If you love me…
John 14:15 – If ye love me, keep my commandments.
When I was a little girl, I can remember watching soap operas with my mom and grandmom. I was always amazed at the story plots and twists as characters promised and vowed to love one another. Many promises were made about their love and many would issue some ultimatum or some hidden agenda for their love. “If you love me, you would give me all the money in your bank account.” “If you love me you wouldn’t tell people my secret.”
This was a very different kind of love than the love that God has for us. His love simply says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Just a special reminder that our love is an action word… obey. And guess what? There are only 10 of them! 1 John 5:3 says “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome”. God doesn’t give us burdens that we can’t handle and commandments that we can’t keep. His yoke is easy. His burdens are light.
In the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, God tells the Israelites the blessings that follow obedience. Some are… You will be set high above the nations on earth; You will be Blessed in the city and the field; The fruit of your womb will be blessed; You will be a lender and not a borrower; and have abundant prosperity. Read Chapter 28 for ALL the blessings of obedience. But notice that following the blessings for obedience are the curses for disobedience. If you read all the curses for disobedience, they are the opposite of the blessings for obedience.
God gives us the choice of blessings or curses based on our actions. He even says “If”, which is a conjunction introducing a conditional clause. If you love me, then obey my commandments. He is not forcing us to do it, but he says your love for me will show in how you keep my commandments.
I absolutely love the account of Jonah. I believe I am a direct descendant of Bro. Jonah. Here is the gist of Jonah’s account. Jonah was told by God to go to Nineveh to tell the people to get their lives together and repent. The people of Nineveh were very wicked enemies of Israel. Jonah was an Israelite and decided that he would not be going to Nineveh to preach to “those” people. So Jonah headed to Tarshish which was the exact opposite direction of Nineveh. He boarded a ship to escape. A storm arose and the men on board realized that Jonah was the cause of the storm so they threw him off. As soon as Jonah hit the water, the storm stopped. Jonah was then swallowed by a whale and stayed in the body of the whale for 3 days. In the belly of the whale, Jonah repented and prayed. He eventually went to Nineveh when he was thrown up by the whale.
To Jonah going to Nineveh made NO sense and he decided that he would go in the opposite direction (disobedience) of where the Lord was sending him. Nineveh was a country ridden with sin. It was the original “Sin City”, full of lawlessness and debauchery. Why Nineveh? We have to do what God says whether it makes sense or not!
Sometimes being obedient to God seems strange and is difficult to understand. I can only imagine how Mary, the mother of Jesus, felt when the angel told her that she would give birth to the Messiah. But her final response in Luke 1:38 was simply, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let everything you’ve said happen to me.” Simple obedience. I crave this type of obedience. I need this type of obedience in my life. Mary only asked how could this be I am a virgin (Luke 1:34), but her final response was that of obedience.
God requires our obedience. He doesn’t just speak to hear himself speak. He speaks so that He can convey a message or a command and our response should be obedience. We miss the blessings of God when we are disobedient.
Case in point… A few months ago as I was preparing for work, the Holy Spirit, clearly told me to pick up a box of pencils that were beside my bed and take them to work with me. Obedience would have been to just grab the box and head out the door, however, in my normal talk back, inquisitive fashion. I asked, “why do I need pencils?” Then I stated to the All-Knowing God of the Universe, “I don’t need pencils” and walked out the door to go to work WITHOUT the pencils. No sooner had I walked in the door of my job, did a young teacher, Mrs. Williams, walk up to me and ask me for pencils. I was in utter shock! I could not believe this was happening. A few things were running through my mind:
1) I had totally heard the voice of God. Some people pray to hear his voice and I had actually heard it even though I didn’t listen.
2) I missed an opportunity to testify to the younger teacher about how God was working in her life and answering her prayers through me. (Please note, she may not have prayed for pencils, but the fact that her need would have been met would have still been a blessing and maybe an opportunity for me to witness to her.)
3) I had to confess my sins – 1 John 1:9 says that “if we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I told my coworker about the pencils and that God had clearly told me to get the pencils and I had been disobedient. She accepted it, of course and said it was no big deal. But to me it was a HUGE deal.
4) I had to ask for forgiveness for my disobedience. I was not obedient and as a result I missed an opportunity to be blessed and a blessing to someone else.
Our obedience can change lives and situations. Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh, warned them to repent of their sins or their city would be destroyed in 40 days. The people repented and turned away from their sin. Jonah saved a city with a population of 120,000 citizens just because he was obedient. He kept God’s command to GO!
Remember, obedience and keeping God’s commandments are directly tied to God’s bountiful blessings. We show our love for God by how we keep or obey His commandments. Be obedient and live in the RED - loved and forgiven.
Living in the Dash
Living in the Dash
John 10:10… I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
On April 6, 2016, I lost a good friend of mine, “Rod B”. Rod was such a good friend because he was the absolute polar opposite of me. For every plan that I wrote in my schedule, Rod spontaneously lived his life. For every healthy meal I tried to consume, Rod wanted hot wings. He cracked jokes, talked loud and lived life to the fullest. He died of Leukemia in 2016 and I was heartbroken. I mean, really?! This disease had already taken my mom and now my friend, Rod.
I was mad, but then I realized that something has to take each us out of here. If the Lord tarries, we will all die. Whether it’s disease, an accident, a car wreck or just passing peacefully in our sleep, we all have to leave here in order to get there – you know, Heaven. Unless of course we are like Enoch who just walked with God until he walked on to Heaven (Genesis 5:22).
When people die now, in this age of technology, it is often posted on a social media platform. I find myself going to look the various profiles to look at the person’s life. It’s as if I want to know all about them, what they did for a living, who they loved, what their hobbies and habits were and if they died in the Lord. This may be a strange practice of mine, but I am always curious about whether or not they lived their dash.
The dash is that tiny little symbol that is seen on funereal programs and headstones. My mom’s dash was July 5, 1954 – February 25, 2001. The dash represents our days from birth to death. It is so small and often times we think, so insignificant, but it’s so much more. The dash is the most important part of life. How you live in that dash, is the key to where you go after you die and what legacy you leave when you die. The dash symbolizes your life. God said that he came that you may have life, and life more abundantly (John 10:10). He offers an abundant life to all of those who choose to live that life and want to live in that abundance.
The dash is where God can work and move in your life. What are you doing with the dash? How are you living? Are you following the Great Commission and telling others about Christ? Are you living your best life? Are you seeking and surrendering to God’s plan and will for your life? Are you living a congruent life – one that is aligned to what you say and who you say you are?
I want the abundant life that God has planned for me. I want every single thing that He has promised me – every blessing.
In 2001, my mother passed away. At that time, I was too young and grief-stricken to really reflect on her dash as I now can as a full grown adult. However, in 2016 when my friend, Rod passed away as a result of the same disease – Leukemia, I stopped to reflect on both of their lives. My mom lived her dash. She was funny, caring, so genuine and classy. I can remember her singing in the mornings as we got ready for school and work, turning flips in the backyard, going to the movies over and over, singing our made up songs in the laundry mat, taking road trips, Thursday night hoagie nights and making ice cream floats with sherbet and Sprite. She lived her dash to the fullest! She lived, laughed and loved and left a legacy for her children and family.
Rod did too. Shortly after he passed, I remember all the tributes and the pictures that showed up on social media. Even though I was sad, I remember laughing and smiling at the old pictures of Rod and the tributes that his family, friends and kids posted about him. Rod lived an abundant life.
God has promised us an abundant life. A life filled with good things. However, we also know that satan’s job is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10), so there will be bad things as well. We have to do all we can to live a life pleasing to God and one that our families can be proud about when we close our eyes. Remember to live your Dash in the RED ~ Loved and Forgiven
Luke 5:16 – And he withdrew himself into the wilderness and prayed.
My favorite past time is sitting in my car on busy parking lots. It seems that I make my best to-do lists there, read, find peace and often whisper words of prayer. I love to people watch, so in between the reading, sitting still and praying, I glance at people – observe their nuisances, notice their idiosyncrasies and just enjoy looking at God’s creation.
In recent years, I’ve often asked myself why I enjoy this practice so much. I think it is because I have built, by design, a very busy life for myself. I think it is directly related to that old saying that the “idle mind is the workshop of the devil.” I decided years ago that I would never have an idle mind. So I have made “busyness” a part of my day – writing, reading, speaking engagements, teaching, working, and the list goes on. So whenever I find a small piece of time – whether it’s 15 minutes or 30 minutes to simply wait in my car for the next event, I find it so relaxing and refreshing.
Please note that busyness of not of God. Sometimes we busy ourselves - doing the wrong things with the wrong people. We often busy ourselves to avoid dealing with life in general. I have been known to fill up my schedule with the mundane to avoid the necessary things and tasks that I abhor. Our women’s Bible study leader says, “If satan, can’t make us bad, he will make us busy!” So be careful as you busy yourselves. (I am talking to myself mainly).
To steal away is an idiom that means to leave quietly without being noticed. In Luke 5:16, I find it interesting that Jesus, the savior, the author of the universe, the lover of my soul, the Christ – the anointed one, the God of creation would take time to withdraw to himself. Various Bible translations say different things – some say he withdrew to lonely places, desolate or deserted places. The translations also note that He withdrew, retired, and slipped away to these places. As Jesus’ ministry grew, he took more time for silence and solitude with the Father in prayer.
As busy women – wives, moms, sisters, aunties, daughters, professionals, teachers and the list goes on, we need to follow the example of Jesus and withdraw to our secret places of solitude and silence. Maybe your secret place is the laundry room, or the back yard or the garage or the small seconds you have for yourself in the bathroom. As your ministry – as your territory is enlarged, so should your practice of stealing away grow. In those moments of solitude and silence, we breathe deeply and encounter the lover of our souls, who longs for those moments with us, just as much as we need those moments with Him.
Today, promise yourself time to steal away; to find time to sneak away to talk to the Father. Follow the example of Jesus, take a breather from all of the cares of the world – the piles of laundry, the unpaid bills, the active kids, the grocery shopping and all the to-do lists that you’ve created and not followed. It doesn’t have to be a vacation with all the works, but merely a drive down to Target, a slow walk through the shoe store, a walk in the park. You can take 15 minutes in a bathroom, car, board room, wherever you can find solitude and steal away for a talk with your Heavenly Father. He’s waiting to hear from you and you’ll be glad you spent time with Him!
Don’t forget to live in the RED – under the covering of the blood and the forgiveness of SIN!
Luke 15:17 … and when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
Have you ever been somewhere you know you didn’t need to be and then you remembered who you were and whose you were and decided to go home? As a child, my mom used to tell me she had eyes all over the city and I believed her. But one or two times, I found myself in a situation or with people that I knew that I had no business with and that my mother would not approve of at all.
The prodigal son is such a thematic story about grace, forgiveness and love. A son – the younger son, decides he wants his inheritance NOW. Once he gets his wealth, he decides to go on a journey and soon wastes all of his inheritance quickly with fast living. Poor and desolate, he finds work for a man taking care of his pigs and is so desperate that he wants the pigs’ food. I love verse 17… “and when he came to himself”. He had an awakening and remembered who he was while tending to the pigs.
You remember in the Lion King when Simba had run away from his homeland because his uncle, Scar, made him believe that he was guilty of killing his father? Simba, the son of the mighty King Mufasa was out and about running around like he was a regular everyday commoner, a common joe and not the prince. Sound familiar? We often forget we are of a royal priesthood, a peculiar people and we walk around acting common. However, Rafiki, showed up and helped Simba find his way back home. After a little cajoling, Simba “came to himself” and decided to return home. He remembered who he was. He was Mufasa’s son, the heir to the throne, the savior of the pride, the mighty successor who would save his people.
Listen, girlfriend, sister-girl, it’s time to come to yourself. It’s time to remember who you are and whose you are! So what, you had a baby out of wedlock? And that man that you gave your heart to, broke it? Ok, now what? Who cares that your marriage is falling apart? Hey sis, that addiction to pills is not who you are! Hey ma’am! Alcoholism doesn’t look good on the King’s daughter. Drug abuse doesn’t go well for the child of the Most High. It’s time to come to yourself and remember who and whose you are! I know! I get it! I do; life has been hard; it’s knocked you down. You’re ridden with guilt and depression. I get it, but it’s time to come home.
Did you read the end of the story? The son came to himself – remembered who his daddy was, got himself together and made his way back home. I can imagine the scene as he walked home thinking of the words he would say to make his dad forgive him for taking his inheritance and throwing it away. “Dad, I’m sorry, I was foolish. Will you forgive me? Dad, I know you have denounced me as a son, I am content with just being one of your servants”. I am sure his heart was racing a mile a minute as he turned the last corner heading home. Rejection! Fear! They were probably walking hand and hand with him. What would his father say? What would his brother say? What would the others say?
But oh the scene! The father saw him in the distance and began to RUN to him. And when he made it to him, he fell at his feet and kissed him. The son tried to explain and apologize and the father simply said… Welcome Home and then said to his servants, “bring the best robe, shoes and put a ring on his hand; and bring the fatted calf.”
Then they ate, drank, and were merry. But, the oldest son heard the commotion and came in angry! You mean to tell me that this joker squandered his wealth and left us here and you are throwing him a party and I have been here all the time! But the Father said, you are mine and always with me, but this is my son who was dead and is now alive, who was lost and is now found.
As you make your way home, don’t let anyone tell you that you are not deserving of our Father’s unconditional, everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3) love.
I love this story! This is the heart of God. He is waiting for you to come home. There is nothing too terrible that you have done or are doing that will make Him turn you away. Just as the father in the Biblical account did, our Heavenly Father wants to RUN to you, bring you His choice blessings, throw a feast for you and have a praise and worship service like none other. He’s waiting with open arms, waiting for you to come to yourself and remember that you are the child of the Most High God, El-Elyon. Come home! He’s waiting. You are loved and forgiven.