BE THE MAP

Proverbs 12:26 [ESV] One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

We are all aware of the fact that God is to be our guide. It has been popular for some time to ask ourselves “what would Jesus do?” before taking action. David points to God’s leadership and guidance in many Psalms. Here are two examples:

Psalm 31:3 [KJV] 3 For thou [art] my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me.

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THE DOORS OF GOD’S PLAN* (Part 3)

You have probably heard the saying, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.” Doors, closed doors and opened doors, have been an important part of God’s relationship with mankind since the beginning. During this three part series, I’ll examine some of the places where a door – either one that closed or one that opened – has made a difference to mankind and his relationship with God.

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THE DOORS OF GOD’S PLAN* (Part 2)

You have probably heard the saying, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.” Doors, closed doors and opened doors, have been an important part of God’s relationship with mankind since the beginning. During this three part series, I’ll examine some of the places where a door – either one that closed or one that opened – has made a difference to mankind and his relationship with God.

PART TWO – When following God’s instructions meant life or immediate death.  

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THE DOORS OF GOD’S PLAN*

You have probably heard the saying, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.” Doors, closed doors and opened doors, have been an important part of God’s relationship with mankind since the beginning. During this three part series, I’ll examine some of the places where a door – either one that closed or one that opened – has made a difference to mankind and his relationship with God.

PART ONE – Well, that went downhill quickly!

THE “DOOR” TO THE TREE OF LIFE -- THE END OF GOD’S OPEN DOOR POLICY 

God and man started out with a personal, intimate and face-to-face relationship. Seems like God came to chat with Adam and, later Eve, every day. We all know what happened to that relationship. Eve and Adam ate the forbidden fruit and sin entered the world. Among the punishments God invoked was their banishment from the Garden and being shut off from the tree of life.

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PURSUING WHAT MATTERS

Proverbs 12:11 [ESV] Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. ... 

When we read about worthless pursuits, let’s not be tempted to think of young people and their video games or Youtube watching. Nor should I only consider the potentially worthless pursuit of binging a season of my favorite show on Netflix.

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BIGGER, DEEPER, WIDER

My daily journal offered up Proverbs 11:24-25 as the journal prompt one day last week. You may know it from the NIV to say: 24 One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. 25 A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

Solomon repeats this in Ecclesiastes 11:1 [NKJV] Cast your bread upon the waters, For you will find it after many days.

The New Testament echoes this sentiment in Luke 6:38 [ NIV] Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." This is also the message of the Parable of the Sheep and Goats [Matt. 25]

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MIND THE GAP

If you have ever traveled by subway or train or even ridden certain rides at theme parks, you will hear “mind the gap” frequently during the on-boarding and off-boarding process.

Minding the gap came to my mind during a recent visit to the Ark exhibit in Williamstown, Kentucky with my husband, Wes.

This was my first visit to the Ark and I have to say it was impressive! The exhibit’s detailed presentation of possible methods used for food storage, water intake for drinking, waste removal and feeding the animals was impressive. If they are correct, the Ark was not only more than adequate for its task, but also a marvel of engineering.

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TEN POUNDS OF ROCK

My husband, Wes, has two frequent sayings that apply to the lesson I want to get across today:

  • “Don’t put that rock in my bag.” This applies someone tries to place responsibility on his shoulders and it doesn’t belong there.

  • “You are trying to put 10 pounds of rock in a five-pound bag.” This is usually said to me because I try to do too much in a given day and am never satisfied that I have done enough

    As a Christian, are you letting others place burdens on you that they should not?

In the early New Testament, there was great debate over whether or not the Gentile converts to Christianity must be circumcised. Acts 15:24 [KJV] Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, [Ye must] be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no [such] commandment: You can read more about that in Acts 15. 

It was debated among the leaders of the day, who concluded that circumcision was not required. [See Acts 15:28-29] Perhaps the Apostles were appropriately wary of adding their own requirements to God’s because they had seen Jesus take the religious leaders to task for doing just that. 

Here are two examples of Jesus calling the religious leaders of His day for adding burdens to the law and the lives of the people:

Matthew 23:2-4 [NIV] The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

Luke 11:46 [NIV] Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

Sisters, don’t let others put burdens on you that the Father and Jesus have not called you to bear – not other Christians, not non-Christians, not the religious leaders of our day. 

  • As Christian, are you, yourself, taking on burdens that you should not? 

I am one of those people who may get 20 things done on a Sunday, but still feels bad that there were five more things on my list left undone. I’m the same at work. At work, this can create a topnotch, star employee who contributes a lot. However, it does not create a balanced employee and it opens up the very real possibility of burn out.

As repentant believers, sometimes we continue to carry the burdens of past sins, when we should be letting go. Jesus does not load us up with burdens. Matthew11:30 [KJV] For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light. We have to let go of what is behind us, that sin we have already repented of, if we are to move forward, following the example of Paul. Philippians 3:13-14 [KJV] Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but [this] one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

The burden of sin, once repented of, is gone. We should not burden ourselves by continuing to carry it around. We have other burdens we ARE supposed to be bearing and we cannot do that if the 5-pound bag of life already has 10 pounds of unnecessary burdens in it. 

Sisters, do not carry burdens that Jesus Christ died to take away – that He carried to the cross so that you would no longer have to carry them.

  • As Christians, are we bearing the burdens we should bear?

We have a responsibility to help each other bare the burdens of this life. Galatians 6:2 [NKJV] Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. That is difficult to do if you have 10 pounds of rock in your own bag or if you are carrying unnecessary burdens others have placed on your life.

Bearing the burdens of others – helping to share their load by providing comfort, prayers, food or whatever else we can – is what we are called to do. The needs of others is all the burden we are to be carrying. 

Sisters, let’s think about what we are carrying and cast off the unnecessary burdens of guilt or responsibility or service that we or others put on our lives. Only when we lay down the burdens that don’t belong on our shoulders can we then be free to help others with the burdens in their lives. 

I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions. You can write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org. 

THE ANIMAL TREATMENT TEST

I am not much of a pet person. I have had pets – everything from goldfish to gerbils to dogs and cats to rabbits and even a pig. But I haven’t had any pets for at least 15 years, in part because my husband is decidedly not a pet person and in part because I travel so much for work that it makes having a pet impractical and potentially unfair to the animal. 

The Bible tells us that you can tell something about a person by the way he/she treats animals. We see that in Proverbs 12:10 [ESV] for example, where it says: Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.

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STAND UP

The Hebrew word translated “will stand” can mean to endure. It can also mean to take a stand. I believe that the house of the righteous endures specifically because it is a house that takes a stand. 

We are not meant to be silent or hidden in this world. 

Luke 11:33 [ESV] No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.

God’s own light, His Spirit, has been given to those who give their lives to Him. We must then hold that light up high – place it on a stand so that it may be lifted higher and shine out further. No one should question whether or not I am a Christian, because the light of God in me should be so obvious that they cannot doubt it. 

However, we should not think of taking a stand only in the context of a Christian choosing to be killed rather than denying Christ. Don’t think of it only in the context of some well-known athlete writing scripture on his body or clothing before a game. Don’t think of it only in the context of losing your job over the Sabbath or intervening for someone being harassed by a bully.

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UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN

One of the most encouraging scriptures in the Bible is Isaiah 9:6 [ESV]  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. During Christmas time, it is often quoted by the major Christian religions of our day. At that time, the emphasis is placed on the child being born. 

But to consign this scripture to an announcement of Jesus’ birth about 2,000 years ago, or to something quoted around the celebration of a pagan holiday, is to miss the depth and beauty of its meaning for believers today. 

Jesus came to this earth in human form. He lived and died for us, along the way experiencing what it is like to be human, so that this scripture became true: Hebrews 4:15 [ESV] For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 

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CROWN JEWELS

Proverbs 12:4 [KJV] says “A virtuous woman [is] a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed [is] as rottenness in his bones.” This word translated “virtuous” is the same word used to begin the praise of the Proverbs 31 woman. 

The NIV it says, “A wife of noble character” as it does also in Proverbs 31. Proverbs 12:4 [NIV] A wife of noble character is her husband's crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.

Here, again, the writer of Proverbs uses contrast, as he often does, to show the results of opposite choices in behavior. It behooves me, as a Christian woman, to think about this as a wife, of course. But it is even more important to think of this in the light of how my daily behavior impacts Jesus, our Betrothed. It is important that I ask myself, as the future bride of Christ, how my words and deed impact Him. 

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BIONICS AND BUTTERFLYS

If you are younger than 40, you may have never hear of the $6 Million Dollar Man or the Bionic Woman TV shows, which first ran in the late 70’s and early 80’s. In each show, the lead character had experienced an accident that resulted in their human parts being replaced with machine parts that made them stronger and faster, able to hear or see much better and so forth. 

Is this what God is doing with Christians today? Is He replacing our damaged parts with non-human parts that enable us to be super human? The answer, in my opinion, is “yes and no.”

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EXHAUSTECATED

I’ve reached an age where even watching kids run around exhausts me – let alone the running around that my schedule requires. Yet, I haven’t reached an age when I can retire. I don’t even really want to give up on any of my service projects, family time, time with friends, church activities or exercise time. Sadly, that means I also cannot give up my job, which funds all I want to do, but also requires travel and sometimes some very long days. 

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SILK PURSES, GOLD RINGS, LIPSTICK AND FINER THINGS

In modern times, we sometimes hear the phrase “putting lipstick on a pig.” I wonder if it is simply a more modernized version of Proverbs 11:22, which says, A beautiful woman who rejects good sense is like a gold ring in a pig's snout.” [CSB]  The NIV puts it like this “Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” This word, discretion, means “Without a taste for judgement, discernment, reason.”

Whichever phrase we use, the message is that making superficial or cosmetic changes does not change the nature of something or someone. 

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PACK MENTALITY OR SPEED OF THE LEADER

A couple of nights ago, right after sundown, I was out in my yard and heard the yipping of a pack of coyotes in the woods beside my home. We have a nice, 6-foot fence, so they did not worry me and I find their distinguishing call to be kind of cute – at least when I know they cannot get to me. 

Coyotes, like wolves, and many others of their genus, hunt in packs. 

The idea of “pack mentality” has a negative connotation in this day and age – and rightfully so. Wikipedia has this to say, “Herd mentality, mob mentality and pack mentality, also lesser known as gang mentality, describes how people can be influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors on a largely emotional, rather than rational, basis.” Throughout man’s history pack mentality has been a factor in many instances of mankind acting badly. 

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MIRROR, MIRROR

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Wrinkles? A crooked smile? Laugh lines? Someone too old, too young, too pale, too dark? For me, unless I am wearing my glasses, I don’t see anything clearly. It’s all a bit fuzzy around the edges. I’ve arrived at that age where I require a magnifying mirror to put on my makeup properly. 

What if that mirror, instead of reflecting your DNA, your years of experience, your mother’s smile, your father’s nose, reflected your soul? Would you see a heart of love? A spirit of hope? A mind of steadfastness? A soul of patience? 

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Control Panel

Ever had a klutzy moment where you trip, essentially on your own feet, and looked around to see if there was something you could blame it on? I have. You might be interested to know that Solomon had something to say about tripping yourself. 

Proverbs 11:5-6 [ESV] The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness. The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.

Your own faults and sins will be your undoing. We trip ourselves up. Solomon was passionate enough about this point to repeat himself in verses 5 and 6. We’ve really got no one to blame but ourselves. 

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HOLY GROUND

My devotional (Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson –– Zondervan – Copyright 2018 – Day 39) quoted this scripture: “Take of your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5 Batterson wrote, “no place is devoid of God’s presence.” And reminded his readers that anywhere God is – that is holy ground. 

This reminds me of something that happened to Peter, which changed the course of the early New Testament church.

In Acts 9:10-16, we are told about a vision Peter had about a sheet full of unclean animals, which the Lord told him to kill and eat. When Peter refuses, he is told this: "What God has made clean, do not call common." [Acts 10:15 ESV] 

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TESTIFY! CAN I GET A WITNESS?

Revelation 12:11 [NIV] They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…

I don’t think any of us would question that we triumph by the blood of the Lamb. Without that cleansing blood, we know we would fail – remaining in our sins and estranged from the Father without hope of changing that. We triumph daily by that blood. Can I get an “amen?”

However, when a recent devotional I read* put the emphasis on “by the word of their testimony” I began to wonder about the idea that our own testimony has any part in triumphing over Satan. 

To be sure, our personal triumph is linked to the blood of the Lamb. Perhaps, though, the triumph of the Body of Christ as a whole and as individual believers is also dependent upon the word of our testimony. 

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