Today I took a walk and the lake I walk by was frozen. What was interesting was the fact that you could see all the garbage, all the trash that had floated to the top of the lake was all standing out. The first thing you would see was the garbage; it stuck out like a sore thumb. It reminds me of how when we sin, a lot of the times that sticks out like garbage too. When we are Christians, people think we can’t do this and we can’t do that. Even so, Christians aren’t perfect and we slip up here and there. That’s what everyone sees all the time. They always see those slip ups. They always see when you do something wrong– when you let a naughty word slip out of your mouth, when at a moment of weakness you start gossiping, when you get in danger of bragging about something, or when you get jealous. There are so many different things and it’s so easy to fall into sin. I am not making an excuse for it, but we all do it and it sticks out.
The thing is with that trash, it was there before. Some of it you could see and some you could not see. Now that the lake is frozen, you cannot get it out. It’s stuck until the ice melts. It’s a long process for it to melt so we must wait. In the same way, we are a work in progress. When you accept Christ, don’t expect the next day you are not going to be sinning at all and you’re going to be the perfect little thing. Romans 3:23 states that we all fall short. We all sin. We all fall short. That’s not something that anyone can argue. We can pretend, but no one is perfect. Verse 24 states that it is by His grace alone that we are justified.
After we accept Christ and we allow Him to chip away at the things that need fixed in our lives and we allow Him to move in our lives and do wonderful things and we transform and we stick to reading the Word and doing the Word, it ends up that there are not so many things floating on top of the water. Perhaps we all have some things that are frozen on the top right now that we are working on. There is great hope in knowing that God loves us anyway and He is right here with us trying to help us to get all of that stuff fixed in our lives, to repair the brokenness.
God is working in our lives as the ice is slowly melting. He is there right with us. He doesn’t turn His back and say He is done dealing with all of our garbage. He sticks there right with us. It’s a long process. If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time. There is no greater time than the present to allow God to help you with the trash in your life. He’s willing to help, it’s just a matter of will you have Him or not. There’s no way to get rid of the trash without God.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:23-24 [NASB]
Today I took a walk and it was really foggy outside. The funny thing about fog is that when you are walking through the fog, you cannot see ahead of you, and you cannot see behind you either. If you turn around to look where you just came from, you cannot see anything except for right where you are at– you can only focus on the present. It reminds me about how we are supposed to focus our attention on the present.
If we focus so much on the past, we are taking our focus off of God, because God is in the here and now. God is in the present, right now, with us, working, clearing the path, preparing us, by our side– He is with us! If we are trying to focus on the past… oh I wish I could have done that better…oh I wish I never did this… why did I do that… how did this happen… you feel so much of a failure and you focus so much attention on the past that you are not allowing your focus to be on God and right now so that good things can happen… so that you can focus on your purpose for now and move ahead.
In the same sense you cannot focus on the future. It’s okay to have a vision. It’s okay to plan things out. It’s not okay when you start becoming afraid of what is going to happen. If you start focusing too much attention on the future of all the great things that are going to happen, as well, you take your focus off of God.
C.S. Lewis has a book called “the Screwtape Letters.” Letter 15 talks about the danger of focusing on the past, because God’s not there, and focusing on the future. The future he says, inflames fear and hope. The past is “frozen and no longer flows.” The present, he says, “is all lit up with eternal rays.” Gratitude looks to the past. Love looks to the present. Fear, lust, and ambition looks to the future. As Matthew 6:34 states, we need to not worry about tomorrow because today has enough worries.
God gives us all we need to handle today. We just need to be focused on today to see that. It’s okay to have plans. It’s good to have a vision for your life. We cannot get so involved about what happened in the past (because God has already forgiven us for that) that we don’t focus on the here and now. You cannot get so involved in what God is going to do with you in the future, because you won’t listen then to what He is saying right now. Jeremiah 29:11 gave us the promise. He wants us to have hope and He wants us to have a future.
We need to focus on right now, today, and listen to what He is saying. There are times when we are not going to hear things. There are times when we won’t get the answer we want. If you are confused right now about which direction you are to take in life… if you have decisions you need to make and you prayed about it and you don’t think you’ve gotten enough answers on which way to go, but you know you need to go in a certain direction… it’s okay to take a step forward. God is with you. If it’s the wrong step, you’ll know. You’ll find out. It’s okay to make mistakes. God uses those mistakes to teach us some important lessons.
Don’t focus on the fog in your life. Don’t focus on the past. It’s okay to learn from your mistakes and it’s okay to grow from your mistakes, but don’t focus on the past. At the same time, don’t focus on the future. It’s okay to have a vision for your life. It’s okay to have hopes and dreams, but understand that God is in the present- He’s in the here and now and He’s working with you to get to the future. It’s all about your eternal life, not just about this one moment. And so you need to focus on the present, and in the end, no matter what, God is always with you.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
– Matthew 6:34 [NIV]
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
– Jeremiah 29:11 [ESV]
This morning I headed out to take the dog for a walk. Now I knew that the weather was not looking so good; there was a chance for rain. My luck is always something else. I drive halfway there and it starts to rain. I look around and say, “No! What do you mean? It can’t rain. I’m almost there.” Gas prices are pretty high so I decided to keep going in hopes that the rain would stop, that it was just a passing storm. Nothing big. No worries.
I got there and the rain continued. I decided that I needed fresh air and the dog needed a walk, so I was just going to get out and take a walk anyway, and walk through the storm. Now I had an umbrella. I was very lucky to have that umbrella so I didn’t get too wet.
What I was thinking about was how we often are going through these storms in life. We like to complain. We like to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves and we sometimes don’t say thank you to God, because we are in these storms of life and it’s like “uh, can it get any worse.” We don’t thank God because we are not liking how things are at the current moment, but yet it could get worse. Now there are people who have something bad happening in their lives and I’ll hear them say, “It can’t get any worse then this.” I say, “Watch your mouth, because it could get worse than that.” I think that we at times don’t realize how well we have things and when things dampen our situation we forget that we are blessed with an umbrella.
For me, I was okay with walking in the rain because I had my umbrella and I was not walking alone. We are not walking alone when we are in our storm in life. We have God there with us. I think whenever we go and do our little “oh pity poor me, when are things going to get better,” when we do that, when we complain, and when we moan and grumble about things that might not be that important and we fail to give God praise, what ends up happening is we are not thanking God for the blessings we do have. We pretty much sound like spoiled little brats.
Psalm 63:4 tells us something I think is very important. It says, “I will praise You as long as I live, lifting up my hands to You in prayer.” I will praise You as long as I live. It doesn’t say I will praise You when things are going good but when things are going bad You need to step back. It doesn’t say that. It says, “I will praise You as long as I live. I will praise You as long as I live.” Through the good, through the bad. When it’s raining, when it’s nice out. No matter what. When you have fifty dollars in your wallet, or a million dollars in your wallet, or you don’t even have a wallet. I will praise You.
When things aren’t going well at work. When you are having problems with your spouse. When you are having arguments with your family. When you wanted to go here for dinner and they wanted to go there and you got outvoted. No matter what– I will praise You. I think that is something that if we know that and if we do that and we follow that– if we give praise to God every day. If you wake up and say, “thank You God for this day.” For this time. For this opportunity. For my life. For this roof over my head. For whatever it is that you have to be grateful for. If you thank Him for that and you acknowledge that it is all His then you will actually have a much happier life because you will see the blessings He has given to you. Sometimes we have to be reminded of that.
What I think this walking through the storm is all about is making sure that we don’t limit God — that we give our things to Him when we have a storm. And that we still praise Him during the storm, because there is going to be many storms. We were promised there were going to be many storms. Life has ups and downs but in the end, no matter what, God is the same God and He will be with you right by your side. Always. Forever.
When I was a little girl, I remember when I went to the mall with my grandmother, my mother, and my sister. When we were about ready to leave, we had a few things we wanted to look at yet. My mother and grandmother wanted to go and do their own thing. I was still pretty young, but I was old enough to know better. They told me when I was finished purchasing an item, to meet at this certain place and they were going to do what they had to do and then they were going to meet me there.
I had different plans. I said I was old enough to meet them out at the car, that I could walk out to the car by myself and everything would be fine. My grandmother and my mother said absolutely not, that they would meet me at the spot and that was it. So I finished making the purchase that I needed to make and I decided I was going to go out to the car. I was gonna show them, because I could get out to the car by myself.
I was out by the car. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. No one was coming. My grandmother and mother in the meantime were frantically searching for me, with my sister, dragging her around everywhere looking for me and wondering where I was. I was lost they thought. It took a long time before finally they came out to the parking lot and they found me. I got in trouble of course. I should have gotten in trouble because I didn’t listen.
It reminds me of how we sometimes don’t listen and we all at one point or another were lost. I was thinking back to Luke 15, where you can find the lost sheep and lost coin parables, and how the coin and sheep were valuable. We are very valuable to God. He doesn’t want any of us to not be with Him. Just to imagine ninety-nine sheep and one gets away. He goes after that one. Each of us are that one at one point or another. We are all thought of as an only child. To imagine that kind of love.
A lot of people think love is emotion. The word love is about action. That is how God loves us. He comes and He gets His lost sheep. He is with you through it all. He doesn’t leave you. He shows His love. The way He shows His love was to send His Son to redeem you and to redeem me. That’s action- that’s what love is all about. We are asked to love one another, to serve one another, and the love that we are to have is a love filled with action.
Read Luke 15
Over the holidays many people have purchased smart phones. When I first began using my smart phone, I wondered how smart I had to be to use the phone. It turned out that I wasn’t having problems understanding how to use the Internet on my phone, but rather, the customer service representative put the wrong plan code on my account which was causing problems with my service. When that was fixed, the road has since been smooth.
I never really wanted a smart phone. I thought the idea of touching a screen was insane. I always tell my kids to not touch the computer monitor or the television because it causes smudges and here I was with a phone that was about to get smudged up every time I touched it, despite how many times I washed my hands. The oil from our hands always seems to leave its mark.
The other day I placed my phone on the charger and when I returned I noticed a very interesting smudge. I saw the cross. I thought it was interesting how clear it was on the phone. Now please don’t start to think I am going to continue on to tell you about Jesus’ image on toast. I know it was the oil from my hand that made the cross, and I know it was my phone usage that caused it.
The fact is that I make the shape of a cross all the time on my phone. Most do not do that. I watched numerous people, and they do a tap system with smaller swipes. Nonetheless, it matters not how I was doing it differently, but that there was this continuous checking. A vertical swipe to see if there were any notifications. A horizontal swipe to maneuver through the screens. Back and forth.
At the end of all that seeking, I had the cross. This coincides with my point, which is that it is the cross that gave us the opportunity to seek God, and yet I wasn’t making the cross on my phone to seek God. I was looking for other things. I wasn’t taking things to God. I was sending text messages and chatting on Facebook.
After a moment, I thought of how we too often do not take things to God. We are always seeking our own solutions. We have our vertical swipe to see if possibly we can fix it on our own. We have our horizontal swipe to see if a friend can give us the answer. We have problems with looking to God. Even when we know that He is bigger than any problem, we don’t take it to Him. Sometimes when we do take it to Him, we have our own agenda and when we start to hear His, we switch screens with another swipe.
When Christ was on the cross, He thought of you and He thought of me. He made sure that His number was entered into our SIM card. We were not forced to place a call or send a message, but the door was there to open at any time. The door is still there. When we stop swiping and start looking, we can see it. When we turn off the ringer to our phone and allow the Spirit to guide us, there will surely be no desire to swipe away. Our burden will be lifted. No matter how big a problem, we know we have victory with Christ!
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God” [Philippians 4:6 NASB]
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” [1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV].
I recently went to McDonald’s to pick up some coffee. I decided to give the person exact change when I was paying for my order. To my surprise, the man behind the counter was fumbling around to get me change. I thought it was a simple process to gather a few bills; however, he looked a bit confused. He was asking a co-worker for more coins. Time passed by and still I did not get my change.
After more time had passed, the young man began to hand me change. He handed me ninety-nine cents in coins and began to hand me some bills. I stopped him immediately, because I knew there was an error in that I gave him exact change. It turned out that the young man entered the wrong figure into the cash register and was therefore told the wrong amount to give back. He never thought for a moment that the answer was wrong, for his faithful machine always did the math perfectly.
There are people who do the same thing with God’s Word. They approach His Word seeking for something that will approve of their ideals. They text proof Scripture simply to make themselves look right. They don’t have an input method that is correct, and so they get an answer that is wrong.
Just like we must put the right figure into the cash register if we expect to get the right answer, so we must also approach God’s Word with the right heart. We must seek the Holy Spirit for guidance and we need to understand that God’s Word does not change. God does not change. His Word does not change. It is the same for everyone.
Approach the Bible not seeking to get 99 cents back. Approach His Word for the truth, for 100% of God’s truth!
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” – 2 Timothy 3:16 [NASB]
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” – Isaiah 40:8 [NIV]
“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.” – Deuteronomy 4:2 [ESV]
Since I am taking classes, I don’t often get the chance to sit down with my children and watch movies very often. With school on break, I had a moment to watch the Smurfs movie with them. At the start of the movie, I began to think back to when I was their age watching the Smurfs. As I listened to the beginning of the movie, my attention was immediately captured.
I never realized how educational the Smurfs were when I was a child, but there was a very important point made fairly early in the movie. The narrator of the film was discussing how each Smurf had a different name which defined the role that they had within the community of Smurfs. He spoke about how it was important for each one to have a different role for harmony within the Smurf society.
Like the Smurfs, we have roles to fulfill in society. We each have been given various gifts for which to use for the benefit of the Kingdom. Some people may be great teachers. Some of us are good at serving others. There are people given the gift to minister. We all have spiritual gifts. The big issue is how we use these gifts and how we work together in our society.
The Bible says that we are part of one body. We each have a purpose. Romans 13:4-5a states: “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly” (NASB). Therefore, we should be using our gifts wisely, and we should also be respecting the gifts of others. We each play our part.
If not sure of the gifts you have, evaluate your life. What are you good at? What seems to be your specialty? Ask someone close to you. If you know what your gifts are, are you putting them to use? Is there a better way to use them? If you know someone who is not using their gifts, find a way to encourage them and provide positive guidance. There are times when people do not recognize their talents or they simply need a little push.
The Smurfs names suited the role they had in society, but one of the main characters, Clumsy, wanted a new role, which meant a new name. He wanted to be a hero. This transformation of Clumsy is something we each go through as children of God. Names have important meanings. There are so many name changes that can be found in the Bible (ex: Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel). These new names were given because there was a transformation and an important role for the individual. As Isaiah 62 states, the Lord will give each of us a new name.
Like the Smurfs, we must do our best to live in harmony with our fellow Christians. We are to build up, not break down. We are to use our talents to the best of our ability for the purpose that God intended. We also can find great encouragement and joy in knowing that we are part of the body of Christ and that with His mouth He will give us a new name.
As winter comes through our area, the water is beginning to freeze into ice. It is always an unpleasant sight for me, because I’m not too fond of winter. However, with this change, I understand that the ice will thaw in the springtime and once again the water will flow.
The funny thing about water is that there is this constant changing occurring all of the time. The water changes direction. The water changes temperature. The water gets dirty. The water gets purified. The water freezes. I think you get the point.
We are a lot like water. We often change directions and we often have temperature changes. We can look at that as changes in our actual numerical temperature or as our mood changes.
One thing for certain is that God does not change; however, He wants us to change. He made each one of us with a special purpose, and He is by our side to help us each reach that goal. We are challenged to change direction, and we are encouraged to get purified.
Perhaps we will have moments when it seems like we are frozen as ice, like we are stuck in a present situation. Remember, the ice eventually changes as God’s creation works around the ice to melt it back to water. A present situation is just that, a present situation. Nothing stays the same except for God. Keep pressing forward and watch as God melts the ice in your life.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” -Jeremiah 29:11 [NIV]
When we accept Christ, we are given a pair of new shoes. Whenever we have new shoes, we never like to walk in any muddy areas for fear we will get the new footwear dirty. With the new life He gives you, it is important to walk forward with God’s guidance, no matter how dirty the path, and share the message of Jesus. You cannot share the love of Christ without leaving the walls of the church and heading out into the world. So get your feet dirty– as Christ said, it’s the inside that matters!
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16 [NASB]