Have you ever felt like God was stripping things away from you, one thing at a time? First a job, then your health, then your marriage, friendships, car wrecks, things breaking at home in successive order and finally loneliness?
I’ve been there. I want to encourage that woman (or man) who’s there now.
Here’s an illustration:
Your house stands among other homes in a neighborhood. One day, a construction truck shows up in your driveway. A man gets out of the truck and places a sign on the door that describes a Judge’s decision to renovate your home. You open the door and read the note. Thoughts roll though your mind. “How can this be? This is MY home?! Who is paying for this? I like my house, I don’t want anything changed. What will the neighbors think? I don’t want everyone to see all my stuff!” The man and his truck drive off.
photo compliments of ohiosbestrealestate.com
One week later, the construction truck is back in your driveway. Three men get out of the vehicle. The first takes the bolts off the front door. The second rips out the carpet in all the rooms and the third man begins to rip off the wall paper.
A flood of emotions overcome you. You are REALLY mad. You are incredibly sad. You are embarrassed. You hide in your home, so that no one can see you. You feel awkward. Your home, that once matched all the other homes in your neighborhood now looks horrible. It is different. It’s a mess. Stuff is everywhere. People who walk in the neighborhood can see how you do life. There is little privacy. What was once a symbol of pride, strength, peace and security is now disaster, disarray, painful, and horribly embarrassing.
The men return 2 weeks later and rip out all the windows and put boards in their place. Then they turn the power off and begin to rip out all the electrical work.
It just keeps getting worse! You think to yourself. Who would do this to someone? Why are my friends not here? Do I have any real friends? I feel like I don’t belong here anymore. You continue living life in a tattered, broken home. You feel like you can’t look people in the eyes when you go to work or are in the community. You feel just plain awkward! Your dignity is gone. You now know poverty in every sense of the word.
You don’t see the men and their construction vehicle for many months until one summer day they pull into the driveway again. You have shed so many tears and you are tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of trying to hold it together. Tired of living paycheck to paycheck. Tired of attempting to keep up appearances. Tired of being tired.
The men get out of the vehicle and begin reconstruction. They re-wire, re-plumb, put all new light fixtures in, lay new hardwood floors, reconstruct windows, doors and lay brand new carpet. They paint all the rooms and even put a new library in your home. After that, they move to the exterior of the home. They pull off the siding and put new stone and brick in it’s place. Who is paying for this? This is so beautiful! I love it!
When the builders are completed with the reconstruction, they knock on your door. You open the brand new oak door, smiling from ear to ear and wrap your arms around the man and say, “‘Thank you so much! This is just want I wanted! Do I owe you anything?’ The man standing on your porch says, ‘It’s paid in full. Don’t worry about it. The men get in the construction truck and leave. You reflect on your former shame. Now, you like where you live. You are happy here. The former emotions of sadness and anger are a distant memory. Somehow, all that suffering, strangely seems worth it. You know you are loved and are filled with immense gratitude. You have a brand new home!
Here is the meaning:
You are the home. The three men represent the Holy Spirit. The judge is God. Jesus paid for all the renovations with His life. God sees our bad habits, our character flaws and our bad attitudes. You have a need to be purged from these weak areas to make you more mature, set apart for Him. So, He begins to take away things in your life…..the carpet of criticism and replaces it with the wood floors of compassion. He takes the old door of judgement and replaces it with a beautiful new door of love. He strips the aged wall paper of pride and replaces it with the vibrant paint of patience. When God is stripping you of material things, you are very self conscious and feel exposed. This allows you to see your blind spots that you would have not otherwise have noticed.
It is a process. The stripping away, the awkwardness, the sense of doom, the self-reflection, the isolation. Faith grows during adversity. Dependency on God is necessary to walk though this suffering. When God sees the impurities gone, He begins to rebuild you. Eventually, your new home, your new character shines for Him, so much so that you stick out in your “neighborhood”. You really like who you’ve become…..and it all seems worth it. You have a good attitude about God, yourself, others and creation. Our suffering is our gold. If you trust in Him, this demolition will only make you better.
Everything is needful that He sends, nothing is needful that He withholds. – John Newton
I had an ah-ha moment that I would like to share with you. Seriously read these questions and take time to answer them and you may have an ah-ha moment too!
Gen3: 17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
When Adam and Eve sinned, God cured the ground so that thorns and thistles would grow. Thorns and thistles would be anything in your life that would cause you physical, emotional, mental, social or spiritual grief and discomfort.
1. What are the thorn and thistles in your life? (I have 2 thorns in my life right now. )
God also allowed flowers and food to grow among the thorns and thistles.
Flowers and food are the things in your life that make life good. Flowers and food are things that feed you spiritually, socially, physically, mentally or emotionally.
2. What are the flowers and food in your life? (I listed more than 10 items such as: my children, a God who protects and provides for me, a husband that loves me and takes care of me, a great job that challenges my mind and body, a church that feeds me spiritually and multiple services opportunities that feed me socially and mentally).
If your list is anything like mine, your flowers and food far exceed your thorns and thistles. (I had 2 thorns and more than 10 flowers).
20 years ago, I had around 3 thorns and still more than 10 flowers/food). Compared to today, one thorn is the same and the second is gone and third thorn have changed.
Your thorns will change depending on what season of your life you are in. Your flowers and fruit will always exceed your thorns and thistles. That is grace.
What if…………the thorns and thistles in our lives are present to toughen us up, to protect us from dangerous predators that would want to hurt us?
What if………..one of our enemies was ourselves, our wild tendencies and selfish nature?
What if………..the thorns are really a gift from God?
What if………the thistles are God’s loving, maturing grace to help us develop a rich character filled with patience, goodness, deep seated joy and kindness?
What if……….the thorns help us to appreciate the goodness around us?
What if………the flowers and food, the good things in our lives that bring us joy, are God’s demonstration of His care and devotion to us?
What if……….the thorns, thistles, flowers and food are all for our good? That God does not delight in our suffering, but to protect us and to meet our every need.
The thorns you have today will change in the future. The good things in life always outweigh what we think is bad.
Are we able to thank God for the thorns and thistles in our lives and see them as God’s best for us?
I’ve heard a story that I may very well remember for the rest of my life. I’d like to share it with you.
Satan was speaking with 3 demons about the best way to deter people from knowing with God.
Satan (to the first demon): How do you plan on keeping people from knowing God?
1st demon: I will convince them that there is no God.
Satan: You will win only a few souls. Most humans believe that there is a God who lives in heaven.
Satan (to 2nd demon): What is your plan on furthering the kingdom of darkness?
2nd demon: I will convince them that there is no heaven and no hell.
Satan: You will win more souls than the first, but it is not the best way to keep people from God.
Satan (to 3rd demon): What is your plan?
3rd demon: I will convince the people that there is no hurry. No hurry to know God today, tomorrow, or this year. To wait until next year, and the next and the next.
Satan: You will win many souls for the kingdom of darkness! If the people keep putting it off and putting it off, they will eventually die having never known God. Well done.
Gulp. Sobering. Procrastination. A bad habit.
What’s keeping you from a closer walk with God today?
“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” -Karen Lamb
This post is from my friend Ute, a fellow blogger. It was so good, I wanted to share.
Originally posted on Ute smile:
~ Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire. If you did what would there be to look forward to?
~ Be thankful for such a beautiful Day
~ Be thankful for the difficult times. During those times you grow.
~ Be thankful for your limitations, because they give you opportunities for improvement.
~ Be thankful for each new challenge, because it will build your strength and character.
~ Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you valuable lessons.
~ Be thankful when you’re tired and weary, because it means you’ve made an effort.
There are so many things we can be thankful for, simple things we take for granted, but without them we would feel lost.
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”
“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that…
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While sitting on the couch with my family last evening, we discussed the difference between immature and mature Christians. Here is the visual I gave them:
Both Christians will get to heaven in the end….God calls us to rise above ground zero. We need to talk to God not only in the hard times, but in the resting times as well. Here is the conversation that ensued:
Me: “If you were very sick, would you pray more than one time a day? Two times a day? Ten times a day? Forty times a day?”
Kids: “Probably all day because I am focused on me being sick.”
Me:”Now, imagine yourselves well and having an amazing time at Walt Disney World, how often would you pray? All day?”
Kids: “What would we have to pray for?”
Me: “Exactly! People are motivated to pray because of pain, discomfort, dissatisfaction or dis-ease (disease). Mature Christians talk to God in the good times and in the bad. Sometimes I ask God questions like, “How are you God? Did you talk to grandpa today? What made you smile today.”
Kids: Start to giggle.
Me: Don’t be the person who only talks to God when you need something.
I think every human being wants:
- to love and be loved
- to be significant
- to have peace and the ability to think clearly
- to be satisfied or content; to have “Enough”
Why are so many people discontent?
When we look to the left and right at people, comparing ourselves with them, there is jockeying for position and comparison. There is no win in comparison. When we look straight ahead at Jesus, and focus on Him, there, and only there, will we have peace and contentment. The riches of His love will always be enough. The riches of the world will never be enough.
There are two types of competition: healthy and unhealthy.
1. Healthy competition includes striving to be the best you can be (in the classroom, at work, on the court or on the field) while encouraging your teammates to do their best too. Without them pushing us, we would not be who we are today. A good example would be Cleveland Clinic/Mayo Clinic/Johns Hopkins Hospital. There is a lot of competition to work in those facilities. Only the best will do. As a result, anyone who goes to these hospitals gets great care.
2. Unhealthy competition includes trying to be better than someone for purely selfish reasons and then boasting/posting about it. In my undergraduate studies, I had a girl who had the same major as I did, sit next to me in our Anatomy and physiology class. P.T. is a competitive field. We just received our test scores back. I didn’t like to show anyone my grades, good or bad. This girl peeked at my grade (which was 100%). She leaned over to me, flashed me her grade (103%) and uttered these words with a crooked smile, “You can make up those 3 points on the next test.” My mouth dropped open as I felt the piercing darts of her prideful words.
When we try to be like the person to the left or right, we have already lost.
What do you think is the secret to satisfaction? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
6 Things we SHOULD do with our mouths
1. Stay busy blessing everything you can possibly bless.
2. Be thankful and say so.
3. Encourage, edify and build others up.
4. Tell the truth.
5. Speak the word of God. (The Word of God like a hammer which rouses and strengthens the life and conscience, crushing everything that is evil within the heart.) “Is not My word like fire?” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock? Jeremiah 23:29
6. Don’t talk too much.
6 Things we SHOULD NOT DO with our mouths
1. Murmur, fault-finding, grumble and complain.
2. Gossip, judge or criticize.
3. Give your opinion when no body wants it.
4. Talk about our trials without a purpose.
6. Speak negatively.
This message was taken from Joyce Meyer, a mentor of mine. It was so good, I wanted to share it with you.