Walking the dog can lead me to some disgusting finds. Yesterday we found a dead squirrel, today a dead bird. I cringed both times, and had to remove myself from the area quickly. I felt ill from the sight. Yet I have to be honest and admit that when I have seen human beings dead, I have been fine. The reason, I believe, is because I worked ten years in Long Term Care, seeing hundreds of people when their pulse ceased. It became such a normal sight and I was trained to work through it. I am not saying I had no feelings or that their lives were meaningless to me. I prayed for them. I shed tears for them. They were family to me. I am saying that I became conditioned to be able to accept the death of human beings and to be around those who were dead.
In society I see so many people that are conditioned to accept the things of this world. We are all part of that group. The Bible tells us that we are not of this world and that we are not to accept the things of this world. The Bible holds that we are to love people, but not love the things people do that are against God’s intention, His purpose, His design, His commands. Yet we have seen that society is slowly accepting the unacceptable. Friends have blamed the television and have claimed that they will not allow their children to watch any television programming. I ask them, what do you do when your child exits the bubble of your household and is in contact with the world? We are met with many challenges everywhere, with the world and its views pressing in on us.
To take a biblical worldview, one must dive into the Word and cling to everything that is Truth. One must seek the Holy Spirit for illumination, for strength, for guidance. One must see God with every situation, think like Jesus, and make a choice by what the Bible says. It is very difficult. It’s not something that we always do correctly. Honestly, we are lucky when we can sometimes get it right. For it is so easy for us to accept what is around us and say that it will be okay. It is so much less work, less grief, less of a struggle to simply accept and embrace what the world accepts. We handle it as if we have been conditioned to accept it. We’ve seen it so much so it is not so bad. Not so bad. I love that phrase. To me, not so bad means that we have decided to give degrees to the depth of bad, to the levels of evil. Not so bad means there is some bad. Anything bad, is not good. Anything not good is not from God.
I pray that as you journey onward today, that you are able to focus on the good. I pray that when the world does its thing, that you stick with doing God’s thing, despite the problems that will arise when you go against the grain. We have a tough road ahead, but God has promised to be with us through it all, and we know we have victory through Christ. God has a perfect plan for each of our lives, and as we continue onward, allowing Him to direct our paths, we are blessed to see His perfect plan unfold in our lives.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
– Romans 12:2 [NLT]
The guy in front of my car was swerving all over the road. Someone might assume that the driver was drinking or sending a text message. But what he was doing was actually looking at what was behind him while he was moving forward. He demonstrated how hard it is to move forward when you are looking backward. You cannot be successful if you are paying attention to everything going on behind you.
Life is like that as well. If we invest so much time dwelling on our past, we do not have ourselves focused on the present. If we are looking down the road we just traveled to see all the road bumps and pot holes that bounced us around and messed up our car, we cannot see that the car right in front of us has just stopped.
I like to think that everything happens for a reason. When we experience something in life; however, we cannot get stuck in that area. God always wants us to move forward in life. He has given us a purpose, and it is not to get stuck. He wants us to grow in Him, to mature as Christians. He has things for us to do, and we are not capable of doing much when we are stuck.
Some things that we experience in life hurt. We may have been hurt by a situation, by people that we care for deeply, and even by ourselves. It is okay to have emotions and to need time to go through the process of change. When we are going through change, there is always going to be some type of loss in our lives. That loss will bring you pain and it needs to be dealt with first. If it is not addressed, you will be as this driver was in front of me, swerving all over the road, focused on what is behind you.
If something behind you is on your mind, acknowledge it and take the steps to grieve for the loss. If you cling to it, not letting it go, your hands will not be open to receive the blessings that God has awaiting. While you are stuck, God is still moving. Being stuck does not help you to go forward. Being stuck only allows your future drive to be as bumpy as the last ride. God has so much more for you.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
– 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 [ESV]
As I walked by the church car park, I noticed that a lady pulled her car into the lot, and then she turned around and drove out of the car park, only to park down the street. She used the lot simply to turn around so that she could get on the side of the street she wished to park. I thought then about the options that we have with the church parking area. We all drive into the church car park with the intentions of turning around. Some of us wish to turn our lives around, and we enter the car park with the desire to get to know God and have a relationship with Christ. Then there are other people who go into the parking area simply because they are using it as a way to turn their vehicles around so that they can go in another direction.
But then, there are the other people– the people who are considering what the church has to offer– but then change their mind and leave quickly, trying not to be noticed. I wonder how many people do that at our churches. Do we have a welcoming church? Have we placed out a welcome mat, or are we keeping the doors closed up? This is not really a question about the grounds maintenance and the presence of a welcome mat, but rather, a deep question that we need to all consider as we enter the walls of our church. If we are to share the gospel and bring people to know Christ, we must certainly be inviting. How is your church inviting? How are you inviting? This isn’t a question meant to judge and rate your church’s outreach program. This is a question to get you to consider more ways to share Christ. There’s so many people out there who haven’t heard about Jesus yet. Lets not lose hope.
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.”
– John 4:35-36 [ESV]
This morning, I saw some children and a parent exiting their house. They noticed the fast approaching bus, and began to panic. They believed that the school bus was the bus they needed to catch, and so they broke out in a full on run, hoping to make it to their bus stop in time. The big picture was that it was the first school bus that always passes by their stop; the second bus, the bus they take, would not come their way for five more minutes.
There are moments in our lives when we miss the big picture, even when we are in a similar situation and should easily be able to see what is really going on. This parent sees the first bus pass by every day and knows the truth– that the bus passes by and then his kids’ bus comes by a few minutes later, but because he for a moment thought “what if” and was not looking at the big picture, he panicked. Many times there is a situation that arises in our own lives, and we know the Truth, but we still panic.
God does not want us to be panicking, nor does He want us to get scared and begin running in a direction that is not where we are supposed to be going. In life there are so many decisions, situations, and moments where we see a bus, and think it’s our bus, and so we run. The devil easily disguises falsities to appear as the truth. God provides us with discernment to know the Truth. If we ask Him to show us the Truth, He does. The issue is that we need to take the time to use this discernment, rather than allowing the devil to cause us to run after the first bus. We cannot panic and miss the big picture that God has given us.
If you are at a time in your life when you think you see the bus, ask God if it is the bus for you, or if your bus is still en route. When you ask God to show you the Truth, and you do not run before seeking His guidance, He will reveal the Truth. Be patient though, because the bus may not be traveling as fast as you want. God has the perfect speed limit set in place.
“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
– John 7:24 [ESV]
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”
– Philippians 1:9-10 [ESV]
We often take things back. We can return a shirt that is the wrong size to the store where we made the purchase. We can take back library books so that we can make new choices. We are able to return so many things, and we are able to make changes to items as well if we do not like them. If we are not happy with something we wrote, we can edit and revise it instead of tearing up a piece of paper and writing it again. We can add more seasoning to our meals to make them change their taste. One thing we cannot take back or change is our spoken words. As they flow from our mouth or off of our fingertips while we are engaging online, they are gone. We may be able to delete comments we make online; however, people saw them and words are powerful. This is why Proverbs 21:23 says, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (ESV). It is so easy for us to get into trouble.
There are times when we want so badly to shout back, to get in an argument to plead our case. We sometimes engage in discussions with people to stand up for what we believe in, to defend what we believe in and who we care for, to protect ourselves and others, and there are even times when we want to show someone that we are right and they are wrong. The Bible says, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts” (Prov. 12:18a ESV) and “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21 ESV).
It is important to be mindful of our words. When we say something, it says something about us. Matthew 15 says that “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person” (v. 18 ESV). When we speak or write, it is how we express ourselves. What people hear– the words, along with the tone, body language, and facial expressions — will be how they form many opinions about you. The written words can be worse, for they many times do not go away. That mean, unpleasant letter you wrote a former friend may still be out there. Those comments you left online may still be viewed. These words do not simply hurt the person they are directed at, but they hurt you even more.
We are to love one another like Jesus loves us. We are to build each other up and support each other through life’s journey. We are to be a comfort and a blessing to others. In accomplishing these tasks, it is most important that we watch our mouths. Instead of taking the energy to speak negatively, we can use that same energy and speak positive thoughts into our lives and the lives of others. We can be an encouragement and a blessing to so many if we are able to take time to think before we speak– if we take the much harder step to act in grace instead of acting out in emotion. Next time you speak, remember the power of your words and decide if you wish to have a life built around the positives or the negatives. The choice is yours.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
– Ephesians 4:29 [ESV]
I recently began reading the Gospel of Mark for my own personal studies. There is a word that is repeated over and over again in the first chapter, a word that continues throughout the book. The word is “immediately” and if my math is correct, it occurs ten times in the first chapter alone. Immediately when Jesus is being baptized, the Spirit descended upon Him. Immediately He went into the wilderness. Immediately Simon Peter and Andrew left their lives as they knew them. Immediately the leprosy left the leper. Again and again the word is used.
We see so many things happening at immediately, not waiting for conditions to be different. The Book of Mark shows us that there is a sense of urgency. We only have so much time and so we must start now. Yet for many of us, when we are called by God to do something, we do not act immediately. Sometimes we do not act at all. We say we are waiting to do it when we have extra time. We say we are holding off till we have the money to start giving. We promise to start doing something when we feel better. We insist when our situations and conditions of life improve, we will start working for the Kingdom.
God never said that He had certain conditions to be met before we could start serving, giving, and loving. He calls you as you are and works with you as only He can. When we give excuses and do not act immediately, we are basically saying that our God is not big enough to use someone who has some issues that need fixed or some imperfect situations that need work. And yet, the Word of God again and again tells us otherwise. God used a slave, a shepherd boy, a fisherman, a peasant girl, a prostitute, a tax collector, a farmer, the son of a prostitute, a murderer, an adulterer, and even a persecutor of those who followed Jesus.
Today, if you are avoiding something, pushing it off till things get better, understand that God can still use you now. All you need to do is to show up. He will do the rest.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”
– Romans 8:28 [NLT]
In Mark 4, we read about how Jesus stills the sea. It is such a powerful miracle that we hear of so often that perhaps we do not appreciate it as much as we should. When the disciples became fearful of the boat sinking, they ran to Jesus who was asleep. He rebuked the wind and then He said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” Right away everything became “perfectly calm.”
I can only imagine what it is like to be perfectly calm. I am sure that most people do not know what that means. We can only imagine. There are times in life when I believe Jesus is saying to us, “Hush, be still.” We get so busy that we are blowing all around off course. We get so worried about the situations in our lives that we start to drown ourselves in anxiety. We are like the storm, breaking apart inside instead of breaking a boat.
Jesus says, “Hush, be still.” Immediately the storm ceases and then everything is “perfectly calm. Do not let the storms in your life break you apart. Allow the comfort of Jesus to take over. All you need to do is ask Him to help.” If we accept the peace that Jesus has to offer, and we listen to His Word, we can be still. We can rest in Him.
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
– Matthew 11:28 [NIV]
We like to complicate things in life. We can make a three word sentence trivial. Interpretations and experiences cause us conflict. We need to see evidence. We are very doubtful, skeptical of anything. We have so many documentaries showing us proof that something is true, and then so many others to counter that theory. We are a society that needs DNA analysis, sheets full of statistics, a handful of witnesses, video footage, photos, and still we are skeptical.
With us wanting so many facts and to be shown proof, we often will have battles with doubt. We get into a situation that seems glum. Will God really see me through this? Why is God allowing this to happen? I don’t understand. Show me. I need proof. Is He even there? We become skeptical of what God can do in our lives because we allow the doubt to win. We limit God with our shaky faith.
Thomas asked to see Jesus’ wounds to believe, and only then did he believe. The other disciples believed after seeing as well. In Mark 5, Jairus asked Jesus to heal his ailing daughter. Before they could get to his daughter, she passed away. When Jairus was told the news, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe” (Mark 5:36b NASB). Only believe.
At times we need to only believe. It is hard. Things are not always going to be pleasant and everything is not always going to go well. But God has promised us that one day things will be perfect. This is a promise that I cling to, knowing that Jesus has overcome, and therefore so will we.
If there is something going on in your life right now and you are doubtful, only believe. Only believe that He is big enough. Only believe that He has overcome. Only believe that things will one day be perfect. Only believe that He loves you so much. Only believe.
“Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”
– John 20:29 [ESV]
Do you wash your hands? It is a strange question for me to ask. Most people would think that I was making a suggestion about your hygiene; however, I am not talking about washing your hands as part of a routine for good hygiene. In Matthew 27, when Jesus was standing before Pilate, there was a great push for His crucifixion. Pilate did not want anything to do with what was to come, and so he washed his hands before the crowd and claimed his innocence in the matter.
If we turn a few chapters back in Matthew, we read about judgment. We do not like to discuss judgment, but Jesus painted a clear picture. He gave us an important image, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me” (Matthew 25:42-43 NASB).
When I ask if you wash your hands, I am referring to helping your fellow brothers and sisters. Do you wash your hands and move along, ignoring reality, ignoring the needs of others? Or do you help to take care of the needs around you? Jesus said if we feed a person who is hungry, it is as if we are feeding Him. If we clothe someone who is without clothing, it is as if we are providing Him with clothing.
Helping others does not always take some overabundance of finances and belongings. People who have so little are like the widow who gave so much– providing for the needs around them without concern for letting go of something. I have seen people who do not have a large savings help to buy food and clothing for another family. I have seen families barely getting by invite others into their homes for dinner. I have seen people barely scraping by provide for the needs of others.
So I ask you today, do you wash your hands? Do you say that it’s not your problem and you won’t be bothered by it? Or do you pull up your sleeves and see what you can do for others? What you can do for Jesus?
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
– Acts 20:35 [ESV]