Is your life a highway?

Traveling isn’t always pleasant. People get cranky, they get cramped, tired, and all the while you don’t want to stop because it’s going to make your trip longer. The greatest impediment to travel of course is not even tiredness, but road conditions. Construction, tiny winding roads that must be taken cautiously, and of course dirt and gravel roads.

I want you to think of the largest roadtrip you’ve ever been on. How long did it take? 6 hours, 18 hours, 40? I’m going to venture to say you probably used a highway or a parkway. You were probably using a smooth paved road that had been engineered to optimum highway speed and safety. The way had been prepared for you.

But what if it hadn’t?

What if you were on a dirt or gravel road? Or even a road filled with potholes?

How long would your trip have taken?

To give you some perspective: In the 1700s travel between New York and Boston took approximately 6 days. Around 1830, road conditions had improved to the point that the trip could be made in a day and a half.

Today, with modern transportation and roads, that same trip can be made in under 4 hours.

4 hours vs 6 days!

That’s a big difference!

I think such an illustration brings so much meaning to the verse in Proverbs where it is said, “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

In all your ways, keep God in your knowledge, and He will direct your paths. When we look at that word for direct, it literally means to make straight, to make level, to make smooth.

If you keep God in your knowledge, He will make the road of your life smooth.

I don’t know what God has planned for your life, and I don’t know where He will lead you. But I  do know it will all be easier if you allow Him to make your life’s road smooth. If you acknowledge Him.

Back in the 1700s it took 6 days to get from New York to Boston AND THERE WAS A ROAD! it just wasn’t smooth. Now it takes 4 hours.

The Christian life can be a highway- but only if you allow it to be. The Christian life can be something that is accelerated, smooth, and fast paced. But you have to acknowledge God. You have to seek His will. You have to follow after His direction. In ALL your ways.

Won’t you?

“Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.” – Psalm 5:8

God may not care how you load the dishwasher

Have you ever had anyone micromanage you?

Put the dishes in the dishwasher- no, not like that.

Organize the desk- (10 min later) – Oh, let me show you how to do this.

Boss gives you a simple task- then begins to organize every moment of your day.

It can be frustrating. People want you to work, but only their way. There’s an essence of trust missing. Freedom is constricted. And your abilities of expression and innovation are restricted.

Something I find fascinating about God, is that He does not micromanage us. He does not tell us exactly what exact time of day to pray, or what specific words to say. He wants us to pray. He does not require us to wear certain color clothes. He wants us to dress modestly. He does not want or require us to do certain trades or jobs. He wants us to provide for our families.

There is tremendous freedom in Christianity.

There is tremendous allowance for expression and innovation in our personal lives.

All of this is allowed within the boundaries of honoring God.

God allows us to follow His commands however we find ourselves inclined to. As long as we are obedient, and in a right spirit, we are honoring Him.

Have you ever read a passage of scripture like, “pray without ceasing” and just move on? “That’s a nice verse, what a nice thought.” you say, and you move on.

No.

Wait.

That was a command.

God didn’t suggest that. He commanded it.

I would have been just as easy for God to command us to pray every 50th time we blinked, or every 10 steps we take, or every 40 breaths.

But He didn’t.

He just told us to stay in an attitude of prayer and communion with Him all the time.

Now if it was your job to load the dishwasher every day and you absolutely had to do it, you would find a system right? Set an alarm at 6am. Put a reminder on your phone for when you get back from work. Make it a habit every day after dinner.

Whatever! You’d have a system. Because it was important to you.

When you come across verses like, “Pray without ceasing.” or “Pray for those in authority” or “Honor your parents” or “Think on things that are true, honest and lovely

Do you take them seriously?

God isn’t micromanaging you. He’s trusting you. Hes allowing for personal expression.

He calls to you to honor Him. To love Him. To follow His commandments.

Find your way of doing that.

Maybe you need to skip the radio and listen to a passages of scriptures on your daily commute, maybe you  need to remind yourself to pray at the start of every hour, maybe you need to make a list of all your nations leaders and pray for them once a week. Perhaps you could write out a 3×5 card with some thoughts you should be thinking on.

I challenge you, don’t just skim over the commands of God.

Find them.

Listen to them.

Do them.

Make your own systems. Watch out for legalism. But use intentional guidelines to keep you on the path.

You’ll be glad you did.

 

A Christian in motion . . .

If you roll a ball on the floor, it will eventually stop. If you take your foot of the pedal while you’re on the highway, your car will slow down. If you grab your sled in the winter and go speeding down that snow covered hill, when you reach the bottom, you will stop.

It seems like nature is fighting against you with friction. If you try to move in a direction, friction makes it difficult, and eventually makes you stop.

It is interesting to note, that our spiritual lives are not this way. In our spiritual lives there is no standing still, and there is no friction. We are constantly moving, towards serving God or towards serving sin.

There is no in between, there is no fence, and contrary to what many might say, there is no gray area. There is service to the King, and there is rebellion.

If we move towards sin, it pulls us in. I once heard it said that sin keeps you longer than you want to stay and costs more than you want to pay. If you serve sin, you relinquish control over your life. Liars find themselves in perpetual lies. Thieves rarely decide they’ve had enough. And anyone who has had an addiction knows that the hold of sin and destructive behavior is very strong. Once you take a step towards sin, you’ve signed a blank check, an open contract with the terms and conditions not filled in.

If you move towards Christ, it is the same. Obedience in one area leads to obedience in many. Once you surrender, you cannot help but be transformed. A true honest following of God will lead to ultimate transformation and blessing. God even helps you! In James, we are told, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.”

Did you catch that?

If you move towards God- He moves towards you. God will accelerate your intimacy and growth with Him when you initiate. In a sense, A christian in motion (towards God) will result in God in motion. (towards them) Isn’t that fascinating?

We learn also in the Scriptures, “he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Gal 6:8

The harvest is always bigger than the seed that is sown. And so it is with our actions.

Our actions may be small, but they can have enormous consequences- for good or ill.

So I ask you, Won’t you take some steps toward God today?

He is waiting, He loves you, He wants to make it easy.

And He promises to step toward you, if you do.

What does the Lord require?

I want you to imagine that you have a significant other that you’re telling how much you love them, and imagine you haven’t gone on a date with them for a few months, you barely call them- only when you need something, and you never do anything they ask you to do.

How long would that last?

How long would you stay if you were treated this way?

Probably not long for either question.

Love requires and demands evidence in every relationship. Words are not enough. Expensive gifts are not enough. Public declarations are not enough. It requires our heart.

It’s the same with God. He wants our hearts.

Psalm 51:16 says, “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

Matthew 5:18 says, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”

Psalm 51:17 tells us, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

God wants us to love Him with our hearts. He wants us to care. He wants us to keep His love and commandments on our mind. It’s not enough for us to say we love Him. It’s not enough for us to give to the church. We have to mean it. Nothing in this world can substitute our wholehearted commitment to Him.

Commitment means obedience, commitment means prayer, commitment means thought put into your relationship.

You may have that special someone. And you may not be able to spend time with them right now. You may not be able to give them expensive gifts. You may not be able to take them on dates. But if they know that they have your heart (your commitment)- your relationship will last.

With God, you may not have many talents to give Him, you may not have the years to give Him just as a younger person could, and you may not have any special skills to offer.

God only wants your heart. He wants your love, your commitment, and your full obedience and reverence.

It doesn’t matter who you are, that you can give. That, you can always give.

“And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Deuteronomy 6:5

 

 

What if you lost a finger?

Around 8 months ago, I stepped on a scale and my jaw dropped. I was like, I do not weigh ___. I do not. I was horrified. I knew I was not healthy, but it had been so gradual, that I never noticed how terrible it was.

Something finally clicked inside of me and I decided that this was not ok. Determination or desperation grasped me and without knowing how, I knew I would find a way to become healthy. Eventually, I found a plan and I stuck with it. Over the next months I consistently restricted my diet and exercised without wavering, and I lost over 50 pounds. I’m not telling you this so you can be impressed, but because I want to share an idea with you.

You see, I had always wanted to lose weight. For over ten years I had been saying I needed to. But I didn’t NEED to. I wasn’t desperate. I wasn’t determined. If I could lose weight, or eat cake . . . well the cake might win or it might not. And that’s how I lived. Saying I cared, but living like I didn’t.

I feel like that’s how we are often in our Christian walk. We have addictions and pet sins. And we say, “I need to stop doing x.” But we don’t feel like we NEED to. You see, we’ve become accustomed to our sinful stumbling Christian walk. Just like I had become accustomed to carrying around an extra 50+ pounds.

Changing our lifestyle would be uncomfortable. And we don’t feel the pressing urging need to change.

Christ once said, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

That’s how seriously Jesus took sin. This verse is mainly speaking about salvation and coming to Christ initially, but it still carries the meaning of the seriousness of sin.

Take a moment and consider.

What are you allowing in your life that is unwholesome? What sin are you aware of, and comfortable with?

Take that sin, and picture it right now.

Would you let someone chop off one of your fingers so you could do it again?  Willingly be maimed for life:

Because you felt like gossiping about your coworker.

Because you wanted a second piece of cake.

Because you wanted to think an immoral thought.

Because you wanted to: Fill in the Blank.

Does it bring an entire new meaning to taking sin seriously?

It does to me. I would never sacrifice a piece of my body so I could eat a piece of cake, or do any of those things.

And yet we sacrifice our fellowship with God- something far more valuable than our bodies- for a moment of pleasure.

Last night I met with an old friend who noticed my transformation. I told him excitedly how I had decided one day and it all came into place. He looked away wistfully,

“I wish I could lose weight like that”

Immediately I jumped in, “You can, just do this and this!” I began to explain my journey. He shrugged his shoulders,

“Ahhh, I don’t feel like doing all that, it’s such a hassle. ”

I walked away so full of sadness. I couldn’t help but be reminded of all the times pastors have told me to do daily devotions, pray, or seek God – and I said to myself,

“I wish I could have spiritual victory, but that’s such a hassle.”

 

You weren’t in the trenches

I was being tempted to waste my time, and the temptation was strong. Considering the position I found myself in, I gave up. Temptation being that strong, I just decided right then and there I wasn’t going to fight it. I know it sounds convoluted, but I found I could muster up enough strength to do my devotions first and I had sorta decided I’d waste my time doing purposeless things later.

In my devotions God spoke to me. I found new strength and will to fight my selfish desires, and I did not waste my time afterwards.

That day I learned a lot about myself. You see, I didn’t have the strength to make the decision to fight the temptation head on, but I knew where to find it. God strengthened me, and I escaped. But my whole attitude was off.

I had convinced myself that I was helpless against temptation once it became strong to a certain extent. It’s almost as if I had courage against little trials, but I couldn’t imagine putting in the effort to overcome big ones.

It reminds me of a verse in Hebrews 12, it says,

“Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”

Think about that.

The word “resisted” there, means to line up for battle.

Imagine coming back from a fight, a battle, a war- without a scratch. Usually, if a person doesn’t have a scratch on them, they weren’t involved. Essentially, the writer of Hebrews is saying,

“You didn’t get in the trenches”

“You didn’t fight”

“You haven’t begun to fight”

I think that applies to many of us. A lot of times we sin because it’s convenient, or because we feel like it. The addiction is too strong, we say.

I would suggest to you, that we aren’t feeling the pain that our sin causes.

We’d rather live comfortably, than live purely.

Our sin is tolerable to us, our discomfort is not.

This is the crux of the issue.

I challenge you to follow after God. Make Him the ultimate need in your life. Don’t live comfortably with sin.

Resist. Unto blood.

 

 

When your ship is full

Have you ever wondered if God was watching? If God cared? Maybe you are wondering right now. Financial troubles, relationship problems, health issues, and loss can all make us lose sight of God and question Him. We can become angry with God, lose our hope in Him, feel frustrated with Him, and lose faith.

This is exactly how the disciples felt in Mark 4:35-38. They traveling by ship when a storm came upon them. They were no doubt working furiously to save themselves, but it was not enough. There’s a part of this story that can be overlooked very easily. In verse 37, it tells us that the ship was full.

It was full.

There wasn’t just a frightening storm. There wasn’t just turbulent waves. There wasn’t just a few feet of water in the ship.

No.

The ship was full of water.

As I’m composing this, my heart goes out to each and every person who is in such a situation. Maybe you’re struggling financially and you don’t know how you will feed your kids. Maybe a loved one has just passed away. Maybe you find yourself destitute and alone. You find yourself in dire straights, and your ship is full of water. Whatever the circumstances, it looks as if they will certainly drown you.

It is not the end.

Go to Jesus. In the middle of your storm.

Go to Jesus. When your ship is full.

Go to Jesus. Even if you’re doubting Him.

Looking at the passage, we see the disciples aren’t asking for His help. They aren’t going to him in faith. They’re going to him in anger and frustration. Pain and disbelief. They say,

“Master, carest thou not that we perish?”

Jesus immediately calms the storm and the seas become peaceful. He rebukes them for their unbelief. The story ends with them marveling at His power.

There may come a time when you loose all faith in God. You doubt His power, you doubt his involvement, and you doubt His love. Go to Him anyway. Ask Him for His help. He can calm the storm, even when you doubt Him and loose all faith.

The author is you

With every breath, the pen moves across the paper. Another word that is etched on the pages of eternity. Sentences are formed within milliseconds, these become paragraphs which become chapters which continue on and on. Your life is being written. This is your story.

Once a word is written, it cannot be unwritten. No matter what you do you cannot take away a single sentence, nor can you replace it. Once it is marked on the pages of eternity, it is there forever. Each and every person has their story. Each and every person has their book. You will never have another story to tell, this is yours. For all eternity. You only get the one life. The one story.

Psalm 90 speaks of the shortness of our lives and how they appear to be useless since they are so short compared to God’s eternality. In verse 9 it says, “we spend our years as a tale that is told.”

Our years are spent. They are traded. Never to be redeemed. Never to be bought back. There are no refunds. You can’t take you memories back to God and trade them in to live again. This is it. Every action. Every attitude. Every encounter. Every moment you lived is preserved just as it was. What did you do with your time?

I ask you now? What will you do with your story?

How will your story end?

Will it be a tale of foreboding and warning? Will it be uplifting and inspiring?

No matter how you have lived, or what kind of story you have told with your years, it isn’t too late to turn it around. You may even be on your last chapter- it’s not too late to finish with a perfect ending!

I entreat you, tell your story well. Live your life with meaning, purpose, and with a destiny in mind. You aren’t living just for yourself, but as a testament for all eternity.

Jesus didn’t heal some people

I think we talk a lot about the people Jesus healed. And he healed a lot of people. But there were some He didn’t heal. Obviously some never came to Him, but some did, and he did not heal them. The Bible doesn’t spend a lot of time taking about it, but still, it is mentioned. And I think it’s important to understand.

In Luke 5, we are told, “But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.”

Christ had people all around him, they were hungry to hear His words. They were anxious to be healed. They wanted His power in their lives . . .

And He left.

That doesn’t quite sound like the Jesus we all hear about.

I think we imagine Jesus healing people constantly, nonstop. Whoever came, Jesus gave them His full attention. But this was not the case. It says here, that this time, Jesus withdrew himself.

In order to understand why Christ wasn’t healing and teaching, I think we must examine what He was doing. He was going to get some private time with God. Christ needed communion with the Father.

Let me give you an observation.

If God needed some peace and quiet in prayer when he was here, you do too.

Our society is filled with workaholics, super soccer moms that never take a break, pastors working themselves to exhaustion, our way of life is business to the point we forget our purpose and our perspective.

We get so involved with our work, our ministry, our family, and the needs of others, we forget our most basic need- God.

Jesus recognized that He needed a break. He needed to recharge. He needed the fellowship of the Father.

And why?

So he could minister to those people who needed him.

He didn’t take a break for Himself. He took a break so He could give of Himself again.

Let me exhort you, you can’t give any more when you’re empty. Sometimes you need to look away from the need around you, and recognize the need within you. If you aren’t able to recharge in the presence of God, you will be burned out.

Workaholics may eventually find themselves without purpose other than work. Super moms can run so ragged they can no longer give to their family, and they find themselves feeling exhausted and unfulfilled. Pastors can lose their way, and become susceptible to spiritual attack.

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Wait on the Lord. Listen to His leading and calling. Perhaps you might need a refuge in prayer. Perhaps you might need to leave the need around you, and let God fill the need within you.

Imagine hearing truth from Hitler

What if I told you that you should be kind to other people? Would you take that as something to be listened to? Would you take it to heart?

Now imagine your most hated enemy. Or perhaps it’s someone that hates you. Think of someone you hate the most, from history or from current times. Think of Hitler, Stalin, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, a terrorist who wants to kill you. What if they were here, and they told you to be kind to other people? How would you receive it?

In John 4, a woman is confronted by a similar situation. The Jews and the Samaritans had an old hateful relationship. The Jews resented the Samaritans because they were “half-breeds” with the Assyrians. And the Samaritans hated the Jews right back. There was a lot of animosity, and they were not on speaking terms.

So in the story in John 4, Jesus asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. Immediately she is on guard, and she asks him, why he is talking to her. As the conversation continues, Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah and He changes the woman’s life. She in turn goes back to the town and invites all them men to meet Christ and know His transforming power.

Now I ask you, what if that woman couldn’t see past Jesus’ Jewish heritage? Where would she have gone? How would her story had ended? She opened her heart, even though Jesus was a Jew. She chose to see past the hate.

I would like to pose the idea to you, that God has many ways of teaching us. He may want to teach us through our pastor or trusted friends, or He may use someone we don’t like. Sometimes God brings people in our lives to teach us things and these people we may not especially like. I challenge you, look past the outer shell and see the person on inside. Don’t let hate, bigotry, or stereotypes determine how you treat someone or whether you listen to them.

God uses everyone, don’t ever let your views of other people limit God’s working in your life.

For the Samaritan woman, looking past her feelings about Jews totally changed her life. She had a special talk with Christ, and it left her different. Imagine how God might speak to you if you listened for His leading despite the source.