Prayer Changes Things

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There are some major decisions that are going to be made in our local church as well as our denomination. There are some things that the nation is going through that is troubling. One Sunday morning the Pastor of our church announced that we would have a prayer event. We would come together as a congregation, as a community of believers and as citizens of this nation and pray that decisions would be made that would honor God. I think he is setting an example of what we as Christians should do in our own personal lives.
 
What would it look like if we before we made a major decision took the time to sit down and pray? What if we truly asked God what he thought and what path we should take? Would our lives look less cluttered? Would we experience more peace and less stress? Would our lives look different?
 
Recently, we helped a friend move a refrigerator off of a U-Haul into her garage. Her garage was stuffed full. I understood the situation. There are two households moving in together. They have to sort, get rid of and sale things in order to make room for both of them.
 
As we left her place we drove by several homes with their garage doors opened. As we drove by my husband and I was amazed at the amount of stuff in garages. Some garages were so full of stuff that they could not put their car in the garage. Now my definition of a garage is this: a building or extra room to store your vehicle. Today, we use the garage for storing all those things that don’t fit into our homes. What would it look like if we prayed before we bought anything? The Bible tells us to pray at all times.  “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18 We are so good at praying for others, but how often do we pray for discernment or wisdom? James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” What would it look like if before we made a purchase we asked God if it was his will for our lives?
 
When I was growing up I don’t remember ever seeing businesses that advertised they would keep your stuff in a unit, but today there are so many of these businesses that promise to store yourself for a fee. Really? We have so much stuff we have to pay someone to store our stuff? What would happen to the homeless or those who are struggling if we gave our stuff away to them? What if we prayed and God said to us, “You have an abundance, but my son or daughter over here is in need. Give some of your things to him or her.” How would we respond? We are reminded in 1 John 3:17-18, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet he closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth.” I am thinking most of us would turn our backs on God. We can’t seem to part with our stuff.
 
When our young adults come and talk to us about what they should do with their lives too many times we steer them in the direction we think is best for them. What would it be like if we seek God as we were seeking our life’s work? What if we taught our youth to pray about the direction God had for us? I think there would be less stress in the workplaces today because more people would be doing what God has called us to do instead of climbing ladders of success. God does call us to those places where we can climb to success, but when God is in it it is not stressful or hurtful to others. We are successful because God’s hand was in it. God does call doctors, nurses, lawyers and many other worthy occupations, but he also calls Pastors, missionaries, and even disciples of Christ.
 
For too many of us, we limit our prayers to God for helping others through death, illness, or calamity. We don’t think of praying to God for direction or wisdom, or the path he wants us on. Why is that? We are afraid of the answer God may give us. It might not be the answer we are looking for. God might challenge us on the need of the item we are wanting or the direction we are taking. God knows what is best for us. God knows what we need.
 
God supplies our needs. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19. We have folks that are in need and we have a nation that is greedy. What would happen if we put the two together and live in harmony with one another?
 
God calls us to a life of unity, a life of peace and a life that is in accordance with His will. We can only become united with our brothers and sisters when we step up to the plate and look pass their ethnicity, their religion, and their lifestyles and supply their needs. When they pray for their needs to be met it is through each us that God answers their prayers. We can only live a life of peace and live in accordance to His will when we will get down on our knees and pray for guidance, wisdom, and direction.
 
Prayer is the key component to living a life of peace. We can have peace in this world if only we would get down and pray for our community, our nation, and our world. Our lives would look different if we took this key component and prayed without ceasing for all of our needs, wants and desires. Our lives may take a different direction if we prayed to God for his direction.
 
We often sit down and talk with our spouse or our parents about decisions we are going to make. Maybe it’s time we sit down and had that same conversation with our Heavenly Father and allow him to weigh in on our decisions.
 
Maybe…it’s time to be part of a community, national or worldly prayer event. Maybe…it’s time to invite God into our decision making in our lives and in our homes.
 
Life is what we make it. Maybe it’s time we start including God.
 
 
 
Dear God: Bringing the needy and the greedy together would change the world. Help us change the world through our prayers and obedience as we seek your will for our lives. Praying for peace may mean praying at all times for all people no matter their ethnicity, religion or their lifestyles. Seeking direction for our lives may mean asking you what plans you have for us. Help us to get past praying just for those who are ill, experiencing death, or calamity in their lives. Teach us to pray at all times, in all circumstances. Teach us to ask for wisdom and discernment when making decisions. Give us the boldness to do what you’re asking us to do. Help us to pray for the leaders of our nation and our world even when we do not agree with them. Help us to talk less to you and to listen to you more. Let us become a nation who is known as prayer warriors.
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ADHD….Wanna Get Away? Telling on My Self​

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It is a well-known fact that members of my family have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). They get it honest. I have never been tested. As a kid, I am not sure they even knew about ADD, but I would have been a good candidate for testing. This weekend proves it. Remember the commercial that puts a person in an uncomfortable position and then says, “Want to get away?” That was me this weekend.
 
On Sunday morning, as I was rushing off to church I grabbed my phone…or so I thought. I arrived at my church. In my haste, I left my Bible in the car. I didn’t realize it until it was too late. No biggie, I have my phone. My phone’s battery was at 36%. Ok, so I forgot to charge my phone last night.
 
I managed to get through church without my Bible and phone. I go home and put my phone on the charger. It is one of those modern charges that you just set your phone on and it charges. Nothing happens. I check everything and everything seems fine. My husband is now working with me to see what is going on. I immediately notice my phone is missing apps. In fact, it looks exactly like how I had my old phone set up. I am beginning to fume because I’ve lost pictures, can’t get phone calls, no text messages…nothing. It has been the case that every time I get a new phone, something happens and I have to have it replaced within the first couple of months. I’ve talked to those who have had to replace my phone and they say it is nothing I am doing wrong. I just get lucky and get bad phones. So, I am thinking here we go again. My husband makes an appointment for a couple of days later to have it checked.
 
We are headed to our friends’ house as this was going on. I find out from my husband that it was a network problem, not a phone problem. So now we are dealing with the network tech to get my phone back up and working. Everything he tries does not work. We are on the phone for an extended period of time trying to figure it out. He can’t seem to figure it out, my husband can’t figure it out and of course, I can’t either.
 
We arrive at our friends’ home and I put my purse on the kitchen table. In the other room, my husband is still talking to the network tech. The man on the other end of the phone decided to try calling me one more time after trying something different. As the phone began to ring, my friend says to me, “I hear something vibrating.” I did too. The vibration was coming from my purse. I opened my purse and there appeared a light and something was definitely vibrating. I pick it up and it’s my new phone. We have been trying to get my disconnected, old phone to work. “Wanna get away?” I sure did. After laughing hysterically, I realize I have to tell Greg who is on the phone with the network tech that I had my old phone; not my new one. He tells the gentleman who is kind and says, “Well, at least we figured out the problem. Have a great day.” I am feeling pretty stupid right now. In my defense, I will say my wonderful husband bought me a frog (Fully rely on God) cover for both phones and they resemble each other. So, it is easy to get them mixed up. I got my new phone mixed up with my old phone. I blamed everyone, but myself because something wasn’t right. I had to realize it was my mistake. My daughter with the ADD had been helping me by calling and texting me also. Finally, she said, “Mom, I think I got my ADD honest.” I had to agree with her.
 
Now, I know you’re asking how am I going to turn this into a devotion. As I was thinking about this and the mistake I made, I soon realized this is the same thing I do with my faith. I have a new life in Christ. I walk in this new life and things are going smoothly for me. Then something happens and I yearn for my old life back. I want the comfort of my old life. I want what I had when I had my old life, but it has been disconnected from God. That old life doesn’t exist anymore. I have a new life in Christ.
 
Just like I kept my same body when I surrendered to Christ, I had kept my same number. But, I also died to self and was raised in Christ. My old phone was dead and the number was activated in a new form.
 
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24

I needed to get rid of my old phone and strictly use my new phone. My old phone had caused me grief and gave me fits, so I needed to put it out of reach. That is what God is calling us to do when we become Christians. We are to put aside our old self, our old ways, our old habits; walk away, leave them alone. We are to put on the image of God who created us in His image. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

As I looked at my old phone, I realized it didn’t fit anymore. There were things that were missing. There were images I had captured that were gone. There were text messages from family and friends that held memories. My emails didn’t apply to my life now. There were messages from the past that weren’t relevant. That is exactly how it is with our new life in Christ. We can’t go back to our old ways. Our old lives might look good to us, but when we begin to walk in our old ways after serving Christ, we soon find it doesn’t work out. We miss out on what Christ has for us. We miss the messages and the guidelines God gives us. We miss out on the good times we’ve shared with our Christian family and friends. It’s just not a good fit anymore. Our old life is not relevant….it’s not connected to our new life in Christ.
 
So, while I may have had a good laugh and been embarrassed at my mistake, God took the opportunity to teach me a few things. First, I am to remind myself I have died to self and been raised in Christ. Second, I need to keep my old life separated from my new life and 3rd, while it might look enticing to go back to my old ways it just won’t work. It isn’t relevant to my new life in Christ. The old life just like my old phone will not work. (And I need to put my old phone out of sight so I don’t make this mistake again!! 😊)
 
While you may have had a good laugh at my expense, I also hope it has made you think about your old life before Christ and your new life in Christ. Are there some things that you are hanging onto that needs to be put away? Have you tried going back to your old ways and found it just doesn’t work?
 
I came home and put my old phone out of reach, out of sight and hopefully out of mind. I want to do that with my old life before Christ as well. Won’t you join me?
 
 
Dear God: I got my old phone and my new phone mixed up yesterday and embarrassed myself. Being the Good Father you are, you taught me we can’t mix our old lives with our new life in Christ. Our old lives are disconnected and our new lives are connected to you. Just like I can’t use my old phone and my new phone at the same time, I can’t walk with you and live my old life. You make me choose. Thank you for showing me my old life is irrelevant and doesn’t mean as much as it did in the past. Help me to put away my old self. Teach me to learn to accept the new way of living through you. Amen
 

Emptying the Dishwasher

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This weekend we heard a lot about emptiness. We were reminded how the tomb where they lay Christ’s body was empty on Easter morning. We know we have to empty ourselves so we can be full of Christ; not full of self.
 
I was challenged this morning. The challenge was can I go about doing my tasks all day long and relate them to Christ or Christianity and the things the Bible teaches us? That’s a pretty tough challenge.
 
One of the many tasks I have to do today is to empty the dishwasher full of clean dishes and to put them away. Of course, there are some waiting to go back in the dishwasher. I asked God to help me see the message in this job. He didn’t waste any time.
 
It had to do with emptying myself. Because I am human and I live in the world I can’t help but fill my life with things that should not belong. Sometimes these things aren’t necessarily bad for me, but they are things that keep me full of myself.
 
God reminded me gently that as I empty the contents of the dishwasher to put them away, I was to think about those things in my life that needed to be removed from my life. We all have things that we need to get rid of in our lives. Things like selfishness. We want to be selfish with our time. We want to do what we want to do. We don’t have time for others right now, maybe later, but now is my time.
 
Instead of being selfish maybe we need to get rid of gossip. We often don’t see ourselves gossiping, but when we begin to share what we’ve heard from others about our friends or family and we pass it on…that’s gossiping. We even embellish it a bit.
 
Or maybe we struggle with stealing. We all think we are trustworthy people, but what about those times we pick up a pen from a business or we take time to look at our email while at work or if we are given the wrong change and decide it’s their mistake. We decide to keep the change. We all are guilty of stealing at some point in our lives.
 
We all struggle with lying. Maybe it’s time to empty ourselves of lying. We tell a white lie and then justify it by saying we didn’t want to hurt a friend or a family member. We tell a lie when we pay our taxes if we aren’t truthful about our income or we embellish our expenses. We tell lies when we don’t answer the phone just because we are not in the mood to talk. When we return the phone call we often say we were busy doing something. Sometimes lying can become second nature to us.
 
I was reminded as I was taking out the dishes I was to name each obstacle in my life. I was to name each item that was keeping me from emptying myself out. It could be doubt that is keeping us from emptying ourselves out. What if this religion thing is just a myth? What if it is all fake news? What if…? Doubt can destroy us.
 
It could be a trust issue. I can’t trust those people I see and come in contact with so how am I ever going to trust in something or somebody I can’t see? I can’t trust in something I can’t see or feel, or hear.
 
It could be fear that is keeping us from emptying ourselves out. The fear of the unknown. The fear of what we think God would ask us to do. The fear of being made fun of by our family or friends if we accept God.
 
Control is another obstacle that keeps us from emptying ourselves out. We want to control things. We often think we can do a better job of controlling our lives than God can.
 
God challenged me to name those things and get rid of them. I was to empty myself out.
 
After all the dishes were empty I stood and looked at my dishwasher. It was empty. A good feeling. I knew before long though it would become full again.
 
I was reminded that just as I would fill the dishwasher again I would need to fill myself up. I was reminded as I began to put dirty dishes back in the dishwasher I was to name things that I would want my life to be full of.
 
 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) If I filled my life full of love, joy peace and all the other things mentioned above I wouldn’t have room for all the other obstacles that are in my life.
 
My dishwasher is something I use to wash dishes. I put empty dishes in, run the dishwasher and they come clean. I put more dirty dishes in and on and on it goes. My life doesn’t have to resemble a dishwasher.
 
I can hand over all the obstacles in my life to Christ and empty myself out and I can allow him to cleanse my life with his grace. Instead of refilling my life with all those obstacles again, I can break the routine and begin to fill my emptiness with things that are Christ worthy.
 
I have a choice. Keep doing the same thing always getting the same results. Filling…emptying..filling…emptying or I can fill my life with things of Christ and be made clean by His grace.
 
While all of this is good on paper I understand that because I live in the world, I do have to empty myself every day from those obstacles that creep in and want to fill my life. I need to empty myself every day from those things so they can’t consume me and fill me to the brim leaving no room for Christ.
 
Just as I have to empty and fill the dishwasher every day, we have to empty ourselves every day. But, the more I fill it with Christ and his word the less room I have for those obstacles. One day when God calls me home, my life will be filled with all those wonderful things God has given me and there will be no room for obstacles.
 
Time for the next challenge! How about you? Is your life full of obstacles? Do you need some time to empty your life? Do you need to be washed by God’s grace? Simply ask and he will do some deep cleaning.
 
Dear God: Something so simple as a task of emptying a dishwasher and refilling it you make a lesson of it. If we just open our ears you have a message for us every day. We just need to be aware of your presence in our lives and the message is there. Thank you for emptying me this Easter. Thank you for teaching me it’s about dying on the cross and being raised in you. Thank you for teaching me about emptiness and how I must be willing to empty myself every day so you can live in me. Amen

Jesus Included Judas, Can You?

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Christ on so many levels taught us how to be a servant and to be obedient. He put into motion examples of how we should live our lives.
 
As we celebrate Christ eating the Last Supper with his Disciples the night before he died we see one of his most powerful examples of all.
 
“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you[b] are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 
John 13:1-11
 
In this passage we see Christ laying aside his outer garments. He picks up a towel and he pours water into a basin. We see him stooping and washing the feet of his Disciples. He even washes Judas’ feet. The one who is about to betray him and turn him over to those who want to crucify Christ.
 
In our eyes, we see Judas as an enemy. In Christ’s eyes, He sees Judas as the one who was chosen to fulfill God’s will. He does not see Judas as an enemy, but one who has chosen the wrong path. Does that make him love Judas any less? Does he wash everyone’s feet except Judas? No.
 
What this teaches us is God is so full of love that he is a servant to those who do him wrong or leave the path that leads to him. He is so full of love he is willing to stoop down and wash Judas’ feet.
 
This is the perfect example of what he was teaching earlier when he said this, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48
 
He was not a man who said, “Do as I say.” He was a man who said, “Follow my example and do as I do.” He showed us that night that what he taught us he is willing to do. I believe if those who had come to the Garden to arrest him had been at the Last Supper he would have washed their feet too.
 
The world teaches us to hate our enemies. The world says we are to punish our enemies. We often walk away never wanting a relationship with them, yet this is not what Christ showed us that night. If we are truly servants of Christ, if we truly are followers of Christ, we will serve those we consider our enemies.
 
We may not get a chance to wash their feet, but we can begin to have a relationship with them. We can follow Christ example and have a meal and conversation with them. We can follow Christ’s example and love them not for what they’ve done to us, but because of who they are. They are God’s creation the same as we are.
 
Just like Judas, they may still have evil in their intentions, but we are called to be children of God. We are called to be obedient to Christ’s teachings while he was with us. His teaching taught us to love our enemies.
 
He doesn’t stop with us just loving them. He goes on to say we are to pray for them. It’s so easy to pray for our loved ones, our friends, and neighbors. It’s so easy to ask God to bless our family and friends, but to bless our enemies? That’s not what we want. Often times we want to see our enemies suffer. We don’t want our enemies included in our blessings.
 
Christ did not exclude Judas; neither should we. Christ included Judas. It had to be difficult for Judas to feel the love Christ had for him and to know what he was about to do. When we are in the presence of God we can’t help but feel loved. I am sure Judas felt loved. If we truly want to see Christ and spend eternity with him then it is time we served our enemies not with hostility, but with love. It’s time we followed Christ’s example the night before he died and show love toward those who don’t deserve our love or attention.
 
Is it time to do some foot washing? Who in your life needs for you to wash their feet? Who in your life needs to feel God’s love through you? Who do you need to serve?
 
 
Dear God: Your Son came and taught us to love our enemies and to pray for them. He didn’t stop there. He showed us through this night what that looked like. He didn’t exclude Judas he included him. He taught us what real love and servanthood look like. It isn’t always being a servant to those who we love or those who love us. Being a child of God and a true follower of God is serving those who are our enemies. Help us to follow Christ and to reach out to those who we consider our enemies. It might be a family member, or a neighbor or even someone who goes to church with us. It might be that guy at work, whoever it is help us as we stoop down and serve them with love. We pray for our enemies. We pray they will come to know and love Christ through our service to them. In all these things we pray Amen.
 

Not My Will But Yours

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This is Holy Week. Our focus turns to Christ and all he did for us. I recently watched 6 episodes of the Easter Experience by Kyle Idleman.
 
One of the scenes is Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he was crucified. In the video, Kyle mentions that Jesus may have experienced the heaviness of guilt that he was experiencing from taking on the sins of the world. How many of us after doing something we know we shouldn’t have done feel the heaviness of that guilt? We feel like we are carrying the world on our shoulders. Christ was carrying the world on his shoulder and all the guilt that comes from that.
 
I was recently reminded of another man in the Bible. He was Moses. He was called to go to Egypt by God to free his people from bondage. We all know Moses argued with God and did not really want to do this. After some time Moses gives in and decides to follow through with what God wanted him to do.
 
Then there is Jonah. God calls him to go to Nineveh. We all know Jonah headed in the opposite direction and did not want to do the work God had called him to do. We see him in the belly of a fish before he agrees to do what God is calling him to do.
 
I had to stop and think about my own life and how I often do not want to do what Christ is calling me to do. I think I am not qualified, it’s too hard a task or it is simply out of my comfort zone. There are times I even argue just like Moses did. If I haven’t argued with Christ then I sometimes followed Jonah’s example and ran in the opposite direction. I may not have ended up in the belly of a fish, but I have found myself in uncomfortable circumstances. Not only was I in uncomfortable circumstances I have felt like I was lugging a big stone around with me. The guilt was difficult.
 
Here we have Christ on the night before he was to be crucified. Luke 22:39 tells us, “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as your will.” I think Christ’s human side was coming out of him as he asked God to take the cup from him. I think he knew we would all experience a challenge at some point in our lives and he was setting for us an example to follow. He ends that by saying, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” It’s one thing for us to argue and run away from the tasks God has called us to. It’s another to simply say, “You know I don’t want to do this, but if it’s your will I am willing.” I wonder how many times have I simply said to Christ, “I don’t want to do this, but your will be done.” I bet I could guess on one hand. More often than not, it’s more like, “Christ, I don’t want to do this. I can’t do this. Get someone else to do this. This isn’t me.”
 
Christ asks a second time. He doesn’t argue he just asks if it is possible. He doesn’t run away and hide or act like he didn’t hear him. He simply asks and when he realizes it’s not possible he simply says, “your will be done.”  His task was much bigger than anything God has ever asked me to do. Christ’s task was a lot harder than I’ve ever been asked to do. When you compare what God asked Christ to do compared to what he asks us to do why do we resist? Why do we run and hide? It’s not like he is asking us to go through what Christ went through.
 
Christ carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. He carried everyone’s sin with him to the cross. God doesn’t even come close to asking me to do what He asked of his own son. So why do I find it so easy to turn away?
 
Why is it so hard for us to be willing to feed those in need when they are reaching out? Why is it so hard for us to share with others what Christ did that night? Why can’t we look into people’s eyes and see them as Christ sees them? To love people as Christ loves them?
 
After seeing what Christ did for me without arguing or running away or resisting I think I will think twice the next time he asks me to do something. The conversation might go like this, “Are you sure Christ? That is really what you want me to do? Okay then, your will be done.”
 
If Christ who was obedient took my sin to the cross with him and carried my guilt then I must follow his example and do what he has called me to do which is being obedient.
 
What about you? Are you willing to say to Christ, “your will be done?” Or will you follow the examples of Moses and Jonah?
 
 
Dear God, thank you for Christ’s willingness to say, “your will be done not mine.” Help us as we strive in following his example. Remind us you have never called us to do anything as difficult as those things you asked your Son to do. May we simply say yes and seek to do your will when you call upon us. In all these things I pray Amen.

The Couch and The Nail Polish

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For the last few weeks, I have been watching videos on RN Media that is preparing me for Easter. Each one is more moving than the last one.
 
In the last video, I was watching Kyle Idleman. He was sharing a story about the light colored couch he and his wife had bought. It was in the living room. One day he or his wife went into the room and was straightening the cushions. One of them was different. So as they turned the cushion over to put it back like it should be they noticed a stain. It was not just an ordinary stain it was pink fingernail polish. They called the girls in and asked who was the culprit. One of the girls couldn’t hold back and ran out of the room sobbing. Kyle goes after her and finds her in her closet, her head between her knees and sobbing. He holds her close and just lets her cry. Finally, they go down to the living room and she confesses to her mom. The child finally looks up at her mom and asks the question all parents have heard at some point, “Do you still love me?” This mother bends down, wraps her arms around her daughter and says, “You cannot create a big enough stain to make me stop loving you.”
 
He reminded me that we all live with or have lived with stains in our lives. We have all done something we regret. We have all done something that we wish we could blot out of our lives and our memory.
 
I am proud of this child. She admitted to messing up. How many times has our child tried to point the finger at a sibling or a friend? They try to pass the blame onto someone else. How many times have I tried to pass the blame onto someone else? We learn early that it’s okay to pass the blame. We find Eve passing the blame in Genesis 3:13, “Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What have you done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Before Eve blames the serpent we find Adam blaming Eve in verse 12, “the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” We instantly go into the blaming mode when we’ve done something wrong. Not only did our stain appear when we did something wrong, but it gets bigger when we blame an innocent person for something we did.
 
If we don’t play the blame game, then we, just like this child, try to hide our mistakes. We learned from Kyle this was a stain that had happened several days before. She turned the cushion over and hoped no one would notice. How many times do we try to cover up our mistakes? We might even go to the extreme point of lying to cover up our mistakes. We hope no one will ever find out. As a child, I learned quickly, it was best if I told the truth instead of hiding the truth. I have had children and grandchildren, for whatever reason, do poorly on a test or homework. They come home from school and try to hide the paper. It never worked with my parents, me or my daughters raising their children.
 
It doesn’t work with God either. Psalm 44:21 tells us this about God: “Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.” Even if we could hide it from our parents, family, and friends we can’t hide it from God. He knows it all. Just like confessing to our parents is always the best answer; confessing before God is even better.
 
I don’t know what happened to Kyle’s daughter. There might have been some punishment or maybe they thought she had punished herself enough. What I do know is her parents still loved her. God is the same way. He loves us no matter how big our stain is or how often we sin. God loves us. He looks past the sin and he hears us say, “Do you still love me?” He gets down on his knees and like this mother, he says to us today, “There is nothing you can do to keep me from loving you. Nothing will ever separate my love from you.” We are reminded, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 
 
God doesn’t stop there. He offers us the gift of grace. He takes that stain and removes it from our lives. Through grace, our lives have been made clean again. The stain on the couch is a visible sign that this child messed up. It will be a constant reminder for her and her family. God is different. Through his grace, he touches our lives and the stain is gone. It’s gone from his memory and it should be gone from ours. We no longer have to live with the memory. We don’t have to hide it and we certainly don’t have to blame others because simply put….it’s gone.
 
As we prepare for Easter, I encourage you to look to Jesus to help you deal with that stain in your life. Don’t be afraid to come to Jesus with that stain. He will simply put his arms around you and say to you, “you can’t create a big enough stain for me to stop loving you. I love you just as you are.” 
 
Jesus is waiting for you to come and confess. Don’t let the stain grow deeper or get any bigger. Quit hiding the stain. He’s waiting for you. 
 
Dear God: I have had stains in my life that I wanted to blot out or hide or to blame others for. I am sure there is a stain growing today that I need to confess to. Help me come to you with an honest approach and confess to you. Help me be willing to accept the consequences you have for me knowing you will also be offering me the gift of grace. Help me to understand there is nothing I can do that will turn your love away from me. Help me as I strive to not only love you more deeply each day but to follow you all the days of my life. Amen
 

Who Will I Serve?

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There are many people today following their own lifestyles and doing their own thing. At the same time, this world is getting crazy. Life is like a whirlwind. I was watching a video that recently reminded me of all of this.
 
I’ve heard many people who follow Christ recently say, “I don’t know how people without Christ can get through these days. How do they make it through tough days? Who do they rely on to help them?” I would imagine you’d hear the folks they are talking about say, “I don’t need anyone. I can do this on my own.” That may very well be true.
 
As I reflected on this I began to think about myself. If I didn’t follow Christ, who would I follow? The saying goes, “you got to believe in something or your fall for anything”. So who are you going to believe in?
 
I honestly went through a period of time when life was tough. My life was not going as I had planned and God’s plan for my life was not a smooth journey. So, I decided I could handle my life better than he could. Well, we all know how that turned out. After a few years, I decided I couldn’t do any better than he could.
 
Believing I could handle life without Christ was not the best choice for me. So, what else could I believe in? Oh, I could believe in friends, but I soon found out, friends often disappointed me and I really couldn’t put my faith in them. Could it be they were the wrong friends?
 
I could put my faith in the world. But, the world changes ideas faster than I can keep up with. One minute the world tells me this is what I should be doing and the very next minute the world would have me believe something different.
 
I could put my faith in politics, but that does not always lead us down a good road. I could have idols, but idols often fall and once again, disappoint us.
 
I could put my faith in my furry friends, but when it comes to sharing opinions and beliefs, the furry friends aren’t responsive. They love us and make us feel good but that’s about it. They keep us company.
 
I could put my faith in material blessings and make them my god, but what happens if I have an accident and my car is destroyed…the car I made my god is now destroyed. Or what if I made my house my god and the house is suddenly swept away by floods or tornadoes? Or I put my faith in my money or my job and I lose it? It seems to me, material blessings are not the answer either. They can disappoint and urge me to crave more and more. Material items often make me crave and strive for more without ever making me feel satisfied.
 
As I see it, there isn’t much else to put our faith in. In Joshua 24 we find Joshua has assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He called them all together and they presented themselves before God.
 
Joshua begins to tell the people all the things God has commanded him to say. Then we get to verses 14-15 and he says this, “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Very clearly Joshua has said God has called the people to fear him. We understand this fear to mean reverence and awe. We are to be in awe of God. If you look at creation, it is not hard to be in awe of God. One morning, I was able to get up and see the sun come up over the water. I was in awe of God and it made me want to get down and praise His name. That’s the kind of awe we are talking about. When you see a baby for the first time, or you see anything that moves you into a breathtaking event that is when you experience reverent fear. When we want to just fall on our knees and say thank you, that’s the fear God wants us to experience.
 
Then he called them to throw away the gods their ancestors worshipped. We are to throw away anything that we worship more deeply than God. We all know God is to be first in our lives. He has top priority over everything given to us. I had something I cherished so much. I believe deep down it was taking over my life. I was so proud of this item. I was the queen of it all. I had it all. God being the good Father he is decided I was a little too proud and had made it my god. It was taken from me. I went without for two years. Finally, God allowed me to replace this item, but it was a much simpler item. I was humbled. I realized what I had done. Anything that we place value over God’s love is our god. We are to throw them out. We cannot worship anything but God.
 
He goes on to tell the people God has given them permission not to serve him. If it seems too hard or undesirable to follow God then don’t. He goes on to say to them, but choose who you will serve. God knows we will all serve something or somebody. We will make something our god. What will you make your god if you choose not to follow God?
 
Joshua says as, for him and his household, they will serve the Lord. You may not choose to serve the Lord, but after seeking other choices and following other gods, I most certainly will choose to serve the Lord. I have sought and served other gods and they all disappointed me and left me wanting something more.
 
I found something more in God. God has filled me with more than enough. He has given me leftovers so I can share them with others. Psalm 23:5 says it best, “ You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

There is nothing in this world or made from this world or any material possessions that will fill me up and take away the striving for more. God fills me up and takes away my desires for more and more.
 
So who will I choose to be my god? I choose God every time. Who will you choose?
 
Dear God, thank you for Joshua and his words to the tribes of Israel. Thank you for speaking through Joshua and encouraging us to get rid of the gods we worship. Help us to have a reverent fear for you. May we be in awe of you as we look this Spring at your creation coming alive after a time of resting during Winter. Be with our households as we boldly choose to serve and worship you. May we encourage those around us to leave their gods and to serve and love you fully. Amen