On Seizing Control & Stepping into Sin

I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:12b NIV

I shared with some folks the other day how unhappy I am with all this social distancing. I’m unhappy with the lack of control I have over others and the choices they make. I’m grieving the loss of my personal freedom. I expect the same is true for some of you.

We are living in a hard time that could be difficult for many and yet, God maintains control.

Control is the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events that take place in our collective or personal lives. Right now, there’s not much of that to be had, which leads to temptation.  Temptation to doubt or be less than convinced that God is driving this bus.

Someone else in Scripture felt the way I do right now, so I’ve looked to him for insight.

When Job asked God, “Why me? Why now?” he got this reply:

“Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook
or tie down its tongue with a rope?
Can you put a cord through its nose
or pierce its jaw with a hook?
Will it keep begging you for mercy?
Will it speak to you with gentle words?
Will it make an agreement with you
for you to take it as your slave for life?” Job 41:1-4 NIV  [emphasis mine. ljh]

Those last two lines brought me up short.

Is that what I have been doing by wishing I could control things?

Oh, Lord, is that what I’m doing with my complaining…with my efforts to seize  control? I’m sorry. Truly sorry! I know that asking You to be my slave and serve my purposes, is evil. I repent of that kind of thinking, right now, and I ask for Your mercy.  I want You to be Lord of me, and not the other way ‘round. Forgive me, I pray, In Jesus’ Name.

Where are you wishing you had more control in your life?  What loss are you grieving today?

Shipwrecked or Saved?

In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me. Psalm 86:7 NIV

It is the trial of our faith that is precious. If we go through the trial, there is so much wealth laid up in our heavenly bank account to draw upon when the next test comes. –Oswald Chambers

The following is a devotional from the little book Inspired Faith: 365 Days a Year and is titled, “Shipwrecked.” Enjoy!

“Paul knew something about storms. A man of the world and accustomed to international travel before and after his conversion, he experienced plenty of rough waters and on one occasion was shipwrecked (Acts 27:39-44).

On that occasion, Paul and his shipmate had a very specific message from God: Obey and you will be saved. Every single person made it to shore alive—even though the ship itself was torn apart.

When the waters we are sailing on grow turbulent, it’s easy to get our eyes off what matters and try some desperate moves. In financial storms, some have stolen and swindled; in relationship storms, some have been unfaithful; in storms at work, some have falsified reports and cheated on margins. The only sure way to get safely to shore is through simple obedience to God’s will for our lives.”

Lord, give us even greater resolve to do what is right when storms rage around us. Amen.

What is your way to safety during this viral season of life?  Who do you depend upon when the waters turn turbulent?

A Life Worth Living

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 NIV

The essential thing “in heaven and earth” is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction…something which has made life worth living. Friedrich Nietzsche

ABC

What good is a long obedience in the same direction to the body of Christ?

A long obedience is the best evidence we can give that we love and serve Jesus. The longer we continue with Him in love, in joy, in peace, in forbearance and tolerance; in kindness, in goodness, in faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, the more effectively we demonstrate to the world that we a Christ-followers.

When we continue in obedience to Jesus and love for His people, always going in the same direction, always falling back into step with Him should we ever misstep, we affirm that we are not fair weather friends to our Savior. We do not leap away at the first sign that our agendas might not be met. Neither do we abandon Him or prostitute ourselves to other gods simply because our God isn’t following our plan for life.

A long obedience in the same direction requires patience and a love that is more than skin deep.

A long obedience to Christ means we are willing to be crucified with Christ, willing to suffer for Him, and willing to love Him through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some day ugly may come to us. It has arrived already for many. We can be sure that if we love Christ, we will leave this world with scars. But we will never, ever give up our belief that walking with Jesus created for us a life worth living!

How does a long obedience look to you?  Who is seeing a long obedience demonstrated in your life?

An Exercise in Pain

This week I needed an exercise in pain to help me see where I had been prideful and help me to take steps to remedy the situation. What God asked me to do was read Matthew 18:21-35, changing all the pronouns in this passage of the Bible to my name. Ouch!  Below, are the result:

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king [God, if you will], who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, Lori, who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to God.  25 Since Lori was not able to pay, the master ordered that Lori and Bob and her sons, Rob and Matt, and all that Lori had be sold to repay the debt. [This included their home, their property, their cars, Bob’s motorcycle, his tractors, their computers, their cell phones, their savings accounts, their cash on hand, gifts they had bought or received, television sets, precious heirlooms, and even Mauser and Rosie, their animals. Everything was to be put on the auction block and sold to the highest bidder.]

26 “At this Lori fell on her knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ Lori begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on Lori, canceled the debt and let Lori go.  [Remember, she owed this guy 10K BAGS of GOLD. A sum she could never repay-ever!]

28 “But when Lori went out, Lori found one of her fellow servants who owed Lori a hundred silver coins.  Lori grabbed her and began to choke her. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ Lori demanded.

29 “Lori’s fellow servant fell to her knees and begged Lori, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But Lori refused. Instead, Lori went off and had the woman thrown into prison until she could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called Lori in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  [Remember: 10,000 BAGS of GOLD]. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger Lori’s master handed Lori over to the jailers to be tortured, until Lori should pay back all Lori owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Is there someone you need to forgive?  What else is there that is more important than you getting that job done TODAY??!

Reaching Back

I spoke to them, but they did not listen; I called to them, but they did not answer. Jeremiah 35:17c

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 NIV

Have you ever had someone not respond to you when you called to them?

Perhaps it was your son, who was playing in the apple orchard and too busy to call back. Maybe it was your college-age daughter who didn’t understand how anxious parents get when their children attending school in far off places don’t check in. Maybe it was a friend who couldn’t be bothered, or a coworker who was avoiding you.

I’m not the only one who has these problems, right?

The prophet Jeremiah saw this kind of neglect of relationships going on in his day and his town, and he called his people out on it. Disaster was headed their way, and they couldn’t bother to be bothered about it. God was calling out to them, asking them to listen and follow His leadership in their lives, and they refused to reply. They didn’t listen, neither did they answer, and God was angry.

It’s annoying when you reach out to someone and get no response.

It’s dangerous when God reaches out and no one reaches back.

When has God reached out to you, only to have you ignore Him?  When have you been the victim of someone who refused to call back after you had reached out to them?

He’s a good, good father

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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV

Although we like to claim it for ourselves, the promise of prosperity we find in Jeremiah 29 was for the Jewish nation.

God would not forget them.
God would not always be angry with them.
God would relent, but only after a time.

The Nation of Israel had forgotten her God. They had sinned against him and chosen to go their own way. They had bought idols and kneeled down to them on expensive rugs that covered sandy floors.

God was furious at their betrayal.

Israel had not only quit listening to Him-their Rescuer and Redeemer, but they had taught their wives and children, their innocent families, to do the same. This collection of errant men deserved the worst God could bring, and He could bring it bad, but what they got was mercy.

Mercy: Unmerited favor.

What does this mean for us today?

Punishment handed down by God is better than what we’ll get at the hands of our enemies, always. We might not think so at times, but David knew it was true (2 Samuel 24:14). If we will see God as a good, good father, then we will understand that sometimes we are deserving of his correction and that if he didn’t correct us, it would mean He didn’t love us.

Today, let’s think about the Lord’s correction in a right and proper way. As good, so good for us. Let’s pray…

When has God’s correction been a good thing in your life?  What needs correcting in your life today?

Thankful and Protected

You prepare a table for me, in the presence of my enemies…my cup overflows. Psalm 23 NIV

Think about the promise God makes to his faithful ones in Psalm 23.

A safe and good place to lie down; to rest, relax, recharge and refresh.
A walk beside still waters. No tsunami or flooding anywhere in sight.
Restoration of our souls when they are worn and weary.
A path that is right, that we will know is right and that will enable us to walk alongside God every day, so that His name might not be tarnished by the actions of our frail humanity.

The Lord offers protection for us on those days when we are called to walk the valley of the shadow of death–even death. How many times were we very nearly run off a cliff, and then snatched back from the brink? How many close calls have not resulted in our destruction? How many bad plans and faulty schemes by ourselves and others have we been saved from?

God causes us to live boldly, fearing no evil; not because we are so very powerful or brave, but because our hand is firmly holding His and that means safety and protection at all times. He is with us! His presence and the knowledge of his protective might comfort us. No wolves dare approach us, for they see his rod and staff a long way off.

The oil.

The cup overflowing with His goodness.

The days, moving into eternity, each one set apart for the development of an even greater and more intimate relationship with our God—these, these are our promises from Psalm 23. Today, let’s live in them, and be thankful!

When has God saved you from the brink of the cliff?  What are you thankful for today?

 

Need!

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…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. You’ve said so in your Word, Lord. And so we pray for those who find themselves weak today.

Our weaknesses, our doubts, our sins, we pray that you would remove them, for good and for all, so that we might be better equipped to serve your people.

We don’t know what we ought to pray, Lord, but Your Spirit in us does.

Help us. Equip us. Empower us. Instruct and direct us, we pray.

May You search our hearts and know our motives, and may You make them holy.

We trust that You will, because we know the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with Your will. We know that in all things You work for the good of those who love You, who have been called according to Your purpose.

Our weaknesses we surrender for Your power, today, tomorrow and always. Amen.

Grinding out a Mountain

mole hill

Are you someone who likes to grind it out? I mean by that, someone who doesn’t give up easily, tends to hold a grudge, or has a proclivity for pettifogging?

That last one, it grabbed you didn’t it? Come on, admit it.

Pettifogging: Placing undue emphasis on petty details.

This week I’ve been reminded by God several times that I need to let go of a grudge I’ve been holding onto. I’m miffed. Someone didn’t do what I thought they ought to do, and now I’m upset. It’s not like they did some big, horrible, awful, life-changing-for-me thing.

No, they didn’t.  They just didn’t do what I thought they ought.

It’s funny how when I get stuck in a loop like I’ve been lately, God reaches out to address the area of concern over and over, and over again. Can you say, “As many times as it takes to get your attention”?

Maybe not so funny. After all, He is in the refiner’s business, transforming lives through grace, patience, and consideration for everyone.

Not Just Me!!!!

Pray for me. Maybe I’m alone in this pettifogging business, but maybe I’m not. If you’re there with me (making a mountain out of a mole hill and digging yourself deeper into sin debt with each passing day), hit me up. I’d love to pray for you!

When have you been pettifogging and didn’t realize it?  What do you do when you get caught in a negative thought loop?

Let Justice and Mercy Flow

Seek good, not evil… Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. Amos 5:14-15 NIV

…let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream! Amos 5:24

If you’re like me, Amos is one book of the Bible you don’t visit often. It’s a small book and full of prophetic utterances, so it can be hard to decipher. Nonetheless, this part of God’s Word has a powerful message to pass on to us today.

Seek good.
Hate evil.
Love goodness.
Maintain justice.

The point the Lord was trying to make with Israel when He spoke these words through the prophet, Amos, was that He is concerned with the actions of his children.

God cares about how we move and interact in this world.

He wants us to be constantly on the lookout for good, and to do all we can to help justice flourish in this place. Granted, this mission is a hard one and we might not see ourselves as the best choice to bring it to completion, but our Master is calling us to do all we can to be people of integrity; people who shun evil, love goodness, and provide justice for all, and we dare not let him down.

Today, we can do much to advance God’s purpose in our world simply by being examples of love and justice in our little corner of it. The dealings we have with people and the mindset we have concerning ourselves matter to God, so they need to matter to us.

How are you feeling these days regarding your ability to love goodness and provide justice for others? What can you do to increase the odds that you’re hearing God correctly, and acting in accordance with His requests?