Sunday, September 30, 2018

My Prayer Door

"The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective."  
James 5:16

"When a believing person prays, GREAT things happen",  my good friend Max Lucado reminds us. 

A few years ago, we needed a new front door.  Our existing door was warped from standing in water for a day or two and was currently being held shut by a single concrete block.  Our contractor insisted it couldn't be repaired and must be replaced.  The problem was, there wasn't enough money in the budget for a new front door.  

Day and night, I thought about that door.  I researched...I double checked the bank account...I scoured the internet for deals, even found the perfect door, but it wasn't financially feasible to purchase it.  One day my wise husband finally suggested, "Why don't we pray about it?" to which I remember responding, "Has it come to that?"

For some reason, we have it in our heads that God considers our less-than-tragic issues unworthy of His time. We act like we have a certain quantity of prayer requests we can ask for and we don't want to "waste" any of our prayers on something less than huge.  Praying for a new front door seemed like a crazy thing to pray about and a true waste of God's time when I had bigger fish to fry with Him.  But we did as my husband suggested.  We prayed our Father would bring us a new front door, if this was His will.

After a few weeks, our new wood floors were installed and we headed to Dallas to return the left-over flooring back to the store.  I counted as we loaded the boxes into our van...a total of 15....and knew I would also be required to pay a 20% restocking fee. I mentally calculated the anticipated refund in hopes we could come close to affording that new door.  As they unloaded the boxes out of our van at the store, they unloaded 18 boxes.  I had them recount.  I knew we loaded 15 boxes...I had counted it three times in the driveway before leaving....but somewhere between Mt. Vernon and Dallas, we gained 3 extra boxes of wood flooring.  When I went to finalize the credit, there was a note on the register from the manager saying, "I'm waiving the 20% restocking fee for Ms. Etheridge".  As they rang up the total credit, it shockingly came up to the EXACT amount of the door we had wanted.  Not a penny off.

Tears of joy were pushing their way down my cheek as I walked out the door of the flooring store, credit receipt in hand and feeling the intense power of prayer I had just witnessed.  "When a believing person prays, GREAT things do, indeed, happen."  Amen.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Tug-A-War With Satan

"Humble (submit) yourselves to God.
Resist the devil and he will flee from you."
James 4:7

Do you believe these words?  Have you found yourself kneeling beside your bed praying (begging) for God to remove the devil from your life?  Good gracious, I have approximately 589,450 times.  But before we can ask God to zap the devil, there's one little thing we need to do first:  Read the verse again.  Did you skip over it the first time?  "Humble yourself, Liz (this is where we all place OUR name in this scripture), to God."

See, I prefer to think that our submission to God....IS our resistance to the devil.

Have you ever played the game Tug-A-War?  I love this game although I'm awful at it.  The object is to put everything you have into pulling the center of the rope to you and away from the opposing team.  The more you "pull into" the rope, the better chance you have in moving that center towards you.  Satan loves the game of Tug-A-War too, but he plays it with our daily activities....putting things on the sidelines that distract us....saying hurtful, personal things to us while he's pulling the rope (us) closer to him which makes us insecure about ourselves, makes us weaker,  and is a constant reminder that he's stronger than we are...or so he wants us to think.  What he desperately doesn't want you to know is.....pulling into God IS pulling away from the enemy.

We spend a lot of time and energy trying to defeat the enemy....working to not let him win....when actually, our time would be better spent pulling the rope (ourselves) into God instead.    Our victory is in allowing God's presence to occupy space within us and be the muscle that wins the Tug-A-War battle with Satan.  

Give it a'll win every time!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Tell Your Heart To Beat Again

This week just completed the 17th year of 9-11 memories.
You're shattered like you've never been before
The life you a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short at times like these
This world drives you to your knees
You think you'll never get back
To the you, you used to be
Who of us walked through this week without remembering all the families torn apart by hate 17 years ago?  Hate.  Hate for the lives of Americans.....Hate for what we stand for....Hate for the life we live....Hate.  Pure evil.  Satan-Hate. 
Tell your heart to beat again...
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Yesterday is a closing door
You don't live there anymore
We all remember exactly where we were....what we were doing....everything about that day....a fear most of us have never felt before in the deepest parts of our gut.  And isn't that what the enemy had hoped for?  Wasn't that their goal?  But that event also turned a lot of people's hearts towards God......unfortunately, for many, it was short lived and temporary.  Sometimes I feel like we Christians aren't much different from the Children of Israel.  Living our lives for ME....and when tragedy happens, we go running back to God.  In no time at all, we forget the reason we ran into His open arms in the first place.  We go back to our old lives .....our old ways....and we pull away from His arms until the next tragedy happens and then we go running back to Him once again.  Isn't that what the Israelites did time after time after time?  Oh how that must grieve His heart.....
Loves healing hands have pulled you through
So get back up and take step one
Leave the darkness and feel the sun
Cause your story is far from over
Your journey has just begun*

And if you still have breath in your lungs and a beat in your heart, your story is indeed far from over.  Remember the person you were right after this tragedy and place God first once again.  Make sure He is above your family, above your job, above your house, above your car and yes, above your shopping addiction.  He paid too high a price to be anywhere in your life but first.  

May we all run back into His waiting arms and never let Him go.

*Song, "Tell Your Heart To Beat Again"

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Big Deal About Partiality

The Big Deal About Partiality

"There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others."  
James 2:13

Two visiting families walk through the doors of a church at the same time.  One family wearing their Sunday best, pressed and clean...while the other also wearing their Sunday best, but theirs wrinkled and stained, noticeably purchased from the rack at Goodwill.  Be honest.  Which family do we extend our hand to first?  Which family do we give a tour of the church to, and usher to the best seats in the sanctuary?  Which family do we want to be seen sitting next to?  And which family are we most eager to have join our church? 

Why would we favor one family over the other?  We like to say the ground is level at the foot of the cross, but it's not always level in the church, is it?  We tend to favor people with money and influence because we think they can help us reach our goals and make us look better when we stand next to them.  But James kindly reminds us.....

"Hasn't God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith?  
Aren't they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom He promised to those who love Him? 
James 2:5

Interestingly enough, when God chooses members of His team, He usually starts with the poor.  

There's a fictional story about a new pastor who arrived at church dressed as a homeless man his first-week preaching.  Since no one had met the new pastor, he could mingle unrecognized with the congregation before the service.  He watched the reaction of his new congregation to him as a dirty, stinky homeless-looking man and saw how, although the church was full, he found himself sitting alone.  He greeted people only to be greeted with stares and dirty looks in return.  The time came for the elders to introduce the new pastor to the church.  The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The new homeless-man-in-disguise pastor, started walking down the aisle.  The clapping stopped with all eyes on him as he walked up to the podium, took the microphone, and quoted James 2:8 to his new congregation, "You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: "Love others as you love yourself."  

Friends, being a Christian is more than something you claim.  It's something you live by and share with others.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Satan Wants To Neutralize You

"Let me be, (insert your name here), represent a challenge to Satan's plan.  
You carry something of God within you, something noble and holy, something the world needs 
- wisdom, kindness, mercy, skill."
Max Lucado

Have you ever wondered why Satan would mess with a Christian?  I mean, if we are promised in John 10:28 that "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand", why would Satan waste his time on a Christian?  He knows his time to gather followers here on earth is short, so why would he spend what little time he has on something he can't have...Christians?  

"If Satan can neutralize you, he can mute your influence."

Awww, there it is...thank you, Max Lucado, for pointing out the obvious.  When pain and strife continue to smack you in the face....when darkness falls all around you....when evil is creeping into the crevices of your soul, remember; if Satan can scare, discourage, depress and quiet you, he can STOP your influence. 

It's a clever plan, really.....using shipwrecks in our stop our voices.  But as Christians, we know its these shipwrecks we have survived, that can be the very life preserver that saves others.  When we make it to the shore after our lives have crashed against the rocks, we are only then able to help resuscitate those in the throes of their own shipwreck. 

Nothing explains this better than the story of Job.  Job's friends were the kind of friends we often are if we haven't suffered - they are more interested in explaining his plight to him than sitting with him in it.  They're incapable of the compassion that would demand them to suffer with him.  Because they themselves had not sat in the dirt of despair as Job had.

Don't let a shipwreck moment in your life go to waste.  Use it.  Tell others about it.  Be vulnerable and wrap the life preserver of compassion and understanding around those who find themselves sinking from their own shipwreck.  

You were help rescue others.