No Bridge!

At the time of this writing, Jason and I are in Dickson, Tennessee for a Missions Conference. Today, we decided to do some hiking at the nearby state park. The first thing we discovered was that the bugs in Tennessee are worse than the bugs in the upstate of South Carolina, and I didn’t think that was possible.

The second thing we found out is the path we chose to hike was perhaps not the best choice. Nearly two-thirds of the way through the hike, we came upon a sign that warned of a bridge outage ahead. We hiked a bit further, hoping that the bridge was located on one of the other branching trails. No such luck! If you look at the pictures below, you’ll see all that remains of the bridge after a recent storm. Yup, that big monument-looking stone is the center support for the bridge, but there was no sign of the bridge itself.

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As we surveyed the river before us, we knew we had two options. One, we could turn around and go back the way we came. Or two, we could try to cross the river without the bridge. Being the big chicken I am, I opted for the first choice, but Jason convinced me the river was easy enough to cross. Believe it or not, we both crossed without getting wet (and if you knew how clumsy we both are, you’d realize what a feat that was).

Once across the river, I turned back to take some pictures. As I shot my photos, a catchy caption came to mind: “No bridge; no problem!” I smiled at my wittiness and the fact that I was still dry after crossing the river without a bridge or boat, and we continued our hike. But my caption rolled around in my head, taking on a new meaning and a sober reminder.

When it came time for Jason and me to cross that little river, it really wasn’t that difficult (despite my protests). No bridge; no problem. But when it comes to crossing the vast gulf between God and man, no bridge, big problem. The chasm is too wide. The distance is too far. Man cannot make his own way. He must use the bridge—Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only way to Heaven. There is no get-around or alternate route. Man must go through Jesus or not at all. No matter how good, creative, or clever a man (or woman) may be, he (or she) cannot arrange their way into God’s presence. It is only through the blood of Jesus.

You may be reading this and thinking, Amen. Good message, but it doesn’t apply to me because I’m already saved. If that’s the case, I’m so glad to know you’re part of the family of God, but have you invited anyone else to join you? When was the last time you told those around you about Jesus? Have you shared with others that Jesus is the only way to Heaven?

I’m not trying to put anyone on a guilt trip. I promise. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t witness as I should. And that’s why today’s reminder was so convicting to me. I know I’m saved, but I also know I could do much better at telling others the good news. After all, when it comes to Heaven, no Bridge, big problem!!!

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!