For the Love of a Lizard!

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It was a hot day. Far too hot for Barnabas to be outside for as long as he had. He is, after all, of the “Goldilocks” persuasion in that he doesn’t enjoy weather that is too hot or too cold. Only weather that is just right. Concerned about his prolonged stay outside, I went to the back door to find him digging a hole underneath our gas grill. I watched as he dug, then bent down to peer into the darkness under the grill. Being directly in the sun, he panted, his tongue lolled to the side. He was getting overheated, and I knew it. But I also knew there was no way he would leave that spot until he caught whatever it was under the grill or until he could be sure it was no longer available to be caught. Still, I tried.

I called. I coaxed. I commanded. But nope!  His attention was fixed on the ground beneath the grill. He circled his unseen prey, pawed at the ground, and repeatedly stuck his nose as far under the grill as he could. Worried he was going to hurt himself or turn the entire grill upside down, I called Jason and explained the situation.  

Jason planned to lift one side of the grill and expose the prey, hoping it would run off before Barnabas could catch it. But the moment Jason lifted the grill, my crazy pooch lunged into the darkness, intent on capturing his prize. There was a flurry of movement as predator and prey danced around the grill—a literal display of “cat and mouse.” Then, in one final pounce, it was over, and Barnabas proudly lifted the limp body of a large lizard (and when I say “large,” this thing was the size of a chipmunk. Gross!). He carried his prize into the shade, played with it for a few more minutes, then finally made his way into the comfort of the air-conditioned house.

The first thing I noticed was his bleeding face. I thought maybe the lizard had fought back, but upon further examination, I realized these wounds were self-inflicted. He had cut his face up while trying to wedge it under the grill. All for the love of a lizard!

As I cleaned his wounds and worked to cool him off, I wondered what would possess him to put his safety at risk for a stupid reptile. Not only had he created gashes in his face, but he had also nearly overheated. He knew that. He knew he was hurt, uncomfortable, and in danger of doing himself serious harm, but the temptation to have that lizard was too much to pass up. So, he pressed on despite his instincts of self-preservation.

Don’t we all tend to do the same? We work too hard, eat too much, and rest too little. We stress over the big things and take for granted the little ones. We chase dreams and goals, so focused on what we think is best we ignore the still, small voice warning of danger ahead. We do what we want, watch what we want, eat what we want, go where we want. And all the while, we put ourselves in danger. The danger of falling into temptation. The danger of getting in way over our heads. The danger of becoming prey ourselves.

Why? In Barnabas’ case, it was because of a lizard, but more than that, it was about focus, and the same can be said for our situation. We can become so focused on what we want that we lose sight of all else. We can become deaf to the voice of our Master (just as Barnabas ignored my commands). We can put our safety and that of others at risk. And in the end, what will we have to show for it? Barnabas’ victory celebration was short-lived, but the wounds on his face will last for quite some time. Our outcome could be the same. Sure, there may be a few moments of satisfaction, but then what? More than likely, wounds that will take a lifetime to heal. It’s not worth it!

I don’t know what you’re focused on today, but I urge you to be careful. The temptation is strong. Self-satisfaction is enticing. It’s good to be persistent but only if we’re persistent about the right things. Stop chasing the lizard. It’s not worth your time. Instead, focus your efforts on being the best Christian you can be and serving the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind. That way, you’ll reap much greater rewards than a dead reptile.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
— Matthew 6:19-21

The "Why" of Ministry

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This morning I received a notification that someone had unsubscribed from my daily blog. This is nothing new. Unfortunately, here lately it seems like I receive three times more unsubscribes than subscribes. The unusual thing was this was someone I know personally, someone I thought enjoyed my daily devotions. Naturally, when I saw the email, my heart sank, and I began to ask a dozen questions. Did I offend her? Did I say something she didn’t agree with? Have my devotions been too whiny or needy? Have they been too predictable or commonplace? Doesn’t she like me anymore?  (Of course, it’s probably none of these things, but you know how the mind is drawn toward the worst case scenario.)

Sometimes, the ministry is difficult. I try to do the right things for the right reasons, but the results are not always what I expect. And in times like these, I have to step back and remind myself of the “why.” Why am I in this ministry? Why do I write? Why do I send out daily devotions? What’s the point? The purpose? Is it so others will like me? Is it to receive compliments or praise? Do I do it to feel better about myself? Why?

On the surface, I do it because I want to encourage others. There is something within me that is compelled to help others, to offer a kind word or a listening ear. There is a drive within me that pushes me to encourage anyone, anytime, anywhere. I guess God made me that way, and as wonderful as that sounds, it’s not enough. Longing to be an encouragement is a great thing, but it’s not the best thing, or you could say it’s only part of the best thing.  If my focus in only on encouraging others, what happens when others aren’t encouraged?  My feelings are hurt. My efforts seem wasted. My ministry seems fruitless. Yes, hanging my hopes on the response of others is a surefire way to disappointment and despair.

If, however, I follow God’s command and write for His glory, I will be much better off. I must do what I do for God, not for others. This ministry is all about Him. Not me, and sorry, but not you. Therefore, I must follow His leading in all things regarding my writing rather than trying to cater to the wants and needs of the people. And, if the people unsubscribe, well, that’s just the way it is. I can’t help that, but neither am I responsible for it. I am accountable to God and God alone, and in any area of ministry, that’s a hard thing to remember.

You are my peeps, my friends, and my faithful readers. I often feel responsible to you. Many of you have shared with me how much you look forward to my daily devotions, and when something comes up, and I can’t post anything that day, I feel like I’ve let you down. I want each of you to know I love and respect you, and I want to be here for you. I want you to feel you can depend on me. But, ultimately, my primary goal is to glorify Christ. So, if I’m running behind and throw something together at the last minute just so I’ll have a post for the day, that’s unacceptable. It’s not fair to you, and it is not glorifying to God because I didn’t give it my best, my all.

I say all of this for a couple of reasons. First off, I hope this post will serve as a reminder to all of you involved in ministry. Your number-one priority is to glorify God. If you do that, everything will work out as it should. Maybe not as you thought it would, but the way it should. We have to stop trying to please everyone and not take it personally when someone we’re trying to help walks away.

My second reason for this post is to say my daily devotions may not be out every day. I certainly intend to try, but with being on the road more and more for deputation, it is getting harder to find the time and energy to put out these daily devotions. And I don’t want to throw things together so that I don’t let you down. I want to glorify Christ in my writing, and if that means that some days I don’t write, then so be it. Doesn’t Ecclesiastes tell us there’s a time for everything? “A time to write and a time to not write” may not be listed in the passage, but the teaching is there.  

I thank all of you who have stuck with me through the thick and thin. Thank you for listening to my rants and hearing my heartfelt cries. Thank you for letting me know how much these daily devotions mean to you. That is an encouragement to my heart.  As I said, by God’s grace, I will be able to continue regular posting, but if a post is missing here or there, know that I was hindered in some way and I’m doing my best to do the right things for the right reasons. Thank you for understanding and for loving me despite my many failings!  Y’all are the best!

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
— I Corinthians 10:31

When You're Tempted to Quit

God has to keep away encouraging results until we learn to trust without them, and then He loves to make His Word read in fact as well as faith.-2.png

There has been a common thread running through my quiet times with the Lord. From sermons, songs, devotions, Bible verses and more, God has been reminding me to keep on keeping on. Don’t quit when things don’t look the way I imagine they should. Don’t give up when I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. Don’t give in when the road is long and hard.

Just this morning, I was reminded of the children of Israel as they marched around the walls of Jericho. Day after day, they followed God’s command, yet to the eyes of Israel, nothing was happening, other than the fact that the inhabitants of Jericho were probably laughing their heads off at the ridiculous “antics” of God’s chosen people. What if the people had given up on the fifth day? What if Joshua—discouraged by a lack of progress and results—decided he had had enough and he would fight the battle his way? Would Jericho have been destroyed?  

I think, too, of Naaman, the leper who sought healing from God’s prophet, Elisha. Despite Naaman’s lousy attitude and resentment over Elisha’s prescribed remedy, the nobleman followed through and began dipping himself in the waters of the Jordan. What if he had stopped after the fourth dunk or even the sixth? What if he had examined his leprous skin each time after immersing himself in the water and determined the process didn't work? What if he stopped obeying because he didn’t see immediate results?

With these thoughts on my mind, I prayed about what the Lord would have me share with you today, and He directed me to this quote I scribbled in my journal several weeks ago. It went so beautifully with everything else God was speaking to my heart I knew I had my topic for today’s devotion.

God has to keep away encouraging results until we learn to trust without them, and then He loves to make His Word real in fact as well as faith.
— A.B. Simpson

Wow! Think about it. Faith is the evidence of things unseen. If we see results, that’s not faith. It’s sight. But the Bible tells us the just shall live by faith. God is working in our lives to help us trust Him whether or not we see results. He encourages us to be faithful even when we don’t understand. It is His will that we keep going despite our progress or lack thereof.  

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve prayed, “God, I would do much better if I knew this was actually working. Let me see something. Shew me some results, some fruit from my labor. Help me to know I’m on the right track here.” Now, I realize how small-minded that prayer is. God sees the bigger picture and has a higher plan in place. Instead of fueling my obedience with visible results, He’s teaching me to trust Him without them. He is increasing my faith (which, ironically, has been near the top of my prayer list for quite some time).

I don’t know what you’re facing today or how weary you are with the journey, but I know this—God has a plan for you. Don’t give up. Keep marching around those walls. Keep dipping in those waters. Or as Dory says, “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.” Whatever God has called you to do, please don’t let the lack of progress or results keep you from continuing in obedience. God is working even when we can’t see. Trust in that and keep on keeping on!

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
— Galatians 6:9