That Little Sneaky Path to a Bad Place

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message…

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 Donut 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 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 ThirtyOne-derful day!


You are Who God Says You Are

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message….

I have learned a lot from Charlie Brown, which is a little scary. Here is one truth that his psychiatrist, Lucy, taught me. She is counseling Charlie Brown at her lemonade-stand counseling booth. Charlie Brown is all ears.

Frame 1: “Your life is like a house, Charlie Brown.”

Frame 2: “You want your house to have a strong foundation, don’t you?”

Frame 3: “So don’t build your house on the sand.”

Frame 4: (A strong wind swooshes by and blows Lucy, Charlie Brown, and the makeshift stand into a heap of rubble.)

Frame 5: Lucy’s final advice: “Or use cheap nails.”

There’s a lot of talk about self-worth in our culture. But true self-worth is not an issue of giftedness, talent, intelligence, or beauty. It’s not an issue of how much money you have in the bank, if you are married or single, if you are a mom or childless. Those are the cheap nails compared to knowing Christ.

When we base our identity or our worth on the accomplishments, opinions of others, or appearance, we are in danger of crumbling to pieces with a word of criticism, a bad hair day, or hint of rejection. We will always fall short in our quest to be better, look better, or accomplish more.

Self-worth is really an identity issue. When you base your self-worth on your identity in Christ and His finished work of redemption on the cross, it is unconditional, unshakable, and unchangeable.

Listen, the devil will do anything and everything he can to keep you from believing the truth about who you are, what you have, and where you are as a child of God. Make no mistake about it, he knows that you are a chosen, holy, dearly loved child of God who has been forgiven of all your sins and created to fulfill a great purpose that God has already planned for you. He knows it, and he hates it. His goal is to keep you from believing it. And if he can keep you from believing the truth about who you are, what you have, and where you are as a child of God, then he has won.

You can access the power of God’s promises about who you are, what you have, and where you are in Christ to consistently subdue and eventually erase feeling of inferiority, insecurity and inadequacy that keep you stuck in a mediocre faith. You can reject the devil’s overbearing lies and replace them with God’s overriding truth about your identity in Him and His power in you.

If we base our significance, self-worth, or self-esteem on anything other than the strong nails of our identity in Christ, then we are at risk of collapsing when the strong winds of adversity come our way. The truth is: You are who God says you are.

You, my friend, are a chosen, holy, dearly loved child of God who is equipped by the Father, enveloped by the Son, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. And that truth will withstand the strongest winds.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

What Does God Want From You?

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message…

Sometimes I think we’ve made our relationship with God far too difficult and confusing. We strive so hard to draw closer to the heart of God. And all the while, God’s outstretched hand is reaching to draw us in.

For more than half a century, I have been striving, pursuing, and seeking God. And like a cat chasing her tail, I’ve been going in circles.

Circling in the wilderness with the Israelites, if you will. Saved from slavery, for sure. Headed to my own personal Promised Land, hopefully. But somehow stuck in the wilderness wandering ever circling but not quite reaching Jordan’s shore.

And I am not alone. Statistics show that one of the top desires of Christians is to grow closer to God. During a recent poll, 65 percent said they were declining or on a plateau in their spiritual growth. On the other hand, Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

We have everything we need to experience the ever growing, continually maturing, abundant life, so why aren’t we? Why are most of us languishing on the desert plateaus of mediocrity and complacency? Why are most of us satisfied munching on the predigested truths of teachers rather than pulling up to the banquet table and feasting with God at a table set for two?

“God, what do you really want from me?”

I’ve pondered that question since the genesis of my relationship with Christ. Perhaps you have too. When you boil down all the water from the diluted soup of questions men and women have simmered in their heart through the centuries, this is the one question left in the pot.

And somehow, we feel that if we could answer that one question, we would discover why that glory ache persists and how to satisfy our yearning.

I had asked the question a thousand times, but one morning, I got quiet enough to listen. And then, in the stillness, He showed me that my busy sisters and I have been asking the wrong question.

Rather than ask God what He wants from us, we need to ask Him what He wants for us.

I meditated on Acts 17:28 throughout the following year after the day God whetted my appetite with the possibilities wrapped up in those eight little words: In Him we live and move and have our being. I came to realize that what He wants for us is to sense His presence, experience His love, and delight in intimate relationship as we live and move and have our being in sacred union with Him. And when we do, He opens our eyes to His glory all around and the ache for something more is soothed.

So today, I encourage you to be still. Just get quiet. Breathe deeply. Jesus in. Worries out.

Don’t make your faith about what God wants from you, but what God wants for you.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

It’s Not About Me

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message….

Some of my Girlfriends in God are not going to like this devotion. I’m not even sure I do. But I’m going to put it out there anyhow. During the month of February, I write devotions on marriage. It is the month of love, and marriages certainly are in shambles all around the world. Each February, I am flooded with e-mails: some are appreciative for the reminders on how to love their husbands; some are filled with hurt because they are in their own struggling marriage, and some are broken-hearted because of shattered dreams. These women are so thankful for the balm of God’s truth in a very tender area of their lives.

But I also receive e-mails from women who are not married, who do not like the attention to marriage at all. They are flat out angry and frustrated because the devotions do not pertain to them. “Don’t you know that all of your readers are not married?”

“Oh honey child,” as my grandmother would say.

I’ve seen the same attitude in church. “I didn’t like that sermon.” “I didn’t like the singing today.” “I couldn’t relate to that teaching.” And on and on we go.

You know what I’ve discovered…it’s not about me. It is all about God. If the pastor is preaching on a topic that is not my struggle, I pray that God will open my eyes to new truths that I’ve never seen. If he is talking about losing a loved one, I pray for those who have lost a loved one recently…even though that might not be my struggle at that particular time. Is the teaching on raising young children? I have a grown son, so I pray for those who are raising the next generation.

One Sunday, I was singing in church. Barely singing, I might add. It was a dry old hymn and I just wasn’t into it. Then I looked at an older woman a few seats down and she had tears trickling down her wrinkled cheeks. She was moved to tears by that old hymn and was taken to the throne room of grace.

“Oh Father,” I prayed. “Please forgive me. This is not about me. It’s not about what I like or don’t like. It is all about You. Truth is truth. Worship is worship. Help my focus be on You and You alone. It’s not about me.

Here’s a truth I want you to underline, memorize and ponderize (I know that is not a real word, but it should be.) Say it out loud: As long as I think the world is all about me, the angrier and tired-er I will be. The more I realize it is all about God, the happier and freer I will be. (I know tireder is not a word either. I’m just feeling feisty today).

Listen to how David focused on God during worship:

So let’s commit to remember together…it’s not about me. It’s all about God.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

To Speak or Not To Speak…that is the Question

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message:

When Steven was about seven-years-old, we went snow skiing. For hours I instructed him in how to stand up, ski down, and get up once he fell. Steven fell down, and fell down, and fell down. He was not getting the hang of it at all. What’s the problem, I wondered. Then I found out. It was me.

“Mom,” Steven cried, “If you just quit telling me what to do, I think I could get it.”

“Fine!” I said as I skied away in frustration. “Go ahead and do it your way!”

And you know what? He did. Thirty minutes later Steven was cruising down the slopes with ease. See I was the problem. My continual instruction was hindering Steven from working the maneuvers out on his own. The day started out being a skiing lesson for Steven, but ended up being a parenting lesson for me.

Sometimes the most powerful words are the ones we withhold. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to be silent and a time to speak,” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,7). A wise woman learns the difference.

In the Bible, Esther is a wonderful example of a very wise woman who knew that timing was crucial. After much prayer, fasting and deliberation, she went before the King to make a petition for her people. It was an important request as the entire Hebrew nation was at stake. Rather than grovel at the King’s feet in dismay, she very calmly invited him to dinner. When the King attended the soirée the following evening, once again he invited Esther to make her request. Once again, she invited him to dinner the following evening.

At the second dinner party, the King offered yet a third opportunity for Esther to make her request. Finally, Esther revealed the evil Haman’s plot to annihilate the entire Hebrew nation, which included her life as well. It is an amazing story and I encourage you to read the book of Esther for yourself. But here’s a lesson among the drama. Esther had a very important request for the King. And yet, it was all about timing. Sure, she could have made the request the first time she approached the King and he extended the golden scepter in approval. Yes, she could have made her request at the first dinner party when he offered her anything she desired, “up to half his kingdom.” But there was something in Esther’s spirit that caused her to wait. The time wasn’t quite right.

Even though the Bible doesn’t tell us directly, I believe that Esther was listening to God. I believe the Holy Spirit was telling her to wait. Because she asked herself the question, to speak or not to speak, and then spoke when the time was right, the entire Hebrew nation was saved. That is the power of a woman’s words offered at the right time.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to be silent and a time to speak,” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,7).

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!