When I was a little kid, I loved to play pinball. If you look at a pinball machine, you will see it has the paddles at the bottom. Sometimes there are paddles up in different areas as well. There’s lots of noise. You shoot the ball up and the ball’s all over the place. It’s hard to really focus on where the ball is because your eyes have to go so fast. That is a lot like life.
We try to have time with God. We’ll sit and open up our Bibles. We’ll try hard. We will even listen to the Bible in the car as we are driving. While we are doing that, our cell phones are ringing. Horns are blowing. Things are happening. As a parent, I know I’ll sit down determined to read my Bible. Then I hear, “Mom, mom…” It could even be the dog barking or someone knocking at the door. Something is always going on.
In life we are standing there, and we keep on hearing all this noise. We are trying to keep our focus on God but it’s so hard. You keep on focusing everywhere else and you can’t focus where you need to focus.
I find that it’s important to take all the bells and whistles and put them all away, to take the cell phone and put that aside. You need to have yourself a special area, a special time, a special something where you can be alone with God– where you can read His Word and where you can pray. We need to be able to be alone and meditate and allow the Spirit to speak to us about what we are praying for and what we are reading. It’s hard to do that with all of the bells and whistles in the world. When we are listening to others… When we have full schedules and so m any activities that we don’t have that peace. Only Jesus can give us that peace and if we don’t have the time to take to listen and to have that peace, then we are never going to get it.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, it says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Verse 21-22 says, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” It’s very important to not quench the Spirit and if we are not allowing the Spirit to be heard because everything else is bouncing around in life and we have all the bells and whistles and the board is almost on tilt, it gets to be a little hectic. We get overloaded and the board tilts and we have to wonder: is it tilting because of everything that is going on or is it because of God? Sometimes it can be from outside influences and sometimes it can be God.
The problem is we keep on pushing the buttons rather than lifting our hands and removing them from the paddles. We need to find out if it’s tilting because God wants us to go in a certain direction or if it is ourselves or others making the board tilt. Removing the bells and whistles is how we effectively listen. We need to hear what God is actually saying. In the end it is all about who is controlling the pinball machine. Is it you? Is it the outside people? Or is it God?
I like to drink a lot. I need to drink a lot. I am a person who talks a lot so I always need to have a bottle of water with me so that my throat doesn’t get dry. When I went to leave the house this morning, I had to ask myself if I had a bottle of water in the car. I thought I remembered seeing one there, and so I left. When I was mid route, I realized that the bottle was empty. I was thirsty, but the bottle had nothing in it.
The bottle gave me a false impression that it would provide water. It reminds me of Mark 11 and when Jesus cursed the fig tree. The fig tree had leaves and so it gave this false impression that it would provide fruit.
We too need to be careful with false impressions that we see everywhere in our lives. We see people on the Internet and in our daily lives who say that they know Christ and say that they are Christians. Sometimes their game plan is filled with hate, judgment, and cruelty.
Matthew 7:15 says, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” There are going to be a lot of people who approach us with sheep’s clothing, and sadly we are going to believe what they say. This is where it’s important to read God’s Word and to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
When we hear teachings, and when we hear people talking about certain things, we need to be like the Bereans. They studied everything and looked to see if what the person was saying is what was in God’s Word. Because, if it’s not in God’s Word, it’s not the Truth.
One thing that I always take notice to is my dog Max. He doesn’t let me stop knowing that he’s around, because he’s right here, right now. Everywhere I go, he follow me around. The thing about dogs is that they love you so much and they just aim to please. If I start to walk toward the door, there he is giving me the eyes hoping that I will take him with me for a car ride. He doesn’t even care where I am going, simply that he is with me. He just wants to be a part of my life.
God wants to be a part of our lives too. He’s with us wherever we go. He will meet us wherever we are at, just like the dog will meet us wherever we are at. It doesn’t matter if we are going through a tough time in our life. Even if we forgot to read our Bible and have neglected to make the right choices, there He is with us. It’s that kind of love — that constant being there– it shows how much God loves us.
Most know John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Can you imagine loving someone so much to give that ultimate sacrifice? I think of my dog when I come home after I left him, and how he looks at me with his cute brown eyes and wags his tail– he is so happy to see me. He doesn’t care about all those hours that I was away. He’s just so excited that I’m with him. That’s all he wants is for me to be with him.
That’s what God wants too. God gets so excited when you spend time with Him, when you take Him with you wherever you go, when you read His Word. Just like that dog who comes running to the door when the key is put in the door and you start turning it, and the dog jumps up to lick you in the face. In the same way, there’s rejoicing when you spend time with God and take that moment.
I don’t think we realize sometimes how much God loves us. I don’t think we understand that whenever we are turning the key (opening the Bible), how excited He is that we are inviting Him into our lives. He gave us our lives. All He asks is to be a part of it. That’s it. It sounds very easy but everyone makes it so hard. It’s not about a bunch of laws. It’s not about what this person or that person says. It’s simply about what God says. It’s actually not so difficult because He left us the great Comforter who can help us figure it out. It’s all about turning the key. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
Last night I was giving my son some medicine and it was really interesting. I handed him the cup. He looked at it for a bit. Then he asked me what was in the cup. I informed him that it as medicine for his cough and stuffy nose. Then he took the medicine.
It reminded me of when Jesus was in the Garden praying. In Luke 22:42, Jesus said, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Yet not My will, but Your will be done.” It just reminded me of when we are handed cups in life. Perhaps God does not hand us the same cup that Jesus was dealt, but we are still handed cups.
God has a purpose for our lives and when we decide to ignore that, and we think we know something better…. When we read His Word and we decide we are going to disregard it… It’s sort of like we are refusing the cup over and over again.
Pretty much, you’re handed the cup and you look at it….
“What’s this going to do to me? I don’t know if I like it. Do I really want to do that? I don’t know.”
Then you find something else, and say that it is better than His plan. Even when your plan is falling apart, you still think that your plan has a chance.
God says, “Here’s the cup.” You think your friends or family know better.
God says, “Here’s the cup.” You don’t think it looks good. There has to be something better out there for you.
Sometimes, God says, “Here’s the cup.” You then partake but you want more. You are not satisfied.
When we are in obedience with God, it’s not a one time thing where we accept Jesus and then we are finished. Every day we need to be submitting. Our lives are like a puzzle in a box, with all of those many pieces. We are not submitting every piece of our life to God. Sometimes we hand Him our leftovers. We like to hold back pieces. Every day is a new day where we must submit each and every piece.
What we need to do is to be in full obedience and accept God’s will for our lives. It’s hard and it’s something that we must do daily, but there’s no better way!
“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” – Luke 22:42 [NLT]
I took my children for a walk today and came upon a goose with a broken wing. All the other geese were separated from this one goose, taking residence in the distance. This one goose was all alone, a prisoner so it seemed. Like our sins weigh us down, so this goose was stuck, unable to fly.
I continued walking around the lake and when I finished my stroll for the day, I came upon that goose once again. To my surprise, he had walked all the way from the one side of the park to the other. He was about to attempt entering the lake so he could rejoin his fellow geese.
When he walked across the ice that had formed upon the top layer of the lake, the ice cracked just enough and he fell through into the water. He was stuck, surrounded by ice. I stood by watching his struggle, hoping that he would overcome this sudden obstacle. It took numerous tries and many pauses in between, but the goose was able to rejoin the others. He was no longer a slave.
This goose reminded me of the common belief that was held in the past, that illness was due to sin. Job’s friends were very quick to point the finger. This goose was separated just like we sometimes separate from our fellow man when they need us most. Rather than being supportive, we point fingers. Rather than joining together to help, we turn and abandon. Even worse, at times we add to the burden.
But God has better plans. He did not allow Job’s friends to have the final answer. He also did not sit by and allow us to stay stuck in the ice, unable to move from our sin. We were separated, but He provided a bridge. We were slaves to our sins, but He has set us free.
That goose did not deserve to be abandoned by his fellow geese. No human deserves to be abandoned or mistreated by another. God has set us free. Galatians 5:1 states: “Christ has liberated us into freedom. Therefore stand firm and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery” (HCSB). We are free thanks to the blood of Christ.
When a fellow man is struggling, we must remember that Paul left us an important message: “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). We need not abandon. We need not mistreat, “but through love serve one another” (5:13b NASB). Each one of us has been that goose with the broken wing. Let us serve each other in love!
Like everyone, Peter made a heap of mistakes while following Christ. The denial of Christ was something he refused to accept would happen; however, he was left weeping afterward, knowing the depth of his failure. Even so, Peter did not sink down and allow this failure to stop him from pressing forward with the Great Commission Jesus left with the disciples. In the first chapter of Acts we are able to see that Peter got right back up on the horse and began to lead as was his purpose.
In Acts 1:15-26, Peter stood before the remaining Twelve and proposed the need to fill the position of Judas. This concept was not something he devised from his own thinking, but rather, he knew that the vacant spot must be replaced for the Scripture to be fulfilled. He didn’t allow his failures from the past to stand in the way from the plan God had for his life.
I believe that this example of Peter and his willingness to answer the call is something that we should all model in life. Like Peter, we all will make mistakes and be undeserving of the grace we receive from God. Nonetheless, we cannot allow our imperfections to thwart the plan that God has for our lives. By His grace and mercy we are able to stand no longer condemned. Peter constantly reminds me of the need to press forward and not allow anything, including our shortcomings, get in the way of God’s plan.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 3:12-14 [NIV]