Stumbling Blocks

Get thee behind me, Satan (Matt 16:23).

These are familiar words of Jesus, when Satan tried to tempt Him with a more comfortable path instead of the one that lay ahead at Calvary. But later in Matthew, Jesus was recorded as saying these same words to Peter, His close friend and follower.

Peter was genuinely concerned about Jesus. When Jesus foretold Peter about His upcoming suffering, Peter did not want to hear it—“Far be it from You, Lord.”

Satan uses every trick in the book to lure us away from God’s plan. Jesus called Peter (or Satan using Peter) a stumbling block. How often has a well-meaning friend tried to suggest an easier path for us? How often have we tried to steer a loved one in a less painful direction that in the long run would hinder their growth? Enabling maybe?

Jesus continued, “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but merely human concerns.”

Because stumbling blocks aren’t intrinsically bad things, Satan can so easily trick us. Maybe Jesus’s words should be our first prayer when we are trying to discern and decide, “’Get out of the way, Satan’…in the name of Jesus”


He Talks to Me Too

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears (John 16:13a).

God speaks to every believer. Period. Sometimes His message hits us like a two-by-four. Other times it is still and quiet and we need to be still and quiet listening for it.

God speaks to us through His word. We may read the same passage over and over again through the years, and then one day, it jumps off the page and is totally relevant to our current situation.

God speaks to us through prayer. We may be praying for a miracle and He may answer by giving us instructions. Really, why couldn’t God give us a thoughtful inspiration? After all, He created our minds. God will never give us a thought that is contradictory to His word or character, but His way is always the best way.

God can speak to us through other believers. Often this can confirm our prayers and should always align with His word.

God wants to talk to us. His ways are the best. His plans for us are the best, and He is more than willing to reveal Himself to us.


Walk Wisely

See that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise (Ephesians 5:15).

Have you noticed that whenever we have an abundance of anything, we have a tendency to treat it with less care, maybe even recklessly? Likewise, when our stockpile is getting sparse, we are more cautious and are more thoughtful about its use. Think of the last jar of homemade jam, or nearing the end of our favorite perfume, or nearing the end of our paycheck, gas tank, or time with a loved one.

God’s word tells us to walk (live) with careful attention. When I became a parent, some of the “important” things I did as a teen began to seem not only unimportant, but foolish. Personal primping was replaced by meeting the needs of my family. At each stage of life, our priorities become more refined as we pick and choose the most meaningful, hopefully making the most of every opportunity (vs 16).

Acting thoughtfully is not restrictive like a diet in which we eliminate every fun, joyful, pleasurable, sweet and beautiful thing from our lives. God did not create the gratifying things in the world for only the foolish to enjoy, but the word clarifies —have nothing to do with fruitless deeds of evil and darkness (vs 11). That sounds like something I’d want to eliminate.

Other verses in Ephesians further explain—understand what the Lord wants you to do. For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light in all goodness, righteousness and truth.

John Gill, an early theologian, sums up wise living in this way—the wise walk according to the rule of God’s word, with Christ as their pattern, having the Spirit as their guide.

The Word

A little different format today—I have been studying Psalm 119 which mainly concerns the Word of God. I’m sure that God was intentional about its importance in making it the longest chapter in the Bible. Today, rather than focusing on one verse, I’d like to comment on just a few of the many profound verses in this chapter. Feel free to add your comments, too.

(5) Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!—We can’t do it in our own power and, as I said before, even the apostle, Paul said that he sometimes did things that he hated. Can you imagine what our world would be like if we all could accomplish this!

(11) I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.—If we are feeding our hearts the Bread of Life, our actions are more apt to follow.

(18) Open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in your law.–The Living Translation says, “…the wonderful truths in your instructions.” Either way, this is a great prayer to God to open out hearts to absorb His ways.

(24) Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.—The advice of well-meaning family or other believers are only relevant if they coincide with God’s word and the Spirit speaking directly to us through our prayers.

(98) Your commands make me wiser than my enemies.—Unlike David, my enemies don’t often appear in human form, rather they are temptations, or self-doubt, or pride. God’s word contains principles that enable us to deal with these enemies, too.

(130) The unfolding of your word gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.—The wisdom from God’s word is more meaningful and appropriate that even the most naïve, unsophisticated, uneducated can be wiser than the world’s most knowledgeable and brilliant scholar.

And finally as a prayer

(133) Direct my footsteps according to your word—let no sin rule over me.

Worthless Things

Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word (Ps 119:37).

At this time in my life, my time is  much more flexible. I find myself often praying for God to guide me and show me His will for the day. God does not reveal His will for our lives from beginning to end, and there are very good reasons for this. His plans for each of us are so tremendous that it may scare us because we haven’t grown to that point yet. Or it may be the opposite; we may get so excited that we jump ahead of God when we, or the time, are not ripe. Another very important reason is that we need to learn to trust—trust Him as He shows us the way to go—

This is why reading the word and loading our hearts with His principles is so vital. As our hearts are being filled with truth and love, our decisions and actions have a much better chance of being righteous. Psalm 119 tells us that the word illuminates our path and that we can stay on the right path by heeding it.

But the verse that stood out to me today is Psalm 119:37–Turn my eyes away from worthless things. This certainly doesn’t mean that we’re destined to a somber life. Quite the opposite! But many things that the world has to offer are shallow, just a veneer. We’ve all heard about people chasing power, fame and wealth and acquiring all that the world has to offer except the joy and peace that comes only from following the word.

Those worthless things are so enticing, and before we know it, we are lured and ensnared, but never satisfied. Jesus used some pretty strong words when He said that if our eye causes us to sin, pluck it out. The prayer in this verse makes it easier—Turn my eyes away from worthless things; help me not even to notice nor acknowledge them.

To The Next Generation

Even when I’m old and gray…let me proclaim your power to the next generation, your mighty miracles to all who came after me (Ps 71:18).

One of our most important jobs in this life is to pass on HIS story, the message of truth of the mighty power and saving grace of Christ Jesus, to the next generation.

When my children left home for college, marriage, or life on their own, I gave much thought as to whether or not we had prepared them enough—would they eat too many fast foods because they couldn’t cook, or mix whites with their jeans, or balance a checkbook, or, or, or.

Really they could survive in the world without knowing all these skills as long as they know who to go to. What better go-to person than the Creator, the One who designed the world, and the One who formed each unique person. He is there for the major hurdles, and He is there for the little things too.

In the Old Testament, God’s people built altars so that when their children inquired about them, they could tell the story of how God worked in their lives. I have seen Him work miraculously in my own life, especially in regard to His perfect timing, and I have never met a believer who doesn’t have a personal story.

Sharing our own stories of God’s miracles is really giving the next generation a gift much better than the heftiest trust fund—it’s sharing hope.

Little Foxes

Catch the foxes, the little foxes that spoil our vines: for our vines have tender grapes (Song 2:15).

Although the Song of Solomon is a beautifully written book about marriage, many of the lessons (other than the sexual ones) apply to all relationships, especially our relationship with God.

Just as foxes can destroy the vineyard, any one of a number of circumstances can attack us and our relationships, and do so daily. Although the major crises can devastate us, the “little foxes” can do equal damage. Often times they make their appearance unnoticed, like minor irritations or small annoyances.

Relationships are fragile like the tender grapes and must be guarded and nurtured. And like anything worth pursuing, it takes vigilant care. God’s word is all about relationships—with Him and with others. God’s word illuminates the little foxes, our personal temptations, especially those that slide us into conformity or acceptance of sinful, worldly values.

I can’t conclude any more clearly than by repeating God’s word– Catch the foxes, the little foxes that spoil our vines, for our vines have tender grapes.