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”


Do You Love Me?

Do you love Me? ….Feed My sheep (John 21:16).

When our oldest son was little, he stood on a chair looking out the back door window, shouting in his best two-year-old televangelist voice to our dog, “Shane on the hill, do you know Jesus?”

My first thought was, “Where did that come from?” Our church didn’t preach like that, and we rarely watched TV.

Jesus asked this same question to Peter—three times. The third time really grieved Peter because, even though he screwed up a number of times with his hot temper and his multiple denials of even knowing Jesus, he felt that deep in his heart he did love Jesus. And Jesus “knowest all things.”

In English, we use the same word to describe everything from our pleasure with a great taco to the intense stirring in our heart for our newborn. As I read this passage, I feel the Lord is asking us to examine the depths of our heart.

Like Peter, I mess up… hourly. My choices are often the comfortable ones, rather than the risky ones that leave me vulnerable and require trust. In actions, I often choose the sheep I want to feed, and those I judge and dismiss. And my thoughts aren’t always overflowing with love either.

But the Lord does know all things. And He may have to remind us with this question over and over and over again of what we should be doing, and thinking, and being, so that we can honestly answer, “You know that I love You.”

Good vs Best

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Prov. 3:5).

I recently read a devotional by Oswald Chambers and, with one word, he really challenged my thinking and fine-tuned my understanding concerning this familiar scripture. He said, “…lean not on your own ‘righteous’ understanding.” Well, we know that worldly thinking is sometimes unscriptural, and we know this applies to carnal perceptions for sure. But have you ever considered that our understanding could be upright and scriptural, but still not be what God had planned at that moment?

This may be a simplistic example, but it helped me to grasp the concept. Once, while preparing for company (you know what that’s like), I asked one of my children to empty the dishwasher. When I came home, the dishwasher was still full, but the house was picked-up. Well, that was a very good and much appreciated help, but my immediate need required full use of the kitchen. Likewise, our service, even if it is righteous and scriptural, may not further God’s plan.

And sometimes the good gets in the way of the best. We may choose a direction to go or a service to do that may be really worthwhile. We may even pray for God to bless our efforts, when in fact, He may have an even better plan. That’s why we’re told to seek His righteousness, and in all our ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct our paths.

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.


Love One Another

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10).

I’m not sure of the exact word count, but the word “love” appears quite often in scriptures. It is a command from Jesus Himself, “Love one another as I have loved you.” That’s a hefty order since He gave all to demonstrate His love for us.

Other scriptures give practical, but still not easy, advice on how to demonstrate love: Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others; be humble, thinking others more significant than yourself (Phil 12:3). And verse 4 tells us to not just be mindful of our own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Sometimes honoring another can be as simple as a greeting, recognizing their existence.

I had written down a quote a few years ago (I need to start noting authors more) that shows the importance of this. “The greatest threat to love is the absence of attention.” This is important to others, but vital in our own homes. The lack of attention turns into neglect which eventually diminishes love.

I’m always looking for ways to please Christ and Ephesians 5:21 tells us that we honor Christ by putting others first. It is a win-win, for sure.

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.


Looking Forward

Not that I have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me (Phil 3:12).

Did you ever look back to events in your life and realize that many of them prepared you for what you are doing now? Personally, some of the things that I just stumbled through gave me the skills or stamina that I am using now.

David, the shepherd, was faced with a lion and a bear that he had to deal with in order to protect his sheep. His developing skill with the slingshot…well, you know the rest.

Often when we look back we see things that we regret. God doesn’t desire for us to stay there and beat ourselves up for mistakes or even [forgiven] sins. But the lessons learned can become our strengths that segway us into helping others.

If anyone had a right to self-condemnation, it was Paul. But his passionate hatred for Christians turned into an even greater passion for sharing the gospel. In his own words, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”