The day God stepped in

“Hey, God, I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to do this thing.  I know it’s something that you would totally not want me to do, but it’s something that I want to do, so, yeah, I’m just going to go ahead and do it.  I’ll deal with your disappointment and my own guilt later, okey dokey?  Thanks.”

“I love you, child.  I know that I gave you free will, and that I can’t stop you from making what will only be a bad decision.  I know you are better than this.  I will never turn my back on you, and I will be here waiting for you with open arms when you are ready to come back to me.”

“Yeah, thanks God.  I’ll see you later.

Though this is not a word-for-word account of the conversation I had with God yesterday, it is pretty dang close.  It was definitely not one of the finer moments in my walk with Christ, but I everyone has moments when they get in the flesh, when they stumble and fall.  When you are on the ground you have two choices as how to proceed.  You can either choose to stay on the ground or you can choose to get up.  Nobody can make that decision for you.  God will let you stay down or he will help you get up, but He will never force you to do anything that goes against your free will, that you don’t want to do.

Mine was not a slow fall, but it’s a fall I have taken before.  Though I didn’t fall as hard as I did a few years ago, it was still a fall.  I know the exact day that I tripped, and that was the day that I started tuning God.

My weakness has always been sex.  I have always been the girl that they guys wanted to be only be friends with.  I was always the girl they went to for advice about their relationships with other girls.  On many occasions they said, “oh, she is like a sister to me.”  Those weren’t really the words a girl wants to hear when the feelings she has toward the guy are more than those of sisterly love or friendship.  I learned that guys wanted to hang out with me if I let them sleep with me.  I had more than my fair share of promiscuous relationships.  It’s not something I am proud of, but it is a part of my history, a part of who I am today.  I can’t change the way the story starteed, but I can change the way it ends.

Thirteen years ago my husband and I got married.  Six years ago I started my first extramarital affair.  It was purely sex and nothing more.  A year later I started my second affair.  There was no sex, but it was an emotional affair.  I could say that it was just as bad as the physical relationship with the other guy, but I believe that it actually may have been worse, because the emotional connection that I should have been giving to my husband, I was instead giving to a man who did not want, nor deserve, that level of relationship with me.

A month-and-a-half ago a new person walked into my life.  Immediately my hormones went on high alert.  I found myself shamelessly flirting with this man.  I was trying to let him know that I was available if he wanted me.  The problem:  I am NOT available at all.  The previous two affairs ended a few years ago.  I finally told my husband about them two years ago (thought I still suspect that he knew all along), and he showed great mercy by forgiving me even though I didn’t deserve it (sound like anyone else?  God, perhaps?)  Yet, fully aware of my actions and not caring about consequences, I was actively pursuing this new person in my life.

One of the worst parts of my previous two affairs were all of the lies that I told to everyone.  Not just my husband.  I lied to friends, coworkers, my son, and I lied to myself.  I told myself that I was entitled to do whatever I needed to do to make myself happy, that I wasn’t hurting anyone, that it was just sex, or it was just two friends getting together for lunch.  I told more lies in those two years than I told in all the years of my life leading up to that point.

Last week, in an attempt to be alone with this person (despite my husband or his girlfriend) I asked the guy if he wanted to get together for a night of whiskey and tequila.  He was having a rough week and I don’t know what I was thinking (yes, I do).  We made plans to get together tonight.  I was going to stay at his house (on the couch) and we were going to spend the night drinking together.

“My chid, you have obviously lost your mind and can no longer think straight enough to protect yourself, so I am going to step in here and protect you from yourself.  You have come too far to go down this path again”

“Thanks, but I don’t need your help, God.”

“Yes, you do.”

“It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade”

This morning I got ready for work.  I made sure to pack a change of clothes for work tomorrow and come comfies for my night of tequila.  I had told my husband that I was going to my boss’s house for a girls night of margaritas.  I was supposed to have a meeting at church tonight, and was fully prepared to lie to my pastor by saying that I was swamped with work and wouldn’t be able to make it.  Everything was falling perfectly into place.  That is until the I saw the person I was supposed to be spending the evening with.  He looked rough.  He looked exhausted.  Further inquiry revealed that he hadn’t slept well last night and was not feeling well this morning.

By the end of the day his eyes were noticeably glassy and he looked like he could simply fall down asleep at any moment.  I told him that he needed to just go home and go straight to bed.  He agreed.  Before I left him for the day I told him that he still owed me a whiskey and tequila night.  He apologized, having forgotten about our plans on top of not feeling well.

“Set me free of the chains holding me
Is anybody out there hearing me?
Set me free”

I walked out to my car, and all I could think to do was thank God for keeping me from doing something that would have been tremendously stupid, from protecting me from my own desires.  God never acted on my own free will.  That’s not how He works.  He will never stop you from making bad decisions.  What God did was arrange circumstances such that my free will never had a chance to act.  He intervened on my behalf because He loves me and didn’t want me to take a fall that I may not have been able to get back up from.

I am not worthy of his love and attention.  My actions over the last several weeks prove that.  But despite my actions, despite my words, no matter how many times I turn from Him and get into my own desires, He is still there watching over me, loving me, and protecting me from my own worst enemy: myself.

How has God protected you from yourself?

Until next time . . .

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Weight on the cross – Revisited

You may remember my post from right around Easter called “Weight on the cross.”  In that post we looked how much weight the cross could carry.  Maybe you even took the time for some self-examination to find out if there was any baggage you were carrying that needed to be laid down at the cross.

For many people, laying our baggage down at the cross is the easy part.  Not picking it back up . . . that is what we really struggle with.

There is no shame in admitting you have baggage.  We all have baggage.  I struggle with anger, codependency, control, resentment, and other things.  I laid them on the cross, but battle daily to not pick those things back up.  Some days I win the battle.  Some days I do not.

At Celebrate Recovery recently we each took a piece of paper and wrote on the paper the things we wanted to nail to the cross, the things we wanted to lay at the feet of Jesus.  It was a remarkable representation of not just the things we knew we could ask and receive forgiveness for, but all just how much weight the cross could bear.  Addiction, adultery, lying, stealing, anger, resentment, abuse . . . and the list goes on.

But it didn’t stop there.  This past Friday night we had a fire.  It was intention, and it was once again symbolic.  It was much like writing a letter to someone who has hurt you and then destroying the letter.  Sometimes you just have to get the negativity out of you so it can’t control you any longer.

Fire . . . it can be a tool of great destruction.  Look at the Chicago Fire of 1871.  300 people were killed.  100,000 people were left homeless.  3.3 square miles of Chicago were destroyed.  And one of the rumors as to how the fire started . . . a cow kicked over a little lantern.

But fire can also be a tool for great purification.  Iron ore in its raw state is very unrefined.  But put that iron ore in a smelter with enough heat, and those impurities will be removed.  What is left is steel, a metal stronger than the iron ore was to begin with.  But it had to withstand a little heat.

We all have impurities.  We all have those little spots within us that are our weakness, that keep us from being as strong as God wants us to be.  We endure fire in our lives.  With family, friends, in our job, in our life in general.  Too often we avoid that fire because we don’t think we can withstand the flames to get through it.  Too often we shy away from the flames because we are afraid to see what is on the other side.  It may seem easier to stay in our safe little world, and avoid the risk that the fire brings.  But by avoiding the fire we are denying God the opportunity to work in our life.  We are taking away from God the opportunity to purify us for Him.

Our own free will brought the impurities into our life, but we are given a path to be clean, strong . . . through salvation in Jesus Christ.  The path was never guaranteed to be easy though.  Those flames can be tall, bright, and hot. But Philippians 4:13 gives us a comforting reminder in times of fire, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me,” just as iron ore is strengthened into steel when the impurities are removed.  You will not be left alone in your flames.  You will not be thrown into a smelter while God watches idly from the sidelines.  Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us to, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

He will never leave you nor forsake you.

You may feel like you are surrounded by flames.  You may feel like you are having the worst day ever and wonder if it can get any worse.  We know it can always get worse.  But no matter how hot the flames burn, no matter how completely those flames surround you, you will never be alone.  Those flames are purifying you.  They are making you a man or woman who will be stronger instrument of God.

Daniel 3 tells the story of King Nebuchadnezzar.  He decided to build a huge golden statue that he commanded everyone to worship.  People from all over his kingdom fell before the statue and worshiped it as Nebuchadnezzar had commanded.  All except for 3 men.  Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego.  They refused to worship a golden idol, knowing that they could worship the only true God.

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not afraid of the furnace.  They were not afraid of the fact that they had been tied together.  They did not fear the fact that the furnace had been heated seven times hotter than normal.  They had faith.  They had faith that God would protect them no matter how hot the furnace got,  that God would be with them in their time of distress, and they never lost that faith.  God saw them through without one hair on their heads singed, and not even the smell of fire on them.

Is your faith that strong?

You may not stand in a fiery furnace, but you will withstand trials and difficulties.  But will God ever leave your side?  No.  He will protect you.  He will stand by you, and he will see you through the flames.

And once you’ve come through those flames you will notice a new flame within yourself.  A passion that God has laid in your soul.  Maybe it will be a passion for helping addicts find their way out of addiction.  Maybe it will be a passion to teaching children, or sharing the gospel.  Maybe it will a passion for helping the poor, or being the best spouse or parent that you can be.  Whatever your passion is, it will start small, like the cow that kicked over the little lantern in the Chicago fire.  But once you recognize it, it will grow.  The flames will burn bright inside of you.

Colossians 3:23 reminds us to, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

Yes, fire can destroy.  But fire can also purify you and make you stronger.  And that same fire will fuel your passion in the world.

What impurities are you ready to put in the fire?

What are you passionate about?

Take a moment to think about what impurities, what sin, you may still be hanging onto.  What are you ready to let go of that you haven’t yet?

Now think about what you are passionate about.  If you could go anywhere, do anything, in service to God what would you do?  What talent or skill would you love to be able to use for the glory of God?  How is God already calling you to serve Him that you don’t even think you can do?  Remember, God doesn’t call the qualified.  He qualifies the called, and He has called you for a reason.  So what is holding you back from putting that passion to work in your life?  Are you afraid of the flames, or do you trust God to protect you in the furnace?

Get a slip of paper.  Think about what you need to let go off, and think about how God wants to use you.  On one side of the paper write down what you are ready to let go of, what baggage you are ready to turn over to God.  On the other side of the paper write down what you are passionate about, how you would like to see God use you.  If you don’t know what you are passionate about, but know that you are ready to God to use you as an instrument for His kingdom then just write down the word, “Yes!”  You are putting your “yes” on the table and letting God know that you are willing to let him guide you to where he wants to use you.

Now fold that paper up and burn it.

God will use the flame to burn away your impurities, and then He will turn it into a flame that will fuel your passion.  And besides you can pick up baggage that has been destroyed, and you can take back a “yes” that you have given to God.

Make the decision to longer let your baggage have power over you, because you are flawless, my friend, and you are called by God.

Let God do the work in you to continually remove whatever he sees as an impurity.  And keep your eyes open for the spark of passion that He will grow in your life.

Do you have your slip of paper ready?  Then what are you waiting for?

Until next time . . .

May 2017 Scripture Writing Plan: Day 31 – 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11

May Friendship Scripture Writing Plan English

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

(1 Thessalonians 5:4-11, NIV)

(Text courtesy of biblegateway.com)

(Writing plan and image courtesy of swtblessings.com)

May 2017 Scripture Writing Plan: Day 30 – 1 Samuel 18:1-3

May Friendship Scripture Writing Plan English

Saul’s Growing Fear of David

18 After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.

(1 Samuel 18:1-3, NIV)

(Text courtesy of biblegateway.com)

(Writing plan and image courtesy of swtblessings.com)

May 2017 Scripture Writing Plan: Day 29 – Ruth 1:16-17

May Friendship Scripture Writing Plan English

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

(Ruth 1:16-17, NIV)

(Text courtesy of biblegateway.com)

(Writing plan and image courtesy of swtblessings.com)

May 2017 Scripture Writing Plan: Day 28 – Romans 12:17-21

May Friendship Scripture Writing Plan English

if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[a] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Love in Action

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[b] Do not be conceited.

(Romans 12:17-21, NIV)

(Text courtesy of biblegateway.com)

(Writing plan and image courtesy of swtblessings.com)

May 2017 Scripture Writing Plan: Day 27 – Romans 12:8-16

May Friendship Scripture Writing Plan English

if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[a] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Love in Action

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[b] Do not be conceited.

(Romans 12:8-16, NIV)

(Text courtesy of biblegateway.com)

(Writing plan and image courtesy of swtblessings.com)

May 2017 Scripture Writing Plan: Day 26 – Romans 12:3-7

May Friendship Scripture Writing Plan English

Humble Service in the Body of Christ

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;

(Romans 12:3-7, NIV)

(Text courtesy of biblegateway.com)

(Writing plan and image courtesy of swtblessings.com)

May 2017 Scripture Writing Plan: Day 25 – Psalm 133:1-3

May Friendship Scripture Writing Plan English

How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life forevermore.

(Psalm 133:1-3, NIV)

(Text courtesy of biblegateway.com)

(Writing plan and image courtesy of swtblessings.com)

May 2017 Scripture Writing Plan: Day 24 – Psalm 1:1-3

May Friendship Scripture Writing Plan English

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

(Psalm 1:1-3, NIV)

(Text courtesy of biblegateway.com)

(Writing plan and image courtesy of swtblessings.com)