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!

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!

If You Feel Like a Hot Mess, You’re Not Alone!


Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message.

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus  ~ Romans 3:22-24 NIV

Sometimes I feel like such a mess, I wonder what God even wants with me. And then He reminds me that ALL His children are a mess in one way or another.

A common theme throughout Scripture is overcoming failure. Abraham passed his wife, Sarah, off as his sister because of fear (Genesis 12 and 20). Lot failed to stand up for what was right and offered his daughters to immoral men (Genesis 18-19). Jacob betrayed his father and stole his brother’s blessing (Genesis 27). Moses struck the rock twice in anger when God commanded him to strike it once (Numbers 20:11). Aaron gave into peer pressure and made a golden calf (Exodus 32).

Miriam had a bout of jealousy and tried to usurp her brother’s God-appointed position (Numbers 12). Jonah hopped on a boat and headed in the opposite direction when God called him to go to Nineveh (Jonah 1:1-3). Samson fell for the whims of a Philistine woman and gave away the secret to his strength (Judges 16). David committed adultery and murder and then tried to cover it up (2 Samuel 11).

You know what’s amazing? Most of these men and women are listed as people of great faith who “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” (Hebrews 11:33-34, emphasis added).

We have a great cloud of witnesses who can identify with failure. We are never alone in that regard.

Oh, friend, failure doesn’t have to be fatal or final. During a time of failure, the Enemy will tell you to quit trying, that you’re hopeless, worthless, and powerless to succeed.

Don’t believe him. Reject the lie and replace it with truth. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13 nlt). God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Learn from your failure under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, and then move on. Nothing makes the devil madder than a child of God who fails, gets back up, and tries again with the power of God moving him or her forward.The next time you feel like you’re a hot mess, try the following.

Recognize the lie: I’m such a failure.

Reject the lie: That is not true.

Replace the lie with truth: I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13 nlt).

Have a blessed day!

Avoiding Burnout

Turning “Why Me?” into “What Now?”

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message:

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed – 1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV

My son and I sat on the floor in his room playing Rummy. We had just a few minutes before rushing off to register for his summer swim class and wanted to get in one more round of play. This summer was proving to be the best ever. Our Golden Retriever, Ginger, had just delivered seven adorable puppies, Steven was enjoying his sixth summer of life, and after four years of the heartache of negative pregnancy tests, God had surprised us with a new life growing inside my womb.

But as Steven and I sat on the floor, I felt a warm sticky sensation run down my leg. A trip to the bathroom confirmed my greatest fear.

Later that afternoon, our baby died, and is now waiting for us in heaven.

What began as a summer full of life and joy, quickly turned into a season of great loss and sadness. I mourned for that child for which I had prayed. I felt the ache of empty arms.

I once heard someone say, “I never knew I could miss someone that I had never met.” Now I understood. We never knew for sure, but in my heart, I felt that the baby had been a little girl.

During those summer months, I went through the grieving process step-by-step. I’ll admit that I was angry at God for “taunting” me with this gift of a child and then taking her away. But through the months and years that followed, God taught me many lessons about myself, about Him, and about trusting in His unfailing love.
I believe that when we go through a trial that wounds us deeply, God can use it to teach us valuable lessons. Some of those lessons are a deeper understanding of who God is, of who we are, and of what we truly believe. Our faith grows in the petri dish of struggles in the laboratory of life.

One of my most valuable lessons, through all my wounds and scars, was a decision to stop saying “why me?” and to begin saying “what now?” But the lesson that continues to reverberate like a gentle thunder is the truth of God’s unfailing love.

During the months that followed the loss of our child, I struggled with God. Just as Jacob wrestled with God through his dark night of the soul, I wrestled as well.

How could He love me and allow this to happen? Why would God withhold my dream? Is He able? Is He kind? Is He really there?

It was a dry summer…in my heart and soul. No one could help me, comfort me, or lift me out of my deep pit of sadness. And while I didn’t want to talk to God, He never left my side. Patiently, He waited for me to cry out to Him…to say, I will trust you even though I do not understand.

It is easy to trust God when life is skipping happily along. It is a deeper faith that forms when the skipping halts to the slow crawl of despair. Honestly, I never enjoy the struggles, but I do revel in the deeper understanding of God that is forged in the fire.

As Peter wrote, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV).

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!