Avoid Shortcuts

For the third test, the Devil took him to the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth’s kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, “They’re yours—lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they’re yours.”

(Matthew 4:8-9)

This might sound shocking to some, but I really don’t like shortcuts. I find that they require too many twists and turns. And I especially wouldn’t want to take a shortcut on a snowy day because these routes are the least likely to get plowed (and sometimes they really don’t). I enjoy the longer routes because I get to enjoy all the beautiful sights that I would otherwise miss if I took the “shorter route.”

In the temptations or tests of Jesus, we find that the Devil was offering Him shortcuts. After the fall of the first man, Adam, the second man, Jesus, came to restore what was lost. The only way Jesus was going to do that was through His death on the cross. To avoid the pain and suffering, the Devil suggests that Jesus need only go on His knees and worship him. Of course, Jesus refuses this shortcut because He knows that that’s not the way God would have Him win our salvation. I’m so thankful that Jesus didn’t take shortcuts because we wouldn’t have His whole life, death and resurrection to look forward to and draw upon.

After finding out my age, a Christian woman once asked me when I was going to go online and create a dating profile. In other words, “What are you still waiting for, get online and find someone.” I’m sure she meant well, but the more she tried to convince me to go online, the more I tried to persuade her to find love offline (didn’t I tell you that I don’t like shortcuts?).

Many people enjoy shortcuts. They would much rather take the short, boring route than drive on the long, beautiful one. It might look like they’ve saved themselves a lot of time getting to where they want to be in life, but in reality, they’ve missed out on the excitement along the way to get there.

Avoid shortcuts. God wants you to enjoy and live your life to the fullest.

Are You Intimidated by the Devil?

Little children (believers, dear ones), you are of God and you belong to Him and have [already] overcome them [the agents of the antichrist]; because He who is in you is greater than he (Satan) who is in the world [of sinful mankind].

(1 John 4:4 AMP)

We were out on the playground with the kindergarten students when a grade one class joined us. All was well until one of our students ran up to me crying. “What’s wrong?” I asked him. He didn’t look like he had fallen and hurt himself, which is usually the case when you let kids loose on the playground. Instead, he pointed to the grade one boys out in the field and said, “They said they’re going to beat me up.” Although the boys seemed tiny and weak to me, the little boy couldn’t help but feel intimated by their threats. I assured him that I would keep an eye on him and that he was free to go back and play, which he did.

Are you intimidated by the devil? Someone once said that the only power the devil has over you is the power that you give to him. Today’s Scripture reminds us that we are already overcomers “because He who is in [us] is greater than he (Satan) who is in the world.” If we would only believe this simple yet awesome truth, we wouldn’t be intimidated by the devil and his threats when they come. Like the little boy who took his teacher at her word and went back to play, I pray that we will learn to take God at His Word and enjoy life because with Him living on the inside of us and keeping an eye on us, we have nothing to fear.

Satan can’t harm Christians who have Jesus living in them because he would have to deal with Jesus and he is too weak to do that.

Staying Calm in the Storm

While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

(Mark 5:35-36 NIV)

Ever noticed how calm Jesus was during times of tragedy? The story of Jairus’ daughter is one of the many examples in the New Testament. When some people came to tell Jairus that his daughter had died, Jesus responded with “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (Mark 5:36). And when He arrived to Jairus’ house and saw the people crying and wailing loudly, He asked, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep” (v.39). The people didn’t get it and laughed at Him (v.40). Then there’s the example of Jesus’ good friend Lazarus. When He was told that Lazarus was dead, Jesus noted, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” and “he stayed where he was two more days” (John 11:4, 6). Of course, His delay upset Martha and Mary and the first thing they said to Him when they saw Him was, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (vv.21, 32).

What if we could be as calm as Jesus was during times of calamity? What if instead of resorting to tears, self-pity and endless questions, we learned to stay calm and trust God, just as Jesus did? Is it possible? The Bible has the following to say about those who have learned to trust God, “They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD” (Psalm 112:7). And another Psalm reminds us that “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever” (125:1). Years ago, bad news would have devastated me, but as I’ve learned to trust Him, I’ve learned to stay calm in the storm. You can too.

Trusting God enables us to stay calm in the storm.

Don’t Delay Your Healing

There’s an interesting story in John chapter 5 about a man who was sick for 38 years. When Jesus met him, He asked him if he wanted to get well. But the man began to tell Jesus how many people had been getting ahead of him to get healed. So Jesus simply told him to get up and get going with his life (John 5:1-15). I once heard that this man had been delaying his own healing by sitting by the pool, expecting a miraculous healing. Thankfully, he did get healed, but after 38 years of waiting.

There’s a similar story in 2 Kings 5 about a man named Naaman who had leprosy. When told that the prophet Elisha could heal him, Naaman went to him, expecting a quick healing. However, Elisha told him to go and wash seven times in the Jordan. The man didn’t like it and for a while refused to obey. He was advised to follow the prophet’s instructions and get his healing, which he did.

When the doctors decided that my nephew Lucas would need two surgeries to get well, most prayers were in opposition to the doctors’ orders. “He is too young to be going through that,” “I don’t want him to suffer,” and “He’s already been through a lot,” some reasoned. Little did everyone know that surgery was going to save his life. Thankfully Lucas’ parents agreed and were commended by the doctors for insisting on having Lucas go through with it.

I share these stories to encourage those reading to get the help they need. I believe that God can just say the Word and heal us, but sometimes He may ask us to seek medical help. Whatever it is He is asking you to do, is for your good. So don’t delay your healing any longer and take care.

Phony Christians

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”

(Matthew 7:21-23 NLT)

One of the shocking truths in the Bible is that not everyone who professes to be Christian is a genuine follower of Christ. Take Judas Iscariot, for instance. He was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples–a fact that’s repeatedly emphasized in the Bible–which meant that everyone who looked at him would have thought that he was devoted to Jesus, yet this same Judas betrayed Him. Did the other disciples see this coming? No, but Jesus did. And it’s Jesus who tells us in today’s passage that not everyone who claims to be His follower will enter the kingdom of Heaven.

Phony Christians are eventually exposed.

Everyone’s Worth Melting For

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.

(1 Peter 3:18 NASV)

In Disney’s Frozen, Elsa unintentionally freezes her sister Anna’s heart. When the evil Prince Hans leaves Anna to die slowly in the cold, Olaf, the snowman, comes to her rescue. He quickly builds a fire to keep her warm. When Anna sees that the fire begins to melt her beloved snowman, she tells him, “Olaf! You’re melting!” In his most adorable and sweet voice ever Olaf says to her, “Some people are worth melting for.” Talk about “an act of true love”!

See, when God saw that we were dying in our sin, He sent His Son to die for us. But unlike Olaf, Jesus didn’t think that only some people were worth dying for. He died for all. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). I don’t know about you, but to me this is what an act of true love is all about.

As we get ready to celebrate His act of true love this Easter season, let’s remember to not only embrace it, but to extend it to those who need it the most because everyone’s worth melting for.

“Love is putting someone else’s needs before yours.” Olaf, Frozen

It is the Lord!

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”

(John 21:7 NIV)

When the resurrected Jesus appeared again to His disciples, by the Sea of Galilee, He was recognized by the miraculous catch of fish. Just a few years earlier, they had witnessed a similar miracle (Luke 5:1-11), so John couldn’t help but exclaim, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7). And the fact that in their later encounter with Jesus they caught 153 fish (John 21:11), tells us that it couldn’t have been anyone but God because in Hebrew, the number 153 means “I am God.” John writes, “None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord”‘ (v.12). There was no doubt in their mind that it was Jesus.

During a tea/coffee date with one of my good friends, she expressed the desire to get married and have kids. I nodded in agreement with her, but also told her that I didn’t want an ordinary story. Yes, meeting Mr. Right (for me, anyway), getting married and having kids would be a lovely story, but I also want God to do something so great in my life that anyone who hears about it will know that it was His doing. I want my life story to point others to God and bring Him glory, a story which only He can write.

God longs to be a part of your life story so others will know Him.

Moving Forward with God

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

(Exodus 33:14 NIV)

Having experienced God’s mighty presence throughout the whole exodus journey, Moses couldn’t imagine going into the Promised Land without it. Even though God told Moses that an angel would lead the way, Moses still pleaded with God, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). Moses even added, “How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (v.16).

If you’ve known God for a long time, you can relate to Moses. God’s presence makes a big difference in your life. There’s a sense of peace and contentment when He’s a part of your life. God’s presence in your life sets you apart because people can tell that there’s something special about you. It points others to Him. Therefore, I’ve learned to make Moses’ prayer my own. I want to live with a constant sense of God’s presence and be known as His follower.

Never underestimate the power of God’s presence in your life.

Do You Speak Christianese?

These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart isn’t in it.

(Matthew 15:8 MSG)

Growing up, I had to learn quite a few languages, and they were not all by choice. They were either spoken at home or in the country I lived in. As a born-again Christian, I also learned a new language: Christianese. You know, those words or phrases Christians use that sound “Christian.” And like any new language you learn, people can tell whether it’s your native language or not.

Jesus knew the Pharisees and religion scholars spoke a language that they learned by choice and not by will. When they came to Him with questions about their man-made religious rules, “Jesus put it right back on them. “Why do you use your rules to play fast and loose with God’s commands?”‘ (Matthew 15:3). Then He went on to quote the words of the prophet Isaiah and told them, “Isaiah’s prophecy of you hit the bull’s-eye: These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart isn’t in it”‘ (vv.7-8). Ouch, that must have hurt their ego!

Learning to speak Christianese is a great accomplishment. But just remember that God is looking for people who not only say the right thing, but who also mean it.

Walk the talk if you want others to follow the Rock.

Rise Above Competition

This isn’t a chapter in the book, but something I felt the need to write about in our increasingly competitive world. I’m not sure why some people choose to compete with others (quite foolish if you ask me, since there will always be someone who’s better than us at something). I’ve watched people compete for far too long and just can’t help but think to myself, “Aren’t they tired yet?” It sure seems exhausting when you’re trying to keep up with what everyone else has or does all the time.

Here’s what God has taught me about rising above competition. Always make sure that whatever you do is done out of a pure heart to please God. (If we make Him our main priority, everything else will fall into place.) There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do or try new things as long as you don’t feel the need to impress or please anyone. If people are competitive, let them be while you enjoy your relationship with God which is far more important than anything life has to offer. Hopefully, it will inspire them to reach that same level of intimacy with Him too.

In closing, to rise above competition, always ask yourself why or for whom you’re doing what you’re doing. If it’s not for God, or even yourself, then you need to re-evaluate your motives. If competitive people are always reminding you of what they think they’re better at or what they have, live your life in such a way that they’ll want what you have – a relationship with Christ!