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”


The Sniff Test

I have never had a guest writer before, but my friend Lynne Gintzig, a sister on this journey of faith, is sharp and witty, amazing and humble. She doesn’t mince words, but after she steps on my toes, I somehow always leave with a smile. Lindy has the ability to combine profound spiritual wisdom with things she pulls out of the junk drawer of our everyday lives. Enjoy…

                    Porkchops, The “Sniff Test” and a Metaphor for Life.

I have added this to my daily prayer…and I really pray it with SINCERITY. But do I really listen?? “Most Holy Spirit of God, inspire my thinking, pervade my imagination, suggest my decisions and order my doings.”

So WHAT would possess me to fry up some thin cut pork chops when I almost gagged upon opening the package?? (Well, the date was good, I just purchased them and stored them properly was my rationale). Even during the brief flash in the pan they smelled “off”…. So, WHAT possessed me to eat one? I ignored the “red flags”. And believe you me, I suffered consequences all night.

So, why – in our daily lives- when something doesn’t pass the “sniff test” do we ignore the warning signs and our conscience and proceed full steam ahead? Our egos? Our love of something else besides wisdom ($?), comfort (I don’t want to have to go back to store), our lust (I REALLY like a pan fried porkchop), or just plain lazy stupidity (duh).

I say, if you want God to bless your life, then LISTEN to Him… And then obey Him. If something about that relationship with that cute guy (the porkchops LOOKED just fine) smells off, pay attention, GIRLS (and guys). If you jump in the frying pan with those questionable chops, trust me… there WILL be consequences.

Moral of this bedtime story….If your “porkchop” isn’t passing the sniff test, there are other porkchops out there! I’m not giving up porkchops because of a bit of misery, however…it just may take me a few weeks before I can look at one and not gag.


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.


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.

Made to Praise

You will go out with joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands (Is 55:12).

 God’s word is alive! These verses have a historical significance for Israel, but they can stir meaningfully in our hearts today. Our union with nature is captured in this verse praising God. It is what all creation was created to do:

Then the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the Lord.

The pastures of the wilderness drip and the hills gird themselves with rejoicing.

The meadows are clothed with flocks and the valleys are covered with grain; they shout for joy, yes, they sing.

The heavens will praise Your wonders, O Lord.

Let heaven and earth praise Him, The seas and everything that moves in them.

Let the rivers clap their hands; let the mountains sing together for joy.

 Jesus said that if His disciples remain silent, even the rocks will praise Him. But because we have a choice, how much more meaningful is our praise and appreciation to God. Let’s choose not to remain silent.

Let heaven and nature sing.

Fitting God into My World

For in Him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28a).

A Venn diagram is an illustration used as a way of picturing the relationship between two different groups of things. It is made up of two or more intersecting circles. The intersecting parts of the circles show characteristics that they share; the outside parts of the circle show characteristics that are unique to each.

Let’s compare dogs with cats as an example. The outside part of the cat circle might have “climbs trees” or “grooms itself.” The outside part of the dog circle might have “barks” or “has to be bathed.” The intersecting or overlapping parts of the circles would have characteristics they share like “has four legs, a tail, fur.”

Where am I going with this (Please tell me that your brain leaves the box sometimes, too)? I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s place in my life. There are obvious things that I can’t do without God’s “intersection” like breathing and living in the world that He created. And we definitely intersect on Sunday morning. But there are areas where I more or less ignore God, telling Him, “I got this one.”

How do we enlarge the intersecting parts of the circle? The scriptures give us some great guidelines—Pray without ceasing—recognize God’s presence in every situation; Work as unto the Lord—not unto our boss; In all things give thanks—those dirty dishes mean that I ate today.

Jesus desired for us to have this relationship with God when He prayed, “I in them and You in me–so that they may be brought to complete unity.” One with the Father.

We really don’t need to fit God into “our” world. He is already there, waiting patiently for us to recognize that His circle completely covers or interposed on ours—a total eclipse.

For in God we live (physically), are moved (emotionally), and are (intellect and will).