What are we Doing?

“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished. By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice. The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:1-9, ESV

This scripture speaks volumes to us, especially in today’s time, and this week I want to issue a challenge to each of you who reads this. There are many things that we do that can keep us from experiencing the blessings of God in our lives, and the unfortunate part of this is that many times we do not see it because we are so sure we are in the right.

I can think of a number of things going on in our society today that speak to this, and honestly, I know there will be some of you who disagree with me on this, but I invite you to please look at this with me and study it yourself. I feel that there are groups today at work in our world who think that there is nothing wrong with what they do, and in looking at scripture we can see why. Proverbs 16:2 tells us that in our own eyes we are fully doing what is right, but God weighs the spirit. In our mind’s eye we are doing what we feel is right, but does the Bible not also tell us to be careful what we show approval for?

There are many issues that we have around us in society today that we need to filter through the Bible to make sure we are not approving something that is wrong in the eyes of God. The unfortunate thing that I see around us today is that we are all guilty of this in some way or another, but we lose sight because our own ways are right in our own eyes, while we spend time trying to correct someone else’s problems because we feel they need correction.

Here is our issue, whatever it may be, we tend to criticize others of the way they are living while we ourselves have things that are hampering our walk. According to what we see in this section from Proverbs 16, all of our steps should be directed by God, not just his or her steps while mine are surely rooted in God. He did not ask us to condemn one another, but to love and respect everyone. Truthfully, according to what we see in verse 3 is that our commitment to the Lord and His ways will establish our plans and actions today. This means that if we focus on His ways, He will direct our steps; if we commit to His ways, our hearts are transformed to His purpose.

This covers all manners of sin…we cannot be on the fence about what God’s purpose and will are in our lives. Whether it be lies, lust, or any other sin that we come across in the world today, it is not our job to allow and show approval for things that God has spoken of in His word. His word gives us clear definitions of what is right and wrong, and the biggest problem that man has today in the world is that we all want to justify our own actions by ignoring what God says, but that can be dangerous. Again, God is clear about His intentions for us in His word. Don’t let your fence riding cause you to miss out on God’s blessing.

“Because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” – Revelation 3:16

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Eating Crow

If you’ve ever heard or used the term “Eat Crow” then you likely know where this is going, but it may not be exactly what you’re thinking…

That being said, I must first start off giving an apology to any, and every, one that I have ever offended by spouting off out of frustration before allowing God to form my thoughts into encouraging and worthwhile statements; meaning, I realize, and have come to realize that I have said a number of things that have caused regret in my life; saying things I have heard or reacting before giving myself time to even assess a situation, or if I have said something that wasn’t intended the way it was taken,  I am quite sorry.

This apology is extended to anyone who I have caused any type of heartache and difficulty to…no matter what it is or why…I ask for your forgiveness…

I say this, because for us to move forward in life we must find redemption…and over the past few weeks I have come to realize a need for myself to self-evaluate and truly examine the heart of the issue…my heart in the issue.

That being said…I also realize that we need not beat ourselves up over things that we realize were mistakes once the moment is passed…and believe me…we have all done this…we have all eaten crow at some point in our lives.

We are not unlike some of the closest to Jesus, however; just look at the story of Peter…How much Crow did he have to eat after telling Jesus that he would not deny him?

Take a lesson from Peter, or Paul…Or maybe look at Job, David, Noah, Adam and Eve…in fact, many of the Biblical accounts of those who we consider saints of the Scripture made mistakes, but it was through those mistakes that God developed them into who they became.

It is with this in mind that I have been thinking and praying on three verses out of the book of Ephesians:

“Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3, CSB)”

We must bear burdens, not cause them.  We must take account in our own lives for our own actions.  Live worthy of the calling you have received…or, as the KJV puts it, the vocation to which you are called. The only way we can move forward in life is with a unity of the Spirit, bonded in peace…let’s face it….Crow really doesn’t taste that good, so what do you say we remove it from our diets?

No Worries, No Problems

I know many have heard the old song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”  That song popped in my mind as I sat down to write this because I have been thinking about the topic of worry for the past few weeks.  I know that scripture tells us not to worry, as many of us know, in the book of Matthew we see Jesus say, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (6:34, KJV)”

Don’t worry about the things that will come tomorrow, because you might miss out on the opportunities of today.  In Psalm 3 we see David mention this type of thought:

“Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. (KJV)”

In verses 4-6, David lays out this beautiful schematic for living without worry.  He states that he cried to the Lord, and that he was heard.  David then does what we all must do when we cry to the Lord and trust in His power…David lets it go.  David then lies down and rests, resting in the knowledge that God had taken care of his situation.

We all need to have the same mentality as David when it comes to giving our problems to the Lord, if we have asked God to take care of it, we must trust God to take care of it.  Too many times we find ourselves continuing to worry about things that we have, “given to God,” and it is keeping us from experiencing the true joy that God intends us to have in our lives.

David then follows up by saying that he will not be afraid of the “ten-thousands” that have set themselves against him…No worries!  David knew that no matter what would come his way, he had given it all over to God, and he was safe from defeat…He would be saved because of God’s promises.

We all have this same promise today if we have given our lives to Christ…we can all rest in the knowledge that God has our problems handled and we can move on to enjoying the day that He has set before us while He is working on us.  Praise God that He doesn’t leave us alone during our times of need, Thank Him today for helping you find joy in times of trouble.  I challenge you today, if you have turned it over to God…leave it there; let Him do what He has promised you today.

Dark Days

I have become more aware lately of Dark Days that we all tend to face…the reality is that we are either entering dark days, living in them, or coming out of them…but for the most part, we are all facing them or leaving them behind, but we all tend to have them.

These days can come in many forms, disappointment, despair, distress, doubt, depression…no matter the description, dark days can truly break us down and cause us to question a lot of things.  We feel that we are alone in our battle…maybe it didn’t go the way that we had quite hoped.  Just speaking Biblically there are many stories in scripture that we see similar stories.

Job, obviously had some dark days…he lost everything, but in the end he realized that God had always been working on his behalf. When the world came against him, Job trusted and praised God.

Peter didn’t plan to deny Christ, even when he was told he would, yet, when the time came, Peter denied Christ three times and found himself in some of the darkest of days.

Uncertainty, doubt, depression can overcome us and leave us feeling less than stellar on many days, and if we begin to rest in those days we find ourselves even deeper than we could have ever imagined.  I don’t think that Mary thought that her bringing a baby boy who was God’s own son into the world would happen in a stable, but yet it did; and the reality is, no matter our circumstances, light can still pierce the darkness.

That light…Jesus.  Jesus is the light that has already pierced the darkness for us, but we many times allow things to cast shadows and leave us in a false darkness, not realizing that He is right there with us.  Today, remove those shades, and allow the light of Christ to crash the darkness in your life. No matter how difficult the struggle that you face, God can and will work through the circumstances to bring you out of those dark days.

The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t always the train.

Distracted Living

Let’s face it…almost all of us have a cell phone.

Lately I have been noticing something more and more in my own life, and honestly, I have seen evidence of it around also…that is the increased usage of cell phones, more specifically, smart phones.  They’re all the rage…they’re in just about everyone’s hands from 10 to 90, and the reality of it is that it has our attention.

Many of us (myself included) feel lost without our phone attached to us in some way…we almost can’t function without our phone.  We spend more than 4 hours a day focused on that small screen looking up news, texting, calling, browsing social media, and more.  A recent study showed that the average American adult uses the cell phone 4-5 hours a day and sends and receives around 1,000 text messages daily…

Where this really started to hit home for me is that I have realized that my phone usage has begun to be such a part of my daily routine that even my prayer life has taken a hit because of this modern marvel.  This began to bother me, because Prayer should be something that we are focused continually on.  In fact, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul tells us that God’s will for us in Jesus is to, “Rejoice always, Pray continually, and be thankful in all circumstances.”

When we begin replacing these things, they begin to suffer…we begin to allow these things to take a back seat to posting that new Facebook status or Instagram post. No matter how many times we post something and say, “#Blessed” or “#Thankful”, it isn’t the same.  We must rejoice always and be in constant conversation with God…that is His will for us in Christ.

It also tells us to be thankful IN, not for, all circumstances…that means we may be going through a difficult time, but that isn’t time for us to take it to Facebook and let everyone know how awful our neighbor is or how bad we have it…it is a time to hit our knees and pray, being grateful and rejoicing that God has given us an opportunity to see Him work in our lives.

Let’s drop the distracted living, put down our phones, and turn to Christ.  If we want to see things improve in this world, we must take steps to remove the distractions that take our focus off of Him and allow Him to lead us….it’s hard to see where He is leading you with your head down in your phone.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life…no one comes to the Father except by me.” – Jesus (John 14:6)

Who do You Want ME to Be? Becoming a Prisoner for God…

Who do You want ME to be?  A question we should all ask God everyday…

“ 1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

— Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV)

Paul wrote these words from prison, so if anyone knew what being a prisoner was all about, Paul would definitely be the guy.  “As a prisoner for the Lord…” began Paul…what did he mean?  What does it mean to be a prisoner for the Lord?  What is Paul getting at when he begins this paragraph?

Lets look at it for a minute…Paul, a man who knew what it was to persecute the church, who had put people in prison for claiming the name of Christ; was now, himself, suffering the same fate as many he had put away…imprisoned for the carrying the name of Christ.  But as he accepted this, he wrote to the church at Ephesus, “then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” What is that call?

Paul had written before that the call on a Christian’s life was one of mimicking the life of Christ (Romans 8:28-30).

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

— Romans 8:28-30 (NIV)

By looking back to Psalm 139 where we see David claim to be fearfully and wonderfully made, and also note, ”You knit me together in my mother’s womb…”; we realize that God knew each one of us before the world knew us, therefore we are all part of the group of the known, we are ALL predestined to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, and therefore called.  What is the likeness of Christ?

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”

— Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)

Jesus took the role of a servant…the same role we are called to, service.

Paul was explaining that we should all live a life worthy of the call, a life that would cause others to take notice of a difference…a life that is similar to that of Christ Jesus himself.  Paul then goes on to tell four ways that life can be achieved:  Humility, Gentleness, Patience and Bearing one another’s burdens.

Paul states that we should be humble, not proud…the life of a servant is one of humility.  To serve others, they must come first in our life…not second to us.  If we consider ourselves to be better than another, we will never serve them, because we don’t feel they are worthy of that…but Christ humbled himself to wash the apostles feet…shouldn’t we practice that same humility when it comes to others?  Shouldn’t we lower ourselves to the level where we can be most effective in touching someone’s life?  Humility is putting yourself last.

Along with this humility we are to have is Gentleness.  What Paul is stating is that we much approach each other with a gentle spirit…do not look for a fight, look to stop the war; don’t go into a conversation expecting confrontation…go in expecting reconciliation, expecting peace.  Be kind, practicing the golden rule – do unto others. Serve others, give without expecting in return, be kind, be gentle, be Jesus to the world.

Third, we are to be patient…which is one of the hardest things for a person to do, especially when they feel they have been wronged.  People have trouble with patience, because being patient means looking past faults…looking past disagreements…looking for the good in another, so that we don’t react in a way that is detrimental to our relationship with them…in a way that can ruin even the best of friendships.

And Last…bearing one another’s burdens.  When we band together as a group of Christians, no one can pull us down…no one can take the joy that comes in seeing someone we love come through a tough time in their life, only to enjoy the fruits of their sufferings.  Paul told the Ephesian Church that they needed to bear with each other, because no one can do it alone.

Paul then states that all four of these must be unified within the Christian so that the full work of the church can be completed.  You must find a way to take these four principles and apply them as a unified group to your life…it’s the only way a prisoner for the Lord can survive.

Not only do we need to unify these principles, but we also need to unify as a body of Christ…we are all called to the same purpose…we are all called to be Christ to the world.  Too many times these days the Church is only out for what they can do for themselves…the members are loyal, but their view of the church is the four walls they enter every Sunday morning…for us as Christians to change the world…we have to unify peacefully and work toward the same cause.

What are you doing today?  Are you loyal to the call on your life?  Are you willing to unify with the church as a whole in bringing the name of Christ to the world?  Or are you content sitting back and missing the blessings that will come your way when you choose to live in the way Paul did…in unity with his brothers and sisters in Christ.  Paul explains it in further detail over the next few verses…

4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

— Ephesians 4:4-6 (NIV)

Seven “one’s” to show us that it is all about becoming ONE in unity.  Become one with the Church today, become unified for the cause of Christ…become one prisoner who is devoted to joining with other prisoners to serve the ONE who thought we were worthy enough to die for us…ask God who He wants you to be.

Today

I came across a short writing from Wayne Eads that left me completely overwhelmed by the beauty of what God does for us.  It is a writing that helped me to understand even more so how he takes care of each of us.

“There are two days in every week about which we should not worry, two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension.

One of these days is YESTERDAY with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains. Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring back Yesterday. We cannot undo a single act we performed; we cannot erase a single word we said—Yesterday is gone……

“The other day we should not worry about is TOMORROW with its possible adversities, its burdens, its large promise and poor performance. Tomorrow is also beyond our immediate control. Tomorrow’s sun will rise, either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds, but it will rise. Until it does, we have no stake in Tomorrow, for it is yet unborn….

“This leaves only one day—TODAY! Anybody can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities—YESTERDAY and TOMORROW—that we break down.

“It is not the experience of today that drives people mad; it is remorse or bitterness for something which happened Yesterday and the dread of what Tomorrow may bring.”

This left me thinking about how we get so wrapped up in what has happened in our lives, or in many cases, what we think will happen.  Matthew 6:34 tells us this way “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (ESV)”

Let’s focus on today and leave those other two days where they lie. We cannot change what has happened to us in the days that are gone, and we have no control over what will happen to us tomorrow.  I encourage each of us today to take today as it comes, do not let the past determine how your day will go; in the same way, do not let your anxiety over tomorrow keep you from experiencing the blessings that God has for you today.  Let today be today! Let today be a day of blessing and happiness.  Let today come and go, and in the morning, experience another TODAY!

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)