A Full-Time Job

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For the past few weeks, I have renewed my effort to keep my house clutter under control. No more mail piling up on the dining room table. No more dishes sitting in the sink for hours. No more pulling clean clothes out of the laundry baskets because they’ve yet to be folded or hung up. Nope! I’ve been vigilant, and let me tell you, it’s like having another full-time job.

When we’re home, we’re HOME, and the house takes on a very “lived in” look. When we’re away, it’s typically for a longer trip involving luggage and coolers and other items that end up piled up in the entryway for a few days while I work up the energy to unpack and put everything back in its proper place. This being the case, every day consists of straightening, unloading and reloading the dishwasher, doing a load of laundry (from start to finish), wiping down the kitchen counters, etc. And some of these chores I do multiple times a day.  

Just last night, I was wiping down the counters for what felt like the fifteenth time that day, and all I could do was sigh. On the one hand, it’s been nice living in less clutter. It’s refreshing to walk out to the kitchen in the morning and not be greeted by a sink full of dishes and sticky counters. And, yes, it’s a joy not to have to sort through three baskets of clean laundry to find one pair of matching socks. I assure you I’m not a slob, and I love things orderly, but with health and time constraints, housekeeping takes a backseat around here. At least, it did, but no more. . .Lord willing.

The whole process reminds me of the effort it takes to keep my spiritual house in order. “One and done” doesn’t apply in caring for my spirit. Nope, it’s a lot of work. Before I go on, let me clarify I am not talking about salvation. We do not and cannot work for that. It is a free gift. I’m referring to what the apostle Paul was talking about in the book of Philippians.

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
— Philippians 2:12

Work out your own salvation.  In other words, you have it within you; now it’s time to let others see it. Bear some fruit. Share some love. Become more like Christ to the point where others want what you have. That’s a tall order and takes constant effort and awareness. Just as my housework requires daily attention, so does my spirit. It needs quiet time in prayer and the reading of God’s Word. It needs me to guard my mind and heart against that attacks of the enemy. My spirit requires me to wipe clean the worry and anxiety, sometimes multiple times per day. It’s a lot of work, but just like maintaining a clean home, it’s worth it.

Yes, there’s peace in a spirit that isn’t weighed down by fear and anxiety. There’s joy in a life that isn’t cluttered by guilt and ingratitude. It’s refreshing to walk through the storms of life and find you can still sing a song. And the only way that would be possible is by putting forth the time and effort day after day, week after week until that behavior becomes “the norm.” And even then, we can never grow complacent. Remember, our enemy is seeking whom he may devour. He loves it when we grow weary in trying to live right. He knows we’re easy prey at that point.

The best way to keep that from happening is to keep the end goal in mind. When I’m tempted to leave the dishes for later, I recall how good it feels to have a clean kitchen, and that prompts me to do what I know to do. The same works in our spiritual life. When we’re tempted to skip out on our daily time alone with God, if we’ll remember how refreshing it is to be filled with His spirit as we began our day, we won’t want to miss out on that.  In other words, don’t think about the work; think about the reward!

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!

Red Light, Green Light -- A Repost

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Have you ever been so afraid of getting out of God's will that you found yourself faced with complete and total indecision?  You knew a decision had to be made, but after much prayer and no answer (from what you could tell), you were at a loss at what to do next.  I found myself in such a place last week.

Being in the last stages of a new book, I found myself at the point of decision--which book do I work on next?  You see, the final stages of my current book are the tedious points of formatting and preparing for publication.  Because these are such tedious tasks, I can only work on them for short periods of time lest I go mad!  In the stretches of time in between, I thought it best to start on a new project.  I was ready to do some writing.  Not editing.  Not formatting.  Writing!  But with a long list of book ideas, I had no idea where to begin.

So, I prayed and prayed and prayed some more.  I waited for an answer.  I searched for God's will.  But after nearly two weeks, I still hadn't written a word because I couldn't decide which book God wanted me to write next.  I was tired and frustrated and couldn't figure out why the Lord was making this so difficult. After all, I was simply trying to do His will.

As I usually do when faced with a spiritual dilemma, I talked with Jason.  I explained my prayers and God's silence on the matters.  He followed my outpouring with a few pointed questions, one of which was, "Which one do you want to write next?"  After some thought, I told him which one I would most like to write at the present time.  "Then go with that one," Jason said.  "If the Lord wants you to work on it, then He'll allow you to do it.  If not, He'll hinder it.  But you need to get moving.  It's easier to steer a vessel when it's already in motion."  Whoa, when did he get so wise?

Seriously, he had an excellent point.  Have you ever tried to steer a car that wasn't moving?  It's nearly impossible!  But once the car is in motion, it becomes so simple to steer it in any direction.  I was so stumped by God's next step for me that I was standing completely still.  I wasn't getting anything accomplished.

Now, let me tread carefully here.  I am not saying that we shouldn't seek God's direction in matters or that we should just do what we want and leave it up to God to tell us "yay" or "nay."  The point that I'm trying to get across is that there is a time to be still and a time to get moving.  And just so you'll see that I'm not making this up to suit my own fancy, I'll give you proof.

 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
— Exodus 14:13-16

Did you catch it?  Standing there on the banks of the Red Sea, the children of Israel throw up their hands in despair and complain to Moses about their current plight.  So Moses tells them, "Don't worry about it.  Just stand still and see what God will do."  Immediately after Moses' statement, however, the Lord says, "Moses, why are you just standing here talking to me?  Tell the children of Israel to get moving."  Moses told them to stand still, but God said keep moving.  Red light, green light. God needed the people in motion.  He had a work to accomplish, and it involved action on the part of the Israelites.  And once they were moving, God was able to direct them exactly where they needed to go.

Now, I realize that there are places in the Scriptures where the situation is reversed, and that's fine.  It still proves my point.  There is a time to be still and wait on God's direction.  Then there is a time to start walking in the general direction in which the Lord has already directed and allow Him to guide you from there.  Knowing when it's a time to wait and when it's a time to act is between you and the Lord, but I'm certain He'll give you peace one way or another when the time comes.