What If He Doesn't? -- A Repost

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Have you ever tried to bargain with God? Have you ever thought or said that if God did something for you, you would serve Him with all your heart? Maybe you requested health or a job or a spouse. In your mind, your happiness depended on getting the thing that you so desired, so you pleaded with God to meet the need.

If you can relate in any way at all, then you are in good company. In Genesis 28, we see Jacob doing a similar thing. After having an extraordinary dream, he wakes and builds an altar to God. On the surface, it seems like Jacob is doing an honorable thing and that his actions display a heartfelt trust in God and a desire to serve. But, if you read his words carefully, you'll see that's not the case at all.

And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:
— Genesis 28:20-21

Notice his conditional promise to God. He said, "If God does this and that, then He will be my God." But my question for Jacob is this: what if God doesn't? What if God doesn't live up to our expectations? What if He doesn't do things the way we expect Him to? What if He doesn't give us the things we so desire? Will He still be our God?

It's time for us to determine in our hearts that we will serve God no matter what and that we will trust Him no matter what comes. In the good times and the bad, we will glorify Him because He is worthy. Whether He does things the way we want Him to or not, we will still live for Him because, no matter the circumstances, He is God. He always has been and always will be, it's only a matter of whether or not we will acknowledge that fact.

It's easy to serve and obey God when things are going well, and life is rolling along smoothly, but the real test of faith comes when life knocks us flat on our face and threatens to overwhelm us. During those times, is the Lord still our God? Do we still cling to Him and testify of Him? Can we still revel in His goodness even when things don't seem good?

God has promised to meet all of our needs, but He never clarified how or when He would do so. That is entirely up to Him, and our job is to trust and obey. Please don't bargain with God, saying that you'll only serve Him if He does this and that. God doesn't owe us anything. He already paid the ultimate price for our sins so that we could have eternal life. What more do we want? We need to have the attitude of the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace – if God will deliver us, fine, and if not, that's fine too. For God's ways are best, and everything He does for us is above and beyond what we deserve. We are indebted to Him, not the other way around.

Are you willing to serve God no matter what? Let Him know that today!

Green Is Not Your Color

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Guys, you’re welcome to read today’s devotion, but since we’ve just passed Mother’s Day, I’d like to direct some thoughts toward my female readers.

Okay, ladies, by a show of hands, how many of you heard some reference to the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 this weekend?  Yes, I see those hands.  And how many of you cringed a bit as the passage was read?  Yeah, me too.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love God’s Word, and I know it is perfect, holy, and right in every way.  It is full of encouragement and strength, but there’s just something about Proverbs 31 that tends to make me feel inferior and even downright lazy.  Can I get an “Amen”?

Of course, it doesn’t help any that when I read it, I immediately think of a real-life example that seems to fit the virtuous woman in every way.  I’m speaking of Joanna Gaines.  For those who don’t recognize the name, she (along with her husband, Chip) is the star of the popular show, Fixer Upper. In addition to being a star, she is a mom of five who owns multiple businesses and seems to excel at anything she sets her hands to.

In her “spare time,” Joanna grows her own vegetables and herbs, helps out on the family farm, and bakes delicious treats for friends and family alike.  Not only is she talented, but she’s beautiful too — the perfect hair, teeth, skin tone, and figure.  To be honest, as much I as enjoy watching Fixer Upper, I tend to come away feeling a bit green. . .with envy.

Why do we ladies do that?  Why do we insist on comparing ourselves to others?  Don’t we realize that God made us who we are for a reason?  Why is it so difficult for us to understand that we’re unique in our own way?

I wish I had answers to those questions, but I’m afraid I don’t.  The truth is, I fall into the pit of envy more often than I can count, especially now that my health is holding me back in so many ways.  I look at those around me who keep immaculate homes, cook gourmet meals, and raise their families, all while holding down a grueling job, and think What’s wrong with me?  Why can’t I be a better wife, housekeeper, cook, etc.?  Then, I start to feel sorry for my dear husband, and before long, I conclude that if I feel like I’m letting him down as a helpmeet, he must believe the same about me (even though he has NEVER said or done anything to make me think that.)

It’s not Jason that causes the chaos in my thoughts and turns my self-pity into self-loathing.  It’s envy.  Envy is dangerous, and it is a powerful weapon in Satan’s arsenal. . .especially when dealing with us, ladies.  Many, many verses in the Bible address envy, but this one grabs my attention every time:

For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
— James 3:16

Ouch!  Envy doesn’t stop at making me feel like a loser.  It progresses into bitterness, resentment, and so much more.  It is the seed from which confusion and evil works grow.  Envy leads people to do stupid things and to cause great havoc not just in their own lives, but in the lives of all those around them.  It causes strife, heartache, and in the end, despite the progression, envy remains.  Never satisfied.  Never quenched.  Instead, it grows bigger and bigger until we, too, are never satisfied.  We want more.  We want something different.  We become so blinded to our strengths and blessings that all we can focus on is how we feel we’re lacking.  And we carry that sense of “not enough” with us into all our relationships, creating a burden for those we love.

I’ll be the first to admit that stopping envy in its tracks is laborious.  It’s so easy to allow those thoughts to creep in and take root, but we must be on guard and catch those nasty weeds before they take over the garden of our heart.  One verse that helps me do that is found in my favorite book of the Bible.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
— Psalm 139:14

Speaking this truth aloud sends the enemy and his weapon of envy fleeing in the opposite direction.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  That is what God has to say about me, and God is never wrong.  His works are marvelous, and I am one of His works; therefore, I must be marvelous.  

Now, here comes the tricky part:  my soul knows it.  I struggle with that a bit, but repetition aids learning.  So, I keep telling myself this truth as many times as it takes until it sinks in:  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  God doesn’t make junk.  He doesn’t make worthless individuals.  I am not lazy.  I have a health condition, and that’s a different story entirely.  I may not be able to do what others can do, but they have no idea how to be me either.  Besides, I can only see what others want me to see.  I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.  Sure, their home may be immaculate, but is it full of joy?  Which is more important?  I have nothing to prove to anyone, even myself.  God’s work is marvelous, and I am privileged to be His work.  And He’s also promised He’s not done with me yet, so I can take comfort in knowing I’m a marvelous work in progress.

My dear lady friend, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.  You are beautiful, marvelous, and unique.  Don’t let envy steal your joy, strength, or peace.  Don’t allow it to cause strife and division in your home and relationships.  Stop it in its tracks by speaking God’s truth aloud.  Use the Scripture above or find your own and take it to heart until your soul knows the truth—You are amazing!

Choir or Chaos?

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Typically, I’m a sucker for birdsong. There’s nothing so soothing and beautiful as a walk in the woods or a time of relaxation in my backyard while the birds serenade me with their songs of joy and contentment. I love it! But one day this week, the song was not so sweet.

As I sat in my chair trying to have my quiet time with the Lord, I noticed an agitation in my spirit. At first, I couldn’t identify its source, but as I quieted my thoughts and became more present of my surroundings, I immediately tuned in to the birdsong. It was as if every bird in my yard (and there are a lot) was singing a different song with a different tempo. Instead of blending their voices in harmony, their varied and overlapping songs created chaos. And it was that “noise” that had caused my heart to race and my mood to shift. The discord of their conflicting melodies reached my inner spirit and brought about feelings of anxiety and stress. All of that from birdsong. Who knew?

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized how much those birds remind me of those of us who are believers in Christ. Sometimes, we get so caught up in doing our own thing, singing our own song, and being our own person that we forget how to unite with other believers. While the Bible calls us to be separate from the world, it does not advocate being separate from one another. But in this day and age, we’re so busy fighting over non-doctrinal issues like clothing, music styles, and whether the church carpet should be tan or blue, we’re causing discord within our ranks. Is it any wonder the world wants nothing to do with us?

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing individual churches drawing away from one another. I’m sick of hearing one pastor belittle another. I’m weary of the robes of self-righteousness worn by those who claim to want to share the love of Christ. We’ve become so caught up in our standards and preferences we’re creating nothing more than a noise that is turning the lost away from the gospel. We’re so focused on being different from (aka, better than) one another that we’re becoming more like the world in that we’re filled with pride and causing strife and division. In our desire to be set apart from the world, we’re putting a bad taste in the mouth of the lost. When they look at the church and see only discord and strife, why would they want to be a part of that? I can’t say I blame them.

But what if, instead of each trying to outdo the other, we learned to get along and accept our differences? What if churches could meet together in harmony and make beautiful music that would entice the lost to come? What if we focused less on our preferences and more on the truth of God’s Word? I believe the noise would become a heavenly melody—one that would honor, glorify and please our heavenly Father.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we may not agree on everything, and that’s okay. As long as we believe the Bible and hold fast to what it says (not what we think it means), we have enough in common to get along. There’s no reason for there to be strife within God’s family. There’s no justification for division among the children of God. Let us put aside our differences and seek to love one another as God would have us do. And in doing so, we’ll make beautiful music the world cannot resist!

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
— Psalm 133:1
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
— Romans 12:10,18
Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
— Romans 14:19
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
— Ephesians 4:1-6