A week before my eighteenth birthday I was stung by underground bees and had to be rushed to the hospital from anaphylactic shock. I remember the quick drive to the emergency room. I remember praying to make it okay because I was afraid to die. I was on a stretcher begging for my life.
A little over a week ago I was stung again by underground bees. I was once again frantic, but not because I was afraid that I wouldn’t make it. I was flailing around for I did not want to have a negative reaction because I was planning to soon head over to church to set up for Vacation Bible School. I was no longer eighteen and focused on me; I’m 35 and usually focused on God and working for His Kingdom.
Here I am. I’m still here. Unlike the last time, there were no hives, no struggling to breathe. I wanted to share this story simply to encourage you today. You are a work in progress. Little by little God helps you to be the person He made you to be in life. You might be fearful about something. You might focus a lot of the time on yourself. You’re not where He wants you to be or where you want you to be yet. But He’s not finished and you do not have to live like you’re finished either. You were made for so much more. Remember each day—focus on Him. Make your aim to love Him and to know Him and to share Him with all you meet. There’s so much more for each of us. Keep on keeping on. And watch out for those bees!
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” – Philippians 1:6 [NLT]
Giving Max a bath can be quite the ordeal. Since he’s a larger dog, it’s not so easy to get him into the bath tub. Plus he is not fond of getting a bath and I am not fond of cleaning all of the hair out of the tub when he finally decides to comply with his mom’s request. Every so often I take him to the dog wash, which is a dog bath at the local car wash.
Max never wants to go up the ramp to the bathing area. Although it is the good path to take, he does not want what will follow. He loves to be clean. He loves to have his hair blown dry. But he detests the bath itself. When the bath is over, I have to stand beside him when he gets put back on his leash for he wants to hop out of the bathing area rather than taking the ramp down to the ground. Today I got soaked because he rammed into me as I blocked the dangerous attempt
Many times God will try to lead us down a particular path in life. Sometimes it does not appear so great and sometimes the path brings about trials and obstacles we do not desire. However, God has a perfect plan and His direction will help us to get to where we are meant to be in life. There are moments when He opens doors for us to enter but we hesitate because we fear, we doubt, or we think we know better. There are also moments when we try to go another way, a way that might lead toward something not in our best interest. At times He will block it to keep us safe and at times He will allow us to take the other way to help us to grow closer to Him. It is as if He says, “You want it. Okay, I’ll give it to you.” Oh the lessons He has taught me by giving me what I wanted. I soon realized I no longer wanted what I wanted—I wanted instead what He wanted. Today, if God is leading you down a particular path, if God has opened a door for you to enter, I pray you have the trust to follow. Following His direction is always the best way.
“Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes;
I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.
She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;
she will look for them but not find them.
Then she will say,
‘I will go back to my husband as at first,
for then I was better off than now.’
She has not acknowledged that I was the one
who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil,
who lavished on her the silver and gold—
which they used for Baal.” – Hosea 2:6-8 [NIV]
“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” – Psalm 16:11 [NLT]
I love to take an early morning walk with Max; the earliest the better. When the sun is first coming up and there is still dew on the grass, there is a great peace that embraces you. The sweet melody of birds chirping is so beautiful. This morning I heard a chorus of different birds chirping together. I spotted cardinals, blue jays, hummingbirds, robins, black birds and others. They came together in one song, one voice that was pleasant to my ears.
As I finished walking home, Max and I continued to hear these birds. I thought of Romans 15 – I considered the harmony we are to live in, and the voice that we are to sing with together—with one voice. These birds were different types of birds, all different sizes, all different voices. They gather together in harmony this morning to have their morning meal and sing. It was so peaceful to my ears.
Paul spoke of us living as Christ desired, in complete harmony together. He wrote, “Then all of you can join together with ONE VOICE, giving PRAISE AND GLORY TO GOD.” We each sound different. Some of us are altos, some sopranos. Some of us have raspy voices, others can reach high pitches. Some of us use our voice to express different opinions than others. Some of us speak loud; some of us are quiet spoken. But Paul says we can all unite together with one voice. How? Through Christ Jesus. God gives “patience and encouragement” to us. It’s possible. Too often we spend our time trying to argue our stance, trying to be heard, trying to be seen, trying to make a point. It should all be about Jesus. If we each make it all about Jesus, and we gather together with the same heart for Jesus, then it doesn’t matter if we are from different denominations, different backgrounds, different cultures—it doesn’t matter our opinions, how we dress or anything else. Only Jesus matters. And with one voice, may we sing. May we sing praises to our great Father.
“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” – Romans 15:5-7 [NLT]
Once a person is with Jesus, He doesn’t let go. He never lets go. Read today’s passage. Read this again, “And once that person is with Me, I hold on and don’t let go.” If you accepted Christ as your Savior—if you have given your life to Him—He has taken hold of you and He will never let go. It means that you were running to Him and now you are His.
Each day we face the world and all it brings our way. No matter what comes, Jesus is there. No matter the temptation. No matter the trials. No matter the bad things. No matter the sickness. No matter the stress. No matter what time of day. No matter who you are or the mess you have made. No matter what. If you have ran to Him, He promises that He won’t let go.
Remember this today. He is never leaving go of you. No matter how hard it gets. No matter what hardships come your way. No matter how horrible you think things are in life. He won’t let go. He is going to hold on and not let go. Trust Him. Feel the embrace. Understand that His firm hand is holding it all for you. The troubles may come but no one will snatch you from His hand. Never.
“Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.’”
-John 6:35-38 [MSG]
In life we spend a lot of time in the here and now. We see things from a temporal scope rather than an eternal scope. God has a different time scheme than us. We consider our lives here on earth as our lives. Even when we say we have accepted Jesus and will have eternal life, we again and again take ourselves back to considering time as the time we spend on earth.
As we make plans for our lives, as we look at our lives, we see what time we have here on earth. It’s great to plan. It’s great to consider our steps. But we always must have an eternal focus as well. Our life here on earth is such a short blimp of our eternal life. It’s nothing compared to eternity.
Now Jesus said we aren’t to “waste… energy striving for perishable food… [but] work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides.” So how do you do that? You read His Word. You pray for direction from the Spirit. He will provide you with nourishment, spiritual nourishment that will help you to grow in Him and the nourishment will last forever. You might think its okay to snack here and there, but the truth is the food that matters is the food that sticks with you. May you seek His food and may you see things from His eternal perspective. Life is so different when you see things through Him.
“Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”
-John 6:27 [MSG]
To align with someone is to give someone support. To align with someone is to take a side with, to agree with, to root for, to fit with someone. When I think of align I think of getting the car tires aligned. They have to be a particular way for the car to move properly. They have to all be in agreement with how they are to work so that the car will run smoothly.
In today’s passage, it speaks of what God wants—His will for us. He wants us to have eternal life, to align with Jesus. We simply must believe and trust Jesus and align with Him. Then we “will enter real life, eternal life.” How awesome is that?
It is so easy to make an altar call and think that everything is good to go; however, being a Christian, being a true follower of Christ, means so much more. It isn’t about an altar call. It’s about aligning your life with Christ. You believe. You trust. You continue to side with Jesus. You root for Jesus. You fit with Jesus. You agree with Jesus. Your life is built on Jesus. When you are aligned with Jesus, life is always smooth no matter how rough the path, no matter what comes your way.
“This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.”
-John 6:39-40 [MSG]
We all need fed. We all need the Word of God. We all need Jesus. In John 6, Jesus speaks of people who were seeking Him simply because they were being fed (not spiritually fed, but literally fed). They were not seeking Jesus because they saw God in His actions. It was nothing to do with what Jesus truly offered, but having a stomach filled for free.
There are people every week that look to have their stomachs fed rather than partaking in the Bread of Life. There are those who are not too keen to read the Word of God; they want instead to reap the benefits that are received from the body of Christ. It’s sad but it’s true.
Today I want you to ask yourself—are you seeking Jesus because your stomach is being filled or are you seeking Him because you want Jesus and Him alone. Yes, being a part of the body of Christ sometimes brings about an outpouring of other things; however, at the end of the day, if you are not seeking Jesus, whatever you are seeking is settling for less.
“Jesus answered, ‘You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.’”
-John 6:26 [MSG]
There is a great difference between cooking with propane and cooking with charcoal. I never realized this until a few days ago. Many years ago I had learned how to cook with propane. I was given all the instructions and never even considered cooking with charcoal. Sadly my propane grill met its demise and my budget only allowed for a small, portable 14” charcoal grill. It would prepare the amount of food needed and it worked for the Dave Ramsey budget.
Charcoal is different than propane though. It took me a few attempts to even get the food to cook properly. I expected to see a flame. I expected to see what I saw when I cooked with the propane grill. I could not grasp the fact that the food would cook without big flames being visible. I had to do research to figure out that my expectations were very different from the reality of charcoal grilling.
In the same way, God is working in your life without signs necessarily being visible. You might not even know He’s up to something when He is actively working. He is always present. He is always working out His purpose. He is always around whether you see signs or you are not seeing anything. Today remember what God has promised you. He will always be there. He will not forsake you.
“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” – Deuteronomy 31:8 [NLT]
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” – John 14:18-20 [NIV]
There is something that I hear and read too often – My life sucks. Sometimes it really can be frustrating to hear these words, especially from the mouths of Christians. Usually it is not something that is said once, but it is a way of life for some people. Perhaps the person believes he or she is the only one who has problems, trials, and hardships. Perhaps the person is not happy because he or she is not getting what’s desired. Either way, it is like nails on a chalkboard to hear those words.
Since sin entered the equation many, many years ago, everyone has hardships and struggles and pain. It is not how God intended the world, but we made a choice. Jesus has defeated death and through Him we overcome; however, trials and suffering still occur here on earth. I could list many of my personal struggles, and people who know me well can see them just by watching me walk, but it is not about that at all. When people see me and know of my struggles, they don’t hear that my life sucks—they hear that Jesus is taking care of me, helping me through each and every day. They see my testimony without me opening my mouth.
Does your life suck? Are things not going the way you intended? Do you have limited funds? Do you hate your job? Do you have relationship problems? Are you struggling through life? I am sure you have a lot on your plate. We all do. But remember, each day is a blessing—each day is a gift from God. You can walk through life complaining about each day, being ungrateful for the gift or you can ask God to use you, to strengthen you, to be a part of your life and things will be very different. I might have pain this morning as I write this, but I have a joy and peace that only Jesus can give. My life does not suck. No matter how bad it gets, no matter what challenges and hardships come my way, each day is another opportunity, another gift. Each morning I thank Him for giving me another chance. What will you do with your opportunity today?
“The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.” – Psalm 29:11 [NIV]
“This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24 [NLT]
I love to paint and I love to take photographs. I love capturing a lot of different colors, especially bright colors and colors that are not seen so often. I remember when I was in Australia there were many times when I tried to capture the sky at a particular time in the afternoon. My camera could not quite capture what my eyes could see. Again and again I failed with my attempts. I am always amazed at God’s paintbrush. I often say, “Wow, You really outdid Yourself today.” He is awesome.
Matthew tells us to be the light of the world. The Message says, “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.” God colors. Wow. God has some amazing colors. Just think about all those awesome brilliant skylines I saw in Australia. I couldn’t capture them with my digital camera. And we are to be God colors in the world? Wow.
Each one of us is a different bright color of God that can shine for others. We are the salt of the earth. More and more we see the darkness of the world. We see a lot of things God never intended for His Creation. Too much darkness. Too much gloom. But God uses His God colors to shine through the world, to shine a bright light, for His glory. May you be a God color today and always. Never hide the Light. God is not a secret to be kept. Shine on.
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept.”
-Matthew 5:14 [MSG]