When You Don’t Want to Go Back to the Way You Were

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s  message:

I just got my braces off…again.

I have had braces on my upper teeth three times. Count them. One. Two. Three.

As the orthodontist explained, “Teeth have a memory. They always want to go back to the way they were.”

As soon as he said those words, I felt convicted. I have a tendency to go back to the way I was.

We all do.

Karen (not her real name) admitted to single handedly destroying her marriage with passive aggressive coldness, destructive words, and disrespect of the worst kind. After her husband walked away from the marriage, she had a Holy Spirit moment and realized what she had done. Karen’s heart softened and she vowed never be that woman again.

She immersed herself in Bible study and began to pray for her ex-husband even though the marriage was over. Karen took on the beautiful holy glow of a woman who knew she was totally forgiven and completely loved by God. Miraculously, her ex-husband saw the change, and the marriage was restored!

However, after a few years, the destructive behavior began to creep back in.

A word here.

A cold shoulder there.

A retreating into self for weeks at a time.

Ten years after the miraculous restoration, the marriage crashed and burned.

“Teeth have a memory. They always want to go back to the way they were.”

Jesus saw this tendency to fall into old ways when He cleaned out the temple. In the beginning of his ministry, after his first miracle of turning the water into wine at the wedding of Cana, He traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.

“In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle, he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market.’” (John 2:14-16 NIV)

Three years later, during his last week of life on earth, Jesus came upon the unholy mess again.

“Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers’” (Matthew 21:12-13 NIV).

How did the corruption happen the second time?I don’t think it happened all at once. After Jesus cleared out the temple initially, I suspect it stayed that way for a time. But one day, a money changer set up his table. Then another brought in a few birds, followed by a couple of sheep, and then here came a cow.

The next thing you know, the temple wasn’t any different than it was before Jesus cleared it out and cleaned it up three years earlier. In three years it had reverted back to an unholy mess.

And God whispers in my ear: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19 NIV).

Sometimes I am that messy temple.

Swept-clean sinful behavior, ungodly thoughts, and jump-off-the-cliff emotions are itching to creep back in at all times. It is up to me (and to you) to keep the temple clean.

Perhaps you’ve had a Holy Spirit moment at some point in your life—a moment that caused you to make a major lifestyle change.

But for the moment to maintain momentum, we need to be constantly aware of our tendency to revert…to go back to the way we were.

I am so thankful that Jesus went back to clean out the temple a second time. It lets me know that He will graciously return to my messy self again and again with broom in hand.

I don’t know about you, but I never want to go back to the way I was.If you’re willing to take a few moments and ask God if there is something you’ve allowed to creep back in, join me in praying Psalm 51 in the prayer below.

Then leave a comment and say, “I’m doing it today!”

Have a blessed day!

The Power of Confession

Thank you Kelly Balarie for today’s message.

When he got in the car, he kept his head down, looked away, and muttered some words. Not hearing him outright, I said, “Son, what is it?”

He muttered, “I made a mistake. I looked at someone’s paperwork at school and copied their answer. I didn’t tell my teacher, but I told God ‘I’m sorry’. I will never do it again.”

I conveyed to him that he did right thing by confessing to God and deciding to change. God forgives. God keeps no records of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). Our sins are cast into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, ESV)

Jesus takes away the burden of sin, when – through confession – we allow him to do so.

But, later that night (and I mean way-late), I felt a finger-poke in my side.

There he was, standing there, fretting, and worried. He cried, “Mommy, I have to text my teacher now. I feel so guilty. I want this off of my back.”

And, he did. The next morning, he wrote her a text essentially saying he was sorry. That he didn’t want to carry this anymore. That he needs to feel better.

And, after he pressed send, I was amazed. The transformation was huge. He went from being down and dejected to dancing and jubilant. He jumped around the house rejoicing and full of new life.

This is a picture of repentance. When we let go of the guilt, we carry to receive the blessing of the cross that Jesus carried – we always find new life.

Part of the process is forgiving our self. Have you forgiven yourself for the wrongs, the guilt, or the burdens that weigh you down? If Jesus forgave you, can’t you forgive yourself too? If Jesus paid the ultimate price, hasn’t he fully purchased all your mistakes?

If you’ve confessed your sins to God, but still don’t feel life, you might consider doing these three things:

1. Confessing to any other people involved, as God leads you.

2. Letting go internally. This means you release the guilt, shame and burdens to Jesus from within you and receive his gift of forgiveness, once and for all.

3. Choosing not to dwell any more on what issue God has already set you free from.

I’ll never forget the look on my son’s face after he got that burden “off his back.” We can do the same today. Freedom is right on the other side of asking for and receiving forgiveness.

Have a blessed day!

That Little Sneaky Path to a Bad Place

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message:

 He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake ~ Psalm 23:3, NKJV

One Sunday my pastor had to do some housekeepin’ fussin’ at our congregation before he started his sermon. It was a “visitors, close your ears” moment as Jimmy interrupted the service for an important message from our neighbors.

See, right beside our church property is a city park. On Sundays, when our parking lot is full, we tend to use the city park lot for our overflow parking. The only problem is that the folks going to the city park don’t like the fact that those daggum CHURCH people are taking their parking spaces.

It is not nice of us. Really. I’m sorry. I’ve done it, too.

And while our sweet pastor calmly asked the congregation, once again, to STOP PARKING IN THE CITY PARK PARKING LOT (he didn’t yell, but I bet he wanted to), folks still do it. As soon as Jimmy finished his announcement and began his sermon, God had a sermon just for me. He wasn’t finished with me and the forbidden parking lot issue. That’s what happens when you make a path or keep a path open, He seemed to say, “You’re going to walk down it eventually.”

See, while we have been warned, scolded, and pleaded with not to park next door, there is this nice little path through the bushes from the city park’s parking lot to our church’s parking lot. The bushes are trimmed on both sides, cobblestones are succinctly placed, and a nice little bit of concrete forms a gently curving sidewalk. Someone keeps the bushes clipped and the grass maintained. The breezeway almost beckons us (me) to break the rules.

Now let’s go down a different path. Let’s call the path sin. Let’s say that you have decided that once and for all you are not going to park yourself in the parking lot of a particular sin.

  • You’re not going to stop by Dunkin’ Donuts and eat a dozen chocolate-covereds in one sitting. You’re not even driving by.
  • You are not going to sleep with that boyfriend… ever again!
  • You’re not going to date that guy you know is bad for you… ever again.
  • You’re not going to look at that particular website.
  • You’re not going to flirt with the married guy in the next cubicle.
  • You’re not going to gossip about other people.
  • You are not going to drink because you know you have an alcohol problem.
  • You are not going to indulge in online shopping because you’re in debt.
  • You’re not going to _______________.

There are hundreds of vices you could put in that sentence. But then there’s a nicely groomed little path that you’ve kept open…just in case. You wouldn’t call it “just in case.” You wouldn’t say it out loud.

  • The guy’s name is still in your contacts list on your smartphone.
  • You still think about what that guy in the next cubicle would like when you get dressed for work in the morning.
  • You still pull up that website when you think God isn’t looking.
  • You still pull up a chair when someone begins to gossip.
  • You still take the route home from work that goes right by the Dunkin’ Donuts store.
  • You keep a bottle in the cabinet…just for company.
  • The paths beckon you. And as long as you keep the breezeways open, you’ll probably breeze right through them… eventually.

The answer? Remove the path. Put up a gateless fence.

  • Remove the contact.
  • Change your job.
  • Get rid of your computer.
  • Get an accountability partner.
  • Take a different route home from work.
  • Remove the bottle.
  • Unsubscribe.
  • Make the path to temptation impassable, implausible, and impossible to take, and put up a gateless fence instead.

Jesus said, “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” (Matthew 5:29 NKJV). That is pretty dramatic. I’m not telling you to pluck out your eye, and I’m not sure that’s what Jesus was saying either. But He was telling us to remove the cause of the temptation.

Remove the path. Put up a fence.

So here’s my question: Do you need to put up a fence where you now have a path?

Have a blessed day!

The Kindness of Intentional Blindness

Thank you  Michele Cushatt for today’s message.


We were hoping for a long, slow dinner out with good friends. Instead, what we got was a mediocre meal and a rude waitress.

From the moment we walked in the door of the tiny cafe, we felt her chill. She didn’t want us standing by the door, nor did she like it when we sat in a couple vacated chairs while we waited for a table. When our table was finally ready, she seemed annoyed by the number of our children. Then, when we asked for an additional glass of water, she let us know she’d already brought enough for everyone. We must’ve misplaced it. Finally, when we discovered we’d been given a regular pizza when we’d asked for gluten-free, she made sure we knew we must’ve ordered it wrong and it was definitely not her fault.

Now, I’d love to tell you my first instinct was one of compassion and grace. Instead, I looked at this snarky young woman—young enough to be one of my own children—and I considered how a good solid smack down might do her a bit of good. She was rude, disrespectful, unkind, and not at all the example I want my youngest three children to see. Customer service was absent, not to mention basic manners and human kindness. Her behavior was unacceptable, and every part of me wanted to tell her so.

Until later that evening, when we processed what had happened and an insight by my friend doused my fire:

“Did you hear what she said when she walked away? ‘I can’t do anything right.’ She must’ve been having a hard day.”

Just that fast, my annoyance turned to empathy. I knew what it felt like to have one of those days, when everything goes wrong and I feel like nothing but a failure. Sometimes it’s easier to erect a hard shell than crumble in a million pieces. Cold indifference feels safer than sadness.
I can’t help but wonder: What would’ve happened if I’d chosen lean in and extend kindness? What would’ve happened if I’d tempered my annoyance with both curiosity and grace? While her behavior was unacceptable, there’s a chance it might also be understandable. Perhaps she’d experienced a difficulty that day I knew nothing about, or even a loss my own heart couldn’t fathom.

Annoyance does nothing to lend comfort.

But kindness speaks calm to a storm.

“Fools show their annoyance at once,” Solomon said. By all accounts, I act like a fool more than not. I’m easily annoyed, especially with those closest to me, the ones living inside the walls of my house. Some days it doesn’t take much for my adolescent children to trigger a reaction. And, in many cases, their behavior deserves parental correction. But what if I responded to insults with kindness? What if my correction of them also included authentic connection? How might my calm demeanor melt the coolness of those around me?

After all, that is precisely what God does for us. When having a hard day, He doesn’t match my rudeness and obstinate  with His. Instead, He offers relationship, allowing His kindness to bring about the correction I so desperately need.

Have a blessed day!

 

Before You Get Mad

Thank you Arlene Pellicane for today’s message:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19 NIV

It was raining like crazy when I went to pick up my son from school. I had told him earlier to look for my car so I wouldn’t have to get out in the rain. I slipped into my ugliest, oldest flip flops. I was just planning to stay in the nice, dry car.

There was my son in plain sight. He walked towards me and then walked right…past…my…car! He made a U-turn but still missed me. I was so upset and exasperated. I got out of my car, embarrassed to be wearing my for-home-use-only flip flops, and yelled “ETHAN!!!” at the top of my lungs.

He finally saw me. I darted back to the car, totally unprepared for the downpour. In those few seconds, I talked to myself. I was very aware of how mad I was! “Calm down, don’t be mad. It’s not really a big deal.”

The first thing I said to Ethan was, “You made me get out in my flipper floppers!” which made us both laugh because I looked so ridiculous. I asked as calmly as possible, “Why didn’t you see my car?”

“I was expecting you to come in the van, but you came in the other car.”

Oh. That made sense. My anger which had risen so quickly like a thundercloud dissipated.

James wrote to us about the powerful emotion of anger, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19 NIV)

Notice one quick and two slows.

Quick to listen. Slow to speak and slow to become angry.

We can get that turned around. We can be slow to listen and quick to speak and quick to become angry. Before you get mad at your child, husband, friend, mom, or co-worker, take a deep breath. Think about one quick and two slows. Ask God to calm you down and to help you to listen.

“Slow to be angry” in the original Greek means “slow to boil.” We live in a microwave generation where many things move fast, almost instantly from blazing Internet connections to fast food. When it comes to getting angry, we are instructed to be more like a slow-cooking crock pot than a microwave.

This can be very difficult! As James writes, “No human being can tame the tongue. It is restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8, NIV). Thankfully we have the Holy Spirit residing within us as our Teacher and Guide.

Please understand there is a place for right anger. You see Jesus’ righteous anger toward the injustice and corruption happening in the temple (Matthew 21:12-13). God’s anger burns against the wicked. Not all anger is bad. But sometimes the anger that comes out in our cutting tone, yelling, or terse words isn’t rooted in righteousness. It’s rooted in selfishness.

Let’s be slow to boil, slow to speak, slow to get angry. Let’s instead be quick to listen. We may find out the other side of the story is a worthwhile tale

Have a blessed day!