Love and the Green-eyed Monster

Envy is not a new emotion invented by our self-centered, materialistic society.  It has existed since before the creation of man (and social media). Satan, who was not content with his position as the perfectly beautiful guardian cherub, envied God’s sovereign position as Lord of the Universe. He was thrown out of heaven down to the earth. Misery loves company, so he schemed with doubt and deception hoping Adam and Eve would want what God had and what they were not to possess, the knowledge of good and evil. They did not disappoint. This led them to disobey God and eventually led to their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The very first children born of Adam and Eve were not exempt from this sin. Their firstborn son Cain killed his very own brother Abel out of envy of God’s acceptance of his offering, and the downward spiral of the sin of envy continues to this day.

Shakespeare may have been the first to refer to envy as “the green-eyed monster,” but he was not the first to write about it.  The Old Testament of the Bible not only tells of the horrific results of envy on the first family, but also contains numerous teachings on the subject. Job’s friend Eliphaz the Temanite wrote, “envy slays the simple (Job 5:2).” King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 14:30 that “envy rots the bones” and in Proverbs 27:4 he states, “Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” He even went so far as to say that “all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:4).

Not even God’s chosen people were immune to envy. It was jealousy of their younger brother Joseph that drove Jacob’s older sons to first try to kill Joseph then sell him to merchants heading to Egypt.  In Warren Weirsbe’s commentary book on Genesis he quotes an author of a fourteenth-century preacher’s manual which said that envy was “the most precious daughter of the devil because it follows his footsteps by hindering good and promoting evil.” These sons of Jacob acted like the daughter of the devil in their envious relationship with Joseph.

When Jesus walked this earth he was not immune to the affects of the envy of others. The Pharisees who were jealous of Jesus were always trying to trip him up by asking ridiculous questions concerning man-made laws.  On one such occasion Jesus called them hypocrites and then taught the crowd that it’s what comes out of someone that defiles them not what they put into their body. He was speaking of the heart where evil thoughts originate (Mark 7:1-23). He then listed the evils that come from within a person:

sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, ENVY, slander, arrogance, folly

Whew! What a list!  Did you catch the one four-letter word tucked toward the end of the list?  (I kind of made it obvious!) We don’t often think of envy in this way. We think and sometimes out of ignorance say, “After all it’s not one of the BIG sins like murder.” But Jesus called it evil, so that’s what it is!

Lately, a great deal of the devotions I have read deal with this very evil.  I believe God is trying to get my attention.  I am always telling myself and even God that I am content with every part of my life.  After all, I have all I need – a loving husband, an adult son who still calls, a part time job I love, food in the pantry, a house, cars, and a boat that we own, not the bank.  So why does the green-eyed monster show up at my door uninvited? God’s been showing me ways I’m envious that have nothing to do with material possessions. I can’t fool God. He knows my heart better than I do.

Do you remember the story of Jesus asking Peter three times if he loved him (John 21:15-23)?  Once Peter answered affirmatively, Jesus told him to feed his lambs, take care of his sheep and feed his sheep. Then he gave Peter a look into the future by revealing in a round about way that he was to die in his old age a martyr’s death, possibly by crucifixion.  Then Jesus said to him, “Follow me!” You may be asking yourself, what in the world does this have to do with envy?  Stay with me.

Right then Peter turned and saw John following them and he asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” He told Peter “If I want John to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Basically Jesus was telling Peter to mind his own business and don’t worry about his plans for John. It’s just possible that Jesus knew that Peter would be envious of his plans for John. If I were Peter I would have said, “But Lord, why can’t I die of old age, naturally? That’s not fair.” Oh, Peter… (Oh, Cindy…)

Here’s where God has been speaking to me about envy.

I see and hear of godly women working in ministry, writing for and speaking to women in amazing ways and it dawned on me (or Satan put this thought into my head) that they all seem to have had some horrendous tragedy in their life such as rape, sexual abuse, abortion, divorce, debilitating disease or even the death of a child. Then I start questioning whether or not God has really called me to write since my life experiences have not been so tragic. The green-eyed monster rears it’s head again! I realize that I envy the fact that these women have awesome God-delivering personal stories to reach others. Let me make it clear that I am not asking God to give me a tragedy!

Then…

The Lord spoke to me through a sweet friend when I shared my doubts about writing.  She said that there are many women out there who like me have not had terrible life experiences, but they may think they are saved because their life has sailed along smoothly and they don’t realize that they need Jesus. Wow! What a revelation!  Just like Jesus had a different plan for John, he has a different plan for me.  These are the women I can reach for Christ! So when I ask God, “What about all those other writers?” He says, “What is that to you? You must follow me.”

One last thought about envy to really shake us up (as if Jesus’ words are not enough)! Not only does the apostle Paul include envy as one of the traits love is NOT (1 Corinthians 13:4), but he also includes it in the list of the sins of those who did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God. The result was that God gave them over to a depraved mind (Romans 1:28-31). Depravity is not my life goal, therefore, I do not want to give God any reason to ever do this to me!

Love does not envy and through my daily prayers asking for the Lord’s help, I will not either!

What Are You Waiting For?

In my last post I wrote about why Jesus waited to go to his sick friend Lazarus who was at death’s door. One reason was so the disciples and others present would believe, but there was another purpose in the waiting. Jesus was preparing his disciples for the day they would be on their own and would have to wait for the next best thing.

These men had no problem believing that Jesus was the Messiah as long as he was physically with them, and especially seeing with their own eyes the many miracles he performed. But soon he would be back in heaven and they would have to believe without him. Faith would now come into play. Have you ever wished that Jesus was physically present with us today? I know I have! But then we would be living by sight and not by faith. The writer of the book of Hebrews says that without faith, it’s impossible to please God and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus even said that those who have not seen him and believe are blessed (John 20:29). These words should encourage us that God still blesses those who believe today. 

If there was a club for members who excel in waiting I would be denied membership along with most of our society. Many of us have childhood memories of our parents telling us to wait to eat dessert after dinner. We didn’t like this command, but it was for our good so we would first get the nutrition we needed to grow into healthy adults. It was like this for the disciples who fed on the words of Jesus for three years while they lived alongside of him. They grew spiritually, but had not fully matured. They would need help and God had just the “dessert” they needed, but they had to wait just a little longer. 

After his resurrection, Jesus had appeared to the apostles over a period of forty days on the earth. On one occasion he told them to wait for the gift his Father had promised (Acts 1:3-5). He told them that they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit, but based on their question of whether this was the time he would restore the kingdom of Israel, it’s safe to say they still didn’t understand. Let’s face it, we probably wouldn’t have grasped the idea of being baptized in the Spirit either. I mean all they knew about baptism was what John had done right before Jesus arrived on the scene. He immersed them in water after they repented of their sins and accepted forgiveness from God. Jesus had previously told his disciples about the Holy Spirit (Advocate, Spirit of truth) who would live in them, teach them all things and remind them of everything Jesus had said to them (John 14:17, 26). Before we start to judge these guys, consider how many of us could remember every word Jesus said over a period of three years or even write them down. Most people today can’t remember a thirty-minute sermon, much less take notes!  

The disciples and those who followed Christ when he walked on this earth had to wait on the promised Holy Spirit. The good news is that today we don’t have to wait for that gift! Besides receiving forgiveness for all of our sins and eternal life in heaven, the next best gift a person could ever receive is Christ’s Spirit living inside of them. Jesus loves us so much, he not only paid for our sins, but he gave us exactly what we need to live the life here on earth that glorifies the Father. These gifts are free and available to anyone who believes that Jesus died in their place and rose to life and now lives in heaven preparing a place for us. 

What are you waiting for?!

Wait

In the last post, we learned that Jesus’ very close friend Lazarus had fallen ill and his sisters sent word to Jesus about the sickness (John 11). Jesus then sent his own word saying, “This sickness would not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  

When he waited two more days to begin the twenty-mile journey, he wasn’t just hanging out with his disciples because he didn’t feel like making the trip that day nor was was he lacking in the compassion department. He was waiting for his Father to tell him when to go. Now, that’s obedience! How many of us would be able to stay put for two more days if a spouse, parent, child or other loved one was close to death and God said. “Wait?” 

As a matter of fact, he told his disciples that for their sake he was glad he wasn’t there so they would believe (John 11:15). Did you get that? He was glad! You mean he let poor ole Lazarus die just so the disciples would believe? Yes, not just the disciples, but many other people as well who would see what Jesus was planning to do. 

Sometimes we’ve been praying for our loved ones who are physically, emotionally or even spiritually sick for what seems like forever and God says “Wait.” Our immediate response is usually, “Why?” Who likes to wait on anything? We live in a fast-food, microwave world and if we have to wait five minutes we get agitated and feel slighted. The Psalmist has the answer. He wrote “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope” (Psalm 130:5). He put his hope in God’s word, not the doctor’s word, the therapist’s word or the words of a well-meaning friend.  Jesus sent his word to Martha and Mary and that’s all they needed then and that’s all we need now. 

Some of you may be waiting for a child to be healed of a devastating disease or a marriage or relationship to be restored. Some of you may be waiting for an elderly parent with dementia or Alzheimer’s to return to the way they used to be. Or some of you may be longing for your prodigal children to come back home to the Lord. Whatever the sickness, Jesus isn’t waiting because he likes to watch us suffer. He has a plan that will glorify him and benefit all involved and even those who are watching. But it has to be done his way and in his time.

Life is hard, but God is good.

Wait for it!

Put your hope in His word!

It’s Not Over Yet

There’s a story in the Bible of when one of Jesus’ closest friends named Lazarus fell deathly ill. His sisters who lived with Lazarus sent word to Jesus who was staying about twenty miles away. Their message just said, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” As soon as Jesus heard this, he slipped on his sandals and started off for Lazarus’ house. 

NOT!

Jesus decided to stay where he was and sent the messenger back with these encouraging words, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified though it.”Wait a minute! I thought Jesus loved Lazarus. Why was he not going immediately to heal him or just speak a healing word right then? He did it for others, why not Lazarus?

Now, if you were Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, what would you think? I don’t know about you, but the Martha in me would be a little ticked off. I’m just being real! You see Martha couldn’t sit still and always had to be busy, so like her I wouldn’t be able to understand why Jesus didn’t send word that he was on the way. I would no doubt be confused once Lazarus died. I wonder if Mary was quietly praying and remembering all that Jesus had taught her while she sat at his feet? If so, would this have annoyed Martha? Jesus did eventually go to their village in Bethany, but not until Lazarus had been dead four days!  It’s interesting that the message from the sisters didn’t say, “Please come immediately.” Maybe they trusted Jesus’ timing after all. 

Is there someone in your life who is spiritually sick? They could be saved, but their lifestyle is grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit living inside them or worse, they do not have the Holy Spirit in them because they have never accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. If you are impatient like me, you pray for these loved ones or friends and want God to do something YESTERDAY! Unlike Mary and Martha, we beg him to come immediately. But we must trust that God’s timing is perfect even if we don’t understand and sometimes he delays so that he will be glorified. And when we are praying and waiting, we should never lose hope that their sickness will not end in death. 

So don’t give up! Keep praying for your loved ones and friends who need a spiritual healing or even a resurrection from their dead life of sin. 

Stay tuned. This story is not over. 

Death does not win! 

Jesus does!

Water in Me

Today I heard a message by Pastor Tony Evans titled “Water in God’s House,” referencing the first twelve verses of Ezekiel 47. Ezekiel was a priest and prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah while they were living in captivity in Babylon. The main idea of Evans’ message was that the living water which is tied to life and the work of the Holy Spirit is in the Church (believers of the Lord, Jesus Christ), and if we want to see our culture change, the water has to flow out from the Church and into the community. 

I’ll admit that Ezekiel is one of those books of the Bible that many times has left me dumbfounded. There are all sorts of visions and prophecies that can confuse a simple lay person like myself. That is why we should listen to trusted Bible teachers and then read it, meditate on it and study it for ourselves. So that’s what I did.

The reason this story struck a chord with me is because I absolutely love being in the water! As a young girl growing up in the south, our above ground swimming pool was my go-to spot to beat the oppressive heat of most summer days. As I got old enough to drive, the coastal waters became my source of refreshing. Living over 200 miles from the coast for the past 28 years, I have adapted to another invigorating water source, the indoor pool. After my son began swimming on a neighborhood swim team, the familiar lure to immerse in the water again was stronger than ever. I joined the local YMCA and began swimming laps. That was almost twenty years ago and I still enjoy that time in the water. 

Ezekiel was privileged to see visions of the future where the temple was restored along with Israel and the priesthood. But the returning of the Lord’s glory to the temple had to have been the most magnificent of all the visions! After this in Chapter 47, he is shown the water that comes out from under the threshold of the temple which starts out as a trickle. As they move about 1700 feet from the temple, the depth of the water increases to ankle-deep water, then moving another 1700 feet it increases to knee-deep water. Once they move out another 1700 feet it becomes waist deep. But after the next 1700 feet, the water was too deep to walk through, one would have to swim. This water represented the work and life of the Holy Spirit.

As I listened to Tony Evans, I realized on a personal level I could chart the waters of the the Holy Spirit in my own spiritual walk. In my early childhood days of hearing the Bible stories in Sunday School, a trickle is all I received. Granted, as very young girl, I would not have been able to swim in the deep spiritual waters. As I grew and I learned more about Jesus, I accepted him as my Savior and the water rose a little more (ankle-deep). For several years I splashed around in his knee-deep waters at church and youth group, even venturing a little into the waist deep waters of God’s word. But then in my late teen years I refused to go near the water. I believed the lies of Satan that I didn’t need that water anymore. For over fifteen years my soul was as dry as the acreage in the California wildfires.               

Then one day my younger sister who lived in another city told me about a Bible study she was participating in that had groups meeting all around the world. She encouraged me to find out if there was a group in my area and I did. The first day I attended is when I put my toes back in the water!

This particular Bible study was not for those who needed floaties to get in the water! It was for the serious swimmer. We had daily homework in which we not only delved into God’s word, but learned how to apply it. My enthusiasm led me from ankle-deep water to water over my head in a matter of months, and I have been lap swimming in God’s word for over twenty years now. 

But there is more to Tony Evans’ message than just the developing of a personal relationship with the Lord. God wants more from us than just swimming in the word for our own spiritual revitalization. In Ezekiel’s vision, he was asked by his guide, “Son of man, do you see this?” It’s like God was saying, “Don’t you get it? I’m so glad you are enjoying my word, but it’s there for others, too. I want you to send it out to those who are the living dead.” God wants us to take his living waters, his Holy Spirit and the truth of His word to all those who are dead in their sins, lost. When we do this the those who were once spiritually dead will come alive!

This gradual flow of the living water in Ezekiel reminds me that God works in all of our lives in different ways and in different timing. I must be patient and let him do the work as others start their own spiritual water therapy. Some may take longer to move from ankle deep to knee-deep water than others. Some may get stuck in waist deep for awhile. That’s ok as long as there is forward progress. My job is to encourage them to stay afloat by trusting in God and his word. 

I may not know everything about God’s word or understand all the ways the Holy Spirit works, but I do know this. Jesus died for my sins and sent His Holy Spirit to keep me from drifting away from all that God has in store for me in this life and in the life to come with Him in heaven.

He will do the same for you.

All you have to do is get your toes wet!

Strip and Run (Part 2)

In the part 1 of this post we discovered there is a solution to the problem of stripping off the burdensome weights of life and the sin that easily trips us up. Hebrews 12:2 tells us the answer is staying focused on Jesus. This is not easy in a fast paced world of distractions that avert our attention away from the only one who is the author and perfecter of faith. We have to be intentional in every area of life. From the time we wake up, until we fall asleep, we need to ask Jesus for his wisdom in every situation we face. If we want to know what he would do, we have to know him completely and the only way to do this is to study his life through his Word. Then listen for the Holy Spirit’s voice to speak his truth at just the right time. 

So how do we practically strip off the things that slow us down and the sins that trip us up and how do we keep running the race with endurance? As far as sins that trip us up, if we have God’s Holy Spirit living inside of us, He will convict us of our sins and we can confess and ask for his forgiveness, which he freely gives. But if we ignore him and don’t change, then He will discipline us because he loves us (Hebrews 12:6). So, he has given us the gift of choice. Keep on sinning and get tripped up (which usually means fall flat on your face and experience the humiliation and bruises) or listen to the voice of the Spirit and enjoy peace and right living God’s way (Hebrews 12:11). 

So, now let’s head over to the starting line and focus on how to run this race set before us with endurance. Remember we all are participants in the race of life, but each of us has a specific race set before us, whether it be a sprint, 5k or marathon.  If we are fortunate, we are running in a race we enjoy. But all too often, many of us are struggling in a race we wish we could cross the finish line yesterday or participate in a different race all together. 

The apostle Paul was a man who knew about different races in life, going from the race to destroying those who followed Jesus to actually joining and leading those in that exact race. He wrote a letter to the Philippian believers while sitting in a jail cell bound by chains, not the kind of race any of us would gladly choose. You would think that Paul would certainly have difficulty “running” the race set before him, but his temporary off course trek in prison did not stop him. He wrote to these saints (holy ones) in Christ Jesus to encourage them in their own race. He tells them how to have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had when he walked on this earth (Philippians 2:1-18). He wrote that they should be like-minded, having the same love (like that of Jesus), being one in spirit and of one mind. Then he gave practical ways to do this which includes the following:

1) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. (Notice it says nothing.) Be the “runner” who is not out to  prove he or she is the fastest or best, looking for fame and glory. All glory is for God alone.

2) In humility, value others above yourselves. (Yes, even the people you don’t like!) Be the ‘runner” who let’s a slower, less experienced “runner” or even the arrogant, prideful “runner” pass ahead of you.

3) Look to the interests of the others, not your own. (Again, even those you don’t really like!) Be the “runner” who takes time to help the slower, less experienced “runner.”

4) Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. (This does not say work for salvation!) This means agree with God who is working in you to give you the desire and the power to do what pleases him and to fulfill his good purpose. Be the “runner” who asks God for his will in the race, no matter if it means not winning.

5) Do everything without grumbling or arguing. (Everything!) Be the “runner” who accepts whatever happens in the race, knowing God is in control.

Did Paul’s word step on any of your toes? If so, that means the Spirit is nudging you of thoughts, words or actions that you may need to get rid of. But we don’t have to do these on our own. Jesus gives us the strength and the power to eliminate ungodly things from our lives. He’s the carb diet you need for energy. Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NLT). With Jesus you will never hit the wall. We may not be able to just quit our race (ex. walk out of our job at the present time) or know the outcome of our race (ex. know what God has planned for our future), but we can exchange our heavy burden for his rest by changing our attitude to be more like Christ’s. A rest that fills our hearts with peace and makes the race more enjoyable. 

All of these runner’s tips won’t work if you are not a believer in Christ. You’re on your own in the race, but you don’t have to be. Jesus is ready and waiting for you to get in the starter’s block with him. He loves you and came to earth for the purpose of taking on all of the sin of mankind so that we wouldn’t have to receive the punishment we all deserve, which is eternal life in a tormenting hell without God. He did this by giving up his life for us on a cross so that we could have eternal life in heaven with him. Yes, he did die, but he didn’t stay dead! He rose from the dead and went back to heaven to prepare a place for his children. He then sent his Spirit to live in his followers to help them run the race here on earth until they cross the finish line into heaven.

So, lace up your running shoes and follow Coach Jesus!

Build the Wall!

The torrential summer rain finally subsided while the water slowly receded into our backyard drainpipe. The red mud left on the front sidewalk was an added bonus that I wasn’t worried about. After all, it just needed to dry and then be swept away.  In just one hour, over three inches of rain had watered our patch of earth as well as the neighbor’s yard perched slightly uphill. The key word here is “uphill.” 

Before the raindrops tapered off, my son went out to rescue some of his drenched lacrosse equipment left in the back of his truck. Because the truck bed had quickly transformed into a kiddie pool, he decided to move his truck to a more level place on the street where the water could drain out. That’s when he noticed that just inches from his truck lay the rubble of our yard’s brick retaining wall. We’ve experienced downpours like this before, but never have we experienced the destruction of rushing water on our own property. Never underestimate the force of moving water! 

I’m not sure who constructed the three-foot high retaining wall that extended over eighty feet, but it was on the property twenty-eight years ago when we purchased our home. It has served its purpose well. After the shock and amazement of what rapid running water can do wore off, I called the insurance company. No coverage! We don’t live in a flood zone, therefore, we don’t have flood insurance, and besides, this was caused by soil erosion. According to the insurance policy, rainwater, the root cause of the erosion, is not a consideration.  

Once I learned we were on our own with this mess, anger and despair set in. Satan began filling my mind with lies such as “You will never get ahead financially.” Thankfully, my sister set me straight on that line of thinking, reminding me that I know better. Yes, I do know better. God has blessed us with so much more than most people, especially during this time of the COVID19 pandemic. So, when my husband saw the damage and reacted the same way, I too reminded him that this was not the way God wants us to respond. When unexpected expenses arise, it’s an opportunity to let God amaze us rather than a reason to complain. After all, we have a roof over our heads, food in the pantry and clothes in the closet. And furthermore, God has seen to it that my husband has kept his job while so many are being added to the unemployed list daily.

The pile of bricks in our yard reminded me of the story of Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem rebuilding the wall around their city. Although our wall was only for prevention of soil erosion and not for protection from enemies, Nehemiah’s responses and actions leading this project give me hope and encouragement for our small repair job. 

Nehemiah, a Jew who was the cupbearer to the King of Persia, found out about the condition of the walls and city of Jerusalem, and although he didn’t live in Jerusalem, it grieved him to the point of weeping. He fasted and prayed to the Lord about taking on the task of rebuilding this city. With the King’s favor and more importantly the Lord’s, he set out to do just that.

With all this favor, it would seem that Nehemiah would get right to work with no problems thwarting this project. But, not so fast! There were three men who originated from foreign nations who ridiculed and mocked him, trying to start a political battle. Nehemiah did not let them get to him and responded with “The God of Heaven will give us success.” This only made the three men angry and they began to insult the workers. But their criticism wasn’t enough, so they plotted together with others to fight against the Jews and eventually kill them. Their enemies were relentless, yet the workers kept on working and Nehemiah kept on encouraging them. He told them, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your families.” After this the builders themselves began carrying weapons as they worked along side those who were guarding them. Nehemiah reminded the people that God would fight for them and He did. The wall was completely repaired in only fifty-two days.

Just as Nehemiah had visible enemies trying to stop him from accomplishing God’s plans, we have an unseen enemy, Satan, who wants to stop us from living out God’s purposes for our lives. You may think repairing a suburban retaining wall is not a big deal compared to a city wall, but God is interested in every area of our lives, no matter how insignificant they may seem. I have to remind myself daily that God is on His throne and in control and when I take my problems to him, he will make a way just as he did for Nehemiah.  When we are in what seems like impossible situations, we must call on God to do the supernatural. Satan is relentless, but remember what John wrote, “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Build that Wall!

Strip and Run!

No, this is not about streaking in which a person strips down to their birthday suit and runs out in public. Nor is it about the tv show “Naked and Afraid,” but I got your attention! This is a little bit of encouragement from God’s word for all of those struggling with work issues and/or questioning your place in life.

The author of the book of Hebrews tells us to “Strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up and to run with endurance the race that God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1-NLT).

You may ask, how exactly am I supposed to “strip off” every weight that slows me down when the very burden is a something or someone I can’t escape (Ex. A job that I have to keep to provide for my family or pay my bills or a person in my family)? How do I know exactly what the sins are that easily trip me up? And, how exactly do I run a race with endurance when I hate the race I’m in or don’t even know which race I’m in?

The next verse tells us how.

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:2, NLT).

It doesn’t say, “Keep your eyes on the clock for the minute you can clock out and have a drink, play a video game or other form of relaxation waiting at the end of the day.”

It also doesn’t say, “Keep you eyes on the calendar counting the days til the weekend or next vacation or even the day of retirement.”

What is does say is, “keep your eyes on Jesus.” That means staying super focused on the only one who showed us how to live the life God created us to live.

To be Continued….

Encouragement for Empty-nesters Whose Adult Children Return to the Nest

Jesus told a paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven, before he told him to take up his mat and walk (Matthew 9:1-8). If your adult children appear to be paralyzed in various ways, (keeping bedroom and bathroom tidy and putting your things in their proper place, ie dirty dishes in the dishwasher), remember that your forgiveness goes a long way towards keeping the relationship steady. One day, hopefully soon, you can say “take up your mat and walk right back to your own place.” But until that day, enjoy them and realize that at least they wanted to come back home. And by the way, this old adage is not in the Bible- “cleanliness is next to godliness.”

 

Subtle Enemy

It started out like any other Spring morning, me on the sofa with my coffee, iPad and prayer journal, and Josie my loyal Boykin Spaniel curled up on the floor next to me. Just as I was asking the Lord to help me be a servant for him and seek his kingdom first, an intruder buzzed in. Yes, I said “buzzed.” Josie noticed the nuisance first and sprang up towards the sound at the fireplace.  Seeing nothing but hearing something, I just assumed that a bee had made its way down the chimney and now was frantically trying to enter the house through the shut glass doors on the fireplace. I was not worried, but Josie wouldn’t relax.

Within seconds the sound appeared louder and we both saw the huge hornet swoop down into our space.  How dare it interrupt our quiet time! This was no trapped bee! Jumping into action with unusually quick speed for that time of day, I ran to open the kitchen back door and grabbed the broom out of the pantry. I wasn’t going to kill it, just guide it to the open air so that it could escape. But it didn’t want my help. I gently swatted at it with the hopes of it sensing that fresh air was just around the corner. Just when I thought I had it moving in the right direction, it changed course and made a beeline (yes, I used that word!) towards me. It all happened so fast and this intruder was determined to hit my face! As it reached its target, I screamed and collided with the loveseat, crashing onto the bare hardwood floor. I was bruised, but not knocked out! Sometimes I surprise myself with how quick I can move!  My fear had quickly morphed into anger!  This winged trespasser had interrupted my quiet time with Jesus! As it buzzed around the room, I dashed to the garage for my new, deadly weapon-a full can of wasp spray.

It. Was. Going. Down!

The den was eerily silent when I returned.  But I was no fool. I checked behind the window blinds, not there.  I looked out on the screened porch to see if it finally got wise and left the house, not there. Walking back into the den, I spotted it settled on the back of the sofa right behind the cushion where I had been sitting. Its bulging eyes were staring right at me! My immediate thought was “it’s Satan incarnate!” I did not hesitate to start spraying the poison, but it had one last bit of strength and flew towards the windows. It landed on the wooden floor flailing about as it tried to muster enough strength for one more flight.  Just for good measure, I unleashed my foaming firearm again until it was completely still.

To protect my dog from the poison and to make sure the enemy would not somehow resurrect, I covered it with a two-gallon bucket and a footstool.  I left it there as proof for my husband to see that I had had an eventful morning!

As I returned to the sofa, I could not get those huge, beady eyes out of my mind. I knew at that moment that Satan or one of his many demons had entered my space to distract me from spending time with Jesus. Satan will use anything to keep that from happening, and yet he can’t even come up with his own tools. Did you know that God used hornets as terror to destroy some of the nations living in the Promised Land so that his people, the Israelites, could move in? He even told the Israelites he would send the hornets (Exodus 23:28, Deut. 7:20, Joshua 24:12). Satan is such a copy cat!

Satan would do whatever it took to distract me from this vital part of my day. Satan wants us so busy (fighting flying insects) that we won’t have time to get alone with God. If we are God’s child through faith in Jesus Christ, Satan cannot change that relationship, but he will certainly do all that he can to make us ineffective for God’s kingdom. How do I know this?  Jesus promised that no one is able to snatch his sheep out of the Father’s hand and that he and the Father are one. His sheep are his followers; those that God the Father has given to Jesus his son. Jesus also reminded us that the Father is greater than all and that most certainly includes Satan (John 10:29-30)! Although Satan cannot take believers out of God’s hands, he is scheming to distract us because he does not want any of Jesus’ followers to be productive for God’s kingdom. This is one of Satan’s most successful MO’s. Even now as I write this, I am distracted by the dinging notifications on my laptop, the slamming of the neighbors’ car doors and the chiming of my phone timer reminding me to shut off the yard sprinkler. My husband lovingly reminded me this morning that ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) doesn’t come from just his side of the family. In my opinion, Satan is the author of ADD. Lord, help us all!

Distractions are just part of Satan’s plan to keep God’s children off the right path. He has other ungodly tactics such as bringing trouble and persecution, filling our minds with worries of the world, pushing us to seek pleasure through the world’s ways, and deceiving us with dreams of wealth. He even uses good things like family and friends. We must stay in communion with God’s Spirit and meditate on His word to know the difference between God’s plans and Satan’s schemes.

Looking back now I notice how the hornet didn’t just attack me as soon as it entered the room. Its approach was very subtle, with just a low hum at first, then a buzz with whirring activity and eventually moving in for the kill. Satan’s approach can be a lot like this flying insect. His ways are subtle, hoping we will question and doubt God. He did this with Eve in the garden when he slithered up and said, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1b). His goal was to make Eve doubt that God was truthful and wanted the best for her. Satan has not changed! He wants us to doubt God’s love for us and question what He said.

In my battle with the hornet, my first offensive weapon was a broom! I thought if I gently led it in the right direction, it would leave the house. Satan will not leave us alone if we just nicely ask him to leave.  First, we must wield the best offensive weapon we have, God’s word, at our enemy. Jesus did this when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).  He knew that Satan could not handle the truth of God’s word. It only took three sentences from God’s word to make the devil quit tempting Jesus and leave!

And do not be mistaken, Satan knows God’s word, but he will twist it to suit his desires. There’s a great deal of that going on in the world today and it is no surprise to God. He told us through Paul’s second letter to Timothy that “a time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).” When we slowly change God’s word to fit our present sinful circumstances, we are listening to the subtle lies of Satan, the father of lies.  Beware, Satan has a plan! But be encouraged because “greater is He who is in you (God’s Holy Spirit) than he who is in the world (Satan)” (1 John 4:4 NASB).

The next thing we must do to watch Satan retreat is to submit to God. We submit to God when we draw near to Him, cleanse our sinful hands and purify our double-minded hearts.  This means we must confess our sins to God, ask for His forgiveness and change our hearts to a single mindedness, focusing solely on the Lord. This is not always easy, but God’s word promises when we do this and resist the devil he will flee. Another great promise is if we humble ourselves in the presence of the Lord, he will exalt us (James 4:7-10). Satan does not want that to happen, so he will press even harder on anyone who submits to the Lord. Another way to make the devil scram is to put on some praise and worship music and join in!

While trying to guide the hornet toward the outside door, I became fearful the closer it got to me. This resulted in screams and a bruise-producing fall to the floor. When I try to fight Satan with my own ideas and my own strength, fear will get the best of me and I will come crashing down. I must rely solely on the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Israelites were being taunted by their enemies during the rebuilding of the temple, the Lord Almighty spoke to the leader Zerubbabel through the prophet Zechariah saying, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). He encouraged him with truth that God’s Spirit would defeat the enemies and the temple would be rebuilt.

So, just how did that hornet get into my house in the first place?  The fireplace doors were closed, but the porch door which stays open a great deal of time during the warmer months was an open invitation to all types of uninvited winged creatures. Every time I allow my eyes to watch or read ungodly things, my ears to listen to ungodly music or speech, I am basically leaving the door open for Satan to enter into my world. The truth is that we live in a fallen world where Satan is still trying hard to stop God’s plans, but this should not be an excuse to roll out the red carpet of our lives for him. Instead, let’s invite Jesus to rule our day before we get out of bed!

Another truth my hornet adventure reminded me was that there is one powerful weapon that has destroyed Satan for good. Just as the wasp spray brought on the demise of the scary hornet, Jesus’ death on the cross has eradicated Satan and death. When Jesus took all the sins of the world on himself on that tree, he said, “It is finished.” We may not understand why God is allowing Satan to roam the earth looking for someone to devour now that Jesus has paid for our sins, but we can rest assured that Satan is finished!

So, when he comes buzzing into your life, tell him that you aren’t afraid of him because he’s as good as dead. Tell him to go back to hell where he came from in Jesus name!