Be On Guard

Have you ever read something that just seemed like good practical advice? It was words you could live by without giving much thought or effort? Until something happens and you find those words aren’t as easy to live by as you thought. Then what? What do you do when you find yourself caught in an unexpected situation? How do you handle it?

Sometimes we just have to go back to the basics of living and follow sound advice. It always helps if the advice we look to is solid biblical teaching.

The Bible is full of sound teaching. Plain old good advice. Verse after verse tells us that we must live godly lives. It also tells us how to live a godly life. We must put away childish behavior and grow strong in our faith. Some of the advice will convict us to change our words, behavior and attitudes. There are the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:3-17). And the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). The book of Proverbs is full of encouraging, challenging and rewarding words.

Be on guard. Be alert. Be aware of your surroundings. Is evil present? Should you walk away? Be aware of your weaknesses and temptations. When in doubt, don’t. Watch out for the enemy who prowls around watching for someone to devour. Put on the full armor of God, so you can stand against the devil’s plots.

Stand firm in the faith. Don’t budge when tempted to do or say something you know is wrong. Sin will take you down a path you never meant to walk on. So put on that full armor of God every day. Tighten the buckle of faith. Don’t be wishy washy with your beliefs. Know your convictions and hold to them. Don’t be bullied into something without weighing the cost. Don’t fall prey to watered down spiritual teachings. Know the truth and live it.

You have the Host of heaven’s armies on your side. He’s fighting for you. So fight for him. Fight for truth and honor.

If you are a child of God, then you are a soldier. You are fighting an enemy who wants you and all of you. Can you identify the enemy?


Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. Do everything with love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14


Be courageous. Heroes are bold and strong. They stand for what they believe. Say no to the enemy of your soul. Just be warned. The enemy may look beautiful at times. Or taste very sweet. The enemy may flash dollar signs and promise untold wealth. Speak boldly the words of truth and correction. Don’t be shy about saying hard things. Be speak kindly. Act mature. Don’t be foolish in the things you say and do. Don’t be a wimp when someone insults you. Be bold. Take responsibility for your words and actions. Just grow up in your faith. Don’t become stagnant.

Be strong. Strength takes work and effort. Perseverance. Strength is born through consistent training. Anyone can be weak. Most are. But true strength comes from battling your worst enemy and conquering your temptations. Satan himself is the enemy of your soul. If someone can learn to bench press 250 pounds, then they can learn the word of God. Nothing is impossible with God.

When your faith is tested, stand strong. Speak words of truth. Don’t fall prey to the enemy’s advances. God is an ever present help in times of trouble. Trust him and hold tightly to his mighty hand.

Do everything in love. Treat others like you want to be treated. Be kind. Don’t cause trouble. Speak truth but speak in love. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try walking their road of life. Lend a hand. Smile at a stranger. You don’t have to agree with everyone, but be kind when there are differing opinions. Be respectful. Honor those who have gone before you. Be attentive to those who come behind, for they are watching and listening.

God’s Word is a useful tool for everyday living. Spend time there every day. You will be surprised at some of the historical events. But lessons can be learned from all situations in life. God is faithful. He will direct our lives if only we allow him. But first, we have to know him. We must take the time and effort to build a close relationship with him. Let’s be uncommon people in a common world.

Your Choice

The Israelites had been wandering in the desert for 40 years. They had left Egypt in a hurry one night, escaping from Pharaoh who had been holding them in slavery for four hundred years. God delivered them and promised a new home for them. But after they left Egypt, they disobeyed God.

What should have been an eleven day journey took 40 years. Oh. This people didn’t just disobey God once. It became a thing. It wasn’t necessarily that everyone disobeyed God all the time. But there were grumblings in the camp. There was rebellion. Distrust. They broke God’s laws. They were people being selfish people. They made gods out of gold and worshiped them. They didn’t trust God. They trusted themselves more than they trusted God.

So God used that 40 years to humble his people. They were dependent on him for their daily food. Their clothes didn’t wear out and their feet didn’t blister and swell. He tested their character to see if they would obey his commands.

Obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him. Deuteronomy 8:6

God gave the Israelites a choice as they were preparing to enter Canaan.  The promised land. He reminded them of how he had provided for them for the past 40 years. Were those 40 years a waste? After all, it was just a few days journey from Egypt to Canaan. But because the people disobeyed God, their punishment was to wander around in the desert for 40 years. 40 years. That’s an entire generation.

And that generation had to die off before their children were allowed to enter the promised land.

So here they were. Ready to step over into victory. The much awaited and promised land flowing with milk and honey. Ready for the taking. It was theirs.

God reminded them of his miracles and provision and promises. He told them to repeat those stories to their children, because their kids had not lived through those experiences. Those kids had not seen God work mighty miracles. They had heard but they hadn’t seen.

God was faithful to his chosen people. He reminded them that he would continue to be faithful to them if they were faithful to him. They had to choose. A life of obedience to God. Or a life of disobedience. It was their choice.

Read the full story in Deuteronomy 8.


Choose today whom you will serve. But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord . Joshua 24:15


God plainly told them what their lives would be like in this new land. Canaan. The promised land. It is a land of plentiful food and a place where nothing is lacking. Did you catch that? Nothing is lacking. They had hit pay dirt. Their ship had come in. The luck of the draw was on their side. But it was all because of God’s provision and mercy that they were entering this new territory.

God told them exactly what to expect and he gave them a warning. These people who hadn’t changed clothes in 40 years were about to become prosperous. They would lack nothing. God warned them to be careful and not forget him and his commands. Oh. He told them straight out that they would want for nothing. They would build fine homes. They would find copper and iron, pomegranates and olive oil. Honey, fig trees and grapevines were theirs for the taking. God warned them that in their time of plenty not to forget him. He told them not to become proud.

It shouldn’t have been a tough decision. He was offering them a lifetime of goodness if they followed his commands. Why would they choose any other way? It seems such a simple decision.

What does a person who’s never had wealth do when all of a sudden it’s laid at their feet?

God warned the Israelites, his chosen people, that they would be destroyed if they disobeyed him. If they followed and worshiped other gods, God would not be on their side.

God won’t honor disobedience. He wants our whole hearts. Our entire lives. Our souls. Our minds. Our strength. He wants all of our being.

But then. As humans, we sometimes think we know better than God does. We think we’re smarter. Our way is better. Or we’re tired of waiting on God, because he is sometimes really slow. And we’re in a hurry. So we make a decision. Or we do the thing. Or we worship a false god. All in the name of free will. We want what we want when we want it and we want it our way. Right now. Do or die, we’re going to get what we want. Just try to stop me. We say. So forget anything or anyone who stands in our way. We become our own god.

That’s what God was trying to keep his favorite people from doing. Because they had walked down that sinful path too many times before. 

I wonder. This year has us at a crossroads. The times are changing. Can’t you feel the tide shifting? Suspense is in the air. We have a choice. Fight for God or fight against him. Now is the time to stand for truth. Biblical truth. It should be a simple choice. God’s way or my way. It’s your choice. What do you choose?

The Gift of Obedience

It’s a comfortable life she has. Money to buy the things she wants. She travels a little. Has a great family. Oh. Life isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good. She loves God. She wants to obey him. She has taught her kids to trust God. To depend on him. To call on him in times of need. To thank him for his goodness.

God has gifted her with talents. A love for others. A listening ear. A gentle heart. He has showered her with friends. He has provided for her needs. He has rescued her from difficulties. He loves her.

God has asked certain things of her. She knows it. But she struggles to obey.

I wonder why it’s so hard for her to obey. To do the simple things he’s asking of her. I’m so quick to judge. I think of what he’s asking of me. It’s also simple things.  Trust. Obey. He’s not asking me to move a mountain. Or to move to Timbuktu. He’s asking me to stay put when I look to move. Why can’t I just trust him when he says I’m equipped where I am? Why is it so hard for me? Why do I seek what isn’t best for me?

I know he loves me regardless of what I do or don’t do. He wants more of me than I think I can give.  All or nothing.  Hot or cold. Don’t be lukewarm. 
It sounds so easy. 

When did we start believing that God wants to send us to safe places to do easy things? That faithfulness is holding the fort? That playing it safe is safe? That there is any greater privilege than sacrifice? That radical is anything but normal? -Mark Batterson

He’s right. You know. God doesn’t ask us to play it safe in our relationship with him. He asks us to go deeper into knowing him. To move out of our comfort zone and really live through him. He wants us to go all in.

When we are powerless to do a thing, it is a great joy that we can come and step inside the ability of Jesus. -Corrie ten Boom

Why do I try to twist his request to suit my plans? Why do I stall for time hoping he’ll change his mind? Has God ever said that my ways are better than his?


But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice. Luke 11:28


What if Zacchaeus hadn’t climbed down from the tree when Jesus called him by name? Look at what he would have missed. This hated tax collector chose to come clean on the way he acquired his wealth and return money that wasn’t his. He chose to follow the unknown path of obeying Jesus.

What if the rich young man who was asked by Jesus to give up his wealth and comfortable life had actually obeyed? What other riches and blessings would he have received? He was already obeying the laws, but there was one thing he wasn’t doing. He willingly chose to keep his comfortable life instead of surrendering to Jesus. He’ll never know what he lost.

Comfort and complacency are never safe. It’s stagnant. It isn’t growth. I’m preaching to myself here.

Saying yes to God requires a sacrifice on my part. I will have to give up my comfort and convenience. But look what I gain. Perseverance. Growth. Peace. And so much more. I wonder what I’m giving up by choosing the path of comfort and convenience. Is it worth it? If I allow God to stretch me and use me as he wants, what can go wrong with that? Oh. I may be ridiculed. I may be mocked. I may be an outcast. I may be persecuted. But in the end I won’t lose.

Obedience. That’s the name of the game. Trust. That’s the art of letting go. Sounds so simple. So easy. But not knowing what’s ahead. What’s behind the door that’s ready to be opened. It can be daunting. It could be the best time of my life. And I’m willing to miss it just for the sake of playing it safe? Really? But I won’t know what’s on the other side of that door of obedience unless I walk through it.

To Tell the Truth

She’s new on the job. It’s her second week. She’s deep in the throes of training. She got the job because her friend works there. So she’s in. She’s in the cool girls group already. She didn’t have to earn a spot. She just showed up the first day and took her place. Oh. If only life was so easy for everyone.

But I’ve heard rumors. I’ve noticed things. She has a flaw that could prove very harmful down the road. Once she’s on her own doing this job, she’s going to have trouble if she doesn’t pay attention. Literally. She sits in training glued to her phone. Texting. Back and forth with I don’t know who. Sure. She has kids. But I’m sure she doesn’t micromanage them or their sitter all day every day. Does she? So then. Who is she texting? What is more important than paying attention and learning this new job? Beats me.

I mentioned this to a friend. They gave me a good word of advice. Someone needs to set her straight early on. If no one does, then she will think that what she’s doing is acceptable. I agree. I just don’t feel called to share that message with her. So I’m in a quandary. I want to say something to her. I really do. Well. I want someone to say something to her. Just not me. I’m not sure it’s my place to do so. How do I know if I should be the one to break the news that she’s setting herself up for trouble, when I have no authority to say those things?


Do to others as you would like them to do to you. Luke 6:31


Who wants to be the bearer of bad news? Who wants to give criticism to someone else, even if it is constructive? Who ever wants to provide feedback when it isn’t positive? Certainly not me.

But what if the feedback is the truth? Wouldn’t she want to hear it from someone who isn’t going to berate her? Wouldn’t she prefer it to come from a friendly face instead of from someone who might hold it against her for a very long time? Wouldn’t she rather know now than wait until she’s too far in to be told? Wouldn’t she wonder why no one ever said anything?

Wouldn’t I?

Oh. She might be grateful for the advice. Who knows. She may think I’m crazy. She may run to her group of cool girls and throw some shade my way. Should I care? I know those cool girls already talk about others. I’m sure I’m a regular topic of conversation with them.

I think of Jonah. He was in a similar predicament. Only his included eternal circumstances. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and announce God’s judgment on the city. The people of Nineveh were wicked and had turned their backs on God. It was time to repent or die.

That would be a tough message to share with people you didn’t know. How would they respond? Would they kick him out or kill him?

Jonah didn’t want to share the bad news, so he ran in the opposite direction. No way was he going to tell an entire city that they were going to be destroyed. Not Jonah. He was asked to do a very difficult job, and he said no. He was reluctant to obey God, because he didn’t know how his message would be accepted. He also didn’t seem to mind if the city was destroyed or not.

Of course. He did end up going to Nineveh. He took the long way there. He did share God’s message. And the people of Nineveh repented and turned to God.

I have to ask myself. Do I care what happens to my coworker? Do I want her to succeed at her new job? Do I want what’s best for her, instead of what’s easy for me? How would I want to be treated if I were in her place?

Above All Else

God knew David. He knew the good. the bad. the ugly. God called David a man after his own heart. Even when David sinned. And he sinned badly. But what sin is good? But oh. David stole someone else’s wife. She became pregnant. So he had the husband killed. Lust. Adultery. Premeditated murder. And after all that, God still said that David was a man after God’s own heart.

And God was right. He always is. David is the only person who God says is a man after his own heart. For God knew that David would always do what God wanted him to do. Read it for yourself.

God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’’ Acts 13:22

To be the only one God mentions in that way says something. Oh. God knows everything. So he knows. He knows the intentions of your heart. Even before you do.

God knows if you will do everything he wants you to do.

I have to ask myself. Do I have a heart that runs after God? Do I seek him above all else? Where do my interests lie? Will I do everything God wants me to? Is it even possible? I mean. I want to. But. What are the choices here?

Oh sure. David was human. He messed up multiple times. He did things out of turn. But every time he found himself outside of God’s graces, he admitted it and ran back to God. He was God’s and God was his. No matter what. David served only one God.

Oh. David had his faults. But he had strengths that continued to draw him to God. He was loyal. He loved fiercely. He was humble. He was honest. He had inner strength. He took risks. He served only one God. He spent time alone with God.


How great you are, O Sovereign Lord ! There is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you! 2 Samuel 7:22


There is something for us to consider.  When we fail.  When we disobey God.  When our sins are made known to us.  Who do we run to?  What god do we turn to?  Do we automatically run back to the God of the universe?  Or do we run to the god of the credit card?  Or the god of the bottle? Or the god of the trashy novels?  Or whatever that fake god is we run to to soothe our hurting hearts.

And does it work? That running to false gods? Does it take the pain away? Does it solve the problem? Does it lessen the anxiety? Does it pay the debt? Does it heal the relationship? Does it remove the sadness and unloved feelings?

If you’re not running after God’s own heart, then whose heart are you running after?  Your own?  Most likely.  Who else’s heart would you turn to?

Where could I run to?
Where could I go?

Even then. There is a choice to make. We can always choose to run back to God even after we’ve run far from him. Even when we’ve committed those sins that break us. Even when we’ve hurt others and ourselves. God continues to love us and beckon us back. We can choose to have a heart for God. We can choose to run back to him. We can choose to do everything God asks us to do. We can.


A Year in the Life

I remember the day well. It started out the same as most work days. But before that work day was over, my work was over. I saw the email. It was from HR. Can you come to my office? As I walked past my boss’s desk, I noticed she wasn’t there. Red flags sprang up all around me. I knew what I didn’t want to know. My job was over.

I sat in that office hearing the news. I’m sorry. Your job has been eliminated. You don’t have the skill set that we’re looking for. You’ve done nothing wrong. But we no longer want or need you.

Crushing. Heartbreaking. Humiliating. I packed up my belongings and walked out the front door. Never to return. At my age I wondered. Would I ever work again?


If God is for us, who can ever be against us. Romans 8:31


I’ve learned a lot about myself since that day. I’ve learned a lot more about God. I’ve learned that he never leaves me. I’ve learned that he loves me so much. whether I’m employed or not. I’ve learned that he will take care of me. He’ll provide for all of my needs. I already knew all those things about God. But he proved himself time and again.

The thing is. I did get another job. Five months later. And this job has kept me close to God. This is not the job I would have chosen for myself. But it’s the job God has chosen for me. So I go every day. I do the job. Oh. I pray a lot. I need God to help me do this job he’s chosen for me. And he is. He always shows up to work on time. He strengthens me. He equips me to do the work. He calms my fears.

New ones have come after me. They ask the same haunting questions I once asked. Can I do this? Will I be able to learn all the complicated steps? I assure them that yes. Yes they will.

I’ve struggled with this job. I’ve wanted to run the other way and never look back. But I hold on. For one reason only. God has placed me here and God will release me in his time.

Through this past year, I’ve learned to trust God in all things. He has said he would empower me. And he has. He has said I am equipped for the job. And I’ve found that I am. He has shown his love to me in so many ways I cannot comprehend. He has proven so faithful. His promises are true.

I’ve learned that God is for me. Not against me. I’ve learned that he fights for me. He is my stronghold. He never lets go of me. He is the Almighty God in my little corner of the universe.

The Act of Obedience

Obedience is a long slow path to eternity.  It’s not always easy when I’m asked to do something out of my comfort zone. Or if I’m asked to stop doing something I enjoy. But oh. It should be an easy act. This obedience. When I think of who I’m obeying. And why I’m obeying. 

Oh. I obeyed my parents as a child. I’m a rule follower. I like having boundaries. Call me odd. But that’s when I’m at my best.  I’m at my best until I want my way. I want the discomfort to end. I want the rewards to kick in. I want out of the situation. And God has other plans. Or his timing is slower than mine. 

I always have a choice. Walk my path. Which seems quicker and easier. Or wait for God to move. After all, a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day. All in God’s timing. But what if my timeline is shorter than a thousand years? Do I continue to wait? Or do I forge ahead on my own?

There’s an old hymn that I love. Trust and obey. For there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.

So I’m waiting. And I’m uncomfortable. And I don’t like it. But I’m at peace. I’m at peace with myself and with God.

Oh. I weigh my options. I may be faced with surprising choices at some point. But for today, I’m where God has placed me. So I sit and wait. Oh. I’m not doing nothing. I’m praying like I’ve never prayed before. I’m reading God’s word. I’m searching for answers. 

He’s telling me to trust and obey. For there’s no other way.


Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. Jeremiah 17:7


When I think of the consequences of disobedience, it’s an easy decision. As long as my head and heart stay in God’s word. Listening for his voice. Because if I don’t stay close to the lover of my soul, the hater of my soul will sneak in to catch me unaware.

Obedience is a daily act. A surrender of my will. A relinquishing of my wants to the divine will of God. It’s a bowing in submission and letting go of all I want. Of who I am. It’s a full surrender of all of me. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Oh. It’s big. It takes all I have at times. But when I consider the cost of disobedience, it’s an easy surrender. 

I have to ask myself. Do I trust God? Do I have confidence in him? Do I believe he will keep his promises? After all, he never lies. He does what is best for me. His timing is perfect. He is with me every step of the way. So I have to trust him, even if I can’t see the path ahead. I have to believe that he will see me through to the end. I do have confidence in Him. Why would I consider doubting Him?

Trust and obey. For there’s no other way.

 

Just Say No

I read her book. She was taught right from wrong. And she followed biblical principles. Life was good. But one bad decision led to another bad decision. Her life began to spiral downward. Then one night, she found herself making a decision to do something she knew was wrong. But oh. It felt so right. In the moment, it felt so right. So she did it.

Now she thinks nothing of doing that thing which once seemed so wrong. The thing she once would have never done, she began doing in secret. Now it’s her lifestyle. She’s living a life she once vowed never to live.

Just because something feels right in the moment doesn’t make it right. It’s easy to ignore a prick of the conscience in the moment. It’s the later regrets that are harder to set aside. The self chiding. The self inflicted shame and loathing. But then it’s too late to go back and undo what’s been. It’s too late to unsay those words. 

So why do it? Why say it? Those things that will later become regrets. Why not turn from them while there’s still time? Why not live so close to God that you immediately turn the other way when sin approaches? Just because you hear a knock on the door doesn’t mean you have to answer it. 

Oh. It’s true. We’re human. We’re going to mess up from time to time. We’re going to fall short of our goal. But if we habitually do it, that tells another story.  


You have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. Romans 8:12


How do we go wrong? How do we suddenly choose to go to the other side? How do we wake up one day and realize we’re in a place we thought we would never be? How did we get there? Oh. It isn’t a sudden choice. We let down our defenses. We lower our standards. We stop looking to the One who guides us.

How does a believer stay true to their beliefs when opportunities to choose another path surround us?

I ask because I want to make sure I’m always listening for God’s voice. Oh. Sometimes He leads me in paths that are not my choosing. But I must follow the path He chooses. Or else I would be sinning.

Even Jesus was tempted by Satan.  Satan tried to woo him away from his beliefs, but Jesus’ faith held strong. Satan tempted Jesus when he was physically weak from fasting. But he had the inner strength to resist.  He said no.  He quoted Scripture to Satan and resisted. We can do the same when Satan tries to tempt us to do wrong.  to step out of the will of God.  We can resist.  We can turn Satan away by quoting Scripture and telling him to leave. We can stand firm in our faith.  

Disobedience to God doesn’t always have to be some big ugly public act. It may be an act of private defiance or selfishness that only God sees. A work of the inner heart. Going when God says stay. Or staying when God says go. It doesn’t have to be a sin that puts you in the public eye.

Discontentment sets in where peace once reigned. All because the grass looked greener on the other side. Or perhaps wanting became a hot pursuit in a never ending cycle. And we couldn’t stop with what we had. A little more was never enough. Or living on the edge is more exciting than obedience. 

We can’t have it both ways. Either we’re pursuing a holy life or we’re not. Which is it?

At some point, we have to ask ourselves. Am I living in the grip of sin? I don’t want to. I know that. But how do I make sure I’m always out of sin’s beck and call? John Piper says that fighting sin is mortal combat. I agree. We’re in a fight for our souls. We’re not fighting flesh and blood. We’re fighting against evil rulers of the unseen world. Oh. It may seem that we’re fighting individuals, at times. But really. It’s a spiritual battle. The truth is. If we’re living as believers, we are not at sin’s beck and call. We can say no.