Thursday, March 26, 2015

Do You Love Jesus But Still Cuss A Little?

A few months ago, I saw a meme floating around social media that literally broke my heart. I screen shot it and held on to it because my spirit just wouldn't let it go. I was hurt! Every now and then I would look at it and ask God, "WHY, Lord? Why would anyone who loves you say something like this? Why do people insist on making the Christian life look like a circus and Jesus look like some clown?"

I knew the time would soon come when I'd write about it because every day, my heart grew heavier and heavier at just the thought of how many times the meme was "liked" and shared. Then, just the other day, I ran across a picture of a t-shirt that is very much like the meme, and it bothered me SO MUCH that I was on the verge of tears in prayer.
As I talked to God about it, I cried out for those who merely love Him with their lips but have hearts that are far from Him. And shoot...after reading the memes, I wondered, "Do they even love Him with their lips?"
Since the meme, and even more since having seen the picture of the t-shirt, a slew of questions have been pounding away at my heart. Why do we, who claim to love Jesus, glory in the fact that we still knowingly and voluntarily behave contrary to what He desires of us? Why do we knowingly and voluntarily do what He tells us not to do?

I understand that we don't get saved and give our lives to The Lord and get delivered from everything all at once. I get that. And I know that some things in our lives take more time than others to be completely surrendered unto the Lord. I know that we are daily "working out our salvation" as The Word says we should, but when did it become okay to flaunt that we engage in acts of sin? When did it become okay to make sport of our unwillingness to live and walk as He says we should?

To say, "I love Jesus BUT..." says quite a bit.
Those words alone are evidence that we know loving Him requires more of us. When we say BUT, we acknowledge that what comes after the BUT isn't pleasing to Him, and that it does not represent who He is. It's like saying, "I know I shouldn't eat these cookies, BUT..." You know that you've been working hard to lose weight and your personal trainer said that cookies are out of the question. You want the cookies, and even though you know you shouldn't eat them, you eat them anyway. You know that what's on the other side of the BUT is no good for you, but you do it anyway. You let the cookies win, and at that moment, you show that the cookies have the power. The cookies have control.

When we say, "I love Jesus, BUT I cuss a little and will cuss you out," we say that sin has more of a hold on us than the Jesus who we claim to love does.
We say, without saying (which really says it all), that sin is our master and that it has the power to rule over the Jesus who we claim we love. And that shouldn't be. When we've given our lives to Jesus and said that we want to live for Him, sin SHOULD NOT be our master. (Sin, in its simplest explanation, is anything we say, think, or do that does not please God.)

Romans 6:14 - "For sin shall not be your master because you are not under law, but under grace."
Romans 6:18 - " You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness."

God's word tells us to be self-controlled and temperate (Titus 3). It tells us to not let any unwholesome speech come from our lips but only what is helpful for building others up. The Word of God tells us to get rid of rage and malice, and to be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:29-32). When we lose control and allow rage and malice to take over and "make us cuss", sin has become the master.

Jesus says, in John 14:15, "If you love me, you'll obey my commandments." That's it. It's plain. We don't show Him we love Him by simply saying we love Him. It doesn't work that way. He sees our love for Him when we do what He tells us to do. Love is an action word, and He showed it first with the ultimate display of love--death on a cross so we could have life. He showed His love for us and now requires that we demonstrate our love for Him. One way we demonstrate our love for him is by taming our tongues.

We want those who love us to show that they love us. We're not okay with them just saying they do, especially those of us in relationships with a significant other. When those who say they love us don't show it, or do anything contrary to what love looks like, we question that love. Others may even see that their "love" doesn't look like "love" based on their actions. Why should our love with Jesus be any different?

What do others think when they see someone who "loves" Jesus not "loving" Jesus, but doing things and saying things that look like they don't even know Him?
We not only have a responsibility to "love" Jesus, but we have a responsibility to show others what the love of Jesus looks like. If you have given your life to Christ, know that there are people who are specifically assigned to you. God has them strategically placed throughout your life's walk to learn from the life you live. Lead them in righteousness by living a life that pleases God. I urge you, if you love Him like you say you do, SHOW it in how you live for Him. SHOW it in how you obey Him. Love Him for real.

By all means, continue to work out your salvation and allow the Lord to captivate your heart and gain complete control over sin in your life, but please, for the REAL love of God, don't blast your sin to the world like it's okay. Don't parade your voluntary, I'm-gon'-do-it-anyway sin and become a stumbling block for those who may be watching you as Christ's representative. We all have struggles that are worth sharing, but we share our struggles when they'll benefit someone else, and we share them when we stand on the other side of them so others can see how we came through and how we overcame. Talk about your struggles when you can let the world know how God delivered you. Let them hear about what the struggle WAS to show them that they, too, can be free from their own struggles. Until then, take your sin to The Lord, and let Him have it. There are lives at stake! Others' lives could change based on the way we live ours!

When we sin, we should have Godly sorrow, and Godly sorrow doesn't boast in displeasing God. A heart that really loves God suffers and breaks when it knows it's not pleasing to God. That heart...that life...wouldn't dare stand boldly before God and say, "Lord, I love you. And I know you sacrificed and died for me, and you provide for, protect, guide and love me unconditionally, but I'm gon' live any kind of way and drag your love through the mud."  The heart that loves God cries to Him to change it so it can look more like Him and so it can not only look like it loves Him, but SHOW that it loves Him. It wants its actions to line up with who He is. It wants to go and hide under a rock if it doesn't! The last thing it wants is to post its sin--its voluntary, I'm-gon-do-it-anyway sin--on the mountaintop for all the world to see.

When Christ lives in me, and I develop His mind and His way of thinking as my own, I should WANT to live like Him. When I love Him, I look like Him. When He truly lives in me, the words that come out of my mouth represent Him.

I'll close with this last meme. I was so glad when I saw it. It was my glimmer of hope. It was a sweet reminder that there are those who labor with me...with us...who honor God's word and love Him with not just our lips but with our actions. There are those of us who know that cussing a little could hurt a LOT. We know that "going off on people" doesn't represent Christ. We know that fits of rage exhibit a lack of self-control, and we refuse to engage. We refuse to join those who take part in the Christianity Circus because we prefer the Christ-Like Kingdom! Will you join us?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ooooh, Siri...

I have been having quite a time with Ms. Siri lately! My LORD!

I remember when I became an "iPhoner" and how I REFUSED to use Siri. It felt weird to ask "someone" the things that I was accustomed to looking up or getting some other way on my own. Part of it, too, was that I just hate acclimating myself to new technology. I didn't want to give 'ole girl a chance because I was a little aggravated with the differences between iPhone and Droid. I was spoiled and just wanted to talk, text, and search the way I always had. (I thought I would DIE because I couldn't swype when I texted! "Tap tap" texting was not my style.)

I had a phew iPhone phanatic phriends who would tell me over and over that my life would be easier if I just let Siri set my appointments and guide me where I wanted to go. They told me that I'd save so much time if I just told Siri to call Billisha or call Chantel. I wouldn't have to use both hands and totally take my eyes away from doing something else. I could speak into the phone and work on something else at the same time.

They literally showed me what to do. My friend, Aiesha (the Apple guru supreme), met me at my house the day I bought my iPhone to give me a tutorial. I mean, I was SET! But it still took me a while to get into "talking" to Siri. I wasn't feelin' that chick.

Eventually, I got into the hang of telling Siri what to do, and I grew accustomed to her coming through pretty much every time. If she didn't get my request 100% correct, she got me close enough that I was able to figure the rest out. She set appointments and made reminders perfectly, and to this day, she has reminded me of everything I've ever asked her to.

...and we were good up until about a week ago until Siri started straight TRIPPIN'!

I wasn't doing anything different. I wasn't making any strange requests. I would set appointments and reminders, and like I said, those were made with 100% accuracy, but one day I held down that button and asked, "Where are the one-hour cleaners in my area?"

This was not an unusual question, and you would think she would know "my flow" since we've been kickin' it for about 2 years, but she didn't answer the question accurately at all! So I asked her again in a different way. And another time...

I got NOTHING...nothing that I could use anyway.

This one-hour cleaners request was like the 3rd request that week that Siri just couldn't come through on. Before I knew it, I was engaging in a conversation with the Siri that I remembered, at that moment, I never really wanted to become too dependent on in the first place. Our "conversation" went like this:

And no sooner than I read that last one, I heard the Lord say to me, "She's not your source for direction."

I sat the phone down and just smiled. It was such a sweet and gentle reminder. The Lord just stopped me cold and reminded me to look to Him for direction. NO, not for directions to a one-hour cleaners. NO, not for directions to a store or as my navigation to some place I'd never been before, but as my direction in life.

I could never ask Siri, "What was I created to do?"  OR "What's my life's purpose?" and get an answer that would satisfy me. She wouldn't be able to answer that question because she didn't create me. I could never ask her how I should go about fulfilling my life's purpose because she didn't create me with purpose in mind. She doesn't know the path I should take because she doesn't know my destination. But God does.

Psalm 139
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

When I think about how God created me with purpose in my mother's womb, I'm reminded of why I MUST seek HIM for direction.

When I hear Jesus say in Matthew 10:30 that the hairs on my head are all numbered, I'm reminded of why I MUST seek HIM for direction.

When I see how God gave me particular gifts and skills to be used SPECIFICALLY for fulfilling the purpose He created me for, I'm reminded of why I MUST seek HIM for direction.

He's the manufacturer who knows just how His "product" should work. Me seeking after anyone or anything else for the answers would be a waste.

I was so grateful for that reminder. I'm grateful that my hope isn't in Siri for life's questions. I'm glad my purpose destination isn't in her hands. If it were in her hands, or anyone else's for that matter, those 2 minutes of frustration I experienced with her could very well be a lifetime--no answers, no direction, no destination--just aimlessly wandering about.

Can you imagine asking Siri a pressing life question and getting this response?

That's the response I got to a question today.

But if I ask Jesus, though...

Ask Him those life questions. I bet He can make it real clear. No one else (and nothing else) has the answers for your life. You were created with a purpose, and the manufacturer knows how His "product" should operate and where it should go. Let Him be your source for direction.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Unexpected Blessings from Strangers Unaware

Some Saturdays ago, I was having a lazy day at the house with NO plans of going out...AT ALL...for ANYTHING! I just wanted to bask in the nothingness of having nowhere to be at some appointed time, and the joy of having no papers to grade.

It wasn't until I had a craving for something that wasn't in my kitchen that I ended up going out. I threw on some jeans and one of my "look good with anything" jackets, and to Smoothie King I went. (Their Apple Kiwi Kale is AMAZING!)

As I was leaving Smoothie King, I thought of some things that I should pick up from the grocery store since I was already out. I had to pass the grocery store to get home, so why not stop? I ran in, got what I needed, and got back in the car to make the less-than-3-minute drive back to my house.

I turned the key in the ignition, but the car wouldn't start. I didn't even give it a second thought to just go ahead and start it up again because my car, in all of its 10 years with me, had NEVER given me any major problems. Outside of regular maintenance, it's been good to me. I knew nothing was wrong. I was even a little arrogant about it. I said to my friend who I was on the phone with the whole time, "I'm just gon' give it few minutes. I'm gon' sit here and just let her chill for a second and I'll try again."

I waited.

Then, after about 5 minutes, I tried to start the car up again, and nothing. That time, I noticed that the battery light was flickering a little on the dash when I tried to start it. And so it was. My battery had died right there in the grocery store parking lot. I couldn't believe it.

If it wasn't so cold that night, I would've walked right on home and had someone go and take care of the car the next day. That would've been the perfect solution, I thought. But my friend convinced me to just find someone with jumper cables, let them get my car started, and get the car to my house, at least. After sitting in the car for a bit, talking about how to do what to do, I finally decided to go into the grocery store to Customer Service and see if they could help me find someone who could get me going.

I told the young lady behind the counter that I was gonna stand right there for a second, in a place where I could see lots of customers moving about, because I needed to find someone who had some jumper cables.

She said, "I have some in my car." 

I squealed! I said, "Giiirl, no you don't!"

She laughed and said, "I do. My grandmother just made me put them in my trunk too."  She told me to just hang tight for a second while she finished up what she was doing. When she finished, she looked around and said, "Now we just have to find somebody to jump it."

I don't remember if the young man came along while we were still in the store or if we met him outside, but I just know that when we got outside to the girl's car, he was right there, ready to do whatever he needed to do to get my car started.

We got the jumper cables from her trunk, and as she was closing the trunk, a woman and her daughter who were parked right next to her said, "Y'all need  a jump? You can use this thing my husband put in here."

She went to the back of her truck and pulled out a jumper cable box. She said that her husband had just put it in her truck THE DAY BEFORE because the truck had stopped on her a few times before. The woman and her daughter handed the box on over to the young man who was ready to help. He got right to my car, hooked up the cable, and got the car started. Unfortunately, the start up was too weak for me to even get the car in reverse.  It died after about a minute or two.

I had to call someone.

I didn't want to call my brother in Christ who is sort of like a father figure because I knew after working long hours Tuesday - Friday, he loves being able to work a short day on Saturday at Manny's Service Center. Plus, he works on cars all day. I didn't want to call him to come and work on ANOTHER car. He was the last person I wanted to call, but he was the first person to come to mind.

I called him.
I explained what was going on.
He finished what he was doing at the shop.
He came to rescue me.

He had a nifty little jumper box that he uses at the shop. That thing couldn't have been bigger than a Nintendo DS! It started my car right up and had her purring like her first day. I had already determined after everything that had happened and NOT happened that I was going straight to O'Reilly Auto Parts, get the battery changed, and THEN go home. I had already called the store to make sure they were still open. They were scheduled to close in an hour.


My brother followed me over there, assisted me in the store to make sure I got a good battery and new plugs or something they said I needed on top of the battery (I'm sure that term is wrong. Ha! Whatever!), and even helped the O'Reilly technician get my new battery in the car.  He didn't leave until the job was complete and I was in my fully operational car.

I was beyond grateful for the love God showed me through those people that night. I was COMPLETELY taken care of from the beginning to the end of the ordeal. I didn't even have an opportunity to become scared or frantic.

When I got home after it all, I clearly heard the Lord tell me to thank the young lady and the young man at the grocery store. He told me to love on them with His love and encourage them to continue to love others with their service. When they give of themselves as willingly as they did, they show God's kind of love to others even if they don't know Him. That was my main point in their Thank You cards. And per God's instruction, inside each Thank You card was a Walmart gift card. I couldn't wait to give it to them! I couldn't wait for them to experience the gratefulness that comes with unexpected blessings from strangers unaware.


I went back to the grocery store a couple times in the next couple weeks, but I didn't see either of them. One Saturday, though, I hit the jackpot. They were BOTH working! I gave them what I had for them and asked if they'd mind taking pictures with me to commemorate the experience. They didn't mind at all.


I only know their names because I asked. I didn't even have to know. Knowing them didn't matter. I may not ever see them again, and that won't matter either. (When I took the picture with the young man, he told me that he would only be working there a few more days. Umph, umph, umph...) What mattered was that moment. What mattered was that time. What mattered was pure, genuine humanity--the sheer desire to help others in their time of need. I haven't been the same since that experience, and I never will be. I'm grateful that God chose me to have the dead battery that night. I'm grateful to have learned a lesson in love that night--love that's shown through service.