Oops, I Slipped!

​  “Give your burdens to the LORD, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” – Psalms 55:22 NLT (http://bible.com/116/psa.55.22.NLT)

I couldn’t guess how many times I’ve heard someone say “Well, they must not be a Christian because a Christian wouldn’t do/say such a thing!” News flash: being a Christian doesn’t make me perfect, it means I know how broken I am and that I have asked Jesus to wash me clean. Jesus doesn’t want the perfect, He wants the broken. The only difference – emphasizing that: the ONLY difference between me and the most evil, depraved person is not anything I can do, no matter how good and kind and caring I can be – the only only difference is God’s Redeeming Grace. The evil, wicked person can be redeemed by God’s Grace, as simply as you and I can be. In fact, that’s why Jesus came. Listen to what He says:

  “Then Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” – Matthew 11:28‭-‬30 NLT (http://bible.com/116/mat.11.28-30.NLT)

When we are weary, sick and tired of being sick and tired; when we are exhausted from dragging behind us all of our life baggage, that’s when Jesus can help us the most. From the most caring of souls to the most broken, wherever we come from, Jesus can help us. The reason we slip and fall as Christians is the same reason non-Christians sin. We take our eyes off Jesus and think we can take care of something ourselves, and we set ourselves up to fail. It doesn’t matter if it’s the whisper of gossip behind someone’s back, or the violent outburst of anger resulting in someone getting hurt or killed. Sin is sin.

  “Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in Him. Anyone who continues to live in Him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know Him or understand who He is. Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.” – 1 John 3:4‭-‬6‭, ‬9 NLT (http://bible.com/116/1jn.3.4-9.NLT)

That section seems harsh, but it’s simply God telling us how it is. The big question today is the elephant in the room. If I am a Christian, does that mean I will never sin again? No, not at all. We are sinners saved by Grace, mended by the Potter, healed by the Healer, and washed clean with His blood. As a Christian, anytime I take my eyes away from Jesus, I am then looking at the world and doing things my way. Jesus doesn’t let us go when we falter. He holds us in His arms until we finally look up to Him and see that we have fallen. It may be immediately, and it might take a while (years, even). The only thing we have control over in this world is whether or not we will look to Jesus, or abandon Him for the enticing beckoning of the world – Satan’s playground. 

I know from my own life experience that I will stumble and fall, and I will continue to stumble. It happens every single time I take my eyes off Jesus and I don’t commit every decision through prayer to the Holy Spirit. It happens when I pray and I don’t like the answer so I do whatever I think is right. My way. Ha. There’s a comment I’ve heard and I’ve used myself: “My way or the highway.” Think about it, and rephrase it: “Jesus’ Way, or the highway of Satan.” There are two roads through your life. I chose Satan’s highway for years, and can’t even begin to tell of all of the wrecks that happened. When we travel the broad and glittering highway of the world, we become battered and bruised and broken. Traveling the path with Jesus doesn’t mean we will never get hurt. In fact, because it is a narrow path, with precipices and deep valleys to go through, we have to hold on tightly to His Hand to stay on the correct path. When we take our eyes off of our guide, we will stumble and fall. The difference is that Jesus heals us of the hurts, and the enemy rubs salt in our wounds. Why do we think that’s better??

Keep your eyes on Jesus! He will guide us the way we need to go, and never, ever let leave us.

Thanks to my friend, John Lawton, for this depiction of the mountains and valleys we go through.

Ask, Search, Receive 

In Matthew 7:1-2, Jesus talks about how we are to live. He says:

    “Do not judge others. Then you will not be judged. You will be judged in the same way you judge others. You will be measured in the same way you measure others.”

And verse 12:

    “In everything, do to others what you would want them to do to you. This is what is written in the Law and in the Prophets.” (From the New International Readers Version of the Bible, or NIRV)

How well do we follow His teaching? I can’t speak for anyone except myself, and I am guilty of being judgmental. I don’t always treat others the way I want to be treated, but I often expect preferential treatment. I’m human, and that means I’m a sinful being. It DOESN’T mean I have to sit back and give control back to the enemy!

  “I have seen everything in this meaningless life, including the death of good young people and the long life of wicked people. So don’t be too good or too wise! Why destroy yourself? On the other hand, don’t be too wicked either. Don’t be a fool! Why die before your time? Pay attention to these instructions, for anyone who fears God will avoid both extremes. One wise person is stronger than ten leading citizens of a town! Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins. Don’t eavesdrop on others—you may hear your servant curse you. For you know how often you yourself have cursed others. I have always tried my best to let wisdom guide my thoughts and actions. I said to myself, “I am determined to be wise.” ** But it didn’t work. Wisdom is always distant and difficult to find. I searched everywhere, determined to find wisdom and to understand the reason for things. I was determined to prove to myself that wickedness is stupid and that foolishness is madness.” – Ecclesiastes 7:15‭-‬25 NLT (http://bible.com/116/ecc.7.15-25.NLT)

**As my favorite recovery pastor tells it, it was our best thinking – i.e. our “wisdom,” not God’s Wisdom  – that got us here!

My Dad used to say that you could be sincere, but you could be sincerely wrong. He was absolutely right, and it troubles me to see so many people who are preaching and teaching and discipling other gospels than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Prosperity – I admit to worshipping at that altar in the past. How about the altar of self-righteousness? Prejudice? Keeping up with the Joneses, or the Corporate ladder? Arrogance? What about the altar of football? On the opposite spectrum,  what about self-pity and self abuse? 

I have skipped over many of our altars, but I could take all day and still not list them all, because as humans we are constantly creating more. Even children and spouses can be altars that cause us to trip.

  “Let God’s curse fall on us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.”

***”Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God.”***

   “If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by His marvelous Grace. Then it pleased Him to reveal His Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus…..”(Galatians 1:8-10, 15-16a)

By surrendering myself daily (hourly, minute by minute – whatever it takes!) to my Savior; by letting God have control, I do a little bit better at living as He tells me to. It’s interesting, too, that the more I let go, the less stress and judgmental I find myself.

I will always sin. The enemy will throw temptation and disaster and ugliness at me as long as I live. The thought that keeps me sane {okay, those of you who know me well, STOP LAUGHING!} …. the KNOWLEDGE that keeps me going is this verse from Matthew 7:7-8:

    “Ask, and it will be given to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. Everyone who asks will receive. He who searches will find. The door will be opened to the one who knocks.”

I have asked; I have searched; and I have knocked, and Jesus answered. AMEN.

Good Old Days?

  “Don’t always be asking, “Where are the good old days?” Wise folks don’t ask questions like that.” –Ecclesiastes 7:10 MSG (http://bible.com/97/ecc.7.10.MSG)

We have selective memories. The “good old days…” What exactly was so good about them? Would they be the days of childhood? Sure, most of us didn’t have the responsibility of an adult, and we had opportunities to run and play with other kids. There were also plenty of less pleasant times, too, but as children we were better able to gloss over them and even forget them. Were the “good old days” The days before television and video games? Before telephones and refrigeration? Before the internal combustion engine? The “good old days” translate very differently from person to person. For me,  I wouldn’t mind pre-adult days when my responsibilities were few and I didn’t have to “adult.” Bleh.

  “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with Love.” – Romans 5:3‭-‬5‭ NLT (http://bible.com/116/rom.5.3-5.NLT)

  “God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:28‭-‬29 NLT (http://bible.com/116/1co.1.28-29.NLT)

God doesn’t want me to sit and wish for things and times that are past – the “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve” past. It’s over and done. Depression and frustration dump me back there. Paul suffered from despondency; Moses struggled with insecurities, David was an adulterer and a murderer. God doesn’t pick winners, He picks losers. He provides the confidence and forgiveness we so desperately need. On days like today when the sky is overcast and rainy and cold, all I want to do is hibernate. God, give me strength to face the world! Amen.

Control Your Anger

​  “Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool.” – Ecclesiastes 7:9 NLT

Wow. Can it be any more clear than this? Just for fun, let’s check a couple of other translations… (check out YouVersion for all of your Bible needs at http://bible.com).

Let’s start with some old English in the American Standard Version (ASV), then the King James Version (KJV). 

  “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry; for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.” – Ecclesiastes 7:9 ASV

  “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.” – Ecclesiastes 7:9 KJV

Personally, I switch between the NLT, the New Living Translation, and the NIV, the New International Version. They are both easy to read and understand, and it’s good to read both to help in understanding scripture. Here’s the NIV:

  “Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool.” – Ecclesiastes 7:9 NLT 

Finally,  I get to share the one called The Message. It’s written more for teenagers and young adults, but I love the bluntness. 

  “Don’t be quick to fly off the handle. Anger boomerangs. You can spot a fool by the lumps on his head.” – Ecclesiastes 7:9 MSG

It should be pretty clear by now that controlling anger is important!

I don’t know about anyone else, but I can vouch to going through life with “lumps on my head” – maybe not too visible to me, but certainly visible to others, especially my family as they prayer for me. I know that my anger made me physically ill at times, and I have residual lingering effects from the years I spent nursing anger and grudges against others. Was the anger worth it? Absolutely not. I spent so much of my life embroiled in the pain and hurt that I missed out on so much, including being able to raise my daughter. I was killing myself by holding on the the anger and letting it consume me, both literally and figuratively. 

How are you doing today? Is the someone, or several someones, that you just can’t seem to get over?  I get it, I really do! I also know how impossible it is for me, on my own, to let go of my anger. There’s really only one way to let go of that deep-seated anger that has been stoked by resentment and frustration over the years, and His Name is Jesus. 

Revenge, resentment, and retaliation are not the answers. Only Jesus. We can’t do it alone.

Did you get that? On my own, there is no way – no way – for me to let the anger and hurt go. It has been a process, because when you nurture something like this for years it doesn’t just dissappear overnight. I have had to visualize handing a particular person and situation to Christ over and over. At first, it felt like I was saying “Here, God, take it” every minute of the day. Then gradually add few times per day, and finally…. finally…. it’s only a couple of times a month. I am not capable of forgiving on my own. It is only through Jesus Christ and His Grace that I am able to live a *mostly* anger free life today. My prayer is that you can get there, as well.  

Guide Me

​  The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” – Psalms 32:8 NLT (http://bible.com/116/psa.32.8.NLT)

Okay, God, not to be irreverent or disrespectful, but I would LOVE to have a clearer picture of my path. A fax or an email, a letter, or a tweet…. even sky-writing would help! I wonder how many other people feel like they can’t see the path God has laid out for them. Should it be that difficult, really? I look at people like Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, and Florence Nightingale. It appears that they were called early in their lives for a particular purpose, and they heard the call; they listened and responded. So many of us have heard God calling early in our lives and blew Him off so that we could do our own thing. (Yes, I am talking to myself 😕 )

So now, wherever we are in our lives, we need to untangle the world messages from the God message, and that can be a daunting task! Years ago, my Dad wrote a poem for me, untitled:

“Life isn’t an easy road,

  Never was, said the fly to the toad.

Seems like you’re always hopping around, 

  Never really getting your feet on the ground!

For instance, we flies are a delectable dish

  But harder to catch than a slippery fish.

Frustrating to you, Mr. Toad, I know,

  But to me, it isn’t the best way to go.
The wise frog, overhearing the two, 

  Sat very still, thinking it through. 

Speaking from years of experience in life, 

  He sagely gave these words of advice:

Hopping about, never settling down,

  Is one sure way to live life with a frown.

Rather, set your goal and patiently work,

  And a smile will be yours instead of a smirk.
The same is true of the human race,

  You see so much unhappiness on everyone’s face.

Instead of accepting God’s most precious gift, 

  We hop to and fro seeking a lift.

Jesus said,  “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”,

  Accept Him today and end all your strife.” 

               – Bill Henry 

I still don’t know what, exactly, God has in mind for me, but I am learning to be still and trust Him, knowing He is in control. Are YOU there, yet?

Wonderfully Made

The Bible is a book of beautiful poetic passages. Contemplate this passage from the Psalms:

  “If I say, Surely the darkness shall overwhelm me, And the light about me shall be night;  Even the darkness hideth not from Thee, But the night shineth as the day: The darkness and the light are both alike to Thee.  For Thou didst form my inward parts: Thou didst cover me in my mother’s womb.  I will give thanks unto Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: Wonderful are Thy works; And that my soul knoweth right well.  My frame was not hidden from Thee, When I was made in secret,  And curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” – Psalms 139:11‭-‬15 ASV (http://bible.com/12/psa.139.11-15.ASV)

The psalmist is praising God for the wonder of birth; how we are formed in the womb. He acknowledges that the Creator God is with us from the moment we begin in the womb; at the first joining of egg and sperm. God made creation so that when a man and a woman join, He – God – is there. He knows us intimately. He knows our future, and He knows what our choices will be throughout our lives. He rejoices for the good choices and He mourns our bad choices. 

Have you ever thought about that? He already knows that I will make bad choices in my life, and He has already suffered for those sins on the cross. He suffered for the lies we tell, and the half-truths and the omissions. He suffered for the gossip we spread and the snubs we give to those we deem are beneath us. He suffered for every ugly thought and deed we have entertained. It’s difficult to comprehend. From little white lies to murder, sin is sin and is all the same to God. That, to me, is impossible to grasp. All sin is the same to our Lord, and He bore all of those sins while He hung on the cross. Think about that! ALL sin, past, present, and future. From the moment we are conceived, God is there. Even before we are conceived, He is there. He is ALWAYS with us, whether you acknowledge Him or not. He knows it all, already, yet He still wants us as His friends; His family. Pretty amazing, no ABSOLUTELY amazing. Amazing Grace…..

Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
T’was blind but now I see

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come.
T’was grace that brought us safe thus far
And grace will lead us home,
And grace will lead us home

Amazing grace, Howe Sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
T’was blind but now I see

Was blind, but now I see.

Together

​  “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” – Colossians 3:23‭-‬24 

The Church of Christ Jesus is inherently diverse culturally and ethnically. I am so tired of the racism and division between “religions” and denominations.  Christians need to be – should be – united, not divided, over His teachings. When we find that we are wrong in a belief, why can’t we just admit it and move on with the business we share of introducing others to Jesus Christ and His Savings Grace?

  “Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Barnabas, Simeon (called “the black man”), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas ), and Saul…..So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way. So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit. They went down to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailed for the island of Cyprus.” – Acts of the Apostles 3:1,3‭-‬4

It’s fascinating to me to read the Gospels and the New Testament and see the diversity of the early church. Wealthy or working class, educated and illiterate; African, Jew, Greek, and Roman…. they all followed Christ. Oh, would that we could embrace that today! For the Word of God will never fail.” – Luke 1:37 NLT (Some manuscripts read “For nothing is impossible with God.”)
In spite of all our human failings, isn’t it about time we let our prejudice fall away? God doesn’t care what color our skin happens to be, and he doesn’t care if you own the most toys or you have absolutely nothing. When He created Adam and Eve, they had every color gene in the. From that one couple came every color, every facial feature, every bit of the DNA that binds us each together as human beings. Jesus didn’t let situations or appearances or wealth or lack of it interfere with His ministry.

Into the Light, or into the darkness… it’s our choice, every day of our lives. We weren’t created to make this journey through life alone. Jesus is patiently waiting, with me and for me, always beside me. Never alone, never without Him, through the fires and the valleys and the shadows, to the tops of the mountain. What about you? Will you continue to go it alone, or are you ready to take His Hand and let Him be your Guide and your Protection? Without Him in us and beside us, we cannot tell others of Him and expect them to believe in Him.

** All scriptures are from http://bible.com/116/NLT