Walking In Step

I had the privilege of visiting Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day. The place was buzzing that day and security checkpoints occupied every entrance. There was a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the president laid a wreath. The president being there caused quite a spectacle. The streets were lined with armored guards and military personnel. After the president’s motorcade drove by us, the soldiers began to disassemble in a unified march. They were perfectly in sync, step by step.

The steps of the soldiers, in perfect unity, makes me think of the things we walk in step with in our lives. When we walk in step with something, we are becoming like those soldiers – a unified troop. We become one with it. In the book of Psalms, we see some great advice in regards to the things we walk in step with.

Psalm 1:1-3 1 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, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. 3 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. 

Blessed is the one who does NOT walk in step with the wicked, but who walks in step with the ways of the Lord. In order to walk in step with what is right, we have to stop walking in step with what is not. We can love the Lord and believe that His ways are good, but still walk in step with the wicked. When we do that, we don’t see the blessing of God in our lives. When our hearts are in step with what is wrong, we don’t live in a way that is right.

When we are intentional about walking in step with the ways of the Lord, we flourish. We are like a tree planted by streams of living water, and we see the fruit of that in our lives. We don’t wear out and dry up. No! We do not wither; we prosper. If you find yourself in step with the wicked, get out of that rhythm today. Start walking in step with the ways of Lord and discover the blessings that follow.

You got this

I’m not a huge risk taker. I have never been prone to accept dares. Well there was that one time that I ate some strange mixture of who knows what. I was a teenager and I did it to get out of a job. I remember the flavor was sweet… and sour… and spicy… and well, just gross in general. That was just that one time. My preferred comfort level with dares is to be the guy standing several feet away shouting, “you got this!” You feel me?

I’ll be the first to high-five a successful dare-taker, though. I will be thoroughly impressed with their stupidity bravery. Such was the case with some Israelites way back in the day. They got a high five for their own risk-taking efforts. They had a crowd shouting “you got this!” So, what was the risk?

Nehemiah 11:2 The people commended all who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.

I know, I know. It doesn’t really seem like that big of a deal. But it was. Jerusalem was pretty much an abandoned city at this point. It didn’t have a bustling marketplace. The farmlands weren’t established. There wasn’t much protection and certainly no army. The only sure thing was that there were enemies who didn’t like the place. Let’s just say that the real estate agent had to get creative on the listing. “A charming little town that needs love.” Honestly, I’m not sure if anyone actually wanted to be uprooted to live there.

However, there were people who volunteered to do so. Apparently, the brave souls decided that a good place to reside was in the city of God. It was an uncertain future, but it was the place that God had ordained. I believe that those who volunteered to live there were not only commended, but blessed. See, when you choose to live in the place God has ordained, you will certainly find His blessing in that place. 

So I encourage to live boldly in the place that God has ordained in your life. What season has He called you to? Live in it. Who has He called you to be life to? Live in that. Where are the places of ministry that He is asking you to step into. Live there! You got this. You can take the risk. You will be commended and blessed!

I quit. Can I have a bonus?

Imagine this: you are fed up with your job. You can’t make it another day. So you march into the CEO’s office and tell him you’ve had it up to here. He gets a piece of your mind. Word gets out pretty fast that you aren’t happy and that you aren’t taking it anymore. But then just before you quit, you go to your direct supervisor and ask her for a bonus. Now I ask you, how is that going to go for you? Do you think you’d get the bonus? Probably not.

AY9RA6 I quit!

I know that all sounds a bit far-fetched, but this is exactly what the Israelites did in Exodus 11. Recall that the Israelites were slaves in the land of Egypt. That made them pretty much the lowest class. Everyone else was in a higher position of authority. So Moses goes in and demands freedom and then God gives this audacious instruction to His people…

Exodus 11:2-3  Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.”(The Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)

“Sure. No problem. I mean, we OWN you and all, but here’s some silver and gold. Have a nice life. I’ll just do my own hard labor. No bigsilver and gold deal. Be blessed.”

Am I the only one who thinks this is absolutely insane? I mean, who does that? Who quits their job and then asks for more paychecks? Apparently, God’s people. It’s not the “ask” though that got me. It was the response. This little passage of scripture seems to imply that their neighbors ACTUALLY gave them silver and gold.

So here’s the question… why did this work?  The answer: Favor. Faithfulness. Obedience. I think it was all three. They had favor that stemmed from faithfulness. They had been good slaves and had won the heart of people. So people wanted to bless them. Do we have favor? Are we faithful to those who are in authority in our lives? Because if we are faithful, favor will follow. They will want to bless us.  Let me put it this way: have you given people in your life any reason to want to bless you? The Israelites had.

And obedience. Perhaps the biggest reason this whole free silver and gold thing worked out was due to obedience. God’s people were obedient to Him. Obedient to His instructions to follow Him, obedient to prepare to leave Egypt, and obedient to ask their neighbors for some silver and gold. All they had to do was ask, because God has already prepared their hearts.  We tend not to ask because the answer might be no. But we fail to realize that the answer might also be yes. If God says to ask, then ask.

There’s so much here in these two little verses. Let’s be faithful and in turn find favor. And above all, let’s be obedient to the instructions of the Lord. After all, He has a pretty good idea as to what to do in any given situation. So trust Him and find the favor and blessing in the Lord!

Taste of his own medicine

Genesis 29:22-25  22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her. 24 And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant.  25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”

medicine2Most of us have zipped in front of someone in traffic.  We don’t, however, like it when someone does the same to us.  We have said an unkind word but dislike unkind words said to us.  We have lied to someone and become angry when someone lied to us.  It feels a little different when we do it, doesn’t it?  When we get a taste of our medicine, we realize that maybe it isn’t such a good thing after all.

Jacob was a trickster; he was a deceiver.  He tricked his father into giving him the family blessing.  His setup was elaborate and full of deceit.  Yet he asks uncle Laban this question: “Why have you deceived me?”  Hmmm… you don’t like being deceived, huh, Jacob?  It seemed to suit your life well, but it didn’t taste so good when it was served to you. Jacob got a taste of his own medicine… and he didn’t like it.

I wonder if we act the same way in our lives.  I wonder if we hold others to a standard that we don’t hold ourselves to.  I wonder if we easily complete our own atrocities all while judging others for theirs.  We tell little white lies yet discipline our children when they do the same.  We show up late to places but get irritated when others do the same.  It’s time we begin to hold ourselves to our own standards and allow others to do the same in their own lives.  We must trust that God will work in the lives of others.  And while we wait for Him to do just that, we ought to ask Him to work in our own.

*Reflect today on the places where you are doing what Jacob did… questioning others for the very things you do.  (ouch)

When someone else does all that work

Genesis 26:4-5 “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws.”

dad workingDon’t you hate it when someone else doesn’t do their share of the work and you have to pick up the slack?  That really drives me crazy!  It happens sometimes, though.  For some of you, it happens all the time.  But what about those times where someone else does most of the work and you benefit… score!  We all love that.  Sometimes it takes a lot of hard work to get something started and those that come after benefit.  Those people who come after should feel blessed.

Isaac was one of those people.  God tells Isaac in Genesis 26 that he will be greatly blessed.  Pay special attention to why he is going to be blessed: his daddy obeyed God and kept His requirements, commands, decrees, and laws.  In other words, because Abraham was faithful, Isaac was blessed.  His Father’s righteous life resulted in HIS blessed future.

Parents, you too, can pass on a great inheritance to your children.  I find it remarkable that the promise made to Isaac had nothing to do with Isaac, but had everything to do with the way Abraham lived his life.  What you do NOW matters.  There are spiritual blessings to be passed on; there is a heritage coming that you may not even be able to see.  Run the race, fight the good fight, and stand firm in the Lord… not just for yourself, but for generations to come.

*What promises does God have in store for your children because of YOUR life?

The last piece of cake

Genesis 13:14-15   14 After Lot had gone, the Lord said to Abram, “Look as far as you can see in every direction—north and south, east and west. 15 I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants as a permanent possession.

cakeKids don’t always choose what is fair.  For example, if there is a chunk of cake left and you have two kids, an argument will ensue as to who gets the biggest piece.  One method of teaching your kids a valuable lesson is this:  Tell one of the kids,” okay Johnny, you can go ahead and cut the cake.”   So Johnny cuts the cake with a big grin on his face.  Why is he smiling?  Because he didn’t cut it down the middle.  He finishes cutting the piece in two and quickly grabs the bigger piece.  “Wait a minute, Johnny,” mom says. “You got to cut the cake.  Sarah gets to choose which piece she wants.”  And off goes little Sarah with her bigger piece of cake.  Johnny just learned a lesson about equality and fairness.  Brilliant.

In Genesis 13, there was only one piece of cake, er, land left.  So Abram tells Lot to go ahead and pick what he wants.  Lot chooses a beautiful piece of land in the east and heads his merry way.  Now at first glance, Lot got the best pick.  There was plenty of water and trees and grass.  It had everything he wanted.  There was just one problem: it was next to a town called Sodom.  Maybe you know that story… Sodom ruined Lot.

Abram on the other hand is content with the leftovers.  He knows that God is going to take care of him so it doesn’t really matter.  As he heads out to the other place, the dry land, God stops him and gives him a promise. “I am giving you everything you can see in every direction.”  When I look at the surface, it seems like Abram got the bad end of the deal.  When they took the first look at the land they were getting, Lot’s looked better.  But Abram ended up with the better piece of cake.  He ended up with God’s promise, protection, and greatest possession.

*Are you stuck looking at the surface? It’s possible that what you see isn’t all that God has for you.

ah ah ah… achooooo!

1 Peter 3:8-9  Now finally, all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing. 

Some people hold it in, others let it fly.  For some, the build up is more intense than a major league baseball player’s approach to the batter’s box.  Sneezing is just a part of life.  And when someone sneezes, we offer the courtesy of an obligatory “bless you.”  (Or gesundheit, which means “health” in German)  So we have lots of sneezes and lots of bless you sentiments floating around.   But this isn’t exactly what Peter was talking about when he told us to give a blessing.

We are called to bless others for more than just sneezing.  What does that look like?  Well, Peter spells it out for us.  We are to be like-minded and sympathetic, full of love and compassionate.  We ought not be arrogant and haughty but humble and kind.  When people insult us, ridicule us, and do bad stuff to us we need not retaliate.  That just brings us down to that level.  That’s not the kind of people we are.  We are a people of blessing!

When people spend time with us, they should feel blessed (not because we are generally awesome, although that might be true).  They should feel blessed because we loved them and served them.  They should feel blessed because we had compassion on them when no one else did.   They should feel blessed because we went out of our way to be kind even when they were not.  That’s blessing others.  Do more than respond to a sneeze today.  Don’t just say a blessing, but live to be one.