Resolutions

The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you. He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

~ Deuteronomy 31:8 NASB  ~

Even before accepting Christ as my personal Lord and Savior – I had a problem with resolutions. Some believe they are gateways to new horizons and a plumbline to keep us on the straight and narrow. I never felt disciplined enough to keep them on my own for an entire year unless it was something I enjoyed. Here’s a question. What describes a resolution? Webster says many things but a few stuck out to me. The act or process of reducing to a simpler form; the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones;  A mended way or firmness to a thing; a formal expression of opinion, will, or intent. Most of us think of them as just a promise to do something different in the new year.

Maybe you are like me, asking where the thought of a New Year’s Resolution began. Is it just a tradition we often attempt to but fail to maintain? New Year is not a Western tradition but began in Eastern culture. Around 2000 B.C., the Babylonians celebrated a twelve-day festival called Akitu- though for them, the year began not in January but in mid-march. This festival was the start of the farming season when crops were grown. The Babylonians crowned a new king to reaffirm their loyalty to the reigning king. Also, promises are made to the gods to pay debts and return borrowed farm equipment. The Babylonians believed if they kept their word, their (pagan) gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year. The ancient Romans adopted this same theme with resolutions. The Julian calendar in 46 B.C. declared January 1st as the start of the New Year, and changes to the god Janus were promised during this time. (whom January is named)

No matter how hard we attempt to keep these partial promises, we often fall short, whether your resolution involves a new workout routine, new diet, new relationships, new outlooks on life, career, or success. Resolutions are great, but there has to be something more driving us to want to change behaviors, habits, character, and even our outlook. It is good to have resolved as if in a debate with myself to change directions or come to a finalized conclusion, but honestly, I discipline for a little while, but I can become weary. Have you ever found yourself in similar thoughts regarding new year plans and things you want to be different or change?

Our intentions are good, but I would like you to consider whether this is enough. Friends, we cannot maintain these promises in our power and skill but with the help of a loving Lord. Our Lord has made the greatest resolution for us all, one that will never fall short, change or disappoint. He has promised that his resolve will last longer than two weeks or six months; in fact, he desires us to trust Him with our best resolutions. Meaning we must put them in His hands and leave them there. It does not require lip service and mental preparation as much as surrender, but surrendering our best attempts to a gracious, loving Lord, who takes a little bit and creates fantastic outcomes.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding, seek His will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

~ Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB ~

Former President Kim B. Clark of BYU- Idaho was quoted in a 2006 devotional as saying, Well doing occurs through small things; great things come from small things. It is natural to grow weary in doing small things; but if we give our hearts and minds to the Lord, we will not grow weary, we will do the small things that make great things happen, and we will build Zion.

Perhaps you have become weary in this season- give Christ a try. I challenge you to allow His resolution to become yours this January. Take faith, weave it into daily life practicality and see the beauty that it creates. Let the Lord teach you in this season how to stick with the commitments we profess. Trust him to be your strength and the fulfillment of all we set out to change, create or cultivate in this New Year.

Time to Move

When we were at Mount Sinai, the Lord our God said to us, “You have stayed at this mountain long enough. It is time to break camp and move on.

~ Deuteronomy 1:6-7 NLT ~

In November, it will be two years since I moved from my home state. Just sitting here thinking about where the time has gone and how home was where I was comfortable. Where all my immediate family and friends still are. In fact, both of my sons are still back there too. As I am reflecting it makes me think about when the thought was presented to consider moving – it really was not on the table.

A few things happened before I moved that definitely would give anyone pause and make the decision to move difficult. The most difficult decision, (let me just reiterate again) was leaving my family behind. There were dynamics before me that had not been ironed out, however, it felt like the Lord was orchestrating every move, even the difficult ones.

If I can be honest. There were still two problems, I could not see where I was going and second, I was not sure if I wanted to go. Neither of these matters to the creator of all things but still. Have you ever felt that way – you believe the Lord is calling you to some place, task, or person but you are not certain it lines up with your plans?

I recently read the book of Deuteronomy when I stumbled across this passage of scripture about the children of Israel and Mount Sinai. And this time it stopped me long enough to reflect back to when I had to move. Amazing how God in his infinite wisdom will bring us to a passage to create a moment of reflection. I think of other times past when the Lord has directed me or told me to stop something and I have disobeyed. I wonder in those moments of reflection, what did I miss or if I had listened and obeyed what would life look like?

I think about the Israelites at that moment when an imperative is spoken and the Lord seems to almost say I am tired of waiting for you to do something. Just like an awesome God, to remind us that there is more, do not settle for where you currently are. In this case, Israel has embraced and left Egypt behind, it has been about three months and they are in transition camped at the base of Mount Sinai. (Exodus 19:1) And now the Lord is calling them to leave transition.

I would like to just leave you with a few thoughts to hopefully encourage you to not stay in a place of transition (Mount Sinai) but move to the place of promise. We may not have an actual Mount Sinai today, but it represents where the preparation took place, where promises were given/spoken based on obedience and it provided temporal provision for a purposed people. In other words, it was comfort for that season. I have found myself here and honestly, am quite content staying in this place, can you relate?   

I am learning that faith is fundamentally formed by fear not only being forgotten but forsaken. The Apostle Paul tells us, to forget those things behind and reach forward to what lies ahead. (Phil 3:13) The older I get the more I realize there is no easy way to grow in faith except by a willingness to surrender control to the Father. Sometimes the Lord requires us to leave comfort to gain confidence and sometimes to gain confidence we must move quickly. Just get up and do it!  

You have stayed at this mountain long enough.

~ Deuteronomy 1:6 NLT ~

What, where, or who is your Mount Sinai? Physically this may represent a relationship, a career, or a health move. Spiritually it may be a habit or perspective, a way of thinking that we need to change to reach true fulfillment.

We have to leave our comfort zones and keep traveling. The Lord has already told them where they were headed so why did it seem as if his words, through Moses were a surprise? In Exodus six, Yahweh tells Moses to tell Israel he will bring them into a land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And the same message applies today, the Lord moves us in a direction that seems unclear but with His encouragement, we can make it.  

Second, the Lord tells them, It is time to break camp. (Exodus 1:7) The camp represents a temporary dwelling that we erect and tear down before moving. It could be in our minds, emotionally, or physical things that we put together. If you have ever been hiking, camp is considered the place with temporary accommodations, that we do not stay in. We may have to tear down some stuff that has been erected temporarily that we are attempting to make permanent. “Break camp” with insecurity, poor self-image, nasty mouths, attitudes, laziness, selfish living, too serious (laughter is good for the soul), and demonic appetites that are robbing us of God’s best (pornography, lustful behavior). We make excuses for tolerating our sin condition or behavior instead of leaving guilt for repentance. We are living in a time when we need to break camp with religion and seek a relationship with more than the name God, but Jesus Christ. Relationships birth intimate knowledge of not only who Christ is but who we are in Christ. And what He desires for us.

Jesus told him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is.

~ John 14:6,7 NLT  ~

Lastly, action is required friend. It is not enough to hear and be motivated to move but do nothing different. This is the hard part. The Lord can have much in store for us but if we will not believe and trust His leading, we will stay hindered, never meeting our purpose.

So here is the question, what does Action look like to you? What has the Lord been reminding or speaking to you in reference to action? Whatever it looks like, I would encourage and challenge you to get moving.

Do not Let It Linger

A weed had grown adjacent to our fence in the back of our home. It was growing so tall that it looked like a plant. I did not see it as a real threat, so I pulled it up at the point where it appeared to begin. A few weeks later, that weed was back, but this time it had spread across the back of our fence in every direction. I ended up pulling it out beneath the root and cutting it off – so that that problem was dealt with not just at the surface level but at the source.

There is a valuable lesson in this that often gets overlooked in our everyday lives. It never gets better when we don’t deal with nuisances at the root and allow them to linger. God instructed Israel to attack Midian causing them to become consumed with sexual sin and idolatrous behavior. (Numbers 31) The Lord wanted them to be free of the things that appeared harmless on the surface but kept them in bondage. Instead, Israel began to mingle with the Midianites leading them to Baal worship and entertaining sexual immorality.

Why have you let all the women live? These are the very ones who followed Balaam’s advice.”

~ Numbers 31:15 NASB ~

Moses was asking if they had gotten rid of the problem at the core. The same question can be asked of us today. I wonder at that moment what Moses was seeing. Outwardly did they get to the core of the issue in their lives, or just put a band-aid over it. We must be careful of our feelings that may lead to acceptance of corruption. In the past, I have known what needed to take place but just ignored it. Truthfully this broke the Lord’s heart and pushed me further away.

Here is a thought, what things do we allow to linger in our lives? Israel attacked Midian and killed the men but allowed the women to live even though God said to destroy all. What things have we justified keeping?  Have we dealt with the lingering stuff that we think is not that bad? Have we acknowledged not only that gossiping is wrong but why do we find joy in passing information about others? Do we recognize that pornography is wrong and examine why we are looking for impure satisfaction? Perhaps this is a season of singleness and it is hard to embrace for some. Learning to not be selfish or learning to discipline one’s finances, thoughts, or home, before we bring another into our lives is sacrifice.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.

~ Hebrews 12:1 LASB ~

I am thankful for the reminder not to allow sinful behaviors and habits to linger. The challenge is normally the overcoming lesson used to stretch us. When we obey God, in some capacity we are blessed.  

Partial obedience is not obedience. It is not enough to obey partially what God has confidently and consistently told us as Christians to do. We can only receive His best and embrace His love for us when we follow His instruction. Obedience is the ultimate gesture of love that we can show to our Lord. I thought partial obedience was better than no obedience. I am thankful for the revelation that Jesus desires us all to receive.

 “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. “This is the first and great commandment.

~ Mark 12:30 NASB ~

The challenge is not in the knowing but in the doing. We must deal with it all. In other words, we have to look in the mirror and do the work. In Numbers 31, v.17 reads, So kill all the boys and all the women who had intercourse with a man. God gives a command that seems harsh. I pondered why does God command the boys and a specific group of women to be slaughtered? In ancient culture, the boys would have grown up to avenge their father’s legacy. The command to kill the women because they had turned the hearts of the entire kingdom away from their first love, God.

It is not the women or the boys that the Lord was addressing (on the surface it seemed to be). It was the allowance of something that should be removed to change the trajectory of our destiny. We all can think back to a time or situation that created conflict, but by the grace of God, we are still here. Do not let it linger.

Lord, thank you for your grace and unconditional love. Help me to remove anything that prevents me from continued growth or change in my life. When you show me things that need to be removed that hinder my growth let me not hesitate to take action. I ask that you will allow me to go beneath the surface and get to the root of those things that keep me from becoming more like Christ.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Don’t Believe the Hype Psalms 64

Evil can and will come in many forms. Sometimes it is recognizable, and at other times it is not. It can go right up to your door, walking on the same street, in your workspace, and even in your own home. As Black History Month comes to a close and I pondered what the Lord would give me to write, I came across this psalm in the Psalter. No, this is not a post that necessarily pertains to black history; however, I believe that there are some truths that we all can learn and help us to navigate through all the evil that masquerades in our day today.  

Sometimes there is nothing we can do to prevent it from striking. I don’t know about you, but I wish I could remedy or just not even have to deal with a lot of evil. Evil can move our pity and stir our indignation at times. Perhaps we argue, and even in a moment of generous impulse, we may try addressing the problem. We have seen countless examples of various evils that we as humans have attempted to address and stamp out, but it did not happen to our disappointment. From racism, political concern, police brutality, or movements believed to further our views of oppression, evil is still here and thriving. I am not glorifying opinions, but I am attempting to find a consensus that no matter your ethnicity, gender, economic status, political beliefs, or historical backdrop-evil is not a people problem but a sin issue.

It has been said of poets that they learn in suffering what they teach in song, and this is the experience of the psalmist David.

Psalms 64 gives us the perfect backdrop to understand or provide circumstantial evidence to prove our point. King David was such a prayer warrior, but more importantly, he was wise. He knew that he could do nothing about his situation. However, he knew who could. Talk about phoning a friend or using a lifeline. David was the best that did it.

1 John 5:19 tells us, “we know that we are of God and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” Evil does not always warn that it is on the way; however, we realize that we have power with a secret weapon by prayer. We are victorious, friend. When we see wrong or evil accounts on the news or daily, we can still find hope. It will take work from all of us, however. We like to address one side of a coin, but we must handle it all. Yes, our country is going through much political unrest. January 6th is a prime example of what happens when evil’s power gains a foothold. Police brutality is wrong in the black community, but so is the killing of innocent police because of some in all communities’ actions. We cannot say we are Christians, but in our mind choose what sin matters to God and us and overlook others that are just as unfortunate. We outwardly profess Christianity, but our hearts inwardly still are filled with hatred, jealousy, and entitlement as humans.   

Here is a King David talking to God about a problem. King Saul has been attempting to ruin David, even kill David. And most of Saul’s officers were involved in this conspiracy to destroy him. Why were they trying to kill David? God anointed him as king, but it had not come to fruition, but was that the real reason?

People may give us all kinds of trouble, not “good trouble” like the late Congressman John Lewis termed. We must remember our battle is not against flesh and blood, but the enemy and his hosts. And when we are aware of Who fights for us, we can get into “good trouble” and not fear or concern ourselves with what is transpiring because we have the King of Kings and Lord of Lords going before us.

Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.

~ Psalms 46:10 ~

Keep hope and do not believe the hype but rest in our Lord and Savior in these times. I wish I could say they are unprecedented, but they are not. Though packaged differently we have been here before. Yet we must remember we serve a God who has given us a blueprint in His Word to meet us where we are and provide us with hope, the ability to change, and even to repent.

1) Seek the Lord’s protection. (v.1-2) David begins with “Hear my voice” – he didn’t say this because God wasn’t paying attention but because he was coming with sincere intention.

a) David did not ask God to change the circumstances but fortify his own heart and deliver him from fear. The fear of the Lord mobilizes us, but the fear of man paralyzes us.

b) Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked, from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity. (sin)

Insurrection here is not referencing a civil revolt against authority but the people speaking evil against David and taking action to ruin Him. Let’s face it; some people will not like us. Not because we have done anything but just because of what we represent. David represented something pure and different from what was, which scared the forces in power. His commitment was only to the Lord and not to his plan, even when David fell- he admitted he was wrong and was convicted and changed. That is the difference. Groups today stand for their belief systems and are driven more by emotional stirring (how this affects me personally), but we openly say it is spiritual. Still, if it were spiritually motivated- we would address the wrong on all accounts.

My mother used to say, “the more men indulge in sin, the blinder we become.” In other words, the more persistent we break the second great commandment, the more indifferent we grow to the first. In (v.5) of Psalms 64, David says, “they hold fast to themselves an evil purpose.”  David is addressing the evil of the hearts of conspirators set to harm. How disturbing it is for David, who fears God, to be experiencing this. David grieves over the waste and, worse still, the misapplication of human power; he confesses with shame and sorrows the sin that has brought such terrible outcomes into the world. What about you today, are you grieved by all that is going on in the world? Or are we grieving over parts and turning a blind eye to the rest.     

2) Ask for the Lord’s wisdom. (v.3-6) David knew what the enemy was plotting. We need to know the strategy of our enemy when he attacks. (2 Cor 2:11) Like a lion, he comes to devour (1Peter 5:8); as a serpent, he comes to deceive (2 Cor 11:1-4). David compares his enemies’ tongues to swords and their words to poisoned arrows (v.3). One of the enemy’s main weapons is an accusation. (Rev 12:10; Zech 3) God will always lead us in what to do when we ask Him for wisdom and not just react. The evidence of a life changed by transformation and not moved by what unfolds before our eyes define wisdom.

3) Trust the Lord for Victory (v.7-8) This is not always so simple, but by trusting in the Lord and obeying the Father’s direction, David was confident that God would defeat his enemies. Don’t get caught up in what you see in the media and even what others say on social media platforms. I even found myself chiming in and feeling a bit irritated at all that has been occurring, and no, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but when I check my heart- God showed me it was more emotion than trusting in Him. Let God’s love and Word help us not allow emotions to drive us. Because let us be real, there are many incandescent with rage over all that has been occurring, and it shows no matter where we are, what or whom we believe.

These application steps seem so universal, but they really can apply to every area of our lives.

Everyone has a perspective, but the only view we should be striving to imitate is Christ’s, as disciples of Him. And when that becomes our aim, the Lord has promised to fight our battles for us. God himself will shoot arrows at our enemies (v.7). Perhaps you are saying, Lord, how long or God do you not know what they are getting away with? One thing I know from my experience-nothing or no one gets away from our God, and in His time, he will make all crooked paths straight. All we need to do is do not believe the hype.

Be encouraged today.  

“Dress It Up”

Flip, tuck, pat, rub, Dad seasoned the bird with precision.

Growing up, my dad did most of the cooking in our household. Sunday dinner was the highlight of the week because we knew we would be in for a treat. Throughout the week, dinner typically consisted of smaller portions of our usual everyday meal. But Sunday was my favorite–it would include a whole chicken or a roast with many sides.

I can remember watching him season the bird with celery, onion, and various other seasonings. Dad used to say, “These seasonings are all good, but salt does a little extra. It dresses it up.” At the time, I was not concerned about salt, pepper, or paprika. What I knew was that I was going to eat like a king. Or at least in my mind, this is what I believed.

As a kid, those many years ago, I did not realize the effectiveness of salt not just for flavoring but in many other ways. Salt enhances. It’s one of the spices that can improve any food if appropriately used.

Let your speech always be with grace as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

~Colossians 4:6 NASB

Is this why Paul compared our speech to salt? God gave him an inside tract as to how we, as believers, could influence those in our sphere of influence. He realized that if we sprinkled the light of Christ in how we responded to those around us, no matter how negative or cold their attitudes were, there would be an improvement.

Like the flavoring of our food with natural salt that brings the best out of it, our speech should minister grace to the hearers. Our words should be pure and life-changing. Our words should cause the world to desire to hear more of what we have to say, and bring them to realize there is something different about us and the message we share.

I love Chick-Fil-A French fries. They are the perfect balance of the salt to potato, and the crinkle-cut presentation enhances my desire to eat more. I often find myself saddened, peering down into an empty fry carton as if someone stole the last few morsels from under my nose. On the other hand, if there were too much salt on these slivers of goodness I would have an adverse reaction. What am I trying to say? Salt will enhance, but only if it is appropriately used. But, salt can also hinder when it’s overused.

The spiritual application is this: Our words can enhance, or interfere, when we are speaking to those around us. So we must use discernment as to when and how much to speak. How many of our conversations would be different if we adhered to Paul’s recommendations? Words have the power to build up, or tear down, and that in an instant. Christ always wants us to build up.

There have been pivotal times in my household that I overwhelmed my wife with my words, and she did not want to receive anything from me at that moment. However, there also were times when she has wanted to hear more of what I was saying. This same principle can apply with my children. It can apply with relatives, friends, and even in the workplace.

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

~Ephesians 4:29 NASB

Salt also preserves. In biblical times, salt was added to the sacrifices. Those sacrifices were set apart to be given to the living God. It would help us say the right things in the right manner if we remembered that our words also are sacrifices to God. I don’t know about you, but this concept is not easy, and I don’t always remember to do this. Nor do I act like I should.

We should want to maintain our character, conduct, and conversations as holy, so that we represent Jesus Christ appropriately. We should maintain a lifestyle that helps others to desire a relationship with Christ as they listen to our words. When we view our speech this way, the effectiveness of our witness will be tasted by many.

Whether on our job, in our relationships, in our community outreaches, or perhaps even with our enemies, we want others to taste how good our Lord is by observing our speech and actions and how we preserve the presence of God in our daily lives. When we can still smile or give a pleasant word when we are cut-off in traffic, this is a witness. When those around us are complaining, but we bring hope to a negative conversation, this also is the seasoning of grace. When the climate around us is negative, rash, and hostile, we can still sprinkle hope and peace. These are the attributes of salt given for all to experience.

While there are some positives to salt, there are also some negatives. If the salt has lost its distinctiveness and the flavor is bland, it will not fulfill its purpose. Have you ever tasted bland salt? What did you do with it? You probably threw it away. Imagine, if my father had put bad seasoning on his famous chicken–I probably would not like chicken to this day. If salt cannot be tasted in food, then it is not being used correctly. If there is no enhancement or distinct difference when salt is added to food-then it is not suitable for anything good, and must be discarded.

When the Holy Spirit cannot be seen in our speech, we cannot effectively influence those we contact. Or if we do speak, and what we speak is negative and not exalting Christ, is it worth saying. Friend, let’s discern when to speak, how to speak so that Christ is exalted, and maintain lifestyles that shows others we are the Lord’s people.

Friend, examine your words as salt. Allow the Holy Spirit to season your speech with grace, so others can see Christ in you. Be purposeful with your words. Let them be like my dad’s delicious chicken–all dressed up and seasoned to perfection.

Are your words, like salt, precisely and effectively used, and full of grace?

Father God, I desire the distinct presence of Your Holy Spirit to be with me daily. Please help me to share Your good character by covering me with Your presence. Help me when I loose my effectiveness to witness to those I see every day, whether at home, work, or in the community. Allow me to spread Your love to all I meet so that those in my sphere of influence will desire to taste and see how good You are.

In Jesus’s Name, Amen.