Give What You Got

For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭8:12‬ ‭

This passage caught my attention this morning. In context Paul was bragging to the Corinthians about the generosity of the churches of Macedonia. Out of their poverty they had given of their own accord in abundance to further the work of the Kingdom.

I often hear people say they have nothing to give. They are focused on their lack not on what they have available. I know at times I have done the same. I have been a single parent, homeless and jobless during my walk with God. I know what it is like to have lack.

I also know that God is our provision. He has proven this time and time again. When asks, He will provide. It may not look like we think it should but He will. It also doesn’t usually make any sense.

I remember back in 2008 when the economy crashed. My husband lost his job. He was the primary bread winner in our family. He also worked a lot of overtime which was not taken into consideration for his unemployment. It was definitely a hit to our budget. He suggested out of desperation that I stop giving so much to the church. At the time, I was pretty good at paying tithes, but at times I would let my budget override God’s instruction.

I sat down with the budget to see where we could make cuts. What I saw made both of us realize how important the tithe was in our budget. I showed him the months where I was faithful, there was money at the end of the month. The times where I robbed God, our bank account would often be in the red, even if only on paper. I couldn’t explain where the funds came from or how, but consistently it was true.

God wasn’t asking for more than we had. He was asking for us to give the tithe and trust Him to provide with the 90% that was left. When I was faithful to Him, He was faithful to us. Let me be clear, He is always faithful, but He won’t bless what I try to do my way.

There are two stories that quickly come to mind about how God uses what we have in our hand.

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”” Luke‬ ‭21:1-4‬ ‭‬‬

Jesus showed the generosity of the poor widow woman who gave little. Yet she gave all she had. He compared it to those who only gave out of their surplus. Even though it looked like more in the natural, it was less because of the abundance they had available to give.

The other is an Old Testament story with the prophet Elisha. God used what she had to meet her needs. My pastor pointed out today that the vessels ran out, but the oil didn’t.

Now a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord; and the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels at large for yourself from all your neighbors, even empty vessels; do not get a few. And you shall go in and shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour out into all these vessels, and you shall set aside what is full.” So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons; they were bringing the vessels to her and she poured. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not one vessel more.” And the oil stopped. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”” 2 Kings‬ ‭4:1-7‬ ‭‬‬

We all have something to give, we are called to tithe. God blesses us, He even says “test Me” in this area. He promises as we give it will be given back. If our income is really zero, there are other areas we can give, our time, talents, testimony. But if you have any type of income, you are robbing God and shortchanging yourself in the process of you aren’t tithing on it.

““Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the Lord of hosts. “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi‬ ‭3:8-12‬ ‭‬‬

Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”” Luke‬ ‭6:38‬ ‭‬‬

It’s not that we give to get. I have never given $1,000 and immediately received it back. Not that it can’t happen, nothing is impossible with God. It is just that when we are faithful God provides for what we need. Sometimes it is an unexpected check, a promotion or raise, or lower bills than expected.

We cannot discount what we have to give, just because it is smaller than what we would like to give. When we are faithful with the small God can trust us with more. When we are not faithful with the little, just as we see in the parable of talents, even what we have is taken. We just need to give what we got, and let God work out the rest.

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Lay aside and Put on

that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.Ephesians‬ ‭4:22-24‬ ‭

So often in life, we think we have to clean things up before we can approach God. We work and work to better ourselves, but it all seems in vain, as we continue falling short. It takes a renewing of our mind.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”Romans‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NASB1995‬‬

It is not enough to come up with the list of things I am not going to do so that I can approach God. Laying aside the old self, has to be replaced with putting on the new self. We combat the flesh, by replacing it with the Word of God.

The world has quickly jumped on the positive affirmation boat, but it started with God. Most scripture where God says “lay aside this” He also states what we need to put on. He tells us what to think about:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭NASB1995‬‬

Some examples:

Don’t walk in the flesh, Walk by the Spirit – Galatians 5:16

Don’t just look out for your own interests, look out for others – Philippians 2:4

Don’t work for man’s approval, work for God – Colossians 3:23

Forget the past, press towards the future goals Philippians 3:13

Don’t be arrogant and careless, be cautious and turn away from evil. – Proverbs 14:16

There are many things we need to lay aside in our walk with God, but there are and equal amount of things we need to put on. The world has followed God’s lead on this knowing that you have to replace what is taken away with something else. When you don’t, there is a greater chance you will fall back into the previous habit.

When you try to make changes in your life, put on the positive habit as you lay aside the negative. It will not always be easy, we have an enemy that is trying to steal, kill and destroy us. The good news is, we have a Savior that has already overcome the world. We are in a place of victory when we are on God’s side.

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Putting aside

For, “All flesh is like grass, And all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, And the flower falls off, But the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:24-25‬ ‭‬‬
Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander,” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:1‬ ‭‬‬

It is easy to want to go forward with I Peter 2:1, but the word therefore, signifies “for that reason”, so I needed to go backwards to know what the reason is that I should put off these things listed. The verses before share it is because the flesh is temporary, but the Word of the Lord is forever that we should put off these things.

The following definitions are from Google Dictionary Oxford Language:

Malice – intention or desire to do evil

Deceit – an action that intentionally conceals or misrepresents the truth

Hypocrisy – claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform

Envy – a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck

When I read the list of words and then the definition, I paused to consider what this looks like in my life. It is easy to pick up on the big words, evil, hiding the truth (aka lying), discontent and put on my holier than though hat that I have set aside those things already. But have I really?

Malice. There have been times, even this week when I know what I should do and chose not to. That is evil, I can make all the excuses in the world, it doesn’t change what the Bible says. I am suppose to do the right thing every time. Will I sometimes miss the mark? Yes. When I consciously make the choice to miss the mark, that is sin. Intentional sin is malice.

Sin is evil. The Bible “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.James‬ ‭4:17‬ ‭‬‬

I admit, sometimes I will intentionally pick an argument or unintentionally step into one and keep it going. I like a good debate. I know creating dissension is sin. Yet, with pure malice I sometimes engage anyway.

Deceit. Every now and then I will purchase something, and intentionally not tell my husband. I am concealing my purchase, but honestly there is no reason for me to do it. The thing is, my husband is okay with me buying anything I want. It is often hard for me to find something I want, so when I do, I will buy it. He knows I will not spend money we don’t have. He will sometimes give me a hard time about how much I spend on something. Like two crosses that hang on our wall, he gives me a hard time about from time to time. Even then, he is just teasing with me. He was with me when I bought one. The other I concealed the price on for many months because I broke it bringing it home and he had to fix it. It is still a picture of deceit.

Hypocrisy. I have always thought myself to be someone who believes in social justice and advocating for those who for whatever reason can not do it for themselves. I don’t believe that I am racist, and I thought I was a person of empathy who can see things from others point of view. Last year, I opened my mouth and inserted my foot on a matter I thought others would agree with me on. I could tell my the silent reaction, those I was talking with did not know what to do with my comment. I was concerned about what my granddaughter was being exposed to, a friend later explained she didn’t have that luxury. For safety, she had to have the conversation. She opened my eyes to other’s reality. It was not intentional hypocrisy, but it was none the less hypocrisy because my response didn’t take into account what others deal with every day.

Envy. This one reared it’s ugly head recently. I have always been bless with a job that provides ample time off and most holidays. Up until the past year, my husband has not. This year I used most of my vacation before the middle of the year, as I have the ability to go in the negative starting January 1st. My husband on the other hand is accruing it and now that it is towards the end of the year he is in an “use it or lose it” situation.

Part of me celebrates that he finally can have some time to relax, pursue hobbies, and travel. I know he has earned it and that he has worked hard through the years. He was working while I would vacation with the kids. He worked most holidays. I found myself feeling a little resentful that he has holidays off and I’m working. Or resentful that he is sleeping in while I am working long hours. I really had to pray through those negative feelings of envy

I can recognize this sin in my life because the Word of the Lord is planted deep in my life. It is easy to want to dismiss it “because everyone does this.” I know God’s grace not only gives me favor; it also empowers me to do what I can not do on my own. Yes, I can repent and God does forgive me. He also wants to help me get to the point I can put aside All, not just some malice, deceit, hypocrisy and envy.

He knows that when I give into the flesh and dwell in those areas, that it is not beneficial. He wants me to take up the Word, to apply it to these areas in my life when I falter until I have put aside all sin. By His grace this is possible, by His Word I am learning how.

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Both sides of the story

Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.” James‬ ‭4:11‬ ‭‬‬

Judge – Strong’s G2919 – krinō – to pronounce judgment; to subject to censure; of those who act the part of judges or arbiters in the matters of common life, or pass judgment on the deeds and words of others: universally, and without case, hence equivalent to to condemn

Conversation can easily turn sour when someone begins sharing negative things about another person. It might be an attempt to avoid confrontation, just needing to vent or to get a second opinion before saying something. However, the result is that the person hearing forms opinions or says things without full knowledge of all the circumstances. We end up speaking evil of others, condemning them on the word of another, often with little to no facts to back up the case.

When I was younger, I remember always hearing. “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” It was good advice then and it is good advice now. God pretty much is saying the same thing when He says “Don’t speak against one another.”

He tells us that if we have conflict with someone, we are to take it directly to that person. ““If your brother sins , go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.Matthew‬ ‭18:15-17‬ ‭

We are told to go talk to the person privately to discuss an issue. Only after we have talked with the person one to one and it is not resolved do we bring others into the conflict. At that point, we are still not speaking against our brother to some else; we are speaking to our brother, with witnesses. The others have the opportunity to hear both sides of the story at the same time. Then if needed, you take it to the church for counsel before writing the person off as someone you can not reconcile with. Even then, it is not okay to talk bad about the person to others.

God even instructs us to seek reconciliation before we give an offering. “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.Matthew‬ ‭5:23-24‬ ‭‬‬

Note, that it says “if your brother has something against you”. So if your the person who hasn’t been willing to be reconciled, you need to do seek forgiveness before giving your offering. We are called to live at peace with others, as much as it is up to us. We can’t make someone be at peace with us, but we can try to be ministers of reconciliation. It doesn’t mean we can’t have healthy boundaries, it just means that we try to make things right with others. It doesn’t matter if we are the one being wronged or the one in the wrong, it is on us, as Christians, to try to make it right.

I know I have said “I tried. They won’t accept it.” I have learned to never completely close the door. You never know when God will open that door back up in the future. When I was a teenager, I said some terrible hurtful things to someone in my family. The relationship was severed and despite several attempts on my side to try to reconcile, the door was shut by the other person. I had peace, knowing I had repented for my actions and tried to reconcile.

In the years that followed, she would come up from time to time; I didn’t speak ill of her. I knew I had hurt her deeply at a time where she was already wounded. I was not responsible for her response to me, but so did own my actionsHer picture remained on my shelf with the other family members. I would tell my children stories about her. Twenty years later, I felt prompted to reach out. I sent a letter, which was the same way the door was shut two decades before, after calls I made went unanswered. We were able to reconcile. She was able to meet all of the family that came along after our split. God was able to restore what was lost so that I could be there with her as her health failed.

I have also said “They will never change.” as an excuse to not try to reconcile. It is a very short sided comment because the Bible says “For nothing will be impossible with God.”” Luke‬ ‭1:37‬ ‭‬‬I can not limit God with my negative words about someone else, but words do have power. And I shouldn’t speak against someone else in those words either.

When we talk evil about someone, we are breaking the old covenant law “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus‬ ‭20:16‬ ‭‬‬ We are disobeying God. We are acting as a condemning judge not correcting one another in love. We are taking matters into our own hands trying to get others to condemn them also without knowing both sides of the story.

It is easy to fall into the trap of listening to something about someone that is not present. We have to guard our hearts against that so that we do not condemn someone without knowing both sides of the story. It is best for us to remove ourself from talk of others if they are not present.

It is just as easy to start venting about someone who is not there to tell their side of the story. We need to guard our mouths from speaking against anyone else. We are to take it to them first, if needed add witnesses, but we should not be talking about someone without them being there to defend their side of the story.

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Put aside and Receive

Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.James‬ ‭1:21‬ ‭

It would be nice, if the day that I confessed my sin to God and accepted Jesus as my Savior if all filthiness and the remain of wickedness were removed from my life. If the new creature I am in Christ was completely new and perfect. That is probably how ai would have arranged it, if I were in charge.

But instead, God in His wisdom gave us a choice. I have to chose to put aside the filthiness that filled my life before I came to Him. I can sit in church all my life and never receive the Word implanted in my life to save my soul. In order to receive, I first have to release the wickedness that has kept me enslaved. I have to get out of my own way so to speak.

God cleanses me, but I have to release those things that tie me to my old life in order to receive all that He has for me. I can’t have my old ways and His right way at the same time. There is not room for both in my life. He wants me to make a choice to put it aside. I have to chose to open my hand and release what I am familiar with to be able to receive from Him.

I have to chose to humbly open my hands. I have to open my life to allow His Word, the truth, to begin to transform it. As long as I am firmly grasping the things of this world, the filthiness and wickedness, I won’t be saved to the life He created for me.

I may make it to Heaven, but I won’t live the rich life He has for me here on earth. I won’t live a life transformed if I stay conformed to this world. I have to put aside the past, my former ways of filthiness and wickedness in order to receive all that He wants to implant within me.

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The Bend in the Road

I enjoy car rides. I used to love long drives alone because I would reach a point inevitably where my thoughts came to an end and I was able to hear God speak. The long drive was also a way to process all that had been happening in my life and my clients’ lives, so that I could move forward or gain the insight to help them move forward. There have been times in my life where I drove over 3,000 miles a month on a consistent basis. For the past year, I have not enjoyed the driving part, it makes me tired; but I love the times I can just ride.

My husband and I were on a recent drive through the mountains. When we started our trip it was already night so there was nothing for me to see. Mountain roads rarely have street lights. On our return trip, it was daylight and I really enjoyed taking in the sights. I love looking out the window into the distance. The panoramic of the desert, mountains, and communities. Every now and then, I would turn my attention to what was in front of us or what was on my husband’s side. There were a few times along the drive where the mountain around us caused the road to take deep bends with a limited view of what was to come.

There would often be signs along the road, “watch for falling rock” or a caution sign with a picture of a wild horse, a deer or and elk. I admit while I was praying to see some of these animals. I was also praying we would see them before the Jeep hit them. I saw a lot of rocks that had fallen on the edge of the road. Towards dusk, I got the opportunity to see a few elk and a deer. The elk stood at the side of the road without moving, the deer turned back.

My breath was often taken away with the beauty of what was to come as we rounded the bend in the road. It was like the bend had to be there to prepare me for the beauty that was before me. Other times, we would round the bend and my heart would drop as I realized just how high up we were. The bend also altered the view from behind. There was only so much that could be seen from the rear view mirror, or even from completely turning myself around in the passenger seat.

I thought about how this is true in life too. I have never happened upon disaster that there were not at least some warning signs of what was to come. I remember an illustrated sermon once called “Road blocks to Destruction.” The pastor walked through 10 things people go through that God uses to try to keep them from Hell. It might be that still small voice, but God will do what is necessary to warn us. A few examples that come to mind :

In Numbers 22 God spoke to Balaam and told him not to go with Balak to curse the Israelites. They came to him more than once, and eventually he decided to go. His used a donkey and an angel to try to deter him. Eventually, God used a donkey to speak to Balaam.

In Genesis 19:1-26 God sent two angels to warn Lot about the destruction of Sodom. Lot told his son-in-laws but they didn’t listen. The angels took them by the hands and guided Lot, his wife and daughters out. They told him where to go, but Lot wanted something else. His wife did not follow the instructions, it cost her life.

In Acts 27, Paul warned those he was traveling with to wait for the journey, but they listened to the captain of the ship instead. In the midst of the storm, an angel came to him with direction for safety and when they listened, all lives were saved.

Even Jesus warned the disciples of His death, the type of death and His resurrection: “As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”” Matthew‬ ‭20:17-19‬ ‭‬‬

God will give us signs and warnings of what is to come if we will heed His voice. It may not come as we want it, but if we listen He will warn us when the path we are taking leads to destruction. He puts the bend in the road to give us time to prepare.

I also realize sometimes God hides the road in front of us because we’re not ready for the view. It might be that the narrow path between the mountain walls helps me to appreciate the beauty of what is to come. There have been times in my life when I took for granted the blessings that God has given me. When my view was narrowed, I was able to appreciate what came next in addition to what I already have been given.

Other times, it may be that the scenic views in the distance are distracting me from the danger that is ahead. Just like the signs tried to get my attention, warning of what was ahead, sometimes I need to focus because of what is about to come. Sometimes we would round the bend only to see a sharp climb ahead or a huge drop off on our side. At times I need my focus on the here and now so my world is not rocked when the obstacle ahead of me comes.

I remember a few years ago I had a dream that I needed to quit my job. It was a discussion with my pastor in the dream and ai was explaining to him all the reasons I couldn’t just quit. In a meeting, some of my coworkers warned me about a wolf in sheep’s clothing. They did not come out with the details just warned me about trusting her. By the end of the year, she had my job.

I definitely was not prepared, to me it came out of no where. I was not ready for it, but within a few days was able to see how I was being prepared for it. God knew I needed that time to get ready. He gave me warnings and time before it happened. I think if I hadn’t had that time, I would have went into destruction mode as I defended myself against the words that were said about me.

When we come to the bend in the road, it is important that we take time to consider why it is there. Are there warning signs that tell us we need to be on the lookout for things that could cause danger? Is it there to help us appreciate what is to come? Or is it there to give us time to prepare for the struggle that lies ahead. Regardless of the reason for the bend in the road, God goes before us. He walks with us. He is our rear guard.

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Mountaintop Moments and Lessons in the Valley

As we were driving down Route 66, we would pass through the mountains and then the valleys. Over and over, I would see a few magnificent houses that I can imagine have amazing views seated at the mountain tops. They would be followed by small and large communities built in the valleys below. I am sure both have their advantages.

As the pattern played over an over again during the long drive, I thought about how I love those mountaintop moments. Being able to see the world around from the highest vantage point is amazing. However, I also know what it takes to get there. Whether it be the winding road up and down, or a long hike up, there is usually quite a journey to get there. It takes some time to reach the top of the mountain.

In the few areas where there were multiple houses towards the top of the mountain, they were spread farther apart. I am sure in part to maintain the unobstructed views from their property. The roads became less traveled and less maintained.

I thought about how, even if able to maintain those mountain top moments, eventually you have to come down. It may be for food or supplies, for work, or whatever, but at some point I would have to come down. Even the mining businesses we saw in the mountains, the trucks eventually have to come down and distribute the goods.

I thought about the villages and towns that surround the mountains. That is where you find the stores, restaurants, jobs, and connection. Even the smallest towns how some type of conveniences located there. The houses were closer together. The streets are lit for safety. They have the view of the mountain, but the amenities of the world we live in.

In my Christian walk, I love those mountaintop moments where I have seen God work and have the tangible blessings that come as I draw closer to Him. However, mountaintop moments are rarely completely shared with others. Generally it is a follow the leader as you trek up the mountain as the paths are narrow. Others may arrive with me, but not everyone I want with me will be able to come. I know I would love to live there all the time. However, I know this side of Heaven, I may visit the mountains but I will live in the valleys.

In the valleys, that is where the work is done. It is where the people are. It is where life is generally lived. It’s in the valley I will gather the supplies and lessons needed to make it to the top of the mountain. It is where I learn what I need to do to get to the mountain top. It provides a place of rest for the times I try to make it up the mountain but don’t quite have the endurance to make it yet.

It is there in the valley that I realize my need for Him. It is there that my heart yearns for Him to move the obstacles that keep me from making it to the mountain tops. It is there in the valley that He walks with me and brings others to walk along side me to teach me what I need to learn to make it to the mountaintops.

So often in life, I tend to downplay the valleys. I want those mountaintop moments. Yet when I look back at my life, it is the lessons that I learned in the valleys that I remember. I know I really wanted mountaintop moments. I am sure I celebrated the mountaintop moments when I reached them. It is just hard for me to remember them, because I see the next mountain.

It is in the valley where I draw the resources that keep me moving towards other mountains. It is the valley lessons that I draw from to help myself and others. Sometimes the lessons I learn in the valley haven’t necessarily gotten me to the top of the mountain, but have been to help someone else along in their journey to the mountaintop. Other times I realize the lessons I learned in the valleys, help me with mountains down the road that I need to climb even though they aren’t helpful in the moment.

We all want to live in the mountaintop moments. We like to celebrate our successes and would rather forget about the valley failures. However life is generally lives in the valleys. We need the valleys to help us appreciate the mountains. The lessons of life we learn in the valley will help us to reach the next mountaintop. But every person at the mountaintop had a journey to get there and will eventually have to return to the valley.

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In the Way You Should Go

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.Psalms‬ ‭32:8‬ ‭‬‬

From an early age, I was instructed and taught the Word of God. I knew right from wrong, and for a long time, I chose right. I wanted my life to be pleasing to God. Even when my world was crashing down around me, I was still receiving counsel from Him.

When I walked away from church, God was there trying to get my attention. His Word was hidden in my heart; it still flowed out from time to time. I would be reminded of His promises and goodness, often at the most inopportune times. He was still trying to guide me back to Him. He was still trying to to help me see the way I should go.

When I filed for a divorce, it was not man’s counsel I sought, it was God’s. That was the first time I remember really pressing into God’s Word for myself, seeking Him to teach me and instruct me in what to do. Through my tears and heartache, I would search His word for truth and answers to where I was. Divorce was never part of my plan, but He was not surprised by it. After my husband and I remarried, when we hit tough times, it was godly counsel we turned to for help.

A few years after my divorce, when I was homeless, it was spiritual counsel I sought out for the solution. My Sunday School teacher helped me to get into supportive housing and get the support I needed. I got enrolled in college and was able to get into permanent housing. She mentored me to help get my life back on the right path.

When my father was dying, it was pastoral counsel I sought to make sure he was ready to meet Jesus. I was standing in faith for his healing. My world was rocked to the core when he died. In my brokenness, I had the assurance that my dad was right with God and in Heaven.

When I was at my wit’s end, it was the Word of God that brought comfort. There was a message that carried me through some of the toughest years of my life. I held on the the promise that the blessing was closer than the enemy wanted me to believe. While I am still holding on to that promise for some blessings, God has been faithful with blessings throughout my walk with Him.

Some people feel like God is always watching them, waiting to strike them down because of their weaknesses or failures. His correction is seen as punitive. They see God as a harsh Father waiting for them to mess up.

I have never seen God in that light. Even in my family’s deepest, darkest moments, God and the church is where refuge was sought. I remember after my father was released from jail, following a conviction for incest, we would meet on Sundays and Wednesday to go to church as a family. I also remember sitting outside the pastor’s door while my parents received counseling.

Even when I walked away from God as a teenager, I knew God was watching over me. He was trying to draw me back to Him, and would show up in the weirdest ways. Maybe He does it for all people who are on drugs, I don’t know. We would be partying and randomly get into deep theological discussions about God and the Bible. I know at times I faced the consequences of my actions, but I can also see His hand upon me keeping me from destruction during that time.

Don’t get me wrong, I have received a lot of correction from God. He is still pruning and disciplining me thirty-two years later. I just see the love in His actions. I know that His heart for me is always good.

He keeps His eyes on me because He cares for me. It is not that He is trying to catch me doing wrong; He knows the wrong I will do. Every day of my life is already written down. He is not surprised by my actions. When that discipline comes, I know He is trying to help me, not harm me, regardless of how it feels in the moment.

God is love. Out of His love for me, He instructs me and teaches me so that I can fulfill the plans and purposes He created me to do. When I open my ears to listen, He will counsel me. Sometimes that counsel will come as a still small voice, confirmation in His Word, through a message preached, or from godly counsel, but it will come. He keeps His eyes on us, not waiting for use to mess up, but because He genuinely cares for us and wants to help us in the way we should go.

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Do not be dismayed

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”” ‭‭Joshua‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭‬‬

For a long time, I have lived with self-imposed limits that have kept me from pursuing what I knew God had placed in my heart. I would question if it was really Him, as if the enemy would do anything to draw me or others to God. Or I was concerned about it being “all about me”; a state I lived in constantly growing up. I didn’t stop to consider, that in using that as an excuse, I was literally making it all about me. I stayed frozen in my fear instead of going with God.

Other times, I would be all prepared to do what was on my heart but because someone else had done or spoken something so similar, I would just hold back what I had. I remember when I was helping lead in a women’s group, more times than I can count, I would have something prepared that God had just poured out of me onto paper. Inevitably, Sunday one of the pastors would preach along the same lines; so on Monday I would not share. I did not want anyone to think I had just took it from the pastor’s message. I never considered that I might say it differently, in a way that someone else could understand. Like when a parent tells a child something many times without results and then someone else comes along and says the same thing and they hear it for the first time. I never considered it could be a confirmation word for someone; despite the fact that God often has to use two or three resources saying the same thing, to drive it through my thick head.

There are still other times, that I wouldn’t step out because what I thought about doing looked too much like what someone else was doing. There is a young lady in my life who is both an inspiration and an antagonist is my life. We are alike but also very different. Many of our interests are similar. I would have an inclination to do something, and she would post something on social media that she was doing the same thing. It was like she was a fly on my wall, and as soon as I would have a thought, she was following through with it. Like I was feeling “write a book.” She shared “here’s the book I just wrote.” The books we’re not along the same lines but it was just that she had already done it. I stopped moving forward because in my mind there was some kind of competition and I thought she already won. There was and is no competition.

I am starting to realize I am on a path that God laid for me. I can not tremble or be dismayed when I know that God has called me to go. He instead commands me to be strong and courageous. At times my path may cross another’s path or run parallel to but it is not going to be the same path. No one else can walk my journey, even if we are traveling the same way. Some will be ahead of me, others behind me, and still others beside me. Our strides will be different, our gait will be different. We can not both step in the same place at the same time, even if it feels like we are. It can only be God and I in the same spot on the path for He is within me.

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Make Disciples

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Matthew‬ ‭28:19‬ ‭‬‬

I was raised in church. From age two to twelve, I attended most services Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and any special services. I was blessed with a strong foundation in the Bible. I memorized Scriptures from an early age and was taught about the people of faith the Bible talks about. I was baptized at age eight after making a public declaration of faith.

Discipleship on the other hand was not something I really learned about until I was an adult. One to one discipleship or even small group discipleship was not something that I saw occur growing up. If I’m honest, it not something that I have seen intentionally done in most churches. I remember a church I attended in Missouri that did a foundational discipleship class. It was more like a Sunday school class with more than half the church participating. In Arkansas, I attended a church that did small group discipleship.

Later, that same church incorporated a discipleship program by Rocky Fleming called Journey. I was blessed to not only walk through that nine month process of discipleship, but lead two other groups through the process. There is something about the accountability and relationship of discipleship that is missing in most churches. It is missing from a lot of people’s lives in general

Jesus had many followers, Luke talks about how he sent out seventy. “Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Luke‬ ‭10:1-9‬ ‭‬‬

He only had twelve disciples. A small group of people that He poured himself into daily for three years. They were all from different backgrounds and wouldn’t have anything in common except Jesus. He was in their homes, with their families, knew about their jobs, their likes and dislikes. They were part of His inner circle. He encouraged them, and called them on their crap too. That is what discipleship looks like.

We have created a society that doesn’t make regular time for true relationships, let alone discipleship. Follow me on social media and I’ll return the request, but please don’t ask me to be involved in your everyday life. People have a hard time making time for those who they are related to, let alone add additional time for someone who is in real need. We like twitter feeds and instagram pictures to feel like we are keeping up with others, but have a hard time picking up the phone to just chat with those we love.

We hide behind masks not allowing others to see our weaknesses and failures. We want to give help, but we rarely are willing to ask for it. We don’t want anyone telling us how to live our lives. We don’t want others calling us on the things we are doing that we know are wrong, but justify by the standards of the world. We love our lives in silos only letting people in when asking for prayer for serious illnesses, financial needs, and career changes.

We lead people to Christ with fervency, ready to see their lives transformed. Then we want people to watch a sermon, listen to a podcast, read a book or blog to learn about a deeper relationship with Christ. We hand out 7 tips to a transformed life, but don’t want to spend the time walking others through to their transformation.

This is the great commission. I have heard it preached, but I have rarely seen it lived out. We go, go, go. We are mission minded, but not relationship driven. We want a one and done deliverance or conversion. We might have a monthly baptism if that often. We teach and preach with amazing anointing. Where does the discipleship take place? Does discipleship take place? I

t has to me more than a book or a sermon, more than a meeting at church, it is about learning to live life in God’s way in true relationship with others. Not just those that are like us, but with people from various backgrounds, with various skills, where iron can sharpen iron. Daily living, messy relationship, accountability and vulnerability, that’s how you make disciples.

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