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.”

 

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The patient wait

What stirs the heart of God? What brings the interest of God? In what is God pleased? What causes God to move to action? These questions could be answered by many different qualities found in righteous people, but I honestly believe that a person’s patientce combined with expectation or hope is most effective in bringing God’s intervention.

Proverbs 40:1 says, “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” Notice the action that David took. He waited patiently. In our fast paced world, we don’t like to wait for things. We want it now, or we want something else that we can have now. These impulses are deeply rooted in pride and selfishness. Think about it, humility brings us patience. Many people would wait all day to meet a famous actor or politician. Why? Because they find that person worthy of their time. But many times people fail to recognize the God of the universe as worthy of their time as a mortal being.

In order to patiently wait, David had humility.

One interesting thing about this verse is that the Hebrew word for “patiently” and the Hebrew word for “waited” are exactly the same. The word carries more than one meaning and in Hebrew, its interpretation is intensified by it’s repetition.  One other meaning in this word is to expect or hope for something. Honestly, you don’t have to be an amazing scholar to recognize that the only reason that you would wait for something, is that you actually expect it. I mean, who waits for something that they know is not going to happen?

So two qualities of David’s heart are portrayed by his waiting: his humility in his willingness to wait, and his expectation (faith).

And what was the answer? God inclined to him and heard him. We see such an equation repeated over and over in the Bible. When people humbly stand in faith for God to move, He moves. When they humbly ask and believe, He answers. Over and over again.

So how about you? What do you need from God today? Are you asking in humility? Do you ask God for something, and then soon give up because He doesn’t answer immediately, or do you patiently and expectantly wait for His reply?

I challenge you, whatever you desire from God: deliverance, wisdom, ability, strength, health, patience, etc. , ask Him. Ask in humility, and ask in expectation and He will answer.

When it’s only business

Have you ever heard someone talk about something they were doing and they said, “It’s business.” The idea of something being business, carried the idea that it was distinguishing or perhaps important. Maybe it had the idea that this wasn’t something they would negotiate and they had to do it.

When we think of business, we think of something that has inherent value or importance. But does business really merit such an evaluation? Think about how you spell business. It’s “busi-ness” It looks like a variant of “busyness.” And it is. In fact both words come from an old english word, “bisignis” which literally means “anxiety.” Yes, the ultimate root of business, literally means anxiety.

Think about all the business in the world and in your life. Could it be, that some of it or most of it, is not really important at all, but is actually a whole bunch of worries wound up together and presented as some sort of required duty?

In this life, there is only one thing that matters, and that’s pleasing Jesus Christ. In Luke 10, Martha was “careful and troubled about many things.” (sound like business?) Jesus told her, “one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:42

What was Mary doing? She was worshiping at Jesus’ feet.

That one thing is needful. That is necessary. That is all.

I’m not telling you to quit your job and go home to worship Jesus, but simply to evaluate your perspective. Have you put your busyness above Christ. Is your work simply an outpouring of your worship to God? Or is it something that controls you and worries you. I challenge you, don’t put worry and anxiety filled activity above the worship of Christ.

Only one thing is needful. Let us choose it, as Mary did.

Do you naturally care?

I’ve been involved in many organizations and groups over the years. Throughout my time helping here, and helping there, I have found a very consistent trend. Wherever I go, there always seems to be a lack of committed people. Perhaps you have found this true also. Diligent, committed people are hard to find. This problem seems to have been prevalent even in the early church. Paul reveals something very interesting in his letter to Philipi.

He says, “For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” – Philippians 2:20-21

Wow, what a statement. What a tragedy! A man of God can’t find another man of God to continue God’s work? Sadly this happens over and over. Even in the old testament, God sought for one man to be a mediator, but He could not find even one.

Sometimes God doesn’t need a whole lot of people, sometimes He just needs one. Notice what Paul said, “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” Do you seek your own, or do you seek Christ’s?

When you wake up in the morning, do you seek your own benefit, or do you seek Christ’s? When you lash out in anger at someone, are you seeking your own or Christ’s? When you make decisions throughout your day, are you seeking your own benefit, or Christ’s? Paul contrasted seeking your own benefit with naturally caring. The point wasn’t that he couldn’t find anyone to care, but that he couldn’t find anyone who naturally cared.

You see, when you decide to follow Christ often enough, your nature changes. You care without having to focus on it. You don’t have to suppress your temper or your pride or your sin nature as much, because you now operate in a new nature. You have adopted the Christlike nature that God has given you.

That’s what Paul was looking for, and I believe that is what God is looking for.

If you want to be used by God, there are plenty of positions open, all you must do is lay down your pride and allow God to change you.

Don’t seek your own, seek Christ’s.

When your soul’s restored

There are promises in the Bible that require no action from us. God is true. God is faithful. God will reign for all eternity. Whether we serve the Lord or not, those truths will remain. Those promises are sure. Even when they affect us, like, God will judge the world in righteousness, those promises require no cooperation from us. But many if not most of God’s blessings, require our cooperation to come to fruition. Not that God is incapable of bringing them to pass without our help, but that He chooses not to act unless we are in submission to Him.

Two such blessings are found in Psalm 23:3. The verse says, “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” First, God restores our soul. This has the meaning of to turn back or to return. When we are weary and burdened in this life, God has the ability to return us to strength. He restores our soul to it’s liveliness, and vitality. Second, He leads us in the paths of righteousness. Think about this for a moment, God didn’t have to lead us at all. He could simply say, “Be righteous.” And leave us to our own devices. But that is not His way. He chooses to say, “Come this way, child, and I will lead you.” He leads because He loves, and He leads to show other’s His goodness and glorify His name.

But as a good doctor cannot cure unless the patient is willing, and the one who leads with none following is only taking a walk. God cannot restore us or lead us without our cooperation. We must come to Him to be restored. We must humble ourselves and choose to follow if we are to be lead by God. This is not always an easy choice, but it must be done if we are to enjoy the pleasantness of true fellowship with our Creator.

I pose this question to you, Will you come to your Savior to be restored? Will you follow that He might lead? It is the only way to a happy and fulfilled life. Won’t you make that choice today?

Dig your well before you’re thirsty

If you can imagine a thirsty and dehydrated person trying to dig a well, I believe you can fathom the consequences of horrible preparation. As we go through life, we can be either prepared, or unprepared for the challenges that meet us.

Temptation, trials, and suffering will come our way, it is our duty to remain prepared for such hardships. Proverbs 6 tells the lazy person to look at the ant. This small creature has the innate knowledge that he must prepare for the winter. Verse 8 says that the ant, “Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” Just like that we must be prepared for the spiritual hardships that will come our way.

Every time you go out into the world, you will be tempted to think improper thoughts, give in to wrong attitudes, and entertain wrong ideas. You might even be tempted to do wrong things. As a Christian, you must be prepared.

David said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” – Psalm 119:11 Realize that David prepared for possibility of temptation. He stored up God’s Word in his innermost being so that he would have protection. Christ, in the garden of Gethsemane, tells his disciples, “Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” – Luke 22:46

Fellow Christian, we cannot afford to be a sluggard in our Christian walk. We must prepare, we must arm ourselves with the Word, and we must put on the armor of God. When the battle comes, not only is our dependence on God tested, but our will and our preparation are tested as well. We cannot “do” anything to win the battle against sin. We must depend on God. But dependence comes hand in hand with obedience, and God clearly commands us to prepare for the fight.

Let us not be found unprepared!

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” – Ephesians 6:13

Do you cover the sins of others?

Have you ever made a huge mistake? I’m talking about a huge mistake. A mistake that had some repercussions. And while you were staring at your mistake and being overwhelmed by it, someone came, corrected the mistake, and didn’t say anything. In a sense, they “covered” for you. I know I’ve had the blessing of that happen to me more than once.

The Bible seems to mention that exact situation in Proverbs 10. It says, “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins. Think about that for a moment. Hatred increases contention, but love hides it. Imagine your making a mistake, and someone comes over, points it out, complains about it, tells all kinds of people, makes a big deal about correcting it, and then brings it up all the time. That’s the hatred that increases strife.

But remember the first situation. If they simply helped you fix the problem and moved on, then life was a lot simpler and peace was maintained.

I think it’s obvious which situation we should opt for. Love covers sin.

When you see that someone has made a mistake that either harms themselves or you, don’t make a scene. Don’t let your hatred increase strife. Decide to love, cover the sin, and move on. Obviously, if someone is being repetitive about their “mistakes” then you may need to cut ties with them, but make sure it is necessary. Many times we unnecessarily take opportunity to stir up strife, when in actuality, we should be covering each other’s sins.

I encourage you, cover the sins of those around you and keep strife at a minimum. Ask God for wisdom if you ever believe you must depart from another’s company, but until then, keep your love covering, and your forgiveness free.

Honor him with the first

Who do you think of first when you need help? Who is first on your list of friends? Who do you shop for first when you’re going to buy gifts? We as humans put an emphasis on being first. It has the idea of being primary, or most important. With this same mentality, God asks us to give Him the first of what we receive.

Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:” Back when farming was the commonplace occupation of most people, it was common for a person to refer to their initial harvest as firstfruits. Imagine, a farmer working hard to plow, plant, and possibly water his crop. All summer he watches it grow. When it finaly comes time for the first harvest, he treasures the produce of labor. He wants to enjoy his labor. If you have a farm, or you’ve ever gardened, I’m sure you understand. That first of what he receives is what God asks to be given of.

God wants to be honored with the very best, the first! I don’t know how you are provided for, whether by farming or paycheck or otherwise, but however God blesses you, God wants you to honor Him with the first or best of it. He doesn’t want to be put off, forgotten, and given the leftovers. He most certainly is deserving of far more. God deserves the best, and that is what He requires.

So I challenge you, next time you receive a profit, think of God first. Think of what you will give Him, and make provision for your gift. Let’s honor the Lord with the first!

If we do, He promises to reward us greatly!

“So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” – Proverbs 3:10

It’s a stretch of the heart

Have you ever forgotten important information? Ever fallen asleep during church or during a lecture or meeting? Ever just “blank out” when you were supposed to remember something? I used to do that all the time when I was younger, and even now there are plenty of times when I fail to apply myself to listen to the important things in life.

In Proverbs 2, Solomon gives instruction about wisdom. He tells his son to get wisdom, search it out, treasure it, etc, etc. He says, if you receive what I have to say and do it, then you will have great reward. I noticed something in verse 2 that I had never seen before.

Verse 2 says, “So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;” When your reading, you can easily skip over a verse like this. Honestly, it’s sortof reduntant, and all Solomon is saying is that you should listen up. But if you take the time to treasure the word of God, you are rewarded.

The interesting thing about this verse is that suggests that in order to listen and attend to the words of wisdom, you have to work, and you have to change. The word for “incline” actually carries the idea of sharpening. Sharpen your hearing abilities to hear wisdom. When you sharpen something, you can use it less and get a better result. Think about that, if you take the time to “work” on hearing, you won’t have to hear God’s wisdom fifty times before you “get it.” If you incline (sharpen) your ears, you can hear something less, and gain more.

Secondly, you must apply your heart to understanding. The word for “apply” also holds a gem for us. It means to stretch. Think about stretching, it’s not comfortable, most people don’t want to do it, and sometimes it hurts. But in the end, you can reach what you couldn’t before ( like maybe your toes), and you have more capabilities. Think, after you stretch, things that weren’t in reach, now are.

So I challenge you, make a decision today to sharpen your hearing when it comes to understanding. Make a decision to stretch your heart. If you do, you can learn more while hearing less, and reach higher levels of understanding that you couldn’t before. It might be work, and it might be uncomfortable, but you will be the better for it.

I am embarrassed to confess this, but I must. I was once asked, (after I had fallen asleep in church) if I could have managed to stay awake if I would be paid a million dollars to do so. I replied, “of course!” Then I was left with the uncomfortable realization that money was more important to me than God’s wisdom. This should never be true of myself, or any person. We can sharpen our hearing, and stretch our hearts, we simply must value the right things to do so.

Let’s ask God to help us value His wisdom.

When God appoints you for slaughter . . .

What if God was against you? Pause and think about that for a moment. If God didn’t love you and He desired your destruction. What an utterly horrible thought. We know that while we serve God, He will never be against us, but from a flawed human perspective, the writers of Psalm 44 may have had “legitimate” reason to think that God was against them. There were many ways that God was not “with” them.

This post cannot bring the psalm justice. I invite you to simply read it for yourself. As you read, watch the structure of the psalm. The psalmists (1) Praises God for past deliverance (2) Declares their faith in God (3) Tells of how God has cast them off (4) Tells of how they still have faith in God (5) Calls unto God to deliver them.

While the psalmists tells how God has, “given us like sheep appointed for meat; and hast scattered us among the heathen.” They also say, “Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.” It has other passages like, “Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves.”

It really does not sound like God is on their side. He’s deliberately giving them to the heathen. He’s allowing them to be overcome. In the words of the Psalmist, “But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies.” What is going on? Doesn’t God love them? Why is God allowing this?

Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t understand why. Some of these things we will not understand until eternity. We can know however, that God is always just. And God always rewards those obedient to Him.

But let’s be honest, it’s pretty hard to remember that in the moment. To be honest, I have to say that I’m not sure how faithful I would be in such a situation. I hope I’d be faithful. The Psalmists’ reaction to all this is something we can truly learn from. The psalmists say, “All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant. Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way.”

These men found the strength to praise God and faithfully seek His face while all their situations looked as if God Himself was against them. I challenge you with this statement: Faith is not faith that sees. If you can “see” God’s goodness in your life, you don’t need “faith” in God’s goodness. But when times like Psalm 44 come, it’s a true test of what you believe about the God of the universe.

Do you believe that God is good? Do you believe the promises that He has given? No matter what the situations look like, you can have faith in God’s promises like these men did.

Proverbs tells us, that If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. These men had great strength. When adversity came, they still boasted in God.

In all their hardship, they said, “In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah.” Let us strengthen ourselves in the Lord, so if such hardships come to us, we may do the same.