The safety net of hope

Pr. 11:14:  “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”

I’ve been reading some of Paul’s letters to different churches.  Being a travelling missionary, he couldn’t always be present at the churches, so he would write them letters of counsel.  I flipped through and realized how many of those churches I’ve been like over my lifetime.

I’ve been like the church in Thessalonica, young in the Lord, and excited to live for Him!

Oh, but then I’ve turned into the church of Galatia.  Deceived by false teaching, I would believe that in order to be accepted by God, I had to follow the law again.  I allowed guilt, pressure, comparison, or the example of some to lead my away from the salvation of Jesus Christ, and into the thinking that I am saved by my works…not by God’s grace.

Then, I would find my way back to God’s grace, understanding that salvation comes from Him alone, and I would find myself becoming more like the Ephesian church.  Maturing in my spirituality, truly trusting in God’s grace and His strength, walking in unity with my fellow believers, and growing in wisdom, I would be more whole.

After that season of beautiful growth, I would become like the church in Colosse.  I would get distracted from my spiritual growth, and instead, grow in immorality.

Then, after true repentance, I’d be back to baby steps, starting out like a new baby trying to get back to my Savior.  Feeling young and vulnerable again, I would once again be like the church in Thessalonica, excited to give my life to Christ again, and ready to begin taking care of my spiritual growth again.

Just the way Paul counseled the churches through his letters and through the fellow believers he sent their way, I have been counseled along the way by mentors, teachers, Pastors, friends, and the Word of God throughout my inconsistent journey.

I am so thankful that the Lord never let me fall so far that I couldn’t find my way back to Him.  There was a safety that came from the many ‘counselors’ that navigated me through.  Be encouraged today, He can do the same for you.

Certainly I’m not done with my journey.  By God’s grace, I find myself currently in an Ephesian-like season, growing daily closer to Him.  Although it is my hope to remain in that place going forward, I understand that until I’m home in heaven, I will never have it all together.  That’s the beauty of forgiveness, mercy, grace, and renewal.

I encourage us today to be ‘counselors’ for others on their journey.  I pray we will be the instruments God can use to provide the safety they need to block their fall.  Let’s use Paul as our example and encourage those around us in the Lord.  He’s not finished with us yet!

Redeemed,

jamie

 

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It’s about the war…not the battle

Pr. 20:3:  “It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel.”

It’s interesting how many things can become the focus of a quarrel within the church.  Is it best if the communion flowers are red (like the color of blood) or white (the color of purity)?  Should the music be contemporary or traditional?  Is it appropriate for a Pastor to lock himself away with God for an entire day or should he be the one visiting all the sick?

Most of us have heard the phrase, “Pick your battles.”  This holds true even within the church.

Is it the most important thing that the color of the carpet is exactly right or that the name of Jesus is being spoken from the pulpit?  Is it more important that the order of service not be disrupted than that a hurting brother or sister is being ministered to?  Are the political, attire, or translation choices more of an issue than the fact that the saving Word of God is being shared with the lost?

It’s amazing how quickly we can become distracted.  Things that have no eternal value become the focus of our lives and can cause quarrels and divisions.

Solomon reminds us that anyone can start a quarrel, but being the one who drops out of or doesn’t join the fight is honorable.  Pride can sometimes cause us to not want to give up or give in, but honor seems a much better thing to earn than the “win” of a meaningless battle.

Let’s stop striving about things that won’t matter in the end, and start focusing on the job at hand.  There are people dying around us while we’re busy arguing about carpet and musical choices.  Why would anyone want to serve a God that cares more about the carpet than He does about them?

We were called to preach the gospel and to baptize.  Demonstrating the love, peace, and honor that comes from serving the Great I AM is the way to start.

Let’s fight for things that matter…the souls of those around us!  And leave the rest to the fools.

Loving you,

jamie

Walking safely

Pr. 3:23:  “Then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble.”

After I got out of the vehicle at church last night, I promptly tripped.  Although there was nothing noticeable on the ground in my path, I stumbled, but thankfully didn’t fall.

In this chapter of Proverbs, Solomon tells us about the benefits of having wisdom.  One of the benefits of keeping sound wisdom and discretion close is that we will walk safely in our way, and our foot will not stumble.

God’s wisdom helps us to be more aware of the obstacles and roadblocks satan places in our paths.  When we have wisdom, we are more able to recognize those obstacles for what they really are:  temptations positioned to trip us up, cause us to fall, and cause us to lose our bearings.

Discretion allows us to prepare to purposefully avoid certain obstacles.  Instead of walking straight towards them, we are able to make choices that lead us away from or around them.

Unfortunately, there are times when we still make missteps over certain obstacles.  We may hesitate to choose God’s will over the flesh, or we might actually fall.  However, God gives us the wisdom to keep us from staying down.  He gives us discretion to help us put plans in action to keep from tripping over the same obstacles over and over.

As long as we are on this earth there will be stumbling blocks in our path.  If we want to walk as safely as possible, we must keep wisdom and discretion close.  They will enlighten the path before us, and lead us to those streets of gold.

Watching my step,

jamie

 

Keep watching

Pr. 29:1:  “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”

There is a punishment and a destruction that will come that will indeed be without remedy.  This morning, I was reading Luke 12 where Jesus talks about the end coming.  There is a punishment for those who do not choose the Lord as their Master and their Lord.

As this year comes to an end, it is a good time for a reminder that there is an eternal reward, or punishment, that awaits.  Our lives are not about what we see and experience here on this earth, but about the Lord, His will, and eternity with Him.  We cannot harden our necks to this truth, but must stand corrected and ready, waiting on His return.

Jesus tells His disciples, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

This entire passage reminds me of Christmas evening.  We knew that some of our family was expected to arrive that evening.  When they called and let us know that they were 3 hours from arrival, we left my parents house and our other family and went home to prepare.  We wanted to be home when they arrived, to have our home nice and cozy, and to have food waiting on them upon their arrival.

As we waited excitedly, my kids were watching out the window and asking for updates on the time, hardly able to contain themselves with the anticipation.  Luke 12:37 says, “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching.”  This reminds me of what we were doing Christmas evening.

The difference is that we knew what time to expect our company.  We do not have that knowledge about the return of Christ.  vs. 45 says, “But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink, and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.”

When we lose the anticipation about the Lord’s return and become distracted and caught up by this life, He will come back to find us unready and we will be appointed our portion with the unbelievers.

That is not God’s will for our lives.  Hell was created for satan and his angels, not for us.  (Mt. 25:41)  Heaven is the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world.  (Mt. 25:34)  We are meant to spend eternity in heaven with our Savior and King.

Let us not become so distracted, as we wait, that we lose our anticipation of His coming.  He will return!  He will come back for us.  Let’s keep watching, expecting Him at any moment.  Our blessing awaits.

Eagerly,

jamie

Nourishment to complete the tasks

Pr. 19:27:  “Cease listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.”

It is easy for us to give in to busyness in this life, especially during this season of year.  There are so many things pulling at us each day.  We have countless responsibilities.  We are asked to help with many things from those around us.  We have personal things we want to do.  There is nothing necessarily wrong with being busy.  Currently, our “Christmas break” schedule is jam-packed with things to do.

The danger; however, is neglecting the only thing that really matters:  our relationship with God.  With all the busyness, it can be easy to put aside our time with God in an effort to get done all the things that are pulling at us.

Without God, though, we can do nothing.  He is our Strength.  He is our Provider.  He is the One who guides and directs us.  He is the One who instructs us.  If we put Him first, He will help us get done all the things we need to do, or He will direct us when we need to say no to certain things.

Because it is true that when we cease listening to instruction we are more likely to stray from the words of knowledge, we must be diligent and intentional in setting aside our time for the Word of God.

If we are going to choose to say no to something, we must make sure that something is not our time with God.  Above all else, we need to continue abiding in the Vine.  We must remain attached to Him, allowing Him to nourish and enrich us.  It is only abiding in Him that brings the fruit in our lives.

John 15:6 reminds us, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered, and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”

We cannot risk not abiding in Him.  Once we become unattached, we stray, and eventually fall away, being then cast out and withered.  After that, we see what happens.

It may seem like I’m being overly-dramatic, but I’ve seen it before.  Sometimes it only takes a few days for the enemy to cause us to become so distracted that we get out of the routine of making time with God our priority.  Once that takes place, we are vulnerable to his sway.  His sway will always lead us away from God.

During this season, during all the busyness, giving, and frivolity, we must protect our time with God and in His Word.  We must ensure that abiding in Him is at the top of our to-do list.  If we put Him first, all the rest will fall beautifully into place.  “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Let’s remain in Him,

jamie

Don’t let the commercials distract you

Pr. 28:6:  “Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.”

Not having cable, I rarely see commercials.  Yesterday I watched, in amazement, a commercial about fingernail polish.  It started with flirting and ended with 2 people in bed together.  For some fingernail polish.  Really!?

I am not trying to write a bitter diatribe about our society, but it saddens me when I see things like this.  Sin has a mighty grip on our world.  Sin would have us believe that life is all about ourselves, popularity, status, fame, success, sex, and sexiness.

Millions of dollars are spent daily on indulgences, advertisements, and commercials telling us how our lives should be.  Meanwhile, there are people dying every second from hunger.  Christians are dying and being persecuted for the Word of God.  Young girls are enslaved in human trafficking.  Babies are being killed.  People are dying from the lack of the simplest of the medical care.  There are still some who do not know the Lord as their Savior.

There is a work for us to do here on this earth, and I can assure you that it has nothing to do with wearing the sexiest fingernail polish or clothes, having the sexiest body, having the most impressive position at a company, having the most partners or experiences in bed, or having the most socially acceptable friends.

Integrity, a servant’s heart, modesty, humility, contentedness, purity, generosity, and honesty are still better.  God created us for a purpose.  I don’t care what this sin-cursed, sexy-fingernail-polish-wearing world says, God’s will and plans are still what are most important.

We still have work to do.  We don’t have time to allow the commercials and distractions of sin, temptation, or possessions to keep us from that work.  We must choose God, choose integrity, and choose to stay focused on the work for which we were created.  We may not be able to save the entire world in 1 day, but we can start with 1 person in 1 moment, and change a life.

We have to regain our focus on what is truly important.  That starving child does NOT care what kind of lipstick, suit, or shoes we are wearing.  The young girl enslaved in sexual trafficking is not worried about your fingernail polish.  The lady dying from a curable parasite is not interested in which Christmas dishes or tablet you’re picking out.  Those things are distractions and they do not matter.

There are people trapped in sin and others who have never even heard of the Lord.  We must reach out and show the love of Jesus and share about His sacrifice and forgiveness now.  It doesn’t matter what our position or status in society, God can use us to save people’s souls.

We must come to our senses.  We have a job to do, and people are counting on us!

Thank you for indulging me,

jamie

 

Consider who is instructing you

Pr. 22:19:  “So that your trust your trust may be in the Lord, I have instructed you today, even you.”

Years ago I was hooked on a show about clothes and makeovers.  It was pretty inspiring, and funny, to boot.  I eventually noticed that I was overly worried about the clothes, or lack of clothes, in my closet and I quit watching the show.  I am now content again with the blessings God has given me.

Any subject in which you invest your time instructs you, and draws your focus.  When I watch cooking shows a lot, I think about food and cooking a lot of the time.  When I research health and wellness, my thoughts tend to revolve around those things.  When I listen to music, my thoughts begin to be influenced by the words and ideas that I hear.  I must be careful what I allow to instruct me.

Have you considered the purpose of those things you are allowing to instruct you?  Whatever I immerse myself in becomes something on which I focus and I notice my thoughts returning to them over and over.  I find the same to be true of the Word.  When I immerse myself in the Word of God, my thoughts remain focused on the Lord, on His promises, on His commands, on His wisdom, and on His faithfulness.  The Word runs through my mind throughout the day and I see applications of the Word in my daily life.

In whom or in what do you want to place your trust?  This verse tells us that the instructions are given so that our trust may be in the Lord.  If you want your trust to be fully in the Lord, then you must continually be instructed by Him.

When I was watching the show about clothes so often, I began to lose confidence.  Why is that?  I dare say I was being instructed to trust in clothing, money, and outward appearances.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with dressing nicely or buying nice things, but I noticed within myself the feelings of discontent that indicated to me that I was beginning to trust in something that can just be thrown away.

God’s faithfulness endures forever.  He is the same God yesterday, today, and forevermore.  If we are going to receive instruction, I think it wise that it be the instruction of the pure, proven, and living Word of God.  Certainly, there is nothing wrong with learning new things, but when our lives become about things other than God, we are trusting in dust and ash.  God’s faithfulness proves that trusting in Him is not only beneficial, it is eternal.

If you truly want your trust to be in the Lord, the God Most High, the Creator and Sustainer of this universe, then you must be instructed by Him.  He is wisdom.  He is peace.  He is the Comforter.  He is the Lord of all.  Open up your heart and mind to His instruction, and reject any instruction that causes you to trust in lesser things.

Taking notes,

jamie