Knocking My Socks Off

I have decided a few things. Following Christ is not an easy walk. Following Christ on this journey comes with challenges, twists, and turns. Just about the time you think things are going smooth and you are getting the hang of it God comes in and stirs the pot and challenges you to move forward on your journey. I have come to realize God does not allow you to rest any too long at any one point in your life.
I have looked back over my years and I have noticed that just about the time I am okay with what God has chosen for me to do he steps forward and challenges me to step out of my comfort zone again and move forward.
Years ago I was challenged to start a Wednesday night prayer service. God gave me complete details except for who was to bring the short devotion that he wanted for the evening. It was to be a time of praise music, prayer, and a short devotion. I was given all the details. I knew who was to lead music and who would be praying. The short devotion he did not name. After realizing this I asked for wisdom on who was best qualified to do this. I didn’t like the answer. I was to give the devotion. Each week I would prepare a short devotion and share it with a handful of people.
As I look back I see how he was preparing me for my future. Several years later in Texas, I was given the opportunity to be on the District team for our United Methodist Women’s group. I was to hold the office of Spiritual Growth. With that came the responsibility of leading a short devotion each time we held a District event or a District meeting. The audience for these meetings were a little larger than the Wednesday night group. Another step forward.
With each speaking engagement, I have committed to the audience seems to get a little bigger and more intimidating. Now I have been asked to step out in faith and do an even bigger event. This one will be just as intimidating and challenging, if not more so, than all the others. I was comfortable with what I was doing, but God decided it was time to get me out of my comfort zone and move me forward once more.
I am realizing how comfortable we can get in our faith. It reminds me of buying a new pair of everyday shoes. We buy a pair of shoes and they are a bit tight and a little uncomfortable. Just about the time we break them in and they fit just like we like them we realize they are worn out, used up or broken in and we need a new pair.
Sometimes we get comfortable with the jobs God gives us. We are settled in. We like what we do…it’s a nice fit. We breathe in and settle down in that job. We get comfortable. Unfortunately, we don’t grow in a relationship with God when it is comfortable. We grow and learn to rely on or trust him more when there are challenges, difficulties or trials we are growing through. When our backs are up against the wall that is often when we reach out to God. It is during those times we grow, our faith strengthens and we learn yet again to depend on Him.
My favorite verse is this, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (JEREMIAH 29:11) While he may know the plans he has for each of us the secret is not sharing those plans with us until it is necessary. If we knew ahead of time the plans he has for each of us it would be scary enough to knock our socks off. While he does not share his plans for our lives what he does do is coordinate events in our lives that will work out according to his will.
He also spends time equipping us for the jobs he has for us. It has been said, “God does not call the equipped. God equips the called.” “Instead, God chose things that the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame how who are powerful.” 1 Corinthians 1:27-28

God is a good God. He always gives us a choice. When he calls us out of our comfort zone he always gives us a choice. We can choose to be obedient or we can choose to run away as fast as we can in the other direction. I often think of Jonah. God called Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah had a choice to make. He could choose to follow God and get up immediately and go to Nineveh or he could choose to be disobedient. Jonah got up and moved in the opposite direction God called him to.
When God calls us to move forward we have choices to make ourselves. We can choose to be obedient or we can choose to run away. When contemplating about this task God had called me to do someone said, “I don’t want to pressure you to do it. It’s your decision.” I replied back, “Thank you, but it’s not about whether I want to do it. It’s about whether God wants me to do it and me being obedient to his calling.” I don’t have to buy a new pair of shoes. I can wear the old ones, but one day the old ones will be worn out and I will have to buy a new pair. We can stay where we are and never move forward in our relationship with God. It will become stale and stagnant. We will have a choice to make stay put or move forward.
If you look back on your life can you see where God has been slowly moving you forward in your walk with him? Can you see him preparing you or equipping you to do those things he has called you to do?
As I look back I have seen the progress I have made. I have seen each time he has called me to step forward. I have seen those times he has allowed me to rest right where I was. And yes, I have seen those times I have slipped backward. Those times were not God’s doing, but mine when I was disobedient and ran away just like Jonah.
Just like Esther said in her book, “Maybe I’ve been called for just a time as this.” So, the question now becomes do I take the next step forward in my relationship with God and do what he has called me to do or do I keep my comfortable shoes on and stay right where I am at? Do I follow Jonah and run in the opposite direction?
I know the answer. I know what I must do. Now it’s about being obedient. What shall I choose?
Dear God: It would be nice if you brought us so far and then just left us to be comfortable. It would be nice to sit in our easy chair and soak up the comfort, but being comfortable is not what you’ve called us to do. You’ve called us to step up and move out. You want us to move forward and not be stale or stagnant. You want us to have a dynamic relationship with you. We know that only happens when we rely on you, are challenged, or are going through difficult times. You’ve given us both Esther and Jonah as examples; one was obedient the other wasn’t. We can choose to be Esther or we can be a Jonah. Help me to be an Esther for such a time as this. Amen

Don’t Make The Tools Your Rules

I was watching a Bible Studies video on an app called “rightnow Media”. The study I was watching was, “A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God” by Larry Osborne. Something he said recently got my attention. In this series, he made this statement, “Don’t let the tools become the rules.”He was talking about spiritual disciplines. We often believe we have to follow certain spiritual disciplines in order to grow closer to Christ. Sometimes others will impress upon us that we are to follow their example and follow the spiritual disciplines that work for them. 
He went on to say that it’s not a one fits all theology. We all have to develop our own spiritual disciplines and mine may look different from yours. What you do to draw closer to God will look different than what I do to draw closer to God.
God may call one person to spend time in solitude. The person he has called to solitude will walk away refreshed, energized and may have heard God speak to him in the silence. While God calls that person to solitude, another person who is an extrovert or has trouble being alone and quiet may not receive the same benefits that the introvert received. So, while it is good to spend time with God in solitude it may look different for each person.
This is where I struggle. I love reading my Bible. I will admit my Bible reading comes and goes sporadically. I just finished a deep study on Galatians. What I love is doing a video Bible Study. A video Bible Study is a video where the leader walks us through a certain portion of the Bible. Now, let me interject here. I am very careful who I listen to. I will also follow up on my own or ask questions of others if I am not completely comfortable with where the leader is going. I love doing Bible Studies in church with our Pastor or those who are being led to lead us. But, to sit down for an hour and just read the Bible I struggle with this. This is a spiritual discipline I struggle with. In a few weeks, I will be visiting my family in Indiana. With eight active grandchildren, I will not get Bible Study in. Always before I have struggled with this; my thoughts have been if I am going to be the Christian God calls me to then I must spend time in the Bible daily. If I don’t then I must not be living up to God’s standards for my life. If we insist it is necessary to sit and read the Bible daily then what are we implying for those who struggle to read, or has dyslexia, or some other learning disability?
I excel in listening to praise music throughout the day. In fact, this is about all I listen to. One time I had someone tell me I was making praise music my idol and in fact, it was doing me more harm. I have to disagree. As I listen to praise music (and yes I sing along and make a joyful noise) I am listening to the words and I am making them my own. It’s a time for me to worship God, seek God out or just a time to be with him. On more than one occasion I have felt God’s presence as I listen to my music.
There are two guys on YouTube that are Christian comedians, “The Skit Guys.” I often listen to them and receive just the message that is needed for that day. They start out with comedy that leads to a Biblical teaching. I find myself in the message that they are presenting. Sometimes God calls me out through the message.
Prayer is another example of spiritual discipline. We often criticize people because they won’t pray aloud, or pray in front of people or…..(you name it). Prayer may be one’s spiritual discipline that is a comfort and a joy for some while others find praying alone or at home or silently works better for them.
We find in Galatians this tidbit, “But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; and here there is no conflict with Jewish laws.” (Galatians 5:22-23) What Larry Osborne suggested and I totally agree with is this, we look at what is being produced in one’s life before we demand Christians live by certain spiritual disciplines each day. If what is being produced by the way they are practicing their spiritual disciplines is love, joy, peace, patience, and all the others then they are living as God has called them too.
We can’t let the tools that we use for Spiritual Discipline become rules. We mustn’t let those rules cause someone to struggle or stumble. We must accept that spiritual disciplines will look different for each one of us.
The tools we use for spiritual discipline will not produce spiritual fruit. They are just tools that help us produce the fruit. You may use a rototiller in your flower bed. I might use an old-fashioned hoe to do the same thing. As long as we get the results God wants us to get it doesn’t matter what tool we use. As long as we use spiritual disciplines and get the results God wants from us then we are doing it the right way for us.
God has given us spiritual disciplines to benefit us and to help us produce the fruits of the spirit. God did not give us these spiritual disciplines to turn into rules. We have to be careful about turning our spiritual disciplines into rules. If we do turn them into rules and demand they are followed we become like the Pharisees. We all know the Pharisees were people who followed the rules but did not produce spiritual fruit.
Finally, Larry suggested each morning we pause and ask God this question, “What is it you want me to do today?” It may be a day he wants you to get into scripture and study, it may be a day you set aside scripture and help a friend in need. Doing what God wants us to do is so much more important than following a ritual of spiritual disciplines daily.
If you are like me struggling with doing spiritual disciplines on a regular basis then I challenge you to look at your life. Are you producing the fruit God wants for you? Are you producing those things in Galatians 5? If you are then don’t worry about not using the correct tool for Christian discipline. By all means, don’t compare your spiritual disciplines with others and of course, don’t demand others follow your action for spiritual disciplines. We are all different. We are all created by God. As long as we are producing…….we are getting it right for us.
Dear God, I think sometimes I have made the spiritual discipline’s rules to follow. I think I have made a list and each day I check them off to see if I got it right. Today you taught me it’s not about following the rules, it’s about producing fruit. It’s not about what others think of me or how I do my spiritual disciplines. It’s about who I am, who you’ve called me to be and what kind of fruit I am producing. I realize this faith thing is not about going down the same path and getting to the same destination. We all have different paths we follow and we all have different tools to use. Help me to be okay with the tools you have given me to use to produce the fruit you expect me to produce. Remind me not to make the tools the rules for my life, but to listen to you and do those things you’ve called me to do. Amen

Hoarding My Cards…Or The Story of the Talents

I have several friends who make homemade cards. They have shared their passion for card making with me. As a newbie, I really thought I could not do this. I don’t consider myself artistic or talented. I have little or no imagination about how things will look. My husband will describe something he wants to build or do to the house and I just don’t get it. He puts it down on paper and sometimes I can see his vision and other times not so much. I trust him so I go ahead and tell him to proceed. Because of their love for card making, I decided to give it a try. I must say I have fallen in love with making my cards. I think God has helped me in the areas I lack. I think it now has become a ministry. But, along the journey, I have had to learn some things about myself and others.
When I first started out, my cards were anything but beautiful. They looked like someone was struggling to learn an art. However, the more I practiced, the more I worked on them, the better I got. It took time to get this. This is the same way with our faith. When we start out on this journey of faith, we are not going to start off running. We are going to limp our way on this journey until we get the hang of it. We are going to struggle. “What I’m getting at, friends is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.” Philippians 2:12 The Message
There are times I wanted to quit. I just didn’t think I had it in me, but I kept going. Those around me kept encouraging me. They would often tell me, “You can do this. It takes time, but you can do this. It’s not that hard.” There are times in my faith that I just feel I can’t go on. I’ve reached the end, I think it is just too hard. God gives us those people in our lives that say, “Come on I’ll help you; together we can get through this.” “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 New International Version (NIV) Just like I had friends who encouraged me, God gives us those who have already walked our walk to encourage us and to help us keep going when the going gets tough.
As I grew in my card making, I would get discouraged because mine did not look like theirs. I would go home and try to make the kind of cards they were making. I would try to decorate my cards to imitate theirs. I just couldn’t get it down. The last few weeks in the Bible Studies I have been listening to, I have heard over and over each person ’s faith is different. Each faith is individualized. I can’t compare my faith to someone else’s because it will look different. Are they better than me? No, they may be ahead of me on my faith journey, but that doesn’t mean they are better than me, it means we have been given different paths, but we will still end up reaching the same destination. God has put me on a path and it looks completely different than anyone else’s. I have to be content in who I am and the path God has put me on. I can’t compare or judge or be disappointed. I just have to remember I am walking a different path. My cards are my cards. They are designed by me. I can’t take someone else’s cards and expect them to fit me. I can’t take someone else’s faith and expect it to be mine. My cards and my faith are uniquely me. I need to learn to celebrate in both areas.
Finally, the hardest lesson of all. I have made an abundance of cards. Each one unique and in my eyes beautiful. I honestly believe, as I sit down and pray over my cards, God has helped me create them. I take pictures of all my cards for references and to share my work with my daughter and friends. Then I put them away. Now, my intention for each card was to mail them to friends and family who needs an encouraging word from me. Some cards are birthday cards, some get well cards, some are congratulations cards and some are just thinking of you cards. I have on many occasions mailed cards. Most of those cards were for a specific event or for a certain purpose. Many more are waiting to be mailed to a lucky recipient. I have trouble giving them away. I want to just collect them and look at them occasionally. But, God gently reminded me what good are they doing? What is the purpose of making cards if you are not going to mail them to people who need to be lifted up or need an encouraging word? Some of them just make me smile. What good are my cards doing if I don’t share a smile with someone? Our faith is the same way. We are not to hang on to our faith. We are to share our faith with those who need us. We share our faith through kindness, through loving others, through compassion. We share our faith in ways God directs us to. Keeping our faith to ourselves is not what we are called to do. I remember the story Jesus told about the talents he gave to his servants as he was going on a journey. (Matthew 25:14-30). The one servant kept the talent he was given and buried it. The other servants invested their talents and had more to give to their owner when he returned. We are to invest our talents that God has given us so that when he returns we will have more to give back to Christ when he comes. I need to let go of more of my faith as well as my cards. I need for my faith to lift others up, I need my faith to show more kindness to others, I need my faith to reach out in love more. I don’t need to hoard my faith. I need to give it away.
As I was thinking about this an image came to mind this morning. I am given a full pitcher of sweet tea. Now, I can’t get any more until I drink it myself or share it with others. If I drink it all myself I am going to be full and it won’t necessarily be medically healthy for me. If I share my pitcher of tea with others it will quench their thirst and they will enjoy the benefits of drinking sweet tea with me. Just hoarding the sweet tea in a pitcher is not doing me any good or anyone else. We need to share our faith. (Psalm 96:2-4) “Sing to the LORD; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does. Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! He is to be feared above all gods.”

So as I think about my cards and my faith, I have learned a few things along the way. Learn to walk instead of trying to run, let others encourage me when I am down, don’t compare myself to others and don’t hoard. Share all the good things (including my cards) God has given me.
As I move ahead on my faith journey, I am to remember to help those who are behind me. I need to reach out to them and teach them to learn to walk and not run. I need to encourage others who are struggling. I need to let them know they are not to look at the faith of others and see them as something to be desired. Instead they are to cherish their own unique relationship they have with God, and finally, I need to teach them to share their faith story with others.
Now it’s time to go and mail some cards or maybe I’ll put some Bible verses in them and pass them out to the clients where I volunteer. Maybe God has given me a new ministry to share with others. God is so good all the time…
Dear God: Thank you for teaching us in ways that are uniquely us. Thank you for helping me open my eyes and to realize each of us are different and you have a different path for all of us. We must keep our eyes on the destination that we all want to journey to, but we must realize that the journey will look different for each of us. Help me not to hoard my talent, but to share my talent with others you have put in my path. Amen

Prayer Changes Things

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.

ADHD….Wanna Get Away? Telling on My Self​

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

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?

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.