Even Now, It IS the Day Before

Sunrise Day Before

I have nothing to say.
Usually, when I write my blog, I am bursting with an idea.
A truth that God has laid on my heart to share.
A funny story that has a spiritual application.
Or a piece of Scripture that is resonating in my heart.

Today, I have no one thing that is just leaping out of my brain and on to the page.
But I do have one idea that I am holding on to for dear life.
That, no matter what my circumstances look like today, it is the day before.

I initially wrote this blog in January of 2016. I modified it slightly today. But it still holds true. I need to live EVERY day like it is “The Day Before”.

The day before…

The day before God showed up in a burning bush Moses had done the same thing he did for 40 years – keep sheep in the wilderness.

The day before David was anointed to be the next King of Israel he was just a boy, out in the fields, tending the sheep.

The day before he killed Goliath he was just the kid brother sent by his father to check on the older boys at war.

The day before Mary found out she was to be the mother of God she was just a girl dreaming of her new life with her fiancé.

The day before Jesus healed the lepers, the lame, and the blind they had been in the same state that they had been in for days, months, years – outcast, crippled, disabled, “other”.

The day before Jesus was crucified the disciples thought it was going to be another Passover like the decades of Passovers they had celebrated before.

The day before Jesus rose the disciples were grief stricken and shocked, just as they had been since Thursday night.

The day before Jesus returns will be just like any other – shopping, eating, drinking, working out, going to work – and then it will all be over.

God is the God of surprise, and of the miraculous intervention!
When His time is right, nothing can stop the forward movement of what He intends to do.
His plans cannot be thwarted.
The question is, am I on board with God?
In step with God?

Careful to obey?
Careful to follow?
Letting His Spirit guide my life?
Letting His Word be the bottom line by which I live?

Because I have the freedom to make the choice to not follow, not believe, not love, not seek God.
The day before David seduced Bathsheba, he was a bored king in an empty palace because he had sent men to war instead of going himself.

The day before Cain killed Abel, he was a jealous older brother, bothered by the fact that God had not accepted his offering.

The day before Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it he was a weary leader, frustrated by the constant unbelief and complaining of his people.

The day before Peter denied ever knowing Jesus, he was a cocky, self-sure man, certain of his own faithfulness.

The day before Aaron made the golden calf for the people to worship, he was a worried older brother, wondering what was taking Moses so long on the mountain.

So today may be an “ordinary” day.
Or as ordinary as days get in these extraordinary days.

But it is a day where I must choose one way or the other.
Just like I MUST choose every day. Regardless of my circumstances.  How the world has changed.  How I feel.  Those things do not matter.  What matters is what I choose today.

Do I live today full out for God, expectant about the ways He is going to work, fully trusting Him, eager to obey?

Do I live today saturated in God’s Word and prayer so that I will know the lies of the enemy when I hear them?

Do I live today with my eyes and ears wide open to the spiritual realities around me – knowing that everything – COVID-19, hunger, poverty, politics, race relations, all of my relationships – they are all spiritual battles first before they are anything else?

Do I live today committed to obedience, to keeping short accounts with God?

 

Or do I live today in apathy?

Not praying because I haven’t seen God do what I think He should do?

Not loving others because they don’t behave as I want them to behave?

Not working on behalf of others because of my own self-centeredness?

Not believing because what I need feels impossible?

Not trusting because I am allowing sin to have free reign?

Worrying because I don’t believe God are in control?

Allowing my emotions to run the day rather than Truth?

Following my heart rather than God’s Word?

Feeding a bad attitude because of an injustice rather than forgiving as God forgave?

Believing I know better than God do what is best in my life?

Dragging my feet in obedience or rushing ahead of God because God seem to not be listening?

You see, today is the day before.

Before what, I don’t know.
It could be the day before I blow it big because I yield to temptation.
Or it could be the day before God shows up in an extraordinary way, answering a deep cry of my heart.
It could be the day before Jesus’ return.
Or it could be the day before someone I love chooses to trust God with their eternity because I shared His love with them.

So how will I live THIS day? Because, after all, it is STILL the day before.

The Surrendered Life? or The Solve-It Life?

Solve It
He had only been king for a few years. The years had gone well, although he had started his reign with a fight already on his hands.
He won that battle and the people were glad he was their king.
But now he faced a bigger threat.
A stronger enemy.
That perpetual enemy of Israel, the Philistines.

So King Saul gathered his army and prepared to fight.
The problem was that the Philistine army far outnumbered the Israelites.
And both armies knew it very well.

The other problem was that Saul had very clear instructions from his spiritual leader and guide, Samuel, the prophet:
Wait for me to offer the burnt offering and peace offering before you go to battle.
When I come, I will offer them to God to ask his blessing on this battle.
Your job is to wait.

Samuel was a priest as well as a prophet. King Saul wasn’t either one.

Seven days passed.
The enemy army loomed.
While Saul’s army fled.
Each day men drifted away.
And still Samuel did not come.

And here is where Saul had a choice:
The surrendered life?
Or the solve-it life?

He faced a huge problem.
A looming enemy.
And a dwindling army.
From the human perspective he needed to DO something before things got worse.
But to DO something was to go against God’s command.
Because it was not lawful for him to offer the sacrifices.

A surrendered life meant choosing obedience.
It meant choosing to wait, even though the consequences seemed dire.
It meant looking at life with God’s eyes, not human perspective.

And a solve-it life meant disobedience.
Taking matters into his own hands.
Getting on with things so that no more soldiers fled.
After all, who can win a major battle with just a few men?
God had done it before: Sampson, Gideon, even Abraham had gone into battle with incredible odds stacked against them.
But would he choose to remember God’s faithfulness?
Or would he choose to let fear drive him?

Surrender his problem and his will to God?
Or solve his problem with his own wisdom and ways?

Saul chose to solve the problem.
He offered the sacrifices to God.

And no sooner had he finished, then Samuel showed up.

Here’s how it is recorded in I Samuel 13:
“Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”

Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”

“How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.’”

Unfortunately, that is not the last time that Saul chose the solve-it life over the surrendered one.
You see, he didn’t lose the kingdom immediately.
It happened over time.

But fast-forward to the next fight he had on his hands.
Sometime later, God told him to completely wipe out the Amalekite nation as punishment for their sin.
He very specifically told Saul to not leave anything or anyone alive.

And yet Saul kept the best animals alive.
And he chose to not kill the Amalekite king.

When Samuel arrived, he questioned Saul about the animals he heard.
And Saul claimed he had kept them in order to sacrifice them to the Lord.
But Samuel told him, “To obey is better than sacrifice.”

He also told him God’s message concerning his disobedience: “I am sorry I ever made Saul king.”

Wow.
A solve-it mentality led Saul to lose both his kingdom and God’s favor. Later on in his story, it caused him to lose his mind. He suffered from a “tormenting spirit” that brought on fits of murderous rage and depression.

Because a solve-it mentality is a tidy, cleaned-up way of declaring, “I don’t trust You, God. I don’t believe You are capable of coming through for me. You aren’t fixing this; You can’t fix this; I don’t trust You to have my best interest at heart. So I’ll take care of this mess on my own.”

Solve-it says, “I can’t see, so I better figure out a way to light my path.”
Surrender says, “I can’t see but I will walk by faith.”

Solve-it says, “God couldn’t possibly win this fight, so I better help Him out.”
Surrender says, “God plus nothing is enough to win any battle I might face.”

Solve-it says, “Look at the facts.”
Surrender says, “Look at His face.”

Solve-it says, “Look out for number one.”
Surrender says, “He is the only One whose opinion matters.”

Solve-it says, “God might not come through.”
Surrender says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”

Solve-it says, “God doesn’t know what He is doing.”
Surrender says, “My Creator is certainly qualified to be my King.”

Solve-it says, “You better make a Plan B.”
Surrender says, “God is Plan A. There is no Plan B.”

Solve-it says, “Look at the size of that storm!”
Surrender says, “Look at the size of my God!”

Solve-it always ends in disaster.
If not in the circumstances, always in your heart.
Because Solve-it is a form of idolatry.
Kicking God off the throne.
And installing yourself as your final authority.

But Surrender always ends in victory.
Because sometimes He calms the storm.
And sometimes He calms you.
But either way, you have the peace that passes understanding.
The favor of God.
The promise of heaven because you are trusting Him to save you.
And, in the end, the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” instead of “I’m sorry I ever trusted her with that responsibility.

So which will you live today?
The Solve-It Life?
Or the Surrendered one?
Only you can choose.

I Am a Sheep!

sheep

I am a sheep!

Exhibit A:
When a sheep lies down it must be incredibly careful to not roll onto its back. If it does, gases build up very quickly in its stomach and it dies. This is called being a cast sheep.
But sheep are not known for being careful! They easily can slip from a safe place of rest to a dangerous place of wallowing.

It is so easy for me to become a cast sheep! If I do not guard my heart and my mind, I can allow dangerous, poisonous thoughts to fill me. I can easily slip from rest to wallowing. It is just a matter of where I set my thoughts. Focus on the problems, the things I feel I am lacking, the difficulties and I am “cast” in a very short time. Focus on the Lord, thankful for what He has done in the past and praising Him for His character, resting in His promises for the future and I can stay in a rested posture without slipping into wallowing.

Exhibit B:
If a sheep is left unshorn, the weight of the wool can become dangerous. The wool keeps growing the sheep is unnecessarily burdened. There was the case of Shrek the Sheep that fled shearing and evaded the shepherd for years! By the time he was captured he was almost unrecognizable as a sheep. Plus, his wool was a dirty, matted mess and his burden was far heavier than anything he was ever designed to bear.

When I hold onto THINGS, I am holding onto my wool. When I won’t allow the Good Shepherd to “shear me” of all that I am, all that I have, all that He has given, I become weighted down, a dirty, matted mess. But when I hold all that He has given me with open hands, allowing Him to give and take away as He sees fit, I become a conduit of blessing for others. Just like the sheep regrows the wool after it is shorn, God refills my cup over and over again. It is far healthier for me to be a conduit of blessing than a stagnant pool of gifts He has given.

Exhibit C:
There are so, so many things the sheep has no control over. One of those are the flies that pester it, especially around the face. Some of those flies will lay eggs inside the sheep’s nose if they can – and then the larvae can even go to the brain, killing the sheep. So the shepherd uses a mixture of oil and spices to anoint the head and face of the sheep. This keeps the flies away and the sheep safe.

“He anoints my head with oil.” There are flies of worry, doubt, fear, disbelief, anxiety. They buzz about my face and my head, filling my brain with their incessant noise. But the Good Shepherd has given me the Anointing Oil I need, if I will just apply it! Oil in the Bible is one of the pictures of the Holy Spirit. And as a believer, I have the Holy Spirit of the Living God dwelling in me. It is up to me if I remember that, tap into that, and allow Him to anoint my head with oil. How do I do that? I take every thought captive to Christ. I replace the flies of worry with the oil of praise. I choose to lift my face to the Shepherd instead of turning it down and focusing on me. And He is always, always good to smooth oil on my face, filling me with His Word, His hope, His comfort. He collects my tears in His bottle, according to the Psalms. He does what He tells us to do in Romans – He weeps with me as I weep, He rejoices with me as I rejoice. He is the God of all comfort as Paul called Him for me and He gives me the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness as Isaiah said.

And there are so many more examples of how I am sheep!
I am filled with fear – but He protects me.
I need to be led – but He walks before me, wooing me forward with His voice.
I need to sheepdogs to keep me on the path – He provides goodness and mercy to follow me all the days of my life.
I won’t rest unless I have still waters in my soul – He calms the storm of my heart with a word.
I need green pastures with good food to nourish me – He provides great books, teachers, and ultimately His Word, illuminated by His Spirit.
I need correction – His rod and His staff provide that for me.
I need safety – He is the door to the sheep pen, and He guards my soul.

Yes – I am a sheep.
Prone to wander.
Foolish in my own thinking.
Easily disturbed.
In danger from myself and my enemy.

But He is the GOOD Shepherd.
He laid down His life for me.
And He leads me day by day.
I am His.
And He is mine.

Truly, what more does this wonderfully foolish sheep need?

Defined By The Numbers

Numbers

I don’t have a scale here in Guatemala.
And that is probably a good thing since I can get very, very tied to the number on it.
When it is up, I am down.
When it is down, I am up.
That number has way too much power in defining my sense of worth.
A lower number means I am more valuable.
A higher number means I am less valuable.
A lower number means I am pretty.
A higher number means I am not.
A lower number means I am lovable.
A higher number means I am not.

So, since I moved here last August, I have not had a scale.
Instead, I have been simply been eating well and exercising.
And it has been wonderful.

But then I put a pedometer app on my phone to hold me accountable during these sedentary days.
And it asked for my weight.
So I put in my best guess.
But I was curious, so I got on the scale in the weight room here at school.
And it said that I was 60 pounds lighter than my best guess!
Which, of course, means that scale is broken!
But the jolt of joy it brought my heart was telling.
I knew it wasn’t factual.
But, for a moment, it made my day.

Then I borrowed a scale from a friend because I was even more curious.
And her scale says I am 17 pounds heavier than my best guess!
And my emotions plummeted.
Suddenly I felt much, much heavier and less healthy than I had moments before.
But more than that, I felt way less worthy of love.

But we all do it.
It may not be the number on the scale for you.
It may be the number in your waistband.
Or the number of zeroes in front of the decimal place in your bank account.
It may be the number of children you have.
Or the number of years you have been (or not been) married.
It may be your house number, in the right neighborhood.
Or it may be the number of friends you have on social media.

We all do it.
We all define ourselves by numbers.
And when those numbers are “right”, we are happy.
When they are “wrong”, we are devastated.
Or at least discontented.

But here is what I have learned – and am learning – about numbers of all kinds.
They don’t matter.
In the grand scheme of eternity, they Do. Not. Matter.

My life on earth is so very, very brief compared to eternity.
I MIGHT have 100 years of heartbeats in me.
But when this heart stops beating, real life will have just begun.
And these earthly numbers that we use to measure success, value, and worth will vanish.

When I see Him face to face for the very first time, God will not look at me and say, “How much did you weigh, Kathy?”
He will hold me accountable for how I treated this temple of the Holy Spirit that He gave me as a tool to use for my time on earth.
He will not measure my worth by it.

God will not look at me and say, “What’s your net worth, Kathy?”
He will hold me accountable for how I used the monetary tools he entrusted to me.
But He will not measure my worth by them.

God will not look at me and say, “Where’s your husband and kids, Kathy?”
He will not measure my worth that way, either.

He will not ask me about the number in my waistband or on the door of my house.
He will not ask me about how many Facebook friends I had or how many people followed my blog.
He will not even ask me how many good deeds I did to outweigh the bad.
How many times I went to church.
How often I prayed.
How many times I read through the Bible.
Or how much I put in the offering.
He will not find me worthy of heaven through any of these measures.

He will ask me about ONE thing.
“What did you do with My Son?
Did you accept that He died for you, in your place, because you are a sinner?”
And because my answer is “Yes, I did”, He will allow me into heaven.

My value to Him is not based on a number.
It is not based on what I do or do not do.
It is not based on what I look like or what I have.
Or any of my successes or failures in this life.

It is solely based on His heart for me.
He loves me.
Regardless of my stats, He loves me.
Before I was born, He loved me.
When the scale was much higher, He loved me.
When it has been much lower, He loved me.
When I share my faith and share my wealth and share His Word, He loves me.
And when hoard my faith and hoard my wealth and hoard His Word, He loves me.

Single
Married
With or without kids
Fat
Skinny
Clumsy
Graceful
Gorgeous
Ugly
Fiscally sound
Flat broke
Tons of friends
All alone
Popular and wanted
Socially outcast and alone
Spending time wisely
Wasting time completely

No matter what.
No matter where.
No matter who or when or why or how.

No matter the numbers.
No matter the scale.
No matter how others define me or how I define myself.
He. Loves. Me.

And He offers this same love to all!
To everyone who will receive Him.
ALL

And because He loves me so,
because He gave everything for me,
because He is so good,
I want to please Him.
I want to make wise choices.
Take care of all He has entrusted to me.
And share Him with everyone I meet.

But will that make Him love me more?
Never.
As one songwriter says, “He cannot love me more and He WILL NOT love me less.”

So here is the only number I will use to define myself:

One.

There is one God.
Who loves me like I am the only one He ever made.
Who sent His one Son to die in my place.
So I will give Him this one life that I have.
And I will choose to keep Him in first place, number one in all I do. Say. Am. Have.
Because He is the only One worthy.