Thoughtful Thursday: True Prosperity

True Propserity

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Reconciliation with the Almighty God of this universe is the greatest wealth we can have.

Scripture:

Job 22:21-28

21 “Reconcile yourself with God, and be at peace with him; in this way your prosperity will be good. 22 Accept instruction from his mouth and store up his words in your heart. 23 If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up; if you remove wicked behavior far from your tent, 24 and throw your gold in the dust–your gold of Ophir among the rocks in the ravines– 25 then the Almighty himself will be your gold, and the choicest silver for you. 26 Surely then you will delight yourself in the Almighty, and will lift up your face toward God. 27 You will pray to him and he will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows to him. 28 Whatever you decide on a matter, it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways.” 

I’ve heard of people longing to win the lottery – even going to great lengths on strategies to hopefully help them land the winning number – and end their woes.  Thing is, the people who do win often end up destroying their lives.  What happened?  Wasn’t prosperity the solution to all of their troubles?

Some preachers have taught that world wealth is a given for those who are in Christ. People who are poor by the world’s standards must just not have enough faith to obtain the wealth God planned for them.  I don’t buy it and I have never played the lottery, either.

Like Paul, I have known what it is to be in need and to have an abundance.  In both times, I praised God.  I did not want to forget God when He blessed us, nor did I want to blame Him when we were unemployed and sued into financial woe.  God was faithful through it all. Both circumstances were not easy.

In times of prosperity, materialism, comfort and apathy threatened to woo us into a backslidden, religious state.  In times of financial hardship, we had to adapt and go without. We cried out to God and gained things of value that wealth could never give us.  A deeper walk with Him, a deeper trust in Him as He provided in creative ways, and learning contentment – precious treasure earned in challenging financial ordeals.

My children and I look fondly on the times when we craved food that we could not purchase due to a limited budget, then the LORD impressed on other people’s hearts to bring us that very food.  It was very specific and amazing to see God’s faithfulness in even the smallest of things.

The greatest riches we can ever achieve were given freely to us and can never be lost. Eternal treasures purchased for us by the blood of Christ, the cost for our reconciliation to God.  Nothing compares to this prosperity.

Lord, thank You for giving us Yourself, the most precious gift ever.  Please help us to be a grateful people and to share what You have given to us with the world.

Truthful Tuesday: Relying on our Reliable God

Reliability of God.jpg

Inspirational thought of the day:

Whether or not God give us what we want, His character and faithful promises testify to His reliability at all times.  

Scriptures of the day:

Isaiah 45:19

I have not spoken in secret, in some hidden place. I did not tell Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain!’ I am the LORD, the one who speaks honestly, who makes reliable announcements.

Isaiah 43:12

I have revealed and saved and proclaimed– I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God.

The well-known game of “Trust” in which you close your eyes and blindly trust someone to catch you has been used many times as an illustration or object lesson to demonstrate surrender in a tangible way.

The thing is, people let us down and sometimes we trust only to have people break that trust. As time goes on, we learn to diligently guard our heart but can also begin to get a hard heart that does not let fallible man in.

Jesus did not entrust himself to man, yet He made Himself vulnerable to sinful man and died for him.  He chose the route of humility and unconditional love for a stubborn people who could never return such love on their own.

God has made it obvious that He keeps His word.  He went to extravagant measures to tell His people ahead of time what He was going to do. Every prophesy foretold – fulfilled. Radical deliverance from the parting of the sea to fire from the sky.  Yet His people still doubted.

As a parent, it would hurt deeply if my children did not trust me or my heart toward them. My desire is only for their good and blessing.  What must it do to the heart of God that the people He lavishly chose and called into relationship with himself do not trust Him, despite Him giving His Word and Holy Spirit?

When people promise us something they never fulfill, we have a choice to love and forgive like God did for us.  We fail God over and over again.  Yet He remains faithful.  His example and His Holy Spirit can enable us to be reliable to those around us and help us to rely on Him, as well.

Lord, help us to rely on You at all times instead of trying to find solutions to life’s problems on our own.  

Funny Friday: Faith Sometimes Looks Silly

Radical faith

Isaiah 20:2

“At that time the LORD announced through Isaiah son of Amoz: “Go, remove the sackcloth from your waist and take your sandals off your feet.” He did as instructed and walked around in undergarments and barefoot. 3 Later the LORD explained, “In the same way that my servant Isaiah has walked around in undergarments and barefoot for the past three years, as an object lesson and omen pertaining to Egypt and Cush, 4 so the king of Assyria will lead away the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, both young and old. They will be in undergarments and barefoot, with the buttocks exposed; the Egyptians will be publicly humiliated.”

I don’t know about you, but walking around barefoot in underwear has not typically been what comes to mind when I think about what it means to be a prophet of the LORD.

But God goes through great lengths

to reach His people

and He often calls His followers to do the same.

But why?

Sometimes God calls us to do strange things or allows us to go through difficult times so we will have a passion and an understanding to live fully for Him and to communicate His heart and message to His people.

Noah had to build a boat amidst mockers in a dry land. Joshua had to march around a city and blow a trumpet.  Abraham was told to sacrifice his one heir, his precious son.  Moses was told to go back and demand from the king of the greatest land that their slaves be let go. Jeremiah bought a linen belt God told him to buy, hid it in a crevice then dug it up when it was ruined.   A prophet named Agabus came down from Judea and took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands to prophesy about what Paul would suffer. 

Sometimes we need object lessons to be warned or to wake us up to walk uprightly before God.  While it might seem futile for Jeremiah to bury a belt, the ruined article of clothing demonstrated how the people of God would be ruined if they did not repent and seek God.

While building a boat with no water or rain in sight was possibly embarrassing, it meant the salvation of Noah’s family and ultimately the continuation of the existence of mankind and all of the creatures God created.

Sometimes man can also come up with crazy radical ideologies that have nothing to do with God, but they claim it does, anyway.  The fruit of our behavior identifies where the calling originated from.  Does it bring life or death?

The words of the famous missionary, Jim Elliot, which were echoed by Twila Paris many years later, have been precious to me since I first came to know the LORD in 1988.  “He is no fool if he should choose to give the thing he cannot keep to gain what he can never lose. To see a treasure in one soul that far outshines the brightest gold; he is no fool.”

If God calls us to do something that is not popular or seems foolish to man, perhaps that makes it all the more reason to do it.  To live for Jesus, really live – is to seek to do His will in everything we do.  Sometimes it just won’t make sense.  But that’s ok.  He who chose to come and be born as a baby; King, Creator over all, humbling Himself to be at our level, conquered every heart with the most radical action of all.

Lord, help us to trust You when things don’t make sense.  Every trial we go through has a purpose – we can comfort others when we come out on the other side and bring You glory. May we be sensitive to Your calling and never doubt Your goodness.  Love You, Lord!

Worshipful Wednesday: My Healer

Psalm 30:2

“O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.”

I am overcome today with praise for my Jehovah Rapha, the LORD Who heals me.  This morning when I awoke I realized I did not have the normal pain that has been my close companion for years. Actually, the pain has been dissipating the past couple of weeks and I wondered if God could be removing the physical burdens I bear daily.

Diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases, I have learned to live within the confines of the illnesses that hold me captive.  When I go outside of those boundaries, I hurt.  My sweet son sees when I am in pain and we have a routine where he tries to help me get going in the morning.  Daily living has been difficult, but I press on.  In moments when I have felt I could not bear the burden any longer, God’s strength carried me.

The LORD has healed me many times over the years and with each affliction I only drew nearer to my God.  While my flesh was beaten, my inner man clung to God and His promises.  Physical suffering is discouraging and greatly affects our ability to be effective.  Like walking in mud, progress seems insurmountable.  The lessons learned in each struggle, however, produce a treasure of a closer walk with God, even if they leave us with a lasting wound like Jacob when He wrestled with God.

I confess that I was afraid to even hope that He might be healing me.  I often did not see that He had already been healing me spiritually.  The thought of being delivered from the prison of pain I have lived through seemed to be too good to be true.  Surrendering my life to His hands, I rested in the truth that whatever God allowed into my life would serve to bring Him glory and fulfill His purposes through me.  Whether He wants to heal me for a day or for years, I thank Him and trust His decision.

It is a humbling experience to be physically afflicted and we can feel forgotten.  But if we had never experienced the pain, we would not have the gratitude for God’s deliverance.  We tend to take things for granted until what we assume is ours is taken away.  God in His wisdom knows what we need – both blessings and burdens.  Perhaps the most beautiful lesson learned through my health ordeals has been to be surrendered to whatever the LORD’s will is.  Whether sick or healthy, it is all about His glory in every circumstance.  Either way, He is our Healer – healing us inwardly or outwardly through it all.

Lord, I am overcome by Your faithfulness.  Who are we, that You should notice us at all?  And yet You want to heal us and draw us nearer to You to help others be healed, too.  Thank You, God!

The Higher Goal of God’s Deliverance

1 Samuel 1:10

“She was very upset as she prayed to the LORD, and she was weeping uncontrollably.”

1 Samuel 2:1-3, 9

1 Hannah prayed, “My heart rejoices in the Lordmy horn is exalted high because of the Lord.  I loudly denounce my enemiesfor I am happy that you delivered me. 2 No one is holy like the Lord!  There is no one other than you!  There is no rock like our God!  3 Don’t keep speaking so arrogantly, letting proud talk come out of your mouth!  For the Lord is a God who knows; he evaluates what people do. 9 He watches over his holy ones, but the wicked are made speechless in the darknessfor it is not by one’s own strength that one prevails.”

Each day, I am amazed how God speaks to just what I need to hear.  This blog is written directly out of my devotion time, which is from a bible-in-a-year plan.  Yet in God’s sovereignty, He uses right where I am at in His Word to speak to me. What an awesome God.

Hannah’s story has always been special to me.  God sees our longings, but fulfills them in accordance with His will and timing.  Her response is so humble and surrendered to God.  In the face of a rival mocking her for her perceived inferiority because she could not bear children, she cried out to her God.

Don’t we all not measure up somehow, in someone else’s eyes?  Hannah suffered from the onslaught of minimizing, but it was not so much her concern for Penninah’s opinion.  She did not get involved with the small-minded desire to be esteemed by others or to have what others had for vanity’s sake.  No, she longed to be a mom.  The pain and shame of not being able to bear children stemmed from her innate, God-given role as a woman.  God honored this desire.

The sting of a longing unfulfilled can paralyze us if we let it.  But in this beautiful moment of Hannah’s submission to God’s will, she wipes away her tears and trusts in God.  When God granted her request, she praised Him and then gave back this cherished gift to her God.  Our tendency as humans is to want to hold onto God’s provision, but Hannah knew that Samuel, her precious son, was God’s and not hers.  Ultimately, her desire to honor God brought about more blessing for her and five more children.

More than victory over those who would demean her, Hannah had a joy in her relationship with her LORD and had gained something even more precious – character.  Humility gained from other people’s judgment is a reward, too.  It teaches us perspective and guards us from living to please man and reminds us that none of us are without fault.

Overly being concerned with man’s affronts is not righteous.  Jesus modeled this heart of humility when false accusations were hurled at Him and He is the only One in whom there was not a hint of truth in his enemy’s rants.  He was spat upon and murdered and responded by praying on behalf of those who wished Him harm.

Letting go of the idol of currying man’s favor is a beautiful place of peace and freedom.  Hannah was not trying to be glorified by man or be the best at anything.  She was not concerned with other people’s perception of her, and when Penninah’s judgment hurt, she ran to her Father – and He heard.

Man’s opinion is insignificant in the scope of eternity, but our response reveals pride and insecurities or trust and surrender to God.  Hannah chose the latter and glorified God, not herself.  We can, too.  Her “ladder” was leaned against God, not the culture.  Her greatest goal was not being right or triumphing over her enemies, but in glorifying God and being found in Him.

Lord, help us to be in the world and not of it.  May we care more about pleasing you than anything or anyone else.

Thoughtful Thursday: Exalted Expectations

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Proverbs 23:18

Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

Proverbs 10:28

The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 62:5

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. 

Philippians 4:6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 1:20

As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

At the root of every heartbreak and every discouragement was once a hope or an expectation.  Sometimes life feels like one big carrot thrust in front of us, full of promise.  Then the carrot is taken away, like a big tease.  What do we do then?  Look for the next carrot, maybe?  That next carrot might be even worse than the former one.  What then?

God placed eternity in our hearts and placed us in this time and space, knowing our complete story.  That brings comfort to my soul, but I sure wish at times that I could know what is coming up ahead.  Well, at least I think I do. But in all honesty, if I had known some of the sorrows I was to face ahead of time, I do not know that I would have operated in the same grace as when those things unfolded.  Fear would have likely gripped my heart and I would have tried to impede the suffering ahead of time.  Probably would have complicated matters worse, instead of simply trusting God in all circumstances.  Ironically, I would have potentially missed an even greater blessing that God had planned – I just could not see it in the middle of the carnage of fallen expectations.

If our hope is in some relief or escape from the pain of our expectations being crashed, that is a shallow hope compared to waiting to see what God is going to do with our mess.  Instead of expecting everything to go our way, despite the fact that we are obviously impacted by every turn of this wild ride called life, what if we were, instead, to look eagerly to the LORD to see what He brings about?

Manipulating circumstances to avoid something terrible is attempting to operate as a god, and last I checked, that does not work out too well.  Surrendering the idol of our expectations to God in submission to His will and plan is placing our lives in the hands of the one true living God – a much safer place than in the hands of fallible man.

I like to know where I am going and am not terribly fond of surprises.  Bottom line – I think most of us probably prefer life to be problem-free, but that is not a likely scenario in a fallen world.  What is known and certain is that God knows it all, and He is in control, even when everything seems out of control.  Praise His Name!

Lord, thank You that You never abandon us.  I am amazed at how You can take every situation, every circumstance and turn it around for your glory and our ultimate good.  Help us to trust You while we wait on You.  Thank You, Father, for not granting expectations that You know would ultimately harm us.  You are good all the time and You are Sovereign – even when our expectations are unfulfilled.  

Thoughtful Thursday: Debunking Positive Thinking & other Escapes

Photo Credits jacquelinegum.com

Photo Credits
jacquelinegum.com

Job 9:25, 27-28

25My days are swifter than a runner, they speed by without seeing happiness27 If I say, ‘I will forget my complaintI will change my expression and be cheerful,’ 28 I dread all my sufferings, for I know that you do not hold me blameless. 

Job 10:8-9, 15

8Your hands have shaped me and made me, but now you destroy me completely9 Remember that you have made me as with the claywill you return me to dust?  15 If I am guiltywoe to me, and if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head; I am full of shame, and satiated with my affliction.

Job 8:21

“He will yet fill your mouth with laughterand your lips with gladness.”

Psalm 27:13

“Where would I be if I did not believe I would experience the LORD’s favor in the land of the living?”

Life can deal some painful blows that do not make sense and cannot be rationalized by our human perspective.  Well-meaning people can try to either hyper-spiritualize our situation or prescribe the power of positive thinking dogma.  Others might even try to pin your current demise on the possibility of your own sin being the cause.  These solutions do not bring us out of our pain, they only serve to multiply our sufferings.

Be honest about the struggle.  It is not fun – in fact, it is often heartbreaking.  A good attitude is a great approach, and seeing things through the lens of faith a necessity, but we cannot just resort to positive thinking as our solution.  A good profession of faith in God, yes, but not just merely saying positive words or self talk which are not grounded in Scripture. Pretending won’t work, either.  Religion, too, is not our Savior.  Using Scripture or numbly trying to manipulate the results we want is also not effective and ultimately trying to bypass the heart surgery God wants to perform on our character.

We don’t like being examined so ruthlessly, put through such prodding; we would rather worship God in our comfort zone. But Christ is in the dark valleys with us.  It is there that we fellowship with Him and realize our perspective was focused on self and our deliverance – being free from the trial at hand.  Deliverance is given, but not the kind we were seeking – escaping pain or the end of hardship.  No, instead we receive the priceless gift of deliverance from self and a right focus of bringing God glory in all of the many testings life brings.

Sometimes when calamity visits our home or our life, if we are honest, we admit that the trial can create a doubting of God. He let it in.  We thought He loved us, and our definition of love evidently meant that no hardship would be allowed to encroach upon our lives.  Instead, the medicine God provides is His counsel, His comfort and His presence.  This happiness does not mean all is well.  It is choosing to trust God and delight in Him, choosing to place our hope in Him when sorrows abound.

There is a sweetness in surrendering and trusting in God when it appears that He slays us.  The profession of Job in the book of Job 13:15 was such a surrender.  Instead of looking to escape adversity, it is an opportunity that we do not want to waste.  In that place of knowing God is good and knowing that He has covered all of our sins, we begin to see that temporary hardship is not the final judgment – it is just a passing through and a refinement which will pale in comparison to the sweetest moment of all, when we are with Him for all eternity.

Lord, we are but flesh and cannot comprehend how anything good could come from pain.  Give us Your eyes and understanding.  Give us faith when life hurts.  You are our sufficiency and with us always.  Thank you, God!

The Guarded Heart

Proverbs 4:23

Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Our heart – an organ that pumps out blood and sustains our lives, yet we ascribe to the heart the ability to feel or to choose righteousness.  The word, “libbecha” (Hebrew for heart) in the Scripture above is translated as pertaining to that “inner man, mind, will or heart” (Strong’s).  Our soul cannot be found on any anatomical chart, though it is evident in our mind. Much like the phrase, “the very heart of a matter”, refers to the main point of something, so the very heart of a person is the inner core of that individual.  What defines the person is based on their actions or decisions which are in accordance with their convictions.

So what does it mean to guard our heart?  Ironically, guarding our heart, which is the embodiment of our emotions, includes taking captive emotions that are not biblical.  Protecting oneself from sinful tendencies or temptations is another practical application, but what is interesting to me is that what flows from the heart – issues of life.  What are these issues?

Jealousy, the poison of bitterness, hurt, pain, feelings of abandonment, insecurity, betrayal, and the list goes on and on. Drama is a fact of life, but guarding our heart is applying God’s word when drama happens.  Our feelings cannot go unchecked – even if they feel so authentic and accurate.  We cannot perfectly judge another person’s heart, either.  Actions can be an indicator, but people can also respond out of their hurt and we can presume falsely.

Recently, the LORD showed me another application of this verse.  Sometimes when we have been so wounded by others, we can shut down and build walls.  We just don’t want to be hurt again.  We can hide under the Scripture that says we are to guard our hearts, but ultimately this hiding is not safety at all when we use it to shut people out.  Locked up in our hurt, we begin to lose the capacity to show our feelings and emotions.

So how do we handle people who have harmed us?  Common sense wisdom dictates that some people have to have limited access or no access to you, but faith in the living God sets us free to trust Him that He will enable us to overcome any hurt that lies down the road.  Guarding our hearts does not have to equate to keeping our love from others. Boundaries can be applied in faith, and free us to reach out and love others with the love of Christ.  He’s got our back.

Lord, help us to guard our hearts from ungodly influences but to love the ungodly and recognize our need of You, too.

God Notices When You’re Stuck in the Mud

Jeremiah 37:2  “Neither he nor the officials who served him nor the people of Judah paid any attention to what the LORD said through the prophet Jeremiah.  16 So Jeremiah was put in prison in a cell in the dungeon in Jonathan’s house.  He was kept there a long time.

Jeremiah 38:6  “So the officials took Jeremiah and put him in the cistern . . . there was no water in the cistern, only mud.  So when they lowered Jeremiah into the cistern with ropes he sank into the mud.

Jeremiah 38:9  “Your Royal Majesty, those men have been very wicked in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah.  They have thrown him into a cistern and he is sure to die of starvation there because there is no food left in the city.

Jeremiah 39:12Find Jeremiah and look out for him.”

Jeremiah 40:4 “But now, Jeremiah, today I will set you free from the chains on your wrists.  If you would like to come to Babylon with me, come along and I will take care of you . . . go wherever you choose.  5  Then the captain of the guard gave Jeremiah some food and a present and let him go.

Life has many twists and turns, most of them unforeseen.  In the middle of chaos, we can begin to wonder if God is aware, but once we are on the other side of turmoil, the treasure gained from the ordeal far surpasses any temporary hardship.  Of course if the trial is severe, one shudders at the thought of having to journey that path ever again.  The doubt of God’s enablement prior to hardship, though, has been changed forever in the presence of a Sovereign God Who was truly sufficient to meet our every need.

The story of an individual who was noticed, rescued and provided for by the King evokes respect and a sense of awe.  But when one contemplates what came before the honor, I wonder if anyone would want to go through all they have to in order to receive the blessing on the other side.  We cannot see in the future, though, which is where faith comes in.

Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet, and after reading once again from the book of Jeremiah, I can surely understand why.  Imagine hearing from God and being His mouthpiece, only to be rejected for your obedience and thrust into imprisonment continually and a deep pit of mud.  Was that a part of God’s plan?  He allowed it in – but why?  How could He receive glory for the torture of His chosen servant?

We have seen this before by those chosen to serve God.  Joseph saw a vision and ended up being sold into slavery – God kept him from being murdered and eventually elevated him to second in command of the land.  Wow.  Even though we delight in the end of the story, we often do not understand the middle of the story, but God does.  I love how the Lord ensures that someone was looking out for Jeremiah.  Imagine getting the mud cleaned off and then going before the king and the Captain of the Guard, who gives you a present and more importantly, your freedom.  Israel was under siege and all the Israelites were being captured or murdered.  But Jeremiah was set free. 

God knows our suffering and all of the inner workings of our lives have a very specific end which He already knows completely.  When we read all of the accounts of faithful followers of God and see how God always kept His covenant promises, we should never be given to doubt.  But life’s pain creates a raw sense of reality that causes us in our flesh to wonder if we have been a fool to trust in the One who would permit such atrocities.

Just like the individual who was late on 9/11 and whose life was spared, I have to wonder if Jeremiah’s life was spared as he sat in the mud and wondered.  Israel was under attack – Jeremiah had foretold it and even told the king how he could avoid Babylon’s punishment.  It might have seemed like God was not in control when His servant was dying in mud.  Not so.  Not exactly a glorious picture of how one would want to die, though, and I am sure fear gripped his heart.  Kind of reminds me of a story I heard of someone who suffered a humiliating death when they were hit by a potato chip truck.  Tragic.  We don’t want to see such an end for a man of God.  Not suffocating in mud.  Not Jeremiah.

Are you in the mud of life right now?  Feeling forgotten and beginning to wonder if your Deliverer will ever come?  He hears.  He sees.  He is weaving something beautiful out of that pain.  He promises.

Lord, when we do not understand, help us to place our faith in you.  In our fragile humanity, help us to rise above our circumstances and abide in You.

Thoughtful Thursday: Guarding our way

Proverbs 21:16, 23 – The one who wanders from the way of wisdom will end up in the company of the departed.  23  The one who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps his life from troubles.

Proverbs 22:3,5 – A shrewd person sees danger and hides himself, but the naive keep right on going and suffer for it.  5  Thorns and snares are in the path of the perverse, but the one who guards himself keeps far from them.”

Proverbs 4:23 – Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it are the sources of life.

 

Perhaps it is not so thoughtful to post a day late, but you were on my mind.  I could not let my favorite day of posting pass me by – I love the book of Proverbs!  So, despite a day busier than days oughta be, here is my post on Proverbs.

The spirit of every human being longs to be known – longs to find a safe haven of acceptance.  We long to rest from the need of having to prove ourselves yet again to anyone else, or having to be guarded . . . yet we dare not let our guard down and rest from this aspect of our walk with God in our relentless pursuit of being more like Him.

When I first came to know the LORD, so many things that fall short of the glory of God became evident in my character.  It was humbling and overwhelming, but exciting!  Grateful that I could now see these burdens in my life and submit to God to change me, walking with God was an adventure.  But time marches on and we forget what we were saved from.  We forget the need to separate ourselves from things in this world that can pull us away.  We take for granted the high price of our salvation and perhaps consider our new faith impenetrable.  Slowly we begin to entrust our walk to others to define our boundaries.

Guarding our way seems old fashioned, prudish even.  There is a mentality today that says we should not be guarded, for that might appear legalistic or judgmental.  Living a guarded life differs from a cookie cutter philosophy which mandates that everyone be the same so all are comfortable.  Is such a mentality biblical?  You decide.  What do the Scriptures above mean by guarding our way?  Assuredly, it is not having a personal bodyguard and living in a state of paranoia, but it is living carefully.  You risk-takers out there are shutting me off right now, but hang in there.  It means there is a filter I run my thoughts and my actions through.  I cannot rest from seeking diligently to know that God is pleased with my current course, or dare to pridefully assume that just because I have in the past walked rightly with God that I do not need to examine myself afresh each day.

It is not popular to guard ourselves.  Guarding means I do not seek to live in a way to please man.  It means I do not just blindly trust others because I do not want to create waves.  It also means in humility that I do not think my own opinion is more weighty than others, or my way is right because it has been in the past – but that I carefully submit all to God before trudging ahead.

There was a very difficult season in my life in which Proverbs 22:3 was driven home.  I had trusted someone so implicitly that when I saw evidence that their character was not what they had put forth as an image, I could not believe it and for a moment thought I did not have a right to discern whether that person should hold the same place in my life.  They were sorry for their grievous sin that had crushed my world.  It was not popular by some to walk in wisdom and guard my way, which might appear judgmental and unforgiving.  But in that moment of revelation, God in His mercy helped me to see that forgiveness did not mean allowing someone to wield control in my life who had abused me and loved ones.  They had proven by their actions that they were not trustworthy – in fact, I would suffer if I continued to trust their intentions rather than their actions.  Just because someone claims with their mouth that they are godly in a moment of self righteousness, does not mean I should blindly accept it.

In this moment you might feel like ultimately we would all not be able to have any relationships if we guard ourselves from anyone who causes us pain.  That would be a wrong extreme response and I confess I have been there. We need to be vulnerable to one another but strike a balance of also guarding our way.  It is healthy to do so and unhealthy to be codependent and allow someone power to go unchecked in your life.  It is, in fact, loving one another to help us see our blind spots, versus flattery which placates the weaknesses we see in one another.  Guarding our way and having convictions from the LORD is far different from legalism which imposes its personal convictions on others.  We must guard the way God has set before us and be flexible enough to believe He might have a completely different plan for someone else, not to be judged by us.

Christ made himself vulnerable to humans by being born as a helpless babe, yet in John 2:23 it says “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people.”  No one is without the need to be examined.  We are weak and cannot put confidence in our own flesh.  This does not mean we have to by hyper-analytical, rather open and teachable to correction and also discerning of all that is around us.  Like the Bereans, we should test the word shared with us, not to judge and condemn, but to guard and ensure our path is still the narrow one, still headed due north.  The stakes are too high to naively believe someone else is guarding our way and in a moment of fatigue put down our responsibility to do so.  It is not wrong or mean to place boundaries for yourself that keep you safe and mentally healthy.  Your very life and walk with God depend on it.

Lord, we are not capable of seeing all the dangers to our soul.  Help us to guard our way and to do so in humility.  May we not judge others or consider ourselves better, but only be filled with gratitude that you reveal these things to us.