Read, Think, Do, Repeat

I love spending time reading God’s Word. It’s truly the highlight of my day. I love to crawl into my little closet, open the Word and hear what God has to say to me for that day. During this intimate time, I’m at such peace with God and myself.

If I could just stay there all day, life would be great. But I can’t stay there all day. I have to go out into the world and deal with people and torrential rain and garage doors that won’t open. Talk about a buzzkill!

My time with God should pour over into the rest of my day. If my experience in my prayer closet doesn’t have an impact on my everyday life, what’s the point? This sacred time should make a difference in how I treat people or handle challenges. Unfortunately, too often I find that my circumstances or emotions dictate my responses.

Psalm 119:165 NLT says, “Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble.” Ouch! Perhaps I don’t love God’s Word as much as I think. Maybe I’m not letting it have it’s full transforming work in my life.

How do I let God’s Word transform every part of my life? Fortunately, the Bible has clear instructions for how to do that:

  • “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8 ESV).
  • “But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night” (Psalm 1:2 NLT).
  • “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what is says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourself” (James 1:22 NLT).

If I had to break it into simple steps, it would be:

  1. Read it!
  2. Think about it!
  3. Do it!
  4. Repeat!

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edge sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 ESV).

 

 

The Long Way Around

Sometimes I feel like God is taking me the long way around to fulfill His promises for my life. And it can be frustrating. I know He’s working. But sometimes it feels like there has to be a more direct route.

But as I was reading in Exodus recently, I noticed that God did the same with the children of Israel after their release from Egypt. “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.’ But God led the people around by the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle” (Exodus 13:17-18).

So why did God take them the long way? I think one reason is the children of Israel were just starting to learn they could trust God again. They had been in captivity for 430 years (Exodus 12:40). In that time, I’m sure they had grown suspicious of God’s intentions toward them. They even showed their faithlessness when they saw the Egyptians chasing after them: “And they said to Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, “Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!”‘” (Exodus 14:11-12 NLT).

“… So the people feared the Lord and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.” – Exodus 14:31

But because God hadn’t taken them by the shortest, most expedient route, they didn’t really have the option of trudging back to Egypt. This gave God the opportunity to remind them of His power so that they would learn to trust Him more fully. “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses” (Exodus 14:30-31).

I believe another reason God led the Israelites by the long way around was to display His glory to the surrounding nations through His miraculous intervention. “The peoples hear and tremble; anguish grips those who live in Philistia. The leaders of Edom are terrified; the nobles of Moab tremble. All who live in Canaan melt away; terror and dread fall upon them. The power of your arm makes them lifeless as stone until your people pass by, O Lord, until the people you purchased pass by” (Exodus‬ ‭15:14-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬).

Our world tells us that the best way is the quickest, shortest route from Point A to Point B. But God’s not so worried about expediency. He’s more interested in my development in the process. And He’s more concerned with using my life to display His glory to those around me. So sometimes that means taking the long way around. But in the end, I am convinced it will be worth it.

Please note: I left out a lot of the details from the biblical account, assuming a basic familiarity with the overall story. But if you haven’t read it before, it’s definitely worth reading. It can be found in Exodus 13-15.

Will I Still Trust?

“…Let it be to me according to your word.”
– Luke 1:38 ESV

As Christmas has approached, I’ve been reading, or rereading, the Christmas story. For the first time, I’ve been really intrigued with Mary and her response to God, “…Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38 ESV).

It seemed so easy for her to respond to God with a “yes.” She had only one question, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34.). That would have been the least of my questions: “What am I supposed to tell my parents? What about Joseph? What’s he going to think? And all the people in town? They’ll judge me for sure! What do I tell them?”

I always want more information. I want to know how and why and when. I’m sure Mary had the same questions in her heart. But she responded with faith instead of more questions. She had a choice to believe what the angel was telling her or demand more information.

Can you imagine if she hadn’t been so willing? What if she had told the angel, “Let me think about it, weigh the pros and cons and get back to you.” Seems reasonable, right? But that’s not what God was asking of her. He wasn’t asking her to put this plan through some decision matrix and get back to Him. He was asking her to trust Him.

“You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
-Luke 1:45 NLT

Because she trusted God and took Him at His word, she was able to take part in the greatest story of all time. It was said of her, by her cousin Elizabeth, “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said” (Luke 1:45 NLT).

I’m not always going to get my questions answered. So the bigger question is, “Will I still trust God, even when I don’t have all of the answers?”

Roots and Rocks

Have you ever planted a garden? I have not! But I remember watching my grandmother turn a corner of our yard into a small vegetable garden.

One of the first things she had to do was get rid of what was already growing there–in this case grass (much to the chagrin of my father). I watched her mark out a space and begin to transform this once lush patch of grass into what looked like a barren wasteland. She turned up the soil. Dug up roots and rocks and left nothing but a bare spot in the corner of our yard.

But it didn’t stay that way for long. Soon we had a beautiful vegetable garden with the best-tasting green beans and tomatoes growing. It was amazing to see the transformation. But it all started with what looked like destruction, at the time.

Sometimes, I feel like that little vegetable garden is my life. God decided to take my life, which looked fine but wasn’t really functioning beyond aesthetics, and turn it into something fruitful. But sometimes the process feels devastating. Like that patch of dirt my grandmother was turning into a garden, there are roots and rocks that need to be dug up in my life in order for fruitfulness to take place. There are roots of bitterness, jealousy, and selfishness. Each one needs to be dug up and rooted out. There are rocks of hardheartedness and disobedience that need to be tossed away.

I like to think that I’ve accomplished a lot of growth in recent months. But then I’m confronted with an attitude or a thought, or even an action, I thought I had dug up a long time ago. Every time I discover one of those lovely remnants of what once grew in my “garden,” I’m reminded just how far I still have to go.

From time-to-time, I’ll pray Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (NLT). But if I’m being honest, I mean, really honest, I usually only pray it when I’m pretty sure God won’t have anything to point out. I pray it when I’m feeling pretty superior about this Christian-walk thing. But inevitably, God responds to my phony prayer with very real answers. He points out the hidden sin, the wrongly-adopted attitude or the unsubmitted area of my heart. He points out more roots and rocks.

You see, in order for a garden to continue to grow, there has to be maintenance. My grandmother spent a lot of time in that garden, even after the vegetables began to grow. She continued to pull up weeds and remove errant rocks. If she hadn’t, before long, the garden would have reverted back to a useless patch of dirt. That’s actually what happened. When she moved back to New York, no one took the time to keep up her garden. Eventually, it just became a dead patch of dirt where grass wouldn’t even grow.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” -Philippians 1:6 NLT

I don’t want that for my life. I don’t want the growth and fruitfulness God has brought to be lost because I’m unwilling to deal with the things He points out. And He doesn’t want that for me either. That’s why He continues to dig around in my life. Because whether I meant it when I prayed it or not, He intends to “lead me along the path of everlasting life,” for His name’s sake. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6 NLT).

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