Colds are Contagious and Sin is Infectious . . .

With the changing of seasons and the fluctuating temperatures, colds and flus abound. The interesting thing about colds/flus is that they rarely just impact one person but rather affect the lives of many. When we feel ‘under the weather’ we usually share our infirmity with those around us, with those closest to us, and with the people we are in contact with. We don’t share this because we have a strange desire to infect others and want them to suffer along with us, it just happens naturally through our daily exchange. It could happen through a cough, a touch, etc. The point is, our infection usually becomes at least one another person’s problem, and on it goes; It can be quite the vicious cycle. Sin too is very infectious and can be very pervasive. It doesn’t usually affect one person, but rather, it usually spills out and touches those closest to us as well. The devil is not a fool, he is cunning and crafty. If he can infect one person, if he can tempt one person and cause them to stumble and fall into sin, chances are he has impacted several other lives as well. 

When seasons change and the time is rife for colds and flus, or whenever we feel a cold coming on, and usually we are able to discern that through various warning signs—sore throat, weird taste in the back of the throat, sniffles, shivers—we need to take combative measures to ‘snip it in the bud’ before it has the opportunity to become a full-blown cold/flu that takes over one’s whole body. So too, we need to be proactive and refrain from putting ourselves in situations where we know we are weak and will be tempted. Or, when tempted, we need to have safety measures in place that will enable us to overcome, whether it be through having an accountability partner, someone we can reach out to, etc. 

Colds are contagious and sin is infectious; They have the ability to affect multiple lives through one infected person. However, with diligence and proper care, we do not need to enable the cycle. 

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Appreciating the Work . . .

Happy Thanksgiving Monday! It’s funny how holidays are very much a time for feasting; Eating and celebrating have become so intertwined. There is rarely a celebratory event without some small treat to augment the occasion. 

We are so incredibly blessed with the bounty the Lord has graciously and generously bestowed upon us. For those who have been blessed to partake in a delicious Thanksgiving meal, enjoying the smells and tastes of the various foods, it is important to remember how much work went into creating the delicacies. Hours, perhaps even days, were sacrificed in preparation for the meal to be enjoyed. Without the love and care and hard work of the cooks, all happening behind-the-scenes, the meal we show up to and expect to indulge in would never be a reality; We would find ourselves sitting around the table swallowing air. 

We don’t always see the hard work that happens behind-the-scenes but we certainly enjoy the fruits of it. Just as we don’t always see all the effort that goes into preparing a meal, and creating something not only edible but also thoroughly enjoyable, we don’t always see how the Lord is working in our lives, preparing the way for us, developing us, and putting things into place. We don’t always understand why we are faced with certain situations, why we have to endure certain trials, or why certain doors open or close, but the Lord sees the end from the beginning and He is working on our behalf, behind-the-scenes, preparing us for the plans and purposes He has in store for us. As we continue along our journey, following the path the Lord has set before us, let us remember to thank the Lord for the provision He has made along the way and for the progress we have made; we may not be where we desire to be, but let’s not forget that we are no longer where we used to be because God is at work in ways we cannot always see. 

So as you sit down to your Thanksgiving meal, or perhaps you already have, enjoy the delicious food but also remember all the work that went into making it a possibility; You are enjoying the fruits of someone’s labor, perhaps even your own 😉

Hebrews 11:1, ‘Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.’

Isaiah 42:16, ‘I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.’

Family Heirlooms . . .

As I prepare to teach on Proverbs 4, I have been reading through the chapter very intentionally and it brought to mind the following illustration. 

In this Proverb we see a father passing on godly wisdom to his sons, the wisdom he himself received from his own father which, Lord willing, his sons will one day pass on to their own offspring. We see here that wisdom is being passed on from one generation to the next, much like a family heirloom. 

Many families pass down heirlooms—prized possessions that are meant to be cherished, treasured, and sustained for the generations to come, usually taking up residence on a shelf or in some safe place. However, as we see in this Proverb, the greatest ‘heirloom’ that can be passed down through the generations is godly and sound doctrine because it is not simply an ornamental trinket to be looked at and enjoyed, but it is life to those who receive it. It doesn’t just add to their lives, it has the power and  ability to transform it! 

The question is, what ‘heirloom’ are you concerned with passing down and also with receiving? 

Free Falling . . .

Driving around town recently, I noticed the first batch of leaves falling from the trees, being tossed to and fro, swirling in their own little dance, until they landed on the ground, only to be picked up again and blown elsewhere by the wind. The leaves have no idea where the wind will take them; they just move in the direction they are blown, trusting the wind to take them there. 

Like the leaves buffeted to and fro by the wind, we don’t always know where the Lord will lead us. He often guides and directs us into the unknown—to places we wouldn’t necessarily choose on our own—because it is in those places that we are fully aware of our desperate need for Him. Though we may not know where the Lord will lead, we can be at peace because we trust the one who is taking us there. 

The fallen leaves are free. They aren’t resisting the power of the wind. When the time comes, they fall from the branches they previously clung to and enjoy the journey; they submit to the wind, allowing it to guide them. 

We are free in Christ and rather than resist what the Lord is trying to do and accomplish in us and through us, we need to embrace it and enjoy the journey. God has the best plans for our lives. He guides us along the right path for the purposes and plans He specifically has for us. Know that as you are on this journey, though at times you may feel like one of those leaves being buffeted and blown around, you are cocooned in the Lord’s embrace and though you may not know where you are going, God does, and He is the one bringing you there. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 . . . Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. 

John 3:8 . . . The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. 

Don’t Pick Your Zits or Get Stuck in the Pits . . .

Temporary solutions often result in permanent problems. 

Zits come and zits go . . . Our skin goes through cycles. At certain times our skin is clearer than it is at other times. And I know from first hand experience how tempting it can be to pop one of those zits to try and minimize the troubled area or squeeze it before it’s ready to release the fluid on its own. We need to be patient. Don’t rush. Don’t make decisions in the moment without first thinking about the consequences because often those decisions are the ones whose solutions linger long after the situation has past, leaving permanent scars where none should have ever been. Wait. The problem area will diminish with time and, if you refrain from taking matters into your own hands (literally), the zit should fade completely without a detectable trace that it was ever taking up residence on your face. It is when we try to aid the process along that the problems begin. There is a good chance that you will scar your skin, leaving a permanent problem area where none should have been. Our quick fixes to ‘problems’ in our lives often create bigger problems with longer lasting effects. A little pimple could become a lifelong scar with improper care. Just as we need to be patient and allow our skin time to clear and heal, we need to be patient and allow the Lord to work in our lives, without trying to rush things along and make rash decisions in the moment. Good things come to those who wait. 

What Have You Lost in ‘Safe’ Places?

Have you ever had something valuable, something of importance, that you didn’t want to lose and so, in your human wisdom, you found a ‘safe’ place to put it, only to forget where that ‘safe’ place was when you needed access to it. Our ‘safe’ places are so safe, they often manage to evade us! Out of sight, out of mind, literally! We search and search, but to no avail! Too late we realize that our items would have been much safer in the open, in the regular places that we frequently use. 

I am sure I still have several things tucked away, in their ‘safe’ places, never to be found again and long forgotten with the passage of time. 

The good news is we don’t have to worry about putting God in a ‘safe’ place because we will never lose Him; God is always with us. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. He is as close as the mention of His name. He is our safe place. 

If we feel distant from the Lord, if we feel as though we are having trouble finding Him, it is not because He is hiding or concealing His presence from us, it is because we have distanced ourselves from Him, neglected Him, and hidden ourselves in the business of life. But take heart; He hasn’t moved or changed. He is still with us and He is patient with us and waiting for us to return to Him. God isn’t in a ‘safe’ place; He is everywhere; He is all around us. He is! 

Psalm 145:18 . . . The Lord is near to all who call on Him . . . 

Deuteronomy 31:6 . . . He will never leave you nor forsake you . . . 

Palm 125:2 . . . The Lord surrounds His people . . . 

Matthew 28:20 . . . I am with you always, to the very end of the age . . . 

When Expectations Imprison—Set Expectations With An Exception . . . .

We each have expectations, every single one of us. Even if we haven’t formalized them, or spoken them aloud, we have an idea in our mind of how we would like things to go. 

Everything flows smoothly when we feel as though we are progressing and moving towards meeting our various expectations; Life is good. We feel unencumbered and productive. However, when obstacles come which block our path of progression and thwart our momentum, what is our reaction and response? When life doesn’t go as we envision, when setbacks come, and we find ourselves in a space we didn’t expect, what do we do? I don’t know about you, but I like to know things. I’m a planner. I like to know what to expect and then act accordingly. However, life is not usually that simple and easily navigated. In those raw moments of reality, where life happens, but not according to our plan, we often want to throw our hands in the air and wave the white flag of defeat and submission. Rather than be flexible, and reassess our situation, we often give into the rush of overwhelming emotions that threaten to drown us. 

The stress comes, followed by the panic, the bile builds in the back of the throat, the feelings of failure and incompetence try to burrow their way deep inside, and we begin digging a hole for ourselves deep within . . .With each thought, we dig a little deeper, until we find ourselves below the surface and overwhelmed by our circumstances. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt imprisoned by your unmet expectations? If you fail to meet an expectation, you feel as though you are shackled to it until you can break free by finally accomplishing it? This is often a prison of our design, but a prison all the same. And it affects the way we feel about ourselves, which in turn affects how we interact with others because we often project our feelings of failure onto others and assume they think lesser of us as well. It’s a difficult cycle to break. 

The problem lies with our mentality. In Proverbs 16:9 it is written, ‘In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.’ It is good for us to plan and to set goals for ourselves—to have expectations—BUT, we need to remember that the Lord has the final say. While we may make plans, it is the Lord’s will that prevails. Regardless of our plans, He directs our steps, and He directs us down the right path. He knows what is best. And while the path He leads us down may not be the type of path we were expecting, although He may bring us somewhere very different than anywhere we had envisioned for ourselves, we can have peace along the path because we can trust the God Who brought us there; He is faithful and He knows what is best. 

It is good to have expectations, just don’t allow them to govern you and have dominion over you; Have expectations with an exception—The Lord. Allow Him to determine your path. It is scary to give up control, to feel as though life is just happening to you, but be reminded that you are held in the hands of the Creator. He knows the end from the beginning; He knew you before you were born and He knows your story; allow Him to write it. Give Him full control of the pen.