Sweat the Small Stuff: Dealing With Sin

Sweat the Small Stuff: Dealing With Sin

Hannah More spoke of dealing with sin. Specifically, small ones. Those little faults we brush off until they grow into big problems.

Like algebra concepts, small sins build on one another. Give them room, and soon, they think they own the place. Hence, Scripture’s warning to not give the enemy even a foothold (Eph. 4:27).

Hannah More wrote an essay, “On the Comparatively Small Faults and Virtues,” in which she lists faults like procrastination, indecision, idleness, vanity, irritability (Ouch!), and triflings (wasting time). In dealing with sin, she challenged readers to look at the opposite virtues and cultivate them. And as Adam found, cultivation is sweaty business, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food . . .” (Gen. 3:19).

Here are some of the small faults I battle:

  • Taking offense easily
  • Withholding ______
  • Needing to be right

When I line up the corresponding virtues, I get this list:

  • Grace, mercy, and a forgiving spirit
  • Generosity
  • Humility and self-control

More stated,

Double! That’s quite a return on investment. So, are you ready?

  • Write down your small faults.
  • What are the corresponding virtues?
  • What action can you take to cultivate those virtues?
  • Choose one.
  • Start sweating.

Be intentional about dealing with sin. Something is going to grow. Cultivate virtue and sweat the small stuff.

Because babies, and vices, don’t stay small.

Workout of the Week: Sweat the Small Stuff

Memory Verse: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Galatians 6:7

Meditation Passage: Galatians 6:7-10

Just Do It: Start sweating.

Know Before You Go

Know Before You Go

“Be still, and know that I am God; . . .” Psalm 46:10a (NIV)

Just the facts.

That’s what I want.

For God to spell it out, step by step, where to go, what to do, with whom, the end result, and all the whys behind it tied neatly with a bow.

God, instead, puts relationship first. Since He knows us so well, the discovery becomes ours: who He is, who we are, and who we can be in Him. Scroll through the Old Testament and we find a lengthy list of names for God. Spend a few moments with each name, and we find a circumstance where a person looked for a to-do list, but came away with a new Who:

  • Hagar, the willful servant who overstepped her boundaries, discovered the God Who Sees Me, in spite of her sin (Genesis 16:13).
  • Moses, the runaway prince turned shepherd, found I Am Who I Am, his true God and King and regained his calling (Exodus 3:14).
  • The once self-sufficient Abraham realized God was the LORD Who Provides (Genesis 22:13-14).

Did instructions follow? Often.

Yet before instruction, God gave revelation.

Why?

Because God’s not interested in employees. He wants sons and daughters willing to work alongside their Father.

Someone who’s willing to feed the Spirit’s flame rather than setting the thermostat on auto.

So, before you seek His will, sit at His feet. Know before you go.

Workout of the Week: Know Before You Go

Memory Verse: “Be still, and know that I am God; . . .” Psalm 46:10a

Meditation Passage: Psalm 46

Just Do It: Know before you go.

Instant, It’s Not the Norm

Instant, It's Not the Norm

Instant goose bumps.

Instant answers.

Instant change.

The exception, not the rule in Scripture.

What’s a lot more normal?

Perserverance.

Noah spent 100 years digging out splinters, shaking sawdust from his feet, and pleading with lost neighbors as he built the ark (Genesis 6-7 NIV).

Abraham and Sarah endured twenty-five years of negative pregnancy tests before the pickle and ice cream cravings prior to Isaac’s birth, though Zechariah and Elizabeth waited even longer for John the Baptist (Genesis 12:4; 21:5; Luke 1:5-7).

The Israelites scraped clay out from under their toenails for hundreds of years before their deliverance from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 12:40-41).

Let’s train for perseverance this week. Here’s a handful of verses for your workouts. Consider meditating on one each day:

  • Romans 5:2-5 “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
  • 1 Corinthians 13:7 “It [love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
  • James 1:4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
  • Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”
  • 2 Peter 1:5-8 “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Is there a time and place for the instant? Sure. Water turning into wine. The healing of the woman with the issue of blood. Jesus’ transfiguration.

Yet, even the resurrection took three days, so let’s not ground our faith on the instant. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He can and does work instantly, but even Jesus waits for God the Father to give the nod for His own return.

Celebrate the instant when it comes, but let’s be prepared to persevere when God calls us to travel the longer road.

Workout of the Week: Instant, It’s Not the Norm

Memory Verse: James 1:4  “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Meditation Passage: Choose one of the verses above.

Just Do It: Prepare to persevere.

Out of Balance—and Good With It

Out of Balance and Good With It

My feet dig into the cedar mulch of life’s playground as I struggle to master the seesaw of calling. Work on one end, relationships on the other. One soars, the other plummets. Thud.

Yet, balance leaves me motionless, feet dangling in midair, mouth dry as the 60 Minutes theme plays in my head.

Then God brings this verse to mind, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men . . .” Colossians 3:23 (NIV).

God’s word to me? Don’t strive for balance.

Shocking, I know.

God wants me to go hard after the thing before me. Family, school, writing, the dog, me time? Each will take its turn in due course. With God’s guidance, I will accomplish the right tasks at the right time. My part? Give one hundred percent to whatever I do (be it dishes, devotionals, or dissertations) without feeling guilty about the other responsibilities waiting in line. Work at one with all my heart, then put that task aside and leave it.

No, really. Leave it.

Due to health issues with my mother-in-law, our son, and a variety of friends, my husband and I spent October to December in hospital rooms. Pumpkins sat on my porch well into December and our tree didn’t go up until the Monday before Christmas.

Balance? Nonexistent, but God placed us where we were needed. The world kept turning. Christmas came and went. And while most of my to-do list stalled, God’s peace flowed and His will was accomplished.

So how about it? Will you trust God with the calendar, with the to-do list, with the next five minutes? Whatever He gives you to do, work at it with all your heart, ‘cause remember, you’re working for Him.

Workout of the Week: Unbalanced—and Good With It

Memory Verse: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men . . .” Colossians 3:23 (NIV).

Meditation Passage: Colossians 3:15-17

Just Do It: One thing at a time.

Don’t Feed the Wolves: Letting the Enemy Go Hungry

Caribou Piece: Part 2

Don't Feed the Wolves

Today’s post, Part 2, continues our discussion from last week of a recent class assignment: Visit a museum, choose a piece of art, and write on it. Carl Rungius titled this painting Caribou’s Death Struggle. Last week, we focused on the battle between brothers. The two caribou battle to the death, but inadvertently lock horns. The victor is trapped and now faces death himself. This week, I want to point you toward the other figures in the painting. Dark ones lurk in the background, waiting for the victor to weaken. The real enemy doesn’t lift a finger. The caribou take themselves out. The wolves and vultures simply wait for a free meal.

The flesh and our inability to control it can make us an easy meal for the evil one. Refusing to master a particular sin, ignoring God’s voice, or giving in to impulse or appetite can make us easy pickings for the demonic forces.

Timothy’s second letter (2 Timothy 1:7) reads, “ For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” God expects us to practice the principles of this verse—despite the fact that culture runs counter to it. Fleshly choices have spiritual consequences, whether the choice centers on one Christmas cookie too many, one-upping the sibling that irks you, or one too many charges on the credit card.

So, enjoy the holidays. Love fiercely. Give generously. Choose wisely.

But let the enemy go hungry this winter.

Workout of the Week: Let the Enemy Go Hungry

Memory Verse: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Meditation Passage: Genesis 4:6 “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’”

Just Do It: Don’t feed the wolves.

Battles Between Brothers: A Not-So-Civil War

Caribou Piece: Part 1

 

Battles Between Brothers

Today’s post stems from a recent class assignment: Visit a museum, choose a piece of art, and write on it. Carl Rungius titled this work Caribou’s Death Struggle. The two caribou battle to the death, but inadvertently lock horns. Trapped, the victor faces death himself.

When I saw this painting, I immediately thought of Galatians 5:15 (NIV), “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

Holidays bring a great deal of stress with them, especially if you have a fun family, as in dysfunctional. Times that should be celebratory can end in hurt and anger. Let’s see what we can learn from these two caribou.

First, the fight. What caused it? A battle for territory? Possessions? A challenge of leadership? We don’t know. What we do know is that brother battled brother. They should have been on the same side.

Don’t they—and we—struggle enough without fighting each other?

I don’t see this battle as part of God’s intended order.

Not for His caribou.

Certainly not for man.

What’s to be gained from a fight?

The satisfaction of being right? Having the last word? Self-defense?

James 4:1-2 (NIV) reads, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”

Yet, look at what’s to be gained from not engaging in the fight.

Grace. Humility. Brotherhood.

And—we live.

As we head into the holiday season, may this piece challenge us to show patience, mercy, and grace to those relatives who try to lock horns with us.

Workout of the Week: Not-So-Civil War

Memory Verse: Galatians 5:15 (NIV) “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

Meditation Passage: James 4:1-2 (NIV) reads, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”

Just Do It: Disengage.

Farewell, My Friend

Becky Done

One of my dearest friends passed away last Tuesday after a battle with cancer. We made an unlikely pair, Becky and me. She was everything I’m not. Extroverted. Set a Martha Stewart dinner table. Laughed easily while glowing with a deep love for others.

When I first met Becky Done, she struck me as kind of syrupy. That sweetness proved to be anything but artificial. Pure, golden honey, this chick. One of the most Christ-like people I’ve ever known.

Interesting thing about honey, this sticky favorite of Winnie-the-Pooh fame also doubles as an ancient wound treatment. Honey actually combines with the body’s fluids to create hydrogen peroxide, keeping the wound bacteria-free. Becky worked wonders with wounds also. Godly counsel, grace-filled hugs, and intercessory prayer came freely. She wasn’t afraid to get in your face too if you needed it, though I never saw judgment. Ever. She raised your game just by being in the room. She loved fiercely and challenged me to do the same.

But she was also a lot of fun. Honey, for all its healing properties, just tastes good. And there’s no flavor like Becky Done. Eyes sparkling, she would giggle and squeeze your arm, laughing over card games, a funny comment, or something silly the grandkids had done. She could throw a shower with little to no effort, or so it seemed, but then, Becky made every occasion a party.

So, when the first diagnosis came, I was shocked, and, truthfully, unable to grasp why God had permitted this as Becky’s daughter had recently battled breast cancer. When Becky’s cancer returned, I was stunned.

Where was God in this?

He was there. Always had been. Never left her for a moment. Now, they’re sharing a laugh, guacamole (a favorite), and some chips. Anyone can sing God’s praises in the good times. To sing them as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death requires the real stuff. A faith-based relationship rooted in God’s Word. Through her battle and in those painful final weeks, Becky never stopped singing His praises. She sings them still, now face to face.

I love you, my friend. Thank you for teaching me to love better, to love deeper, to love stronger. Give Jesus a hug and I’ll see you when it’s my turn.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants. Psalm 116:15 NIV

The Top 10 Fears God Never Intended You to Have

The Top 10 Fears God Never Intended You To Have

Here’s a list of the top ten fears, courtesy of ABC News:

  1. Social phobias
  2. Open spaces
  3. Heights
  4. Flying
  5. Enclosed spaces
  6. Insects
  7. Snakes
  8. Dogs
  9. Storms
  10. Needles

Psalm 19:9 (NIV) reads, “The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.” The fear of the LORD is designed to:

Proverbs 29:25 tells us that the fear of man is a snare. Look at the Top Ten list. Number 1? Social phobias: fear of man.

All ten can create emotional paralysis.

Yet according to 1 John 4:16-18, the fear of the LORD isn’t really fear at all. It’s love at its purest level, a love that drives out fear.

Fear of the LORD acknowledges God’s omnis: omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience.

It recognizes who He is and who we are.

It inspires deep gratitude for His mercy and our salvation.

It opens our eyes to the truth.

And calls us to walk in it.

Workout for the Week: Fear of the LORD

Memory Verse: Psalm 19:9 (NIV) “The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.”

Meditation Passage: 1 John 4:16-18

Just Do It: Cultivate a fear of the LORD.

Green Eggs and the Great I Am

Green Eggs and the Great I Am

I love the book Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. Sam I am pesters a poor unsuspecting fellow to try green eggs and ham. Sam hammers the guy with question after question, “Would you eat them in a box? Would you eat them with a fox?”

So I have some questions for you.

If God grew silent and your prayers went unanswered, could you, would you still pray?

If God removed the sense of His presence, could you, would you still worship?

If verses stopped jumping off the page, could you, would you still read God’s word?

If everyone around you talked about God like He spoke audibly, every day, but you don’t hear a thing, could you, would you still listen?

If everyone around you received a prophetic word, and you didn’t, could you, would you still trust that God has a plan for you?

If everyone around you spoke in tongues, and you didn’t, could you, would you still believe your value equals theirs? That you’re not a second-class spiritual citizen?

Could you, would you stand on faith, the word of God, and nothing more?

Could you? Would you?

For the Great I Am, I could. I would.

And many times, I do. You can too.

Workout of the Week: Green Eggs and the Great I Am

Memory Verse: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:11 NIV

Meditation Passage: Psalm 23

Just Do It: Stand firm in your faith.

A Dragon in the Mix

A Dragon in the Mix

Have you included the dragon in your calculations?

He’s near, you know, roaming, searching. (1 Peter 5:8)

Train this dragon? Forget it. He’s not interested in serving. He’s out to get you—in any way he can.

Compromise.

Rationalize.

Desensitize.

He’ll steal your blessings, kill your desire for God, and destroy your family. (John 10:10)

Clever.

Subtle.

Crafty.

He looks for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

He sifts you like wheat. (Luke 22:31)

He masquerades as an angel of light. (2 Cor. 11:14)

He rules the kingdom of the air, twisting words as they travel from one to another. (Eph. 2:2)

He is an, no, the ancient evil.

On your own, you don’t stand a chance against him or his tribe.

But you serve the dragon slayer. Daniel 2:22 (NIV) says, “He [God] reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells in him.”

Hidden things.

Masked ones.

Dark beings.

God knows where Satan lives and exposes the dragon for what he is. A liar and a murderer. (John 8:42-47)

His fate has been determined. (Rev. 20:10)

But until then . . . have you included the dragon in your calculations?

Workout of the Week: A Dragon in the Mix

Memory Verse: Chose one from above.

Meditation Passage: Rev. 20:7-10

Just Do It: Calculate your plans with the dragon in mind.