Honoring and Guarding Our Sabbath: A Devotional and Prayer for Ministry Leaders (and Workaholics in General)

“So then, there is still awaiting a full and complete Sabbath-rest reserved for the [true] people of God; For he who has once entered [God’s] rest also has ceased from [the weariness and pain] of human labors, just as God rested from those labors peculiarly His own. Let us therefore be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter that rest [of God, to know and experience it for ourselves], that no one may fall or perish by the same kind of unbelief and disobedience [into which those in the wilderness fell].” (Hebrews 4:9-11, Amplified Bible, Classic Edition)

I remember once hearing Joyce Meyer say something to the tune of, “The Lord’s the author and finisher of our faith, but He’s not obligated to finish what He didn’t author.” The following paragraphs are not intended to make you bail on your calling, lie down on the job, or abandon your work ethic or loyalty; but rather, to compel you to work smarter instead of harder, and to actually consult the Holy Spirit before you start filling up your daily planner with what God may not have told you to fill it with! And you guessed it. I’m talking to me here…

Take care, friends, that you begin to respect your bodies and minds and start cutting ties with what God didn’t author, even what appears to be good or productive. Some of us are addicted to busy-ness and we gauge our stock value in the Kingdom (and everywhere else) by how far we can push the envelope abusing our bodies. Sometimes we feel a little more important, pious, “martyr-ish,” and yes, even prideful when people are fawning over our dedication with, “Wow, I don’t know how you do all you do.”

Let me lovingly submit to you that God doesn’t violate His own precepts! If you are not allowing yourself a Sabbath–on whatever day you choose to celebrate it–you are walking contrary to the system He Himself set in place and was the first observer thereof! God doesn’t need downtime…the God who never slumbers or sleeps doesn’t actually need to recharge; but He set the example for us by resting on the seventh day. Now, I realize that a “Sabbath” looks different for everyone–folks have work shifts, assigned workdays, etc., that are set for us without negotiation; but the point is, there must be designated downtime; set-aside blocks of time. For someone whose job mandates unreasonable 7-day schedules, I can’t tell you that you must leave that job, but I will tell you to make yourself a Sabbath block of time. That block may be hours instead of a full day; but I urge you, set aside your block large or small and guard it as sacred! For those of you who have the luxury of a 5 or occasionally 6 day workweek, you don’t get to fudge in this, either. Start establishing a Sabbath in your life instead of treating your quiet time with God like a power nap.

And full-time ministry leaders who aren’t under secular workplace mandates, this applies to you, too–perhaps especially to you. Start setting a better example for those in your circle of influence! Even a 3-shift coal mine sets scheduled downtime for maintenance on its equipment, if it wants to stay in business! Keep running that machine without greasing and regularly changing hoses, etc., and see how costly it gets when things start burning out, locking up, and falling apart… In Exodus, when God established the Sabbath, He did it not just for that head of a household and his family, but also for the sake of the animals and hired servants/slaves…He even designated Sabbath years for the sake of the land, which could be overworked out of zeal, greed, or a variety of motivating factors. Relentless leaders not only abuse their own bodies, they wear out anyone or anything who’s close to them or under their authority!

So why do we people in leadership feel compelled to give the “do as I say, not as I do” excuse for abusing our bodies? We reference Scriptures like “work while it is day because night comes when no man can work” to justify never, ever taking a break? And we tune out the voice of reason who urges letting go of a few things so that the remaining works we do are done more effectively. Are we letting the enemy guilt us into walking in rebellion, deceiving ourselves into thinking that because we are in the last days, we must override common sense (and the Word) to be as busy as we possibly can be? Can we do so and expect to be exempt from the health and emotional consequences of priding ourselves in being workaholics?

I submit to you as well, we as spiritual leaders have a moral obligation to live in balance, for the sake of those who emulate our example. If we don’t respect our own body/soul/spirit, we must, MUST think of our families, our constituents, and a lost world around us–all of whom look to us for at least a reference point of guidance. Hebrews 4 doesn’t beat around the bush here…suggests that we can actually be a spiritual liability to ourselves and others if we disobey God’s directive on right balance. It’s not legalism to suggest that we treat the rest-time He has given us as a holy thing. God engineered all of creation to flow with that same protocol. You aren’t too important to observe some form of a Sabbath, and neither am I! Let’s start re-drawing the boundaries in our lives so that we can be healthy and strong–emotionally, physically, and spiritually–for these last exciting days before our Lord returns!Pray with me…

Lord, I sincerely appeal to You first for mercy, as a person who is guilty of making myself busier than I should be. My spirit man suffers and my words tell on me when I have spent myself beyond reason. While I don’t like the stress and aggravation of no downtime, I confess and repent before You that I’m a recovering addict of work. I drive myself to be busy while making others miserable, because I make sure they’re busy too. I’m working twice as hard for half the impact, because I’m breaking Your rules and expecting You to bless my dismissal of common sense and Your example.

I’m sorry for thinking that You make special exceptions for me because I carry a heavier responsibility. Yes, to whom much is given, much is required–but the “much” is in terms of a closer walk with You and a deeper level of consecration. And even if it were much more required in the physical realm of activity, there are a lot of things on my plate that You didn’t give, Father. Oh, I like to think of all these responsibilities as given by You, but some of them are of my own doing. Some of them are just because I won’t say no to people who can’t wait for me to get even busier doing things THEY want me to be doing! And I say yes and pencil it into my bloated calendar, knowing all the while that I need sleep, I need study time, and just a break from having to think and run so much.

Forgive me, Lord! You gave me a healthy body meant to carry me well-into old age; and I live like I intend to wear it out in half its life expectancy. I pass up sleep and exercise; and I rationalize that if I’m spending that time doing good works, it will never catch up with me.

I repent and I appeal to You for mercy on all others, too, who have become the work adrenaline-and-approval junkie I’ve allowed myself to become. We don’t know how to change except by submitting ourselves to You and listening for Your counsel. We will have to hear from You because we can no longer hear the appeals from our own bodies. We shush our compromised adrenal glands by pumping them full of caffeine. We have a pill for everything. You in turn have a Scripture for everything and a word MODERATION that we ignore because we convince ourselves that we must be always working 24/7 because of who we are.

I will find a way to be less busy, Lord, with Your grace. I will respect this body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and stop giving You an efficiency apartment with worn-out furniture and tired, cloudy windows to look out of. I will make not just room for You, but the best room. I won’t be merely shooting You a copy of my to-do list after I’ve filled it and crammed more into the margins and started on a new sheet. No, I will say, “Here, Father. Take Your eraser and start removing the sacred cows of a busy addict.” In fact, wad up my to-do list and just start me a new one. Put only Your agenda on my list, in Jesus’ name I ask. And I’ll start asking Your permission before I make all those plans that leach the life right out of me and anyone else who has to tag along.

What? You just wrote in a full night’s sleep and a Sabbath! More time with relationships with real people and less time on computers and electronic devices? And even orders to put healthier foods into my body and more time walking and moving! Wow, You are ordering me to get my act together so that You can get maximum return on Your investment in me. I thought maximum return meant how many items were on my list.

You’re after quality. You are after a ten-ring shot and not a broader spray pattern. Most of all, You are after my heart. You want me chasing after You, walking with You in the cool of the day for RELATIONSHIP, not for my sales pitch to You of all the things I did in Your name (or rather, in the name of “ministry”) which You may or may not have instructed me to do! You want me to know You. Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light? Wow. I guess I wasn’t listening to that (even though it was…written in red).

And Your way of governing balance will help me be first a better daughter to You, and then to be a better leader and better family and society member, too?

Yes.

Selah.

(Adapted from a Facebook post I made 03/31/17)

Repentance: Don’t Hide–HEAL

Don’t let the enemy guilt you out of your #destiny. If you have sinned or otherwise failed or fallen short, repent. Yes, I know there’s seemingly nothing profound in that advice, but it’s still true. I didn’t say resign; I said #repent.

#Repentance isn’t just being sorry for something you’ve done (or in some cases, haven’t done), it’s evaluating where you went wrong and making the necessary corrections to keep it from happening again: a change of heart and action. Maybe you’ve done something or allowed something and it’s wrinkled the fender of your reputation and distanced you from God. Maybe you’re just disappointed in yourself and it’s easier to bail than to humbly start all over. The first thing Adam and Eve did after they sinned was to HIDE. And may I even say, the more we are respected and admired, the harder it feels to get back up when we stumble because the accuser wants our shame to be very public.

Yeah, Satan’s goal is to take us out and damage as many people as he can in the process…but friends, when we’ve taken a faceplant, the world needs to SEE us recover, even if a few folks (and particularly some who are supposed to be on our “side”) hurl a few insult-and-accusation stones as we are picking ourselves up. Sometimes we privately recover, but truthfully, sometimes what we resolve to just do in private enables us to wallow a little longer in the mess–and kept hidden, sometimes we fix it, but sometimes we just choose to stay broken. Don’t stay in that place. It’s a rat’s nest.

There may be shame in failure but there’s no shame in turning to God to fix us when we have failed. Last night before I went to sleep, this verse went through my mind and I just meditated on it as I drifted off: “So now, those who are in Christ Jesus are not judged guilty. Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit that brings life made me free from the law that brings sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2 NCV) The KJV says there’s “therefore now no condemnation.”

Because of our trust in the redemptive power of the cross, we can machete our way through the choking, dense growth of sin’s effect on our lives and emerge back onto the right path intact. Paul realized the possibility of preaching to others but himself becoming a castaway–so he held himself accountable. So should we.

It’s just where we are. Sharing the good news is relatively easy. Being the “living epistle read of every man” part, not so much. The best thing to do is to keep ourselves holy, on guard, prayed-up, free from bondages. It’s a lot easier to maintain than to break down and repair. But if you are reading this from the cave where you went to hide after your embarrassing fall, please know there is HOPE for you. Sure, there’ll be a few who would remind you of your inadequacy, but there is a whole host of witnesses crying out just beyond your earshot, “Get up! Try! Finish! Keep going! You’re almost home!” There’s a Father checking out the window, pacing in the roadway, wanting to put a ring on your stinky, stained hand and restore you with full privilege instead of demoting you from sonship to servitude.

I remember once when I was still in school, one of my schoolmates wound up getting badly burned when he threw gasoline on a bonfire. The kid was ashamed/afraid to tell his parents because it was a foolish act of disobedience, messing with fire and flammables; and because he hid the terrible burn under his clothing without getting help, the burn got badly infected and became a serious, dangerous problem much worse than a parent’s chastisement for disobeying. No doubt the scars are still on that leg, decades later. We hide our burns too, sometimes, don’t we?

Peter had to repent when he fell. Yep, one of “the three amigos” whom Jesus kept privy to His most important missions actually betrayed Him in a most contemptible way when things got too dangerous. But Jesus WANTED him back. He even said to him, “when you’re restored, strengthen the others.” See, your recovery is never just about you. Jesus didn’t choose to just gloss it over and strengthen them Himself in Peter’s absence; He in essence told Peter, “YOU do it.” There’s going to be a visible restoration of the part of you that needs healed, friend, and the people who’ve been let down by your absence are also going to be strengthened…by YOU. It is this action that will bring you full circle and it will keep you accountable in the future because of its humbling quality.

As much as it feels to the contrary, you aren’t expendable. God needs you on that front line. Replacing you is not His ultimate will — redeeming you, however, IS! He saw in ages past where a you-shaped piece of the puzzle needed to go, and He created you to fit exactly right there in the big picture. He doesn’t have a bunch of spare you’s just lying around in case you malfunction! Repentance says you are willing to let Him rebuild you to keep doing what He created you to do. And sometimes, we need rebuilt not only because of our sins, but also even from just being battle-weary, worn-out, and hyperextended. Let Him.

Lay aside what’s holding you back. Phooey on what anyone might say or think, don’t you wallow in condemnation one more day. Your destiny is right where you left it, and Jesus can recalibrate the driving directions from WHEREVER this moment finds you…to make sure you arrive safely. Come home.

Mirror, Mirror

It is so critical that we put our attitudes and hidden heart issues on the altar, and become so immersed in the Word that we aren’t blind to undealt-with sin and/or weights. We can have every potential to do great things—even have had prophetic words spoken over us about our gifts elevating us to leadership or notoriety—and negate the prophetic word through pride, narcissism, jealousy, or fear. Instead of being angry at those we perceive to hold us back, and instead of being envious of others who possess our same potential, we must deal with that pesky hidden man of the heart. If there are unforgiveness issues stemming back even to our childhood, or healing that needs to happen when we release those who’ve hurt us, we must do the work. If we fail to do so, we will taxi the runway back and forth but never gain the momentum to get off the ground. Still more tragic, we risk imprinting our character flaws on our children by forcefully living vicariously through them, by repeating abuses on them that we experienced, or by failing to desire success for them that exceeds our own. Even very good people can be trapped in a holding pattern, mind you…disqualified over things that could be fixed!

Father, help us not to be our own worst enemy. You are fully-aware of even what we don’t see about ourselves–those damaged, flawed, or underdeveloped matters of character that we haven’t yet recognized or owned-up to. We will stop blaming others for our lack of success and begin to look inwardly, with humility and a quick-to-repent heart, for what needs purged from our character. Even if we don’t aspire to promotion of some kind, coddling wrong attitudes and negative emotions is a behavior not pleasing to You; and as badly as we want not to feel like a failure in our destiny, we want to find favor in Your sight even more. As David prayed after his hidden sin bubbled to the surface, likewise create in us a clean heart and renewed right spirit. See if there be (expose) any wicked way in us; and after the diseased element in our hearts is purged, restore the joy of our salvation. May we bear good fruit—30, 60, 100-fold, unhindered by toxic emotions, attitudes, and behavior.

You discipline those whom You love…and we know You love us too much to leave us messed-up. We don’t want to be those Your Word speaks of whose neck becomes hardened from having to be chastised often. Help us get it right, to learn and be willing to change. Remove the blinders, and after we’ve seen ourselves without the wax coating, make us whole—perfect and entire, lacking nothing. Give us courage to allow ourselves to be overhauled from the inside out. We ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Cheerfulness of Obedient, Smart Giving

basketWe have an abundance of “smart” electronics these days, don’t we?  Smart phones.  Smart cars.  They weren’t designed to keep us from having to actually be smart, though!  I’m talking today about giving, and how we can give intelligently by giving OBEDIENTLY.

There’s really a difference, you know.  The difference is the fruit that is borne from the seed we sow. Generosity is a noble and wonderful trait (the Bible says for us to be givers!) when it works in tandem with obedience to God.  We should indeed be cheerful and liberal givers; but it’s doubly important that we listen for God’s instructions, because foolish generosity is, well, FOOLISH. The whole of that text says this (I love the Voice Translation of 2 Cor. 9:7): Giving grows out of the heart—otherwise, you’ve reluctantly grumbled “yes” because you felt you had to or because you couldn’t say “no,” but this isn’t the way God wants it. For we know that “God loves a cheerful giver.” When our giving is God-directed, it is smart giving; obedient giving which isn’t given for ulterior motives, or given out of guilt or compulsion or a need to just feel good!

A generous parent, for instance, can harm his or her child through excessive giving not tempered by wisdom.  Would you give your child candy for breakfast just because he or she wants it?  Of course not!  But would you breed a materialistic appetite in your child by enabling him or her to get every single thing the child wants, just for the asking?  Do you operate in fear of not being your child’s friend, when in reality, your child needs you to set boundaries, to say no once in a while?  Following God’s direction will keep perfect balance instead of making the child entitled, spoiled, selfish, wasteful.  You can actually TEACH your child by anointed example as you give wisely.  This applies in every area of our lives, not just parenting!  Sometimes we have to say no to ourselves!  I know I sure do!  Read on.

Remember the song, “What a Friend We Have In Jesus?”  Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer…

That familiar verse perfectly sums up our lives when we don’t listen for His voice!  Yes, it’s true.  We’ve gotten used to just asking for things…perhaps we need to return to asking for Him to reveal His will in decisions we are facing.  It even applies to our giving of our time, talent, and treasure. I know all too well what it’s like to give just because it feels good.  The importance however goes beyond my flesh feeling good, and therefore, my motivation must have a higher purpose than gratifying my flesh!

How can one be a selfish giver, you might ask…sounds like an oxymoron!  It’s taken and is still taking time and experience, and also a deeper knowledge of my Lord through intimate relationship, to know that responsibility accompanies our ability to say yes.  My ability to say NO has in times past gotten me into trouble.  Hey Lisa, can you join this club?  Can you go here and do that and can you be available at all hours for anything anyone asks?  Oh yeah…I’ve been so bogged down with to-do’s which I agreed to in order to be a people pleaser.  Then, exhausted, I would find myself bitter at having no downtime, or nothing at all left.  Often, I’ve had not one piece of fruit to show for it, because I didn’t have the courage to say, “I’ll get back to you…I really need to talk to God before I commit to this!”

Well, go back to the passage in the Bible where Saul took the spoils of war after God had specifically told him not to…and then he tried to appease God by sacrificing some of the livestock on altars to justify his disobedience of a direct order!  Talk about insulting God’s omniscience!  The Scriptures tell us that obedience is better than sacrifice.  Saul’s disobedience would eventually cost him his kingdom…even his descendants would suffer consequences because of his foolishness.  We ourselves can undo all the good of our generosity whenever we sidestep what God has already instructed.  Why would we not take the counsel of the One Who actually KNOWS the outcome?  When we have His voice, we already have the inside track to what is going to be a blessing, be blessed, and bear fruit!

Bear in mind, He will sometimes direct us to give when it DOESN’T have that euphoric, how-wonderful-it-feels effect!  Can we respond when there’s a need in our own life?  Can we be as the widow who cooks her last meal for the prophet before there’s evidence we will have enough for ourselves? Don’t stop being generous, for heaven’s sake…but lay your heart and your feelings on the altar and allow Him to direct you to good ground.  Even good ground can’t produce its best yield if you cram the seeds too closely together!  Give your acts of kindness the best chance for a harvest by being sensitive to the Holy Spirit.  Instead of it just being said that you’d give someone the shirt off your back, let it be said that you heard from God and responded with the right thing at the right time!

“In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.”  Proverbs 3:6 (AMP)

Displaced Horsepower

cart-horse“But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33 AMP)

My devotional today is about timing, right priorities, and obedience. How many times do we get ourselves into trouble by short-cutting the process of our various aspects of living? I could list some of mine, but you’d get tired of reading about ¼ of the way through. I’d venture to say that a huge proportion of the troubles in our world have to do with lack of balance, impatience, and rebellion! The speeding ticket. The unsurmountable credit card debt. The impulse buy. The whirlwind relationship. Keeping up with the Joneses. The need for power. The addiction for material things. The uncontrolled temper. Selfishness. Am I coming anywhere close to your challenges?

We will never be put to shame if we follow God’s recipe for living. With Him at the top of our priorities pyramid, we will live within the healthy parameters of our bodies, souls, and spirits. His Scriptural instructions to us aren’t meant just to keep us under His thumbnail; as the Master Designer of all things, God already knows the boundaries of each created being. He has seen every scenario before it has had time to play out. He knows the point of failure, but He also knows the point of profound success! He knows exactly how to get you to the place of joy, peace, and overflowing blessing…and He is thrilled to share that information with you if you will hear Him and obey. Are you listening and following; or, have you crowded Him out and turned the volume up on other affections so that His voice is lost in all the drama and disarray you’ve allowed into your personal space?

Kids love “cheat instructions” on video games, but we are not kids. God’s plan isn’t to cheat us around the pathway to becoming the best version of ourselves; however, obedience to His will and His Word will feel like a shortcut compared to the harrowing, long detour we have to take when we follow our own inclinations and inevitably fail. Think of various places in the Bible where it was said a variation of, “And everyone did whatever he or she wanted.” Instead of us becoming more successful, more healthy, more benevolent, humankind becomes increasingly depraved. That expression, “follow your heart?” Don’t trust your heart! It will LIE to you! Rebellion against God’s proper order and timing can even cause something which is not created to be a sin to become a sin, such as sex outside the right boundaries of marriage.

I challenge you to sit and take an honest assessment of your life, as I am doing of mine. Are you piled high with regrettable decisions and utter chaos? It’s a good indicator that you’ve followed any and everything your flesh has suggested to you. King Solomon, so full of wisdom and yet so full of fleshly longings, ran the gamut of every pleasure and every pursuit. He denied himself nothing because he had the means to acquire whatever he wanted. Gushing with excess and finding nothing but emptiness after each new toy, trinket, project, investment, and relationship, he finally concluded in hindsight—as an older man—that to fear God and to keep His commandments is our entire reason for existence. In Ecclesiastes we see that the wise man gave himself over to backslidings in the “middle” of his life and, only after enduring sin’s consequence, concluded that the right way IS the right way.  Imagine what he could have achieved if he’d chosen to remain obedient to God?  How much peace and prosperity would his nation have enjoyed had he not compromised what he knew to be true?  Instead of co-existing with utter darkness, he could’ve spared generations and generations of his posterity from the curse of idolatry.  I don’t doubt that old man Solomon looked back with regret for the wasted years…

What causes us to feel so entitled about “having it all?” We can’t do it! We just can’t. If we GET it all, we may find ourselves emptier than ever; and like a horse pushing a buggy, realize that we have been doing everything the hard way. We want so badly to be recognized for all our hard work, our ambitions, our success, our education, our wealth, that we forget it really isn’t ours at all! Not in the sense of eternity. All that labor, that striving to get what we want in life, left behind as our spirit departs either to an eternal reward or eternal suffering.   And yes, even believers in Christ can have very, very out-of-balance lives. We can still make it to heaven when we die, but what goes with us? Are there others we’ve helped to follow God and to have rich relationship with Him, or will we cross over the threshold having never influenced the lost or shared the good news?

Remember this: when you put your life in its proper priority, you share in God’s perfect alignment of circumstances. You carry His favor into your everyday life. You exhibit His nature, and your relationships will thrive. You will rest from your labor and He will bring to pass whatever you couldn’t achieve through years and years of chasing your own rainbows. If you are all about others knowing how hard you worked to get where you are, that will be your only real reward: bragging rights. If you freely acknowledge that God has enabled you to become that champion, you will see a miraculous change in proportion to your obedience to Him! You will gain recognition or promotion or talent that you did not earn! I’ve seen it time and again in my own life…underachiever by many folks’ standards, but God has given me abilities that I didn’t have to practice to gain, didn’t go to school to learn, didn’t run in the “right circles” of influence to receive.  And yes, I am still having to choose daily to follow His lead instead of my own thing.

Put Him first today. Whatever you have to set aside in order to begin and end your day in His presence, do it. Talking to Him will set the course for the rest of those upcoming moments of your life. Listening to Him will keep you from wasted efforts, failed relationships, and forfeited opportunities. Obeying Him will put the cart where it’s logically designed to be positioned—BEHIND the horse!

“Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3 AMP)

Palace to Pig Pen…and Back (God’s Will Versus Our Will)

…”There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.  Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.”  Luke 15:11-13 NIV

We know the whole story—a son wastes his father’s best, and then in a state of desperation, comes home, only to find forgiveness instead of a flogging.  We stand in judgment of him, like the other sibling who was so appalled that Dad wouldn’t at least make him grovel a little.  What our sanctimonious selves don’t realize, however, is that there are times when, instead of the good, obedient brother’s reflection, the person who’s actually staring back at us in the mirror has slop around his mouth and corn husks matted in his muddy hair.  We’re just like that prodigal in so many ways, aren’t we?

I sometimes tell folks, “I’m convinced that the good Lord has a whole lot more sense than I have;” and though it’s my humorous way of saying His ways are much higher than mine, it’s still just the stark truth.   I’ve come to know this, and occasionally have to re-learn it, from years of making foolish choices on my own before finally repenting and handing the reins back to an all-knowing, all-wise God.

When did the prodigal son actually get in trouble?  Was it in the gambling house?  The bar?  The brothel?  The pig pen?  No, it began when he went to his father and said, “I want it all.  Right now.  No strings attached, no one telling me what I should or shouldn’t do with it.” The inheritance was to be his eventually anyway.   However, his burning desire to have his own way—without any authoritative counsel—almost guaranteed this boy wouldn’t like the outcome of his imprudent request. As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you ask for…”

God has a plan already in place for us; it’s His very best, and His perfect will for our lives is carved out of pure love and infinite goodness.  My pastor, who teaches frequently on eternity, reminds us that God’s order is sequential, not cyclical.  It is nothing like man’s “spinning wheel…what goes up must come down” philosophy. Our lives are a tiny speck on God’s eternal timeline; yet we so value our speck and make everything all about us, about our one short life.  Something in the base, carnal human nature—that “thing” in us present since the fall of Adam—feels cheated when we can’t be instantly gratified, when we can’t call the shots.  The backslider in heart takes the blessings of God with him and sets out to do it all his own way.  Worst possible choice with the worst possible outcome.

I’ve asked God amiss many times over the years, and in the times He actually said “yes” to a foolish request, I’ve had to live with those things I was so determined to have. How much happier, how much freer, how much less stressed, regretful, bitter, angry, confused we might be if we would just pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…” If we could only grasp and retain the knowledge in our minds that He really does have our best interests at heart even when His answer is not our answer.

You’re getting ready to suffer some whopper consequences if you’re asking for—or planning to do on your own—something of which you can’t honestly say to God, “Your will be done in my situation. If you don’t want this for me, I don’t want this for me.” When you can’t surrender a particular affection, desire, or thing to His will, you’ve skating dangerously close to committing idolatry AND are setting yourself up for some unhappy times to come.  It can be anything…a job offer, a sports contract, a record or movie deal, a home or car or some other material investment, a relationship. But, if you can’t offer it back to God and allow Him to decide if it’s right for you, you may be entering into a decision where much, much regret will follow.  You’ll despise the prize.

The enemy’s always tried to paint this picture—beginning with Eve in the garden—that God just dangles good things in front of us and says we can’t have them. What God actually does, however, is sets boundaries for us and yet allows us the freedom to choose…only with consequences when we step outside the protective canopy of His will.  The good news is, there is redemption for those of us who shake ourselves and realize that it’s time to go back home.  Our Father anxiously awaits the cry of repentance in His wandering children.  He’s not ready to dole out a beating, a bunk in the servants’ quarters, or a string of “I told you so’s.”  He just wants us to do right so that we can be His heirs.  He’s a Parent more loving than we can ever imagine, but does He mean business?  You’d better believe He does.  We may have to learn, over and over, the high cost of disobedience, but we serve a mighty good God.  He will make sure we get it right even if we have to learn the hard way.

Corrie Ten Boom once said something short but profound:  “Don’t wrestle.  Nestle.”  Put yourself at peace…whatever your circumstance, whatever your aspiration, your dream, your desire, put it in His hands and LET GO.  There’s nothing any more peaceful, more restful than turning loose of the struggle and committing your ways to His will.  He already knows how long you’re going to live, so His itinerary includes a fulfilled destiny in the time you’re allotted…if you’re willing to trust Him.

His palace sure smells better than your pad on Pig Pen Lane, too, in case you’re wondering.  Just saying…

©2012  Lisa Crum