I haven’t posted in a while due to an insane work schedule over the last month ands traveling this week. God has blessed me with a 4-hour layover so I thought I’d take a moment and reflect on something that’s been eating at me today. I travel semi-regularly for work and since I work with the military, I have a wide variety of people I go on these trips with from all kinds of backgrounds. Some I have quite a bit in common with and we have a rather enjoyable time together. Others…we are polar opposites and it’s a struggle for me to be likeable. I usually try to find things in common with the other person so that I can be relatable so that we have some sort of positive interaction and develop a good interpersonal relationship, even if it only lasts for the duration of that trip. As a profound introvert, this can be excruciatingly painful for me if the gap is wide. Why do I put myself throug this? I do it for the sake of the Gospel. You see, I realize that evangelism is definitely NOT one of my spiritual gifts. I also realize that this does not absolve me from the responsibility we all have to share the Gospel and do what we can to lead others to Christ. Knowing these things, I do what I can to develop relationships so that I can create opportunities to share my faith in more personally natural ways.Keep reading
“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
This parable of the prodigal son is a beautiful picture of God’s forgiveness and compassion. When we finally come to the point of recognizing our sin and coming back to God, He doesn’t stand there and look the other way, pretending not to see us coming. That’s kind of what we do, isn’t it? We pretend to go about our business as if the offense doesn’t bother us and that we will be just fine if the person never apologizes and comes back to reconcile the relationship. We pretend to give up while quietly holding a grudge. Then when the person finally apologizes and tries to make things right, we usually have one of two reactions. Sometimes we tersely respond with something along the lines of “It’s ok” or “I forgive you” and leave it at that to avoid the awkwardness of the emotional healing or perhaps to simply let them know we are still displeased about whatever happened. Other times, we respond by laying into them with how bad the offense was and how it better never happen again.
God isn’t that way with us and I’m so glad! Not only does He let go of the offense, and He also doesn’t stand firmly in place and force us to come all the way to Him. He runs to us as soon as we humble ourselves and start to walk back! He makes it so incredibly easy to come back home and restore the relationship.
Now, God doesn’t do anything that needs forgiving, but stop and think about how often we run after Him the way He runs to us…
For many people in today’s America, our coming to God is usually defined by crawling back or reluctantly following. How often do we really run to Him other than when we have a problem for Him to fix? How often do we run to God with joy after recognizing His work in our life? How often do we run to God tell Him about our excitement or hopes and dreams? How often do we run to God because we just enjoy being in His presence?
Too often, we have such a one-sided relationship with God. Even if we take all of our needs to Him and lean on Him when times are hard, it stops there and we neglect sharing our joy with Him. Have you ever had a friend or family member that only talks to you when something goes wrong, but then when times are good you never hear from them? We do that to God without even thinking about it. However, the richness of walking closely with God is the joy that we are able to have by sharing the good times with Him. Jesus came to give us a life full of joy and abundance (John 10:10, 16:24).
We don’t like to be on the giving end of a one-sided relationship, and neither does He. I’m thankful that He is more patient and more forgiving that we are when it happens. I have written other posts that revolve around intentional living with our spouses and children, and truly we should be striving to live intentionally with God as well. The best and deepest parts of a relationship are when we actively take part in them. Passive loving is always one-sided and usually rooted in self-centeredness. Active and intentional loving brings the relationship into balance and enables both sides to find joy and fulfillment.
God doesn’t need us to find His fulfillment. He has that in Himself, but He still earnestly desires to have a deep relationship with each one of His children. As you go through life, I hope you’ll take time to live intentionally not just with your family and friends, but with God.
Do you ever have those days where one thing after another seems to chip away at your ability to have a nice, relaxing, joy-filled day? It’s like there’s something trying to get you to stumble or give up on trying to have that picture-perfect family and church life. Well…there is and they call him the Adversary, aka Satan. 1 Peter 5:8 informs us of his M.O. (that’s modus operandi for those of you who like Latin; i.e. how he operates):
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”
Now, 1 Peter is specifically written to Christians (see 1 Pet 1:1-2), so that tells me he’s more ragingly interested in attacking believers than he is non-believers. As many good preachers remark, if he can’t keep you out of heaven he’ll do everything he can to get you to ruin your testimony so you can’t help other people in. His best tool in keeping people out of heaven is an ineffective Christian with a poor testimony.
I’ve come to understand that the stronger your faith is and the harder you try to live for God and do His will, the harder Satan works to ruin you. Ephesians 6:16 gives us his preferred method for taking down earnest Christians:
“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”
He’s like a petulant child lobbing rocks at you from a distance just to get you to react! He wants to break your spirit and make you lash out in anger and frustration. I don’t know about you, but this usually happens to me on Sundays and Wednesdays…when I’m supposed to be in church ministering and being an encouragement to others. Try teaching about biblical parenting with patience after you’ve given your kids a thorough tongue-lashing. It feels like you’re holding up a giant “I’m a hypocrite!” sign.
I recently had such a Wednesday where Satan was lobbing fiery dart after fiery dart:
– My workday was filled with people not doing their jobs or constantly asking me how.
– I was stewing (maybe obsessing) over the potential of getting some bad news from a medical test the day prior.
– Our 8-month-old preemie was being super cranky and feverish. We suspected teething, but he was just generally not a happy camper.
– Our 2-year-old suddenly developed a 102 fever – there went church for the night.
– Our 3- and 5-year olds were being rambunctious (as small boys tend to be) and incredibly loud trying to talk over the other two who were crying.
– The dog was scratching at the door constantly wanting out (unless she wanted in, of course).
– Dinner was chaotic and all the kids wanted something different.
– Sara dealing with a very rude billing department over the mountain of medical bills we’ve accrued over the last year. I was trying to keep the chaos down for her but it wasn’t going so well.
Man…it was just one thing after another and I was on the verge of having a rather loud and animated meltdown. I sat at the top of the stairs watching the chaos below and listening to the chaos in the bedroom where my wife had retreated so she could hear someone being rude to her over the phone. I just sat there…wondering how an evening could go so sour when I was trying so hard to do the right things for everyone and get to church.
Then Ephesians 6:16 hit me and it all made sense. I was being pelted with fiery darts and I had to either decide to rage out over it or make some lemonade. The cool thing about Ephesians 6:16 is in the first part of the verse where Paul tells us exactly what to do about the darts: “Above all, [take up] the shield of faith.”
Above all…more important than the belt of truth…more important than the breastplate of righteousness…more important than the gospel of peace and helmet of salvation…that shield of faith is the most important piece of armor because it’s what helps you withstand the fiery darts that are meant to make you ineffective in your Christian walk. Hallelujah! I had the perfect lemonade maker and all I had to do was pick it up (why I wasn’t holding it already is the subject of another post on spiritual readiness…)! Here’s how I used it…
First, I picked up each of my kids one-by-one and loved on them and a peaceful calm settled in. Maybe they figured out they didn’t need to yell and whine to get my attention or maybe I was just more calm because I recognized they weren’t being bad…they were being kids. I didn’t need to explode on them and provoke them to wrath; I needed to nurture them (Eph 6:4).
Next, I decided to be more intentional with them the rest of the night. Ellie got a couple more bedtime songs. The boys got an extra book and Bible story. By the time the bedtime routines were done, everyone was full of smiles and “I love you’s.”
As is normal, Sara was still getting the baby down when I was finished with the other kids, so I cleaned up the kitchen for her and got my breakfast ready for the morning while I watched some Star Trek (hey…don’t judge me…everyone is geeky about something).
I didn’t get to go to church, but I got to enjoy the family that God blessed me with. Here’s the thing, though; it didn’t happen by deciding that I wasn’t going to let the chaos and disappointments bother me. It happened by choosing to love everyone else instead of loving myself (i.e. selfishly concentrating what was not going right for me). It happened by putting God back in the center of everything where He belongs. That is essentially the core of how God wants us to go about life while here on this earth (Matt 22:35-40).
If you’re a Christian, rest assured that Satan is coming after you and doing whatever he can to trip you up. He’s lobbing those fiery darts your way. If you’re not carrying your shield of faith and prioritizing God in your life, your guard will be down and those darts will be free to hit you right in the face. Without centering your life on your faith in God, your priorities and desires will be off the mark and it will be easier for the Adversary to throw you off balance and get you to sin.
Next time you’re having a dart-filled day, remember to pick up your shield and resist the Devil; and I promise that he will flee from you (James 4:7).