I have a lot of OCD tendencies. When it comes to the lawn, I like the grass to be cut weekly. In my opinion, there is an acceptable height to the blades of grass. If the grass is not clipped at the right time, it will continue to grow unattended and then there’s overgrowth. On my walk with the dogs, I always come upon a lawn that is overgrown. The owners let the grass grow unattended for weeks. By the time the lawn is cared for, there is grass growing over the footpath.
Just as we need to clip our fingernails, get a haircut, and brush our teeth, so we need to care for our yardwork, cleaning, and laundry. But it doesn’t end there!! We cannot forget our spiritual health. Our spiritual health needs attention. God is great at pruning. As you walk with Him, He will continue to prune you and help you to grow the way He always intended. Our part in all of this is to dive deep into His Word. We cannot become dull. Continue to take in God’s Word. Write it on your heart. Allow it to reveal to you our heavenly Father. It’s all about knowing God.
As you desire to know God more, as you continue to read His Word and follow His will, He will continue to prune and grow you. Listen closely to His voice. Remember when He asks you to loosen your grip on something, it is because it is for your best. Every clip. Every snip. Every word. It’s all for your very best.
“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” – John 15:2 [ESV]
On the way home from my daughter’s track meet, we got to see a town square pole get uprooted and smashed by a big freight truck. It was something I’ve never seen before, but it was also a teachable moment that I took advantage of when it was available. The reason the truck driver could not navigate the turn is because someone else disobeyed the traffic signs and pulled over a car length ahead of the line to stop. The truck driver had no room. Even when the lady in the car reversed as far as the car behind her permitted, it was not enough for the truck driver. Then it was a chain reaction. Truck 1. Pole 0.
My daughter was upset. She was concerned that someone would have to pay for the pole, and that someone would have to put the new pole in place. She didn’t understand why the lady did what she did, and she thought that she should be punished for putting the truck in an impossible situation to navigate. At the same time, she wondered if the truck driver would be punished because he did drive up on the curb and tear down the pole. This is where my teachable moment came into play.
We can easily agree that the lady should have stopped where the law says she should stop. We can easily agree that no one should be driving on curbs, though as a truck driver daughter, I understand why it had to go down that way. If the lady would not have pulled up so far, then the truck driver likely would not have driven on the curb. Nonetheless, this is a situation where we can argue that both parties did something wrong. Just because the one party caused the other person to do something wrong, doesn’t make the other person’s wrong any better.
Consider now, the topic of sin. Sometimes we do something that is bad, and then we place that blame on someone else “making” us do it. No one makes you do it, but somehow it seems like they do when we do something wrong. Why is that? We don’t like to be wrong. We don’t like to be found guilty. We don’t want to look like the bad guy. The other person made us do it. When we say this, it makes us feel better. It takes away our responsibility. It makes us feel like our dirty hands are not-so-dirty. But it is a façade. The truth is, wrong is wrong and right is right. If you lose your temper and act in anger because someone sinned against you, then your hands are dirty. You are guilty. There is no, “she made me do it,” that will change your guilt.
What can we do knowing that we cannot push off blame? Accept responsibility for your actions. Confess. Repent. When you do this, you accept the forgiveness our merciful God offers. This will result in something much better than blaming another could ever achieve. Forgiveness. Spiritual Growth. Integrity.
“People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.” – Proverbs 28:13 [NLT]
“The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” – Genesis 3:12-13 [ESV]
One of the hardest things for me to do as a parent is to call my kids (and my dogs) to account. When they do something to not meet expectations, it hurts me to have to hold them accountable. Nonetheless it has to be done. I love them and I want the best for them. They aren’t too keen on facing the consequences, but they come to understand it is for their own good.
God calls us to account too. He says that those He loves He corrects, He guides and prods. And why? It is “so that they’ll live at their best.” He wants the best for you. The best. Not second best. Not an okay life. Not a good life. THE BEST. So you will be prodded. You will be corrected. You will be guided. All because He loves you and wants the best for you.
Let us thank God that He calls us to account. Let us praise Him for His correction. Let us thank Him that He wants only the best for us. Now “up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!”
“The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!” – Revelation 3:19 [MSG]
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]