Life is a journey. Over the years, I learned that a journey isn’t the same during each part of the journey. There are highs and lows, good times and bad times. There are moments of rejoicing, and moments of sorrow and tears. When one sets out on a journey, so often the sojourner thinks the steps have been set, the days are fixed, and there is a great picture of what will result at the end of the journey. Consider a trip to an amusement park. You know stops along the way for refreshments and bathroom visits are likely. You know that fun will be had with rides and games. You may even have an itinerary in place. In the end, you know you will leave with a collection of photos, overly hyper children overcome by sugar and fast food, and perhaps a slight case of dehydration from the heat of a sunny day.
Life isn’t like that though. No matter how much you plan, how much you think that the steps have been set in place, that the days are fixed, life does not come all beautifully packaged. Yes, each of your days is written in the Book. Yes, all of your tears are caught in His bottle. Yes, He has a plan and a purpose for your life. Yes, there is a narrow path that few will choose. Yes, there is an end to the journey which culminates with the New Heaven and New Earth as we worship our King. But the journey—the journey is a journey of faith. And when you step forth in faith, you can only cling to the promises of God, lay everything down before Him, and trust that when the journey gets difficult, when the road gets hard, when people turn their backs, when eyes are opened, when jobs are lost, when health deteriorates, when the puzzle isn’t coming together like the picture on the box—that God is Sovereign, that God has everything beautifully orchestrated, and that nothing can snatch you from His hand.
As I sit here today, in the middle of turbulent part of my journey in life, I can certainly say that my mom never warned me of these days. There are days no one can prepare you for except for a life long journey filled with experiences—a journey filled with triumph and loss, pain and suffering, truth and lies. The scars of life, they sometimes feel as if they cover us completely—as if they will have the last say. But it is in the ashes, that we are reminded of God’s love for His children. We are reminded of the price that was paid. We are reminded that we will rise—that even when the days of this journey can be hard, and dark, and painful—that even when these days come—that God, in His infinite wisdom and His unfailing love, has victory. He has overcome. Now in Him, in Him we are washed. In Him, we find peace. In Him, we are made new. Over and over again. And one day, one day when our Lord returns, all will bow and confess, all will see His glory, and all things will be new.
“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.” – Psalm 37:23 [ESV]
“Even a courageous person’s steps are determined by the LORD, so how can anyone understand his own way?” – Proverbs 20:24 [CSB]
Whenever I leave the house, I usually grab a pair of my Chucks from the laundry room and head out. There are moments when I am taking a walk and realize that my shoestrings are loose because I didn’t take enough time getting ready. In a pair of Converse, it is my opinion that you can notice loose shoestrings easier. I could easily bend over and tighten the laces; however, I usually continue walking, hoping that the laces will hold out until the walk is finished. Many times, I find myself having to do more than tighten the laces, but retie my shoes because holding out doesn’t work. This takes longer, but I continue with this bad habit every time I feel the laces are loose.
In life, we often see “loose shoestrings” but we let them go. We turn a blind eye. We think it won’t get any worse. We plan to take care of it later. We don’t take the steps we know we should take to get everything resolved. We neglect the shoestrings. We let them come undone and drag on the ground. Sadly, we typically only need to take a few small steps to prevent or resolve the issue.
I am not talking about loose shoestrings alone. Consider the chaos that unfolds in life. Your sinful habits. Your unbalanced schedules. Your explosive relationships. Your lack of boundaries. Your hurtful words. Your life many times is the loose shoestring. But instead of veering back on the narrow path and correcting the issues, we put on Band-Aids. We cover up the issue. We pretend it is not there. Whenever we try to pretend—whenever we try to move forward with the lies and sin and chaos of this world—we are allowing the father of lies to continue to keep hold on us. Instead, bend over to tie your shoes! Grab hold of Truth. Cling to your Father. Allow Him to move in your life and watch what happens!
“Preserve me, O God, for in You I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.’
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
You hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”
– Psalm 16:1-6 [ESV]
It is very easy to change your clothes to appear different. Many people have clothing for different events and situations. We have our work clothing, our casual clothing, our dress clothing, etc. But changing your clothing does not change you. It only changes your appearance to make you more comfortable in your environment, to help you blend in, to keep you hot/cool, or to follow some dress code requirement at work or school.
In Joel we read the need to change your life. You cannot simply change the outer appearance and think you have accomplished what God was after. God wants your heart. God wants you to have a pure heart. You can easily change your clothing and attend church and think you’ve done what was required of you. Yet your heart could be without change—the outside was changed but the inside remained the same.
Today is the day to look deep within and ask yourself if there has been a change. Have you just changed clothing? Have you simply sought a “Christian” radio station and changed your appearance? Have you started to attend church every Sunday so you can say you went to church? Or have you changed? Do you see something different about yourself? Are you more joyful? Are you more hopeful? Are you more helpful? Are you nicer? Do you act with more compassion? Are you after truth? If you aren’t seeing one bit of change, chances are you have just changed your clothes.
“Change your life, not just your clothes.
Come back to God, your God.
And here’s why: God is kind and merciful.
He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot,
This most patient God, extravagant in love,
always ready to cancel catastrophe.”
-Joel 2:13 [MSG]
As you look through old clothing, you might find a pair of old shorts that are not even able to be donated. They are beyond salvageable. They are discolored. They are frayed. They have holes. The fabric is worn hard and perhaps stained. They are worthless.
God had Jeremiah take a linen belt, or for us to better understand, some linen shorts, and wear them without any washing. Then he was directed to take them off and hide them. When they were retrieved, they were worthless because they did not receive the proper care.
The people of God, which includes us today, are to cling to God. But like the people of this time, the people that went from clinging to God and His Law to burying themselves in idolatry and sin, we have a great problem with corruption that can take away our worth to the Kingdom. Thankfully, Jesus Christ can wash us and we become as white as snow. When we come to know Christ, we do not have to be a pair of old shorts. We are made new. We are forgiven. We are redeemed. We are restored.
God told me, “Go and buy yourself some linen shorts. Put them on and keep them on. Don’t even take them off to wash them.” So I bought the shorts as God directed and put them on. Then God told me, “Take the shorts that you bought and go straight to Perath and hide them there in a crack in the rock.” So I did what God told me and hid them at Perath. Next, after quite a long time, God told me, “Go back to Perath and get the linen shorts I told you to hide there.” So I went back to Perath and dug them out of the place where I had hidden them. The shorts by then had rotted and were worthless.
-Jeremiah 13:1-7 [MSG]
As a mother, I remember the days when my children would eat something and get food all over their faces. I would get out the napkin, wet it and get their faces ready to see the world. Still today I check their faces before we leave just to be sure they are clean. And yes, I check mine as well.
In Isaiah 6, the prophet is standing before God and he immediately acknowledges that he is sinful. He understood that he could not stand before God filthy. God is holy. Then an angel takes a burning coal and touches Isaiah’s lips. The angel says, “Gone your guilt, your sins wiped out” (MSG).
If we accept Jesus and what He did for us, our guilt is gone – our sins are wiped out too. Through the blood of Jesus, we no longer live condemned, but we are made as white as snow. But we have to acknowledge that we are sinful. We have to acknowledge our unclean lips. Even after we repent and accept Christ into our lives, there is a need of daily repentance of our sins. The blood of Jesus wipes out each sin, but for each one, we must bow before the Lord and acknowledge our need for repentance.
“Then I said, ‘It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.” – Isaiah 6:5-6 [NLT]
You cannot go anywhere without hearing about how to stay young and beautiful. There are so many different medications, treatments, home remedies, fitness regimes, etc. to help people stay looking young and beautiful. There are so many types of makeup as well as medical procedures to help keep this look as the years continue.
Is there something on the market that can make a person beautiful forever? Not at all. Eventually the face lifts and makeup cannot hide what natural aging has done to one’s face. But we are told in Isaiah of this promise to be beautiful forever. Only God could make someone or something beautiful forever.
God has offered each one of us eternal life. God has promised that he will make all things new. When you accept him into your heart, when you give your life to Jesus, as one of the saints you will be beautiful forever. Forever could start today. If you haven’t accepted Jesus into your life, or if it has been awhile since you have turned to Jesus, now is a great time to start your forever. Trust me, it will be beautiful.
“Though you were once despised and hated, with no one traveling through you, I will make you beautiful forever, a joy to all generations.” – Isaiah 60:15 [NLT]
We are a people who focus on the past. When something is over, we keep replaying it in our minds. We continue to dwell on things of the past, things that we cannot change, instead of focusing on the here and now. A bad relationship. Hurtful words. Past failures. Bad decisions. It is so hard to let things go and move forward.
God’s Word states that he is “creating new heavens and a new earth” and because of this, “no one will even think about the old ones anymore.” No one will consider the old. Why? Because the new heavens and the new earth will fully satisfy so there will be no want of the old.
God is already making things new. As you continue to give your life to him, you will find that he is making you new. The more you grow in him, the more you will stop thinking about the old you and the things of old. You will find yourself fully satisfied with the new. God is making all things new. Amen!
“Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.” – Isaiah 65:17 [NLT]