't like, someone who held a different view than me.  

Okay, pray for them doesn't sound so bad but intercede on their behalf, that sounds intense. 

Then Paul goes so far as to break it down from all people to those in leadership and authority over us.  

Now that's getting a bit personal!

What was he thinking?

Maybe, Paul was more focused on how this behavior would benefit us in the long game.  

The last part of verse two tells us what we will receive if we choose to pray and intercede.

...so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.

Well, it just so happens that I do want to live a peaceful and quiet life that is marked by godliness and dignity, but first I have to be willing to do something...

Pray and intercede for ALL PEOPLE.

Yes, even the ones I don't particularly agree with.



Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Directions

Not everyone wants to follow directions. 

There have been times I have ignored directions or fought against them.  Maybe some of these will sound familiar to you as well.   

·      Tossing the written directions aside when putting a toy together on Christmas Eve

·      Ignoring the directions on a recipe

·      Discounting someone’s overbearing step-by-step directions, when you are the one cleaning up the mess.  "Do it like this.  Do it like that."

·      The over-complicated math directions, when you can get the answer way faster doing it on your own. 

·      **And what about when you are the driver and the directions are flying at you from the passenger seat and if you show any weakness the back seat will pipe in too.  

**Disclaimer:  When I'm in the passenger seat or back seat I have an excellent view of everything and my directions should be listened to.  

When directions are given, something can rises up in the one receiving the directions and resist.  We want to ignore the spoke or written words even though they were intended to help us.  

In 2 Thessalonians 3:5, this statement from the Apostle Paul sounds like a prayer that over 2,000 years ago, he prayed over each of us.  

May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God 

and into the steadfastness of Christ.

In my life, I have personally resisted direction on many occasions; parental, spouse, family members, friends, and those in authority.  However, the directions that I've resisted the most in life, has been from God's Word.  

At my age, and years in the Lord, you'd think I'd finally be willing to follow directions, yet, here I am still a work in progress.  When I get bumped, I fail miserably.

I could have avoided many unnecessary fights and hurt feelings if I had followed the directions and submitted my pride and rebellion over to the Lord.

Let’s change 2 Thessalonians 3:5, and make it personal to us today.  

May the Lord direct MY heart into the love of God 

and into the steadfastness of Christ.  

Now, those are directions worth following!

 




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