Nip the Problem in the Bud

“I, as a child of God, belong to heaven and God. It is not a question of giving up sin, but of giving up my right to myself, my natural independence and self-assertiveness, and this is where the battle has to be fought.” Oswald Chambers
I spent almost two hours asking the Lord to show me what was going on inside me. Why focus there? Because sin doesn’t just happen!
According to the analogy used in James 1, temptation is merely an opportunity presenting itself for us to handle life our way or what James calls our “own evil desire”.
This desire – something we set our heart on doing – is only brought to the surface by the temptation. Then as we mull this desire over in our head, instead of eliminating it, we progress to the next step – conception.
In following James’ analogy, though, there is a gap between conception and birth. The struggle is not sin. Sin is when we act on or give birth to our desires, the “my way of handling life” wiring inside our head and heart. This is why Scripture tells us to focus our efforts on the first step of renewing our mind, not on the last step of changing our behavior.
Mom used to call this nipping the problem in the bud. You never let the flower bloom, sin in this case, because you cut it off before it does.
If you don’t deal with the inside, sin will be the result. But if you change what’s inside, you automatically remove sin before it ever happens.
We don’t need people to hold us accountable not to sin, the last step. No, we need accountability to the life-change FREEdom process that enables us to nip the problem in the bud/our thinking, the first step.
This is true biblical Christianity – people whose lives have been changed, not those who merely talk about life change.
Who is your first step accountability to life-change partner?

Be Glad You Don’t Know

“You worry about the hidden will of God? It’s none of your business. If it was, He would have revealed it to you.” R.C. Sproul
I recently finished a very physically and mentally challenging program. I know the Lord led me to it. And I absolutely know He got me through it as well.
Just this past weekend, during a Go Group activity (doing something I already do with those who need Jesus), I realized just how much strength and power the Spirit (Zechariah 4:6) gave me to get through that program. I still ache a week after it ended!
Now, if God had told me before I entered the program just how many different types of pushups I would do, how many bags of ice and ibuprofen pills I would need, and how many times I would grind my bad shoulder, I probably wouldn’t have even started training for the program, let alone enter it!
Yet, I am extremely thankful that He didn’t. I learned so many life lessons about Him for having gone through it.
One of those lessons comes out of Proverbs 3:5-6. God makes our paths straight. This implies there will be bends in the road that we can’t see around.
There will be many times we simply will not know what lies ahead. And we should be glad about not knowing too!
The Spirit doesn’t tell us everything we want to know on this side of the bend. We couldn’t handle it and would probably quit in the process if He did.
You don’t need to know everything. That’s God’s job. Your job is simply to love Jesus by following where He leads, even when you can’t see around that bend.

Thankful for the Bloom

Bloom as you were planted.
There used to be large swatches of wheat fields by my house long before the houses came. I loved listening to the wind blow through the kernel filled tops as I walked through them. These fields taught me the day to day reality of the seeds parable.
One day, I stopped and examined two wheat stalks standing side by side. They were planted in the same rich soil, soaked in the same amount of sunshine, and received the same amount of rain as they stood next to each other.
Yet, despite all this sameness, each stalk had different kernel amounts! Why? The seed, not the elements, determined their final tally.
Mark 4 tells us that the seed is the Word of God or Jesus. He determines what will be produced in our lives as we listen to and follow Him. Here, then, are a few takeaway truths from this parable.
First, be thankful for who He made you. You are a valuable wheat stalk in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10). Your Father made you who you are for a reason. Thus, He will use you to touch lives, make healthy Jesus disciples, just as He made you. So bloom as you were planted and thank Him for it today.
And second, stop looking around at how He made others! You are not someone else for a reason as well. Therefore, instead of complaining about who you are not, start thanking Him for who you are in Christ. Bloom as you were planted and thank Him for it today.
The Father paid a heavy price, the life of His Son, to make you who He made you to be. Be thankful for it by blooming as you are planted.

Trust Me

Who is more important than what.
A good friend of mine recently sent a video of a 20 year-old French woman, who recently rode the largest wave ever ridden by a woman – 70 feet! My friend said it would scare her beyond belief to do it.
I texted back, “I bet that surfer would be scared of the places you’ve gone!” You see, my friend is a nurse, who has gone to dangerous places to bring medical care. She heard Jesus say, “Do you trust Me?”
On the latest phase of my Jesus journey, I’ve heard Him repeatedly say, “Do you trust Me?” My first reaction was, “Obviously Lord I don’t or you wouldn’t be asking me that question!”
When Jesus told Peter to get out of the boat on that stormy night, He was saying, “Do you trust Me?”
My friend, Peter, and myself were at different places in our Jesus walks. What might have scared one, wouldn’t bother the other. The what is not important. The who you are trusting is.
Are you playing it safe today or hearing Jesus say, “Do you trust Me?” Are you content with where you are at or hearing Jesus say, “It’s time to ride another wave?”
My friend and I have learned so much about ourselves and our God because we’ve trusted Jesus and gone where He said to go. Easy? Not a chance. Worth it? Words can’t describe it.
I challenge you to take your God-given skills to places others won’t or can’t, but Jesus is asking you to go. And guess who will be standing right next to you?
You know Who.

Rocks, Rocks and More Rocks

“The good news is this: your feelings aren’t your God. Your God is your God.” Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
This is the Desert of Paran in southern Israel. It’s the same visual the Israelites had as they traveled from Egypt to the Promised Land.
What do you see? Rocks, rocks and more rocks, right? How about quite literally tons of opportunities to see your God work?
In Isaiah 44:8, God Himself calls Himself a rock. Guess where the first time the word for rock was ever used? Yup, you guessed it. It was during the Israelites hike through the desert. Moses was told to hit a rock and water would come gushing out.
Israel had been walking in a very barren piece of real estate, seeing rock after rock after rock when they became thirsty.
Instead of continuing to enjoy their journey with their Provider, the God who just wiped out the world’s super power using many of nature’s tools (hail, bugs, etc.), they focused on their feelings of thirst and complained about God’s lack of provision.
Jesus has taken me on a very arduous journey where all I could think about was getting through it, rather than enjoying it. I’ve been counting down the days when it would be over!
The Spirit showed me that my focus has been in the wrong place – on the rocks as obstacles to get over or around rather than as opportunities to see my God provide the strength and ability necessary to cross this desert. He called me into it. He has gotten me this far. Relax and enjoy your God, Chris. He will get me through it.
How about you, where is your focus today – on the rocks or what your God can do through those rocks?
Let your praise increase as you experience your God do what only God can do; thus, increase your Jesus story that others need to hear.