The devil didn’t make you do it

Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God,” for God can’t be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it has conceived, bears sin; and the sin, when it is full grown, produces death.” ‭‭James‬ ‭1:12-15‬

We live in a world that is far too willing to give the devil credit that he is not due. I’ve said and heard “the Devil made me do it” more times than I am willing to count. This scripture dispels the lie that the enemy had anything to do with it. We are tempted when we are drawn away by our own lust. It is in giving in to the desires of our flesh that tempt us that we sin.

Again, we have to endure through the temptation to overcome sin in our life. It is only when our faith has been tested and tried that we overcome and will receive what God has for us in heaven. Giving into the temptation leads to sin, which eventually leads to death.

It is not God that bring temptation; it is our flesh. It is not the devil that brings temptation; it is our flesh. The sin is not in the temptation; the sin is in giving into the temptation. We are called to walk by the Spirit.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Galatians‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭

We know when we are being tempted by our flesh. We know the right thing to do. Scripture says:

To him therefore who knows to do good, and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin.” James‬ ‭4:17‬ ‭‬‬

That is also why sometimes we allow ourselves to get trapped in comparison. What tempts one person, may not tempt another. For example, a few years back I was visiting someone that was very much into the bar scene. Her idea of a showing me a good time, was taking me to multiple bars. I am not tempted by bars, honestly don’t remember if I had an alcoholic drink. If I did, it would have been one and I would not be tempted to have more. Bars have never been my scene, I admit that I visited more bars that weekend, than I had in my whole life up to that point. I was not tempted by my peers to have more, despite their actions. There are other people who can not go into a bar because it poses too much of a temptation. If I had been with someone that applied to, I would have passed on the bar.

I have also had people tell me that I can not do certain things, because it is sin. At times, that has been 100% true, sin is sin. The Bible clearly states certain things as sin, and that doesn’t change just because I want to do it. Society tries to say that certain things are okay. We have made compromises to the Word of God as a culture, but it does not change the truth of the Word.

It is also why sometimes God convicts one person of something, that another does not feel convicted about. There are other things that man has called sin, that God doesn’t. Not reading my Bible in the morning because I am not a morning person, is not a sin. I remember sitting in condemnation for a while because I could not make myself get up early enough to have quality time with God. Mornings were rushed trying to get three kids ready for school and getting off to work. However, I had been faithful to have quality time after they went to bed, before I went to sleep. While as my life changed I was able to develop a morning habit, God was not calling my actions sin, man was.

Or I remember while sitting on a nonprofit board, I felt convicted about the fact they served alcohol during fundraisers, while the program was trying to help people out of addiction. While I held that conviction, it did not mean the rest of the board did, or that the donors did. What was within my power was to abstain myself from the alcohol, setting an example, until my commitment of service to the board was over. It was not my role to convict or condemn them for not seeing things the way I did.

Temptation is personal. It is our strong personal desire for something that makes it a temptation. I am tempted by chocolate, my husband can take it or leave it. He has literally had candy sitting on the counter since before Christmas that he just takes a little piece of when he wants. Eating chocolate is a sin, but when I chose to indulge in it, instead of treating myself in moderation, thus giving way to the strong personal desire, it is sin. I do not keep chocolate I really like in our home because I know I give into the temptation too easily. I know that gluttony is a sin and I don’t need the temptation.

So the next time you are tempted to say the devil made me do it. Pause and be honest with yourself. Remind yourself of this scripture, and tell yourself the truth, and then repent. “I gave into my fleshly desires. I allowed myself to be tempted and I chose to give in to it. Lord, forgive me of my sin. Strengthen me to increase my faith in this area, because I know with You, I am more than a conqueror.”

Prayer: Lord forgive me for giving the devil credit for my fleshly actions. Forgive me for giving into temptations. I want to walk in the Spirit and be controlled by the Spirit, not the lusts of the flesh. Help me to be stronger in Your Spirit, to exercise the fruit of self-control instead of giving in to the flesh. I know You will always provide a way for me to overcome temptation.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. I Corinthians 10:13

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What are you willing to endure with temptation?

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  Let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Two things jumped out at me as I read this 1) Temptation is the testing of my faith 2) Perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

I can quote this scripture. I am sure I have blogged about it before, I have definitely journaled it. I am not sure I ever considered that it is the enduring through temptation that increases my faith. It is only when I am able to stand through temptation that my faith is strengthened. It also means that when I give into temptation, my faith is weakened.

Temptation In the natural sense, I immediately think of the temptation when I am trying to be healthy. It weakens my resolve to press into eating healthy when I keep unhealthy food around me. Once I have given into the craving for something sweet or salty, that is all I want for days. When I give in to the temptation to not exercise, it makes the decision easier the next day to do the same. It is a vicious cycle that keeps me trapped where I don’t want to be. It is only when I endure through the temptation and do the right thing, that I am able to obtain the result that I am working towards.

It is the same in spiritual battles of temptation. When I give in to sin, I weaken my faith in that area. The devil can wave the temptation, but it is my choice to walk in the Spirit and endure through the temptation to increase my faith or to give in to the flesh and strengthen its hold on my life. It is not the devil making me do it, it is an intentional choice I make. I have to chose what I want to endure. I can easily endure the “moment of pleasure” as I give into the temptation of the flesh. Knowing I will then have to endure the conviction for not doing what I know was right. And enduring the condemnation that the enemy will bring to my mind because I gave into the temptation. Or I can chose to endure through the moments of temptation, and chose to walk in the Spirit.

Personally, I have never thought past a day or two about when I make the right decision and endure through the temptation. However, there are still times that the enemy has brought up times that I gave into temptation, years and even decades later. He will try to torment me with the past, because I opened the door and gave him the foothold. So I find myself still having to endure the consequences of giving into temptation. For me that is a powerful lesson I need to keep in mind and remember when facing temptation.

Perfect, Complete, Lacking Nothing As I read these words, it felt rather repetitive. I looked up the words in Blue Letter Bible thinking maybe I was misinterpreting the words.

Perfect – Strongs G5046 – teleios- brought to its end, finished; lacking nothing necessary to completeness; perfect:

Complete – Strong’s G3648 – holoklērosfree from sin, faultless

Lacking – Strong’s G3007 – leipōto lag, be inferior

In Nothing – Strong’s G3367 – mēdeis in nothing

So this scripture could read: when we let endurance have it’s perfect work in us, letting endurance bring temptation to an end, finished, lacking nothing necessary for completeness then we will be brought to an end, finished, lacking nothing for completeness, free from sin, faultless, lagging or being inferior in nothing.

Every temptation endured brings us closer to being able to overcome sin completely. I don’t think there is anyone except Jesus will live a sinless life here on earth. However, each time we endure temptation brings us closer to being perfected in sin in that area. The more we do the right things, the easier it is to overcome the temptation. The more we face a temptation, the less it will become a temptation.

Prayer: Lord I thank you that there is no temptation that will come to me that You have not already provided a way out of . I thank you when I chose to walk by the Spirit, You will empower me to keep choosing the right thing until I am no longer tempted in that area to give into the flesh in that area. I pray You will help me to over come temptation in the natural also.

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Insignificant Moments of Obedience

But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deluding your own selves.” James‬ ‭1:22‬ ‭‬‬

This seems to be the scriptural theme for my day. Knowing what to do, but not doing it. The addict that can teach the class on what to do, but can’t apply it outside of treatment. The child who knows the information, but refuses to do the work. The people who pray, but are not prepared for the answer. Those who take in the Word, but don’t apply it.

I admit, I’ve been in everyone of those scenarios in my personal life at some point. I know what to do. I am choosing not to do it. I allow excuses to get in the way. I justify my non action convincingly.

Other times, I know I get stuck in my head. I reason and analyze too much. Then I allow myself to take a back seat in what God is wanting to do. I am reminded of someone who shared that their small group read through the gospels. They decided each time they came across a command to do something, they would stop reading until they had done it.

I also realize, sometimes I discredit what I am doing because it doesn’t look like “church ministry.” The Lord says:

Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father, through him.” Colossians‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭‬‬

I paused to think about many insignificant moments recorded in the Bible. The story of Rahab, a prostitute could definitely not in the ministry of God. Her actions seemed small in the moment.

“Joshua the son of Nun secretly sent two men out of Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, including Jericho.” They went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and slept there. The king of Jericho was told, “Behold, men of the children of Israel came in here tonight to spy out the land.” Jericho’s king sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered into your house; for they have come to spy out all the land.” The woman took the two men and hid them. Then she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I didn’t know where they came from. About the time of the shutting of the gate, when it was dark, the men went out. Where the men went, I don’t know. Pursue them quickly. You may catch up with them.” But she had brought them up to the roof, and hidden them under the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof. The men pursued them along the way to the fords of the Jordan River. As soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate. Before they had lain down, she came up to them on the roof. She said to the men, “I know that Yahweh has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how Yahweh dried up the water of the Red Sea before you, when you came out of Egypt; and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites, who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and to Og, whom you utterly destroyed. As soon as we had heard it, our hearts melted, and there wasn’t any more spirit in any man, because of you: for Yahweh your God, he is God in heaven above, and on earth beneath. Now therefore, please swear to me by Yahweh, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a true sign; and that you will save alive my father, my mother, my brothers, and my sisters, and all that they have, and will deliver our lives from death.” The men said to her, “Our life for yours, if you don’t talk about this business of ours; and it shall be, when Yahweh gives us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.” Then she let them down by a cord through the window; for her house was on the side of the wall, and she lived on the wall. She said to them, “Go to the mountain, lest the pursuers find you. Hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers have returned. Afterward, you may go your way.”” Joshua‬ ‭2:1-16‬ ‭‬‬

We know that the spies made it safely back to Joshua and that they kept their promise. Rahab married into the House of Judah and is listed in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1. When you look down the line of history, it was counted to Rahab as faith.

By faith, Rahab the prostitute, didn’t perish with those who were disobedient, having received the spies in peace.” Hebrews‬ ‭11:31‬ ‭‬‬

I think about Esther being prepared for the king for a year (Esther 2). And her making dinner for the king and Haman twice (Esther 5-6) These are seemingly insignificant, and yet she saved her people with these actions.

Or Ruth picking up scraps in the field of Boaz.“Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Let me now go to the field, and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I find favor.” She said to her, “Go, my daughter.” She went, and came and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.Ruth‬ ‭2:2-3‬ ‭‬‬

And then laying at the feet of Boaz. “Therefore wash yourself, anoint yourself, get dressed, and go down to the threshing floor, but don’t make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. It shall be, when he lies down, that you shall note the place where he is lying. Then you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lay down. Then he will tell you what to do.” She said to her, “All that you say, I will do.” She went down to the threshing floor, and did everything that her mother-in-law told her. When Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. She came softly, uncovered his feet, and laid down. At midnight, the man was startled and turned himself; and behold, a woman lay at his feet. He said, “Who are you?” She answered, “I am Ruth your servant. Therefore spread the corner of your garment over your servant; for you are a near kinsman.”” Ruth‬ ‭3:3-9‬ ‭‬‬

She is listed in the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew 1. “Salmon became the father of Boaz by Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed by Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse.” Matthew‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭

I think about the disciples in the upper room. “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mountain called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. When they had come in, they went up into the upper room, where they were staying; that is Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord continued steadfastly in prayer and supplication, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” Acts‬ ‭1:12-14‬ ‭‬‬ and “Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all with one accord in one place. Suddenly there came from the sky a sound like the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. Tongues like fire appeared and were distributed to them, and one sat on each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak.” Acts‬ ‭2:1-4‬ ‭‬‬Actions that birthed the modern Church.

We look at these events from a historical view, we know the outcome. In the moment though, these are things that they could have considered insignificant. They are events we just let pass us by. They seem like “no big deal.”

How many history makers have I let pass me by because I was not obedient to do it in the moment? We can’t ever know what impact a small thing will have on eternity.

The child in the Sunday school class were to stretched to teach, may be the next great evangelist. The drug addicted homeless woman might be the one God uses to birth the next great revival. The man in prison for murder, might be the father of the little boy who will one day plant the church where your great grandchild will be saved. The world is full of these type of stories.

Yet, if we are not faithful doers of the Word, how will the list be reached? Will people see our lives as something to be desired? Or will they be pushed away because it looks no different than theirs? Will our life connect to the child, the prisoner, or the homeless addict to bring them to Christ, and possibly change history?

We have to do what we know to do. We have to be willing to be inconvenienced by God with the opportunities He places before us. We have to be willing to do the small things because we never know what big things they can lead to. We can doubt. We can’t reason and excuse. We can’t minimize. We just need to obediently do.

Prayer – Lord, I know at times I have sat idly by and not acted on what you told me to do. Forgive me for times that I have discounted my obedience thinking such a small thing doesn’t matter. Forgive me for when I have reasoned and doubted instead of just acting.Please redeem those moments. Give those people I missed, someone in their lives that will point them back to You. I want to be a doer of Your Word, big and small from here forward!

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Grieving the Spirit

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30

When we deliberately do what is wrong, we drag Holy Spirit right into the same mire of sin with us, because He lives in us and goes wherever we go. ~ Rick Renner, Sparkling Gems from the Greek

When I read those words from Rick Renner, it was gave me pause to thing about how I have grieved the Holy Spirit with wrong attitudes and actions in my life. I believe that Holy Spirit is with us even when our sin is not deliberate. It just saddens me more to think of the times I have intentionally chosen to take Him into the mire of my sin.

I think about how often I have chose to turn to food for comfort or to numb myself instead of turning to God, my Comforter.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Or the times that I have been lazy and not taken care of my body, His temple.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

Or how I have manipulated words to get what I wanted.

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” John 12:36-37

Those are just a few of my intentional actions to do wrong that I have brought Holy Spirit into. I admit, I have never really given thought to the fact Holy Spirit is with me in my sin, and how that must grieve Him. It saddens me to think about the sins I have committed since I became a Christian and became the temple of Holy Spirit at eight years old. He never left me even when I walked away from Him.

All I can say, is Dear Lord, I am so sorry. Help me to do better!

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The Easy away

I had three of my grandchildren with me, so decided to take the “easy way” up the hill. It is longer but the slope is less steep. Since I didn’t have any other adults with me, I thought it would be a better way to go, as it is still a struggle for me to make it to the top.

They were excited and full of energy, my grandson pretty much ran the entire time. Me, I struggled with most every step. Breathing is still hard in higher elevations. The kids enjoyed the hike, getting out in the fresh air after a long day of travel and colder temperatures the days before. It was a beautiful day to spend with the kids. We came back down the same way we went up. I am used to the trek down. I am slow but it is easier for me than going up.

After we got home, my body ached, more than normal. Almost immediately, it was painful to walk across the room. I knew something else was going on. I soon realized plantar fasciitis in my left foot was going to take me out of commission. I was over compensating and got myself all out of alignment. It has been a week, and despite a compression brace, soaking, stretches and a shot, it is still causing me pain.

I thought about how I changed the way I normally did things trying to make it easier for others. It was my plan. I had never gone that way up before, only taking it down. I thought about how what I thought was going to help only made things worse for me. The kids would have been just fine, they are young and active, not to mention all the pent up energy they were storing.

I have seen it echo in my spiritual life as well. Too often, I know the path I should take. Yet, I pause and decide that I should go an easier route. Do things my own way. Kinda like Jonah deciding that he didn’t want to go to Nineveh, so he went the other way.

Now Yahweh’s word came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach against it, for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of Yahweh. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid its fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of Yahweh.” ‭‭Jonah‬ ‭1:1-3‬ ‭‬‬

I act like I know better than God about what I should do. I think I know better how I should do things and where I should go. I am looking for the easy way and instead I find myself like the Israelites wasting time walking around the same mountain over and over again. I make it tougher than it needs to be. My short cut ends up being the long way. My scenic route takes me on a path God never intended me to see.

Or I allow others to influence my plans and end up doing something God never called me to do. Or worse, doing something He specifically told me not to do, like Balaam in Numbers 22. God was specific in His instructions, but Balaam gave in. Only because of his donkey was Balaam saved.

We have to realize that regardless of what we think, the easy way, will be God’s way. It may look like it will cost us more, take more time, or be harder. In the long run, doing things in our own strength will cost us more, waste our time and create more burden on us. When we gain in the flesh, we can only keep through the flesh. We can not get God’s will doing it our own way.

““Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”” Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭

When we yoke ourself with the Lord, our burden will be light. His yoke is easy. We don’t have to complicate things doing it our own way. We need to let Him direct our steps and we will save ourself a lot of time and pain. Yes, we will still face difficulties, but when we share it with God, it is the easy way.

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Reflect the Light

““You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.Matthew‬ ‭5:14-16‬ ‭‬‬

I love to see the lights of the city. Driving through the darkness and seeing the lights of the city shining bright from far off, the bigger the city the brighter it shines. I have never lived in a big city, so even the town lights excite me when I come upon them.

I never realized how dark the darkness could be until we were driving Hwy 60 from Socorro, NM to Arizona at night. It was a cloudy night so the stars and moon weren’t shining as brightly as I had hoped. The “cities” seemed more like ghost towns. Places that were maybe once bustling, abandoned by the rerouting of traffic. Lights were limited to a few sporadic street lights or house lights most of the drive.

It was the reflectors that stole my attention on the drive back. They were the only light I could see for miles, and yet I knew there wasn’t a single light on the reflector pole. It was only reflecting back our headlights.

Some days, I admit, my light doesn’t shine so brightly. I am not trying to hide it. I just get weighed down by the things around me and let the clouds dim my light. It is at this times, I have to make sure that I am staying close enough to God to reflect Him back to those around me.

We are called to be reflectors of the light just like reflectors light up the highway before us. There are times we may not shine as bright as we can. In those times, we must stay close enough to our Source that we still reflect the Light. If we have Him in our heart we can still reflect Him despite the clouds.

As in water face reflects face, So the heart of man reflects man.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭27:19‬ ‭‬‬

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Gravediggers, in the good sense are people who dig graves to bury bodies when they die. As Christian’s, we are all called to dig the grave for our old sinful nature. The old flesh man has passed away, the Spirit man lives.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭‬‬

When Pastor Ness said the word, “gravediggers” that was not the picture that came to mind. I immediately thought of someone digging up the graves of those who had already been buried. Seeing a fresh grave where a body has been buried for years, is a little troubling. I’ve been there in the natural; you have a lot more questions than answers.

In the spiritual though, I realize I’ve been a gravedigger, both of my own grave and the grave of others. When I chose to bring up my past sin, I am digging it up from the grave. When I am throwing up past sins at others, I am digging up their old sinful nature as well.

When we come to Christ, we accept the forgiveness of our sin. That forgiveness took place on the cross. It was finished there. It died with Him. It was buried with Him. We are only appropriating it to our lives now.

So our sin has been buried in the grave. I don’t need to be a grave digger trying to bring it back to the present and allowing it to have power in my life. I wouldn’t go dig up human remains; why do I continually try to dig up sinful remains?

It is time that I left my sins buried. They do not need to have a place in my life. They don’t need another funeral, they are already dead. I don’t need to keep digging them back up, bringing them to God. He has already forgiven them, and has chose to remove them.

As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.Psalms‬ ‭103:12‬ ‬‬

Maybe a good goal as this year ends, is to lay down my shovel and stop being a grave digger. I am already a new creation in Christ. Daily I can chose to let my flesh die and let my Spirit live. I can stop digging up my past sins, and leave them where they are.

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Many Ways

People will often say there are many ways to Heaven. The Bible says: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
‭‭John‬ ‭14:6‬ ‭‬‬. Christian stand on the beliefs that there is Only one to Heaven. People look at that as being exclusive, because there are so many beliefs.

As I was climbing to the top of the hill, I was thinking about this. The reality is there are many paths to the top of the hill, but there is only one top of the hill (I admit there are many hills though, so the analogy falters a little there.) There are many paths people take to Jesus, but He is the only way to Heaven.

I thought about the encounters that led people to God throughout the Bible. Adam met Him in a garden. Enoch walked with God. Noah met Him in favor and was told to build an ark. Abraham was told to go on a journey. Jacob wrestled with Him. Joseph encountered Him through dreams. Moses met God in a burning bush. Peter was fishing. The thief met Him hanging on a cross. Paul was walking along the road.

Each one encountered God differently, but it was all the same God. Some people will encounter God in a church building. Some through the hands of stranger meeting a need. Some people have a vision or dream where God reveals Himself to them. Others in a valley moment crying out for help. Someone else through a death bed confession.

I love hearing the testimonies of fellow believers. Seeing how God works to reveal Himself to those He loves. Rarely does it look like my encounter with Him as a young child raised in church. But I can see His hand at work in the many mays He draws people to Him.

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The next step

The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs‬ ‭16:9‬ ‭‬‬

I keep thinking the hike will be easier. Today felt brutal., even though it is the same path I’ve been taking. Maybe it was the cool air as the sun was already beginning to set. My only goal is still to make it to the top and back down right now. Today’s added goal, make it down before sunset completely because the temperatures drop drastically once the sun goes behind the mountain.

I was only a third of the way up when I got my lesson for the hike, just focus on the next step. I wanted to turn around, but going down the steep side is not something I feel ready for. Instead I kept telling myself, “just take the next step.” As I looked down there were shoe prints all around. Some were going in the same direction, others were not.

I want to be farther along than I am, but I am where I am because too often I have taken the easy way out instead of focusing on the next step ahead of me. I take my eyes off my goal and instead start looking at others around me and the goal they are working towards.

I thought about how often I have fallen into the comparison trap. Even on my hike, I have complained to my husband that he makes it look so easy. He reassures me it is not, but I am focused on what I see, not on what he is telling me. He quickly passes me even given me a ten minutes head start. I am huffing and puffing begging for air, as he barely even is breathing differently. I know I am not him, so I quickly have to reset my thoughts. I also realize in life, I can be quick to think others have it easy, just because I don’t know their personal struggles.

As I look at the shoe prints, I realize many have traveled the same way, but no one is where I am at this moment. Some are behind me. Others are ahead of me. Still others are headed in the other direction. If I don’t focus on my next step, it’s easy to get side tracked with where others are in their journey. I have to remember, it is their journey, not mine. I have to focus on my journey, my next step.

I also realize my stride is different than the prints I see. I might want to follow their path, since I can see they have made it where I want to go. My next step will rarely match someone else’s. My reach may not be as far, or it may be farther. God may be stretching me, but rarely will it be to follow anyone else but Him and the steps He has ordered for me.

My pace may also be slower. I know this is a big difference with me and my spouse. He walks a lot faster than I do. I can’t judge my pace based on someone else, especially not those closest to me. I have to judge my pace on my own energy and effort. As long as I am moving forward, I am working on taking the next step.

The other thing that grabbed my attention is that at times there were no shoe prints to even pretend to follow. The terrain was tougher, sometimes steeper, more rocky. If I was focused on others steps, I could have taken it as a sign to stop. It would be easy to get hung up on not having any path to follow. I know I have in the past.

It doesn’t matter what the journey is that we are on. It could be a spiritual journey, a physical journey or a mental one, it is all the same. We reach our goal by taking the next step before us. It’s not a competition with others. It’s about the journey we are one and the goals we have set. Our steps won’t follow others paths, even when we are on the same road. Our pace is not set by anyone but God and the pace we are at in the moment. Sometimes it may be a sprint other times tiny steps that almost seem nonexistent. Our path is set by God and He is the only one that can get us through the next step.

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The Highlight Reels of Hidden Testimony

Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” Luke‬ ‭6:16‬ ‭‬‬

As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.John‬ ‭6:66-71‬ ‭‬‬

I would have left him out of the story. Judas and his part in my life would not have made it to my social media account, especially if I knew in advance what he would do. I would have skipped the part of the story where I was abandoned by the masses. That was my thought as Pastor Ness read these passages today. Jesus knew of the betrayal. As the son of man, He must have felt the heartache as so many of His followers turned away. He also knew it had to happen in order for Him to fulfill His purpose.

How much of my life would I love to leave out, that God wants me to share because of the purpose it serves in my life? The Bible doesn’t shy away from sharing about the failures of the saints. It highlights the struggles of those who were in the will of God. It brings into the family story those who we would label as the black sheep.

I have attended churches full of people who want to portray a life without failure and struggle. Those who will share about the black sheep in the family as one who needs prayer, but has to be kept at arms length so as not to spread their darkness into the light. I’ll be honest, I can be one of those people.

I used many excuses for only playing the highlight reel of my testimony. “It’s not my story to tell.” “I don’t want to make someone else look bad.” “It’s gossiping.” “I have to think about my professional reputation.” “It’s the past.” There are times that I open the door for the enemy to talk me in to picking up shame for my past, although I will rarely carry it long.

I will share my story one on one, that is where God has used me. I have seen the testimony of what God has done in my life bring hope to the hopeless. I have shared with small groups, and even a few times before hundreds. I have been told that there are some who would feel empowered to know I’ve been there too, regardless of how my life might look now. I know despite my failures, struggles and darkness that has surrounded my family, God’s light shines brighter.

This year I have really been challenged by the authenticity of those with whom I attend church. They are real and authentic. Their testimonies are raw and real. The kind of honesty that makes you question “can God really”?” at the same time convicting you because of the reminder “He did it in my life too.”

It isn’t a select few , it is, from what I have seen, the vast majority. It is refreshing and challenging. It is not that they have any less to lose than I do. They just take the Word at face value and obey. They are more concerned with being obedient to God than the opinion of man or how it might impact them to be honest about the power of God in their lives.

They are not trying to live in the highlight reels of man’s opinion. They have surrendered their lives to their Maker and trust Him to take the struggles, failures, and black sheep and use it for His glory. Their testimonies seem unconventional, but when I read the Word, I see their lives. They reflect more of those I read about than the lives of those I have esteemed so highly as pillars of faith.

I believe that is how God intended the Church to live. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. So often we are too busy hiding our weakness to show those around us His strength. Instead they see our false strength and feel like the Christian walk is something they can never attain too because they know their own weakness.

I don’t want others to feel that way. Not those who are close to me, or those that only see the person I play for the world. I want my life to reflect God’s strength, His transforming power, and His grace. I want to walk in His light for all to see. I want my life to be on display from the lamp stand not hidden under mask (or a basket!)

And He was saying to them, “A lamp is not brought to be put under a basket, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand?” Mark‬ ‭4:21‬ ‭‬‬

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