Let’s advance together

Pr. 30:27:  “The locusts have no king, yet they all advance in ranks.”

Locusts are one more thing that is little on the earth, but called exceedingly wise by Agur.  Chemicals in their brains cause wise-spread breeding, and when their numbers are large enough, they advance.  Although they indeed have noted no king, the natural instinct that God placed inside them causes them to move as one in a decisive order.

God has given humans free-will.  We have instincts, but unlike animals, we are not ruled by them.  All of us were created with a sense of right and wrong.  We were all created to worship.  The difference is that we have a choice.  What we decide to worship is a choice.  Whether we fight against that right and wrong is a choice.  We also have the advantage of having the Holy Spirit adding wisdom to the instincts God has already placed within us.

What if we Christians all quit fighting against the God-given instincts of right and wrong and stopped ignoring and going against the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and started advancing, as one, toward our common goal?

The times in my life where I have fought against my God-given instincts and the Holy Spirit’s nudgings and wisdom have been the times when I have fallen out of rank.  I was not advancing the kingdom of Christ one bit.  I was headed in a different direction.

When I choose to follow my God-given instincts and the Holy Spirit’s nudges, I am always left knowing that I have done what I was created to do.  Whether it’s walking away from sin or ministering to someone in need, I am decisively advancing with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

When a swarm of locusts advances, there is no doubt where they’ve been.  The effects are long-term.  They create environmental change, famine, economical devastation, and educational decline.

What if we decided to truly do what is actually right and advanced as one in a decisive order as the locusts do?  We could bring positive environmental change for countless people.  We could feed starving souls the Bread of Life.  We could introduce the Provider to those in need.  We could acquaint others with the wisdom that is freely given from the Lord.

If we allowed ourselves to be driven, as one, by the One who change bring the best change of all, the effects would not only be long-term, but amazingly profitable for all.

Time is short, and the day of Christ’s return is drawing closer.  It’s not time to be falling out of rank.  It is time to pull together and advance for the kingdom of Christ.  He is the answer for us all!

Falling in line,

jamie

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The beauty of church

I went to church yesterday feeling tired, heavy, and regretful.

I taught my 5th graders in Sunday school about 3 superheros named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.  Even in the face of great pain and death, they stood up for what was right, and because of their conviction, others could literally see God, and came to believe that He was the Most High God.

What is the worst thing we can do about this story?  Forget.  Without reminding ourselves of what God can do and has done, we forget that we can be delivered from the fiery furnaces in our own lives.  We forget that if we stand up for and believe in God, even in our painful situation, others may be able to see God and come to believe that He is the Most High God, as well.

During the church service I was reminded that anything I can’t stop thinking about is an idol.  I could list several things that my mind couldn’t shake at that moment.  Do I want to be a servant of regrets, money, sickness, fashion, or cultural acceptance; or do I want to be a servant of the Most High God?  If it’s the later, then I need to be thinking about Him.  Trusting in Him means thinking about His goodness, His faithfulness, and His constant provision and abilities.

I then heard a testimony that reminded me that I am still alive because I still have work to do for Christ.  I don’t need to become so distracted that I forget why I’m here.

Last night I was heard that the Lord made dry bones live (Ez. 37), and that if He can bring dry bones back together into a perfect person, breathe life back into them, and join their ranks into an exceedingly great army; then He can breathe life back into the places that feel dry in my life, and that rivers of Living Water can still pour forth from me to reach those in need.

I was still tired when I left church last night; however, I was tired from being taught and ministered to all day long.  This morning, I feel the rivers stirring around in me.  My hope is not cut off.  I am not dry and desolate.  I am full of the Lord and His goodness, and because I am choosing to stand on His promises, I believe that others will be able to see Him in my life.

What’s the big deal about going to church?  Had I sat home with my heaviness and regrets yesterday, this morning would have looked a lot more dismal.  When you go to church and focus on God, allowing yourself to be open to His wisdom and encouragement brought in unexpected ways, He will minister to you, dust you off, and breathe life into you for the rest of the journey ahead.

I’m so thankful for a place to refuel, and for those who encourage and pray for me.

Gushing,

jamie

 

Tasty but destructive

Pr. 26:22:  The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.”

I read an article that was written about one of my great-aunts who passed on a few weeks ago.  She would have been 100 years old this winter.  The author of the article had gone to visit her and asked my great-aunt what life advice she would give a middle-ager.

The 3 things my great-aunt said she would have done differently were to read her Bible more, pray more, and not believe things she heard about others without having first heard their side.

I didn’t see that last one coming.  Not something I would expect to hear a 99-year-old woman saying; however, perhaps a relationship in her life was lost or altered in her middle years that caused her to still think such a thing all those years later.  I’m not sure.

This verse tells us that it shouldn’t be surprising, though.  Words of gossip do not just bounce off of us, but are taken in, savored, digested, and soaked up into our very core.  It then becomes very difficult to erase what we’ve heard, lie or not, because our minds are so hungry to make us feel better about ourselves.

If a 99-year-old woman, knowing she’s passing on to eternity, is still thinking about the effects of a decision like this, it seems it is certainly something we shouldn’t take lightly.

I guess the best thing is probably to avoid gossip at all, whenever possible.  Then, if there is a situation where we do hear something, we can take her other advice and pray more.  We can pray that God would help us be responsible with what we’ve heard and either help us forget it, if it isn’t necessary for us to know or concern ourselves with; or to give us a proper setting to hear the other side.

Remembering that no one is perfect, and that we all fall short of the glory of God and of perfection, we must be careful with not only what we hear, but also what we choose to do with those words.  We can choose to savor, digest, and soak it in to raise ourselves up, or we can choose to protect, love, and build others up.  With God all things are possible.

Soaking in the advice,

jamie

Are they singing along?

Pr. 25:20:  “Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, and like vinegar on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.”

This is an interesting verse.  Of course we want to cheer up those around us who have a heavy heart, but this verse is speaking more about not showing a caring attitude toward those around us who are hurting.

When we were camping a few weeks ago, there was one night when I was so cold that I couldn’t sleep.  At some point, my husband became aware of how cold I was and he gave me his toboggan.  Normally, I would have tried to refuse, worrying that he might need it; however, that night I was so cold I was almost in pain and I certainly wasn’t sleeping at all.  I accepted the toboggan with only an intense thank you.

Him giving me that garment when I needed it most was like such a relief, and was the start of a more restful and pleasant night.

Most of us care.  I have no doubt that most of us care enough to try to offer help and encouragement to someone who is hurting or in need.  Sometimes, however, we can be moving so fast or be so consumed in our own affairs that we maybe don’t notice their pain.  When we’re singing our songs of cheer, it’s good to take notice if those around us aren’t singing along.  If we recognize a long face in the presence of our cheer, we may need to stop and find out if there is some encouragement needed.

We don’t want people to think we don’t care.  Of course we don’t want them to hurt.  It’s certainly ok for sing songs of cheer; however, upon noticing a heavy heart around us, we need to be quick to show concern and to offer a warm garment of encouragement.  It may just be the start of a more restful and pleasant pilgrimage.

Carrying an extra garment,

jamie

What was I trying to say?

Pr. 23:20:  “Do not mix with winebibbers, or with gluttonous eaters of meat.”

Last night I had a dream where I was with a small group of people who was encouraging a broken person and witnessing to them about Christ.  One of the people in our group was one of the Pastor’s from my church.  We wound up at a bar, which was the place where that person was most comfortable.  And then, my Pastor ordered shots for us all.

I wasn’t the least bit uncomfortable being in the bar, but when my Pastor ordered us shots and then eagerly drank his, I was worried that he was crossing a dangerous line.   (Reminder…this was only a dream)

We were called to tell others about Christ.  Paul said that he made himself a servant to all, that he might win the more.  To the Jews he became as a Jew, to those who were weak he became as one weak, etc.  (1 Cor. 9:20-23)  He said, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.  Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”

Paul did what it took to witness; however, this same man also reminds us in the chapter before to be cautious of our liberties in Christ.  He tells us that our decisions could cause a weaker brother could stumble.  He was ever-mindful of the reason he was witnessing in the first place, disciplining himself as to not become disqualified.  (1 Cor. 9:27)

We exist to win people to Jesus Christ and the best way to do that is to make Jesus so attractive that others cannot resist. While doing so; however, we must be careful that we don’t begin to mar our own credibility and risk becoming in bondage ourselves.

This is definitely not a blog about the right or wrong of drinking, but we have something so much better to offer others than a profitless shot of alcohol, and we have to demonstrate that by our actions.  What can be found in Jesus is far beyond any outside lift.  When becoming a servant to all, we must be ever mindful of the One whose servanthood we are first called to emulate.

We must keep in mind that being a witness for Christ means we must give evidence of the hope that is found in Him, and not allow ourselves to forget what we were trying to say in the first place.

Sticking close to the Savior,

jamie

The protection of a loving Father

Pr. 19:16:  “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, but he who is careless of his ways will die.”

Usually, we are the laid-back kind of parents who not only allow their kids to play in rain puddles, but enjoy watching them do so.  We let our kids climb on rocks and walk across things as though those things are balance beams.  We don’t mind when our kids jump off of things, etc.

When we got to Niagara Falls earlier this month; however, all that changed.  As parents, we noticed the strong presence of slippery surfaces all around that park.  Since it was our goal to have an injury-free vacation, our easygoing attitudes turned a bit more tense.

Our kids weren’t being overly careless when they tried to climb and walk on the rocks at Niagara.  They weren’t trying to get hurt when they wanted to run on the water-soaked steps at the bottom of falls.  They’re just kids and they can’t yet see around all the corners.

It’s our job, as their guardians, to set them up for success.  A desire to not see them injured meant that we had to be a bit more strict with our rules.

This verse reminds me of how God protects us.  He has given us commandments to keep us safe and set us up for success.  He wants not just abundant life for us, but also eternal life.  Even when we’re not intentionally being careless, His loving protection is already in place to keep us safe.

His commandments will also help us in those moments when we feel like being intentionally careless.  He doesn’t tell us not to steal just to keep us bound.  There are consequences to stealing, and following His commandments will keep us from those consequences.

Isn’t He good?  Just as we didn’t want our kids to be injured, break bones, or die on the slippery rocks of our vacation world, God doesn’t want us to be injured, become broken, or die here in this world.  He is a loving Provider, caring for His own.

Thank you, Lord, for preparing my way, directing my steps, and giving me wise guidance along the way.  As much as I’ve already been hurt, I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been without You.  I am glad You are a Father who cares. 

Thankful for His commandments,

jamie

Keeping calm because you understand

Pr. 17:27:  “He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.”

Sometimes it’s what we don’t say that makes all the difference.

Although we aren’t “rebel-rousers,” getting into all kinds of mischief, Donnie and I upset someone on our vacation last week.  We apparently broke a rule, and boy did the person in charge get upset.

At first we thought he was just letting us know, since it was clear that we were unaware.  By the time he got done talking at us, he was so upset that he called the police.  Donnie’s version of this story is different than mine…apparently there were lots of words that Donnie spared when we were confronted by this man.  I was kind of in shock at the level of anger he was displaying.

We both remained calm and simply told the man that he should do what he thought was best.  30 minutes later, the police pulled up and spoke to us.  We admitted to breaking the rule and apologized that it was because of our actions that he had to drive out to where we were.  The police officer was very nice and understanding of the circumstance, simply insisting that we no longer break the rules.

I know how many other ways that situation could have gone.  There could have been yelling, fighting, etc. between us and the man or even us and the police officer.  Someone certainly could have been arrested.  We could have been rude and gotten a ticket.  We could have even pushed our side and maybe ‘put the man in his place’, but certainly not offered mercy.

I am thankful for role knowledge and understanding took in our lives in that moment.  After the man spoke to us, our kids, who were with us, were upset.  They were worried that we would be arrested, or that even they would.  We were able to use that as a teaching moment.

Had we gotten upset, said every word that crossed our minds, or argued and fought, we would not have been able to calmly and unquestionably show and tell our kids that God takes care of us.  No matter what happens, we told them, God takes care of us; and we showed that by behaving as though we really believed it.  And God, indeed took care of us.

Our kids were able to see an example of how choosing to be calm and spare your words can truly work best.  That’s especially good at their age, when they think that almost anything is worth arguing about.  ha!  No matter how things turn out, choosing to trust God is never the wrong decision.

It’s clear that all this wisdom and understanding we’re gaining from God’s Word is truly worth more than gold or silver.  Keeping a situation from blazing out of control is priceless.

Calmly preparing to enter my day,

jamie