Lessons to Learn

Chastisement and An Object Lesson About Iniquity

Judgement begins in the house of the Lord. This week, while the whole world was hunkered in houses wondering what will happen next with the coronavirus, God was taking just a moment to deal with some of His children. I, for example, was spanked but good. The worst part isn’t even that it was that for an issue that He has already addressed (I guess I’m a slow learner). The worst part is that it’s the exact problem that a big Bible character had too – and not one of the “wins in the end” ones either. When all was said and done this week, I think I finally did get the message. I also got a very disgusting object lesson about iniquity that should be a warning to us all. 

King Saul’s Partial Obedience

King Saul was Israel’s very first human king. Up to that time, God had been ruling His people through priests, prophets, and judges. But the people were unhappy with their current judge’s sons who were greedy and corrupt. They looked at the nations surrounding them who had kings and wanted to be like them. So, Saul was chosen by God to give the people what they wanted. God warned them that they wouldn’t like the reality, but they didn’t listen.

Speaking of not listening, this was Saul’s problem in a nutshell. He had a nasty habit of not exactly obeying God. Just after the Prophet Samuel  anointed him as king, God ordered Saul to completely destroy the Amalek people. In 1 Samuel 15:3, Samuel told him, “’Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” So Saul did. Sort of. He destroyed every single person and thing of the Amalek – except the king and the best of the sheep and the oxen. When Samuel questioned him about his disobedience, Saul didn’t even get that he had done anything wrong.

1 Samuel 15:20-21: “And Saul said to Samuel, ‘But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me…’” Okay, so far so good. “…and brought back Agag king of Amalek…” Here’s a problem. “I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.” Good.  But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” Not good.

Saul didn’t understand the reason for God’s orders, so he obeyed the part of the order that made sense to him – and completely ignored the rest. This was my problem too. Amazingly enough, I also thought I was obeying what God had told me to do. I really did. But then God showed me that anything less than complete obedience is actually disobedience. It is error, or a turning away from the right path. It’s iniquity. (See Bible Study Tools.)

A Broken Stove and Unwanted Guests

Last May, we brought a brand new stove. Last week, it went on the fritz. Since it hadn’t even been a full year, I was sure that the warranty would cover whatever problem the flashing error “F1 EO” meant. Not so. Because the problem wasn’t a faulty part. The problem was an infestation of cockroaches that shorted out the electronic board. Gross! The cost to repair the stove was about the same price as a brand new one. My stove had been totaled.

I’m ashamed to say that my first reaction was anger…at God. “What happened to rebuking the devourer?” I exploded before I got ahold of myself. (Malachi 3:10-11: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse…And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy…”) I thought being faithful with money was a protection against unnecessary loss. But for bugs to destroy an entire electrical board in less than nine months, that felt PERSONAL. Immediately in my spirit, the answer became crystal clear. WAS I being faithful? Sadly, I was not.

Doing Things My Way Instead of God’s Way

A year or so ago, God had impressed upon me that I was not to use my credit card. I was in the habit of charging expenses and then paying them off each month, but sometimes those charges could get very high without even a whole lot of effort on my part. So, I thought to myself: “Of course, I will still use my credit card to charge NECESSARY items that I would have to buy anyway. It only makes sense to get the free points to use toward gift cards. I will just charge them and then come right home and pay the bill immediately. That way, they aren’t on the card – because God doesn’t want me to have charges on the card – but I can still get my points. Win/win.” See what I did there?

But this month, somehow things had gotten away from me. The “necessary” charges became greater than the amount of money in my account. For two days, the balance sat on my credit card before payday. Even if that hadn’t been the case, though, the charging AT ALL was doing the exact opposite of what God had told me to do. Even if it didn’t make sense to me to forgo those free points, I should have completely obeyed God and stopped using my credit card. Period. I had pulled a Saul without even realizing it.

A Disgusting Spiritual Lesson

In dealing with the fallout from all of this, I believe God also used this situation to teach an important lesson about iniquity. A few months ago when we first saw the bugs, my husband had sprayed the kitchen. We also went through and put opened food in sealed containers and tried harder to keep the area free of crumbs that might invite them. This week when I realized that the few we actually saw were nothing to the mass it would require to be labeled an “infestation,” I went to work doing some deep cleaning in the kitchen. I emptied drawers and cabinets, and I was shocked to see the evidence of those masses underneath the items that were stored there. 

For months, we had gone about our lives oblivious to what was happening at night in our kitchen. It wasn’t until we decided to set things in order and looked deeper that we found the truth of the situation. This is a spiritual picture of the seemingly small issues that may be wrong with our spiritual walk with God. Times, for example, that we choose to do what “makes sense” to us instead of the exact directive given by God/the Bible. Times when we do what we want to do instead of what would please God.

Like vermin, maybe one might not seem like a “big deal,” but where there is one, there are usually more if you take the time to look closer. The Bible calls this the deceitfulness of sin in Hebrews 3:13 because it seems so harmless but can do so much damage to our ability to hear from and be close to God.

Time to Get Our Houses in Order

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”

Matthew 24:12

We are in the last days, the days of the great apostasy, and iniquity is dangerous. Some people use it as a synonym for sin, but to me it is that and so much more. Sin is black and white. The Bible says not to lie, so we don’t lie. But sometimes little white lies – not “REAL” lies but just little “variations of the truth” — are kind. That’s iniquity. The slope is slippery when we disobey God because our way seems easier, kinder, or even “better” for God Himself.

Partial obedience in any area is disobedience. We must guard ourselves so that it never has dominion, or control, over us and our actions (Psalm 119:133). We must make the decision now to set things right, to start looking deeply into our lives for evidence of problems. It is only then that we can begin to get our spiritual houses in order. 

Enjoy articles about warfare? Check out Spiritual Warfare: A Defeated Foe. In it, God uses a housefly to teach me about the way I should view the enemy. Or, try 4 Ways to Avoid Spiritual Deception. In that one, I learn important lessons from a time when I was deceived. Please subscribe to my blog via email in the top right corner and consider visiting my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud. I also have a playlist of hymns from my church.

Lessons to Learn

Saying “Yes” to God When Our Flesh Says “No”

A diamond-shaped yellow sign with the word "yes" is big in the center with lots of smaller yellow "yes" signs amidst red "no" signs.

As believers, we are commanded to pray unceasingly. We pray for so many reasons, praising God for His blessings and mercy and asking for provision, health, and protection for ourselves and others. This week, I prayed a prayer for guidance. I asked God what He wanted me to do in a certain situation, and my mind was filled with possibilities. None of them, however, involved the actual answer I received. I guess I just assumed that He would pick one of the many options I had come up with in my mind, kind of like multiple choice. They were plans that didn’t cost me anything. They were all of benefit to me. But His idea was a painful one, at least for my flesh. It made me think of the many characters in the Bible who started by saying “no” but ended up saying “yes” to God.

Moses Didn’t Want To Go to Pharaoh

When God met Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3, He laid out His plan for the mass departure of the Israelites from Egyptian captivity. Moses never actually said “no,” but he sure had a lot of questions. “Who am I to do this?” “What should I tell them?” “What if they won’t believe me?” God had firm, logical answers for all of his questions, but that didn’t stop Moses from trying two more times to get God to change his mind. “But I’m not a good speaker,” he tried. And then came his final plea: “Please. Just send somebody else!” (Exodus 4:13).

The Lesson From Moses

Sometimes God asks us to do things that we don’t feel qualified to do. From the natural, we don’t have the talent or the strength. There are lots of “what ifs” that can crowd our minds, but the lesson here is that God has everything under control. He has chosen each of us for the work we are here to do and will give us the tools to do it. There’s the old saying that “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” God gave Moses everything he needed to complete the job before him. He was patient with Moses in his questions and his fears, but at the end of the conversation in Exodus 4, the matter was settled, and Moses was on his way to Egypt.

Jonah Didn’t Want to Go to Nineveh

Unlike the questioning, pleading Moses, Jonah didn’t stick around long enough to have a discussion with God. He actually tried to run away by getting on a ship traveling the other direction. See, God was telling him to make a long, arduous journey to warn a city full of Assyrian sinners of their impending judgement. These were enemies of the Israelites and a threat to their nation. They were a wicked and idolatrous people and deserved to be judged by God. But Jonah knew that God is merciful. If the people repented, He would turn away His wrath. So Jonah ran from God in a ridiculous attempt to escape his responsibility to the God who had called him into service. One big fish and three days later, and Jonah had his attitude adjusted. Then he was on his way to Nineveh.

The Lesson From Jonah

How many people are running from their God-given calling in life? They know exactly what God is asking them to do, but for whatever reason they are delaying the inevitable. Silent watchmen, homebound missionaries, and blind-eyed evangelists dig in their heels in their determination to avoid the things they are meant to do. Jonah learned his lesson of futility the hard way, and for some, it will take a calamity to throw them back to their knees.

But even in his disobedience, God took the time to teach Jonah one more lesson in Jonah 4. He made a gourd to grow by day that gave Jonah shade. Then overnight, a worm destroyed the sheltering plant, and the sun beat down on his head so much that he wished he would die. But God reminded him that Jonah’s concern for one little plant that grew in a day was nothing to the compassion God felt for the city full of people in Nineveh. Our worlds can be very small when we focus on the things we want that are in front of our eyes. God has the world in His sights. His desire that none should perish requires his servants’ obedience to His purpose. Like Jonah, we belong to God. We are not our own and must remember compassion for others.

Naaman Didn’t Want to Wash

Naaman’s story in 2 Kings 5 is a little different. He was a commander in the Syrian army, a brave soldier who had favor with God and the king. Unfortunately, he also had a terrible disease called leprosy. He heard through an Israelite captive that there was a prophet in Samaria who could cure him, so he told the king. Immediately, King Aram sent a letter to the king of Israel, and Naaman was on his way to see Elisha with money and supplies. When he got there, Elisha sent a servant to give him the command: “Wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River, and you will be healed.”

But Naaman was expecting Elisha himself to come to say great prayers to his God, waving his hands and making him whole. He flatly refused to touch the dirty river water and went away angry. But his servants came to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed!’” (2 Kings 5:13). So Naaman washed and was cleansed.

The Lesson From Naaman

The great lesson of this story is that sometimes the things God tells us to do may not make sense to us in the natural. When that happens, we are not to lean our own understanding. God works in mysterious ways, but He does work. We see through a glass darkly and only have a tiny fraction of the information in any given situation. Not only that, God has shown Himself to be faithful time and time again. What small thing it is for us to trust our great God who has his glory and our good in mind.

The First Son Didn’t Want to Go to the Vineyard

In Matthew 21, we hear the parable of the two sons. In it, a father comes to his two sons and tells them to work in the vineyard. The first son says, “I will not,” but later he regrets his decision and goes. Jesus explains clearly that the first son is like the harlots and publicans who committed great sins but repented at the preaching of John the Baptist. The second says, “I go, sir,” but he never actually went. He was like the scribes and Pharisees who appeared outwardly righteous but did not believe and turn away from their sins. Jesus asks which one did the will of the father, and it was clear to even his audience that it was the first son, the one who actually went.

The Lesson From the First Son

I totally relate to the first son. His father told him to do something, and he just didn’t want to do it. Maybe he had other plans, or maybe it was going to be too hot or cold that day. So without thinking, his first words out of his mouth were a definite “no.” But on more careful thought, he changed his mind. Maybe he thought of everything his father had done for him. Maybe he realized that it was his responsibility or would have caused hardship to others without him there. Whatever the reason, his ultimate answer was “yes.” Did he stomp the whole way to the vineyard? Was he still grumbling when he grabbed the tools he needed to do his work? Was he angry at his father for even asking in the first place? The parable doesn’t say.

I Didn’t Want to Do The Thing

This week when God told me what He wanted me to do, I didn’t want to do it. It was a big thing, and it involved sacrifice in the place where I thought I would find a reward. I’m just going to go ahead and say that I did some stomping and grumbling. On hindsight, I realized that I was even angry with God for asking, if only for a very short time. The flesh is powerful and must be crucified daily. Sanctification doesn’t happen overnight, and even when it is our very deepest desire to please God and do His will, it can be downright painful as we, again and again, find ourselves in the position of having to choose between ourselves and God. Galatians 5:17 says, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”

Of course, when my hissy fit was done, I found myself flat on my face in front of my God. I repented of my bad behavior and asked for strength and wisdom to do the thing He was asking me to do. I still don’t understand it, but I trust Him.

When God Asks Us For Something

In between the thousands, or maybe millions, of requests we make of God in our lifetimes, sometimes He will ask things from us. Some will be small and cost us little. Some will be big and require us really work hard to bring our own wants and desires into submission. Whether we don’t feel qualified, have too little compassion, don’t understand, or just plain don’t want to do it, at the end of the day, saying “yes” to God is really the only option.

Speaking of saying “yes” to God, here is one of my favorite songs we sing at church. It’s called Yes, Lord, Yes. It’s part of a list of songs on my YouTube channel playlist called Hymns With Hannah. Check it out and subscribe for new songs each week.

Enjoy articles about obedience? Check out When Obedience Is the Sacrifice in which God shows me that it is better to obey than to regret. Or, try God Answered the Prayer I Didn’t Pray. In that one, I learn the importance of leaning on God for strength. Please sign up to receive my blog in your email in-box. at the upper right of your screen.

Lessons to Learn

In Our Spiritual Battle, the Devil Has Cookies

In the computing world, cookies are data files associated with your browser. Every time you visit websites, click links, and enter information, they are recording your movements. They are keeping track of your preferences and patterns and can even follow you from website to website. Tech savvy people can maneuver around them, but most of us just click the button, accepting cookies as a part of modern life. This week, I had something happen that involved a false prophecy, a counterfeit confirmation, fiery darts of doubt, and an answered prayer. It reminded me that we are in a spiritual battle and showed me that the devil himself has a cookie system with the express purpose of destroying the children of God.

Every time I listen to any message that someone claims is from the Lord, whether on Facebook, YouTube, or any other website, I always pray before I allow it to touch my mind. I pray that God will cover me and protect me from anything that isn’t from Him. If it is from Him, I pray that I will understand what I’m supposed to do to apply the message to my walk. This week, I was scrolling through Facebook and happened on a “word” that someone said she had received a while back, but the Lord just released her to give the message that day. I prayed the prayer as usual and started reading. It wasn’t long before I realized that the spirit behind the words was NOT the Lord.

The Prophecy

The message was given by someone who has a small following in certain circles. She posts both her own prophecies and those of other people, sometimes several in a day. The message this time was about well-known pastor and evangelist who passed away in 2011, David Wilkerson. He was the founding pastor at Times Square Church in New York City and established Teen Challenge, a ministry devoted to saving gang members. He wrote several books including The Cross and the Switchblade about his experiences in starting Teen Challenge, and he still has many of his sermons on YouTube today.

This person started her post with a preface that there were a lot of people who wouldn’t like the message because it was a hard one. She encouraged people to pray for truth and then proceeded to give a message that was in first person as if from the Lord. She said, “David Wilkerson spoke my word but he never truly let me be the king of his heart.” She said the Lord told her that Wilkerson spoke empty words, that he knew of God, but he didn’t truly know Him. Instead, he cared more about what people thought of him than what God thought of him. Then the voice contradicted itself as it said, “He had started out strong, but then towards the end, he started to fall away.” (How could he have “started strong” if he never knew Him?)

The voice said Wilkerson lost the love and passion he once had. The seed was planted on rocky ground with no root and a weak foundation. The voice again contradicted itself with the idea that Wilkerson knew God at one point but then became lax. Then the voice said he lived differently than the words he spoke and had not fully surrendered his heart. Finally, the message ended with the words, “So the enemy was the crow that came down and snatched my seed from his heart, and flew away.”

My Response

To say my spirit did not bear witness is an understatement. I immediately unfriended this person and prayed prayers of repentance for listening to anything from her in the past. I was thankful that God protected me and gave me discernment. A few minutes later, I started to move on, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I had to speak the truth. So, I searched for the post and commented that I did not believe the message was from God.

The Bible says we will know people by their fruit, and this man had very godly fruit and multiple ministries that still thrive today. Furthermore, God is not a gossip, telling secrets on people and discussing the state of someone’s heart to be revealed in a public setting. I said the devil wished that he got David Wilkerson, and it felt very much like that same spirit of the enemy was on that post.

A Counterfeit “Confirmation”

The next morning, I went to the Bible bookmark on my phone. I was in the book of Matthew. Then I saw it, Matthew 12:32, “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” Immediately, I thought of my rebuke to the woman with the so-called “word” from the Lord. But I was confident that her message was not from God. I wasn’t worried even a little bit, but I did think it was weird. I decided to read one more chapter. Three paragraphs in, there was the parable of the sower.

Now, usually when I read a prophecy that I believe is from God, I will ask for a confirmation. Sometimes, that confirmation comes with a scripture from either my morning or evening Bible reading. (I read sequentially, a little from the Old Testament and a little from the New Testament each night as I feel led, and I read the New Testament at a different spot on my phone in the morning). When a “word” lines up with my Bible reading and the Spirit bears witness, I count it as a confirmation that the word is from God. But this message wasn’t from God. The devil had somehow set up a counterfeit confirmation.

Then came the fiery darts of doubt: “If this ‘confirmation’ wasn’t from God, what makes you think those other ones were? How about those promises you believe God gave you about your life that were also confirmed this way? What if it was just the devil messing with you then too? What if God didn’t really say those things at all?”

A Prayer and a Sermon

Now, some of my best conversations with God happen while I’m driving, especially while I’m driving to church. That day happened to be a Wednesday, so as I was on my way to service, thoughts were flooding my mind. Some were more fiery darts of doubt about the things that I knew God had communicated to me in the past. Some were firm deflections with the shield of faith, words of truth and confidence in the promises of God to lead me if I just stick close to Him.

So I laid it all out there. “God, I know you are omniscient and the devil isn’t, but can he see the future? Did he know I would be reading those passages? Because I’m kind of confused right now, so I just need Your help figuring this out, please.” Now, sometimes we have to wait for God to answer in His time, and sometimes, it is just that quick.

A prayer, two hymns, and an offering later, and I had my answer. It seemed that my pastor had been studying for a couple days for a sermon on forgiveness, but just that morning he had felt led to change his message to be about spiritual warfare. He said that the enemy has his imps taking very careful notes about us, studying us to know our habits, faults, and weaknesses in order to hurt us or to tempt us into hurting ourselves or God. The devil’s mission is to kill, steal, and destroy, and he uses all of the information available against the children of God because we are the apple of His eye. Then he said the line that gave me my title for this blog: “The devil has cookies.”

The Devil Had Taken Good Notes

Could the enemy have seen where I was in scripture? Could he have led the woman to release the message just at the right time to give the false confirmation? Was the whole thing a set up to make me question my own discernment and doubt God’s ability to speak into my life? It seems rather elaborate, but when I started to think about what things might be considered a weak spot in my walk with God, I realized that this was a big one. I question myself a lot, analyzing every detail, agonizing over whether I did the right thing or said or thought the right thing. If he could get me to doubt my ability to determine WHO is leading me in a given moment, he might be able to make me stop having confidence in God as my Shepherd. So much of the Christian walk depends on faith. We have to have faith in God, of course, but we also have to have faith that we are hearing from God correctly. In the Garden of Eden, the serpent asked Eve, “Hath God said…?” and he is still using that line today.

We Must Be More Savvy

The enemy is waiting for opportunities to make us stumble because he knows that we each have our part to play in God’s plan. We have our own spheres of influence with other people, so if he can hurt just one of us, the chain reaction with believers and unbelievers alike could be a big payoff in harm to God’s kingdom. But, the Bible tells us that we are not ignorant of the enemy’s devices. In 1 Peter 5:8, the Bible says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

As children of God, it’s up to us to recognize our own faults and weaknesses and be very wary when something comes at us from one of those angles. As long as we are in this world, we will be in a spiritual battle. There are no “privacy settings,” so the devil will always have his servants watching for ways to discourage us or even take us out of commission.

Our job is to read the Bible daily, stay in close in contact with God, and keep our focus on Him despite any road blocks the devil tries to bring. In John 16:33, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” We may take some hits in the spiritual battle, but Jesus Christ has already won the war.

More About This Topic

Enjoy articles about warfare? Check out Spiritual Warfare: A Defeated Foe. In it, God uses a housefly to teach me about the way I should view the enemy. Or, try 4 Ways to Avoid Spiritual Deception. In that one, I learn important lessons from a time when I was deceived.

Want to hear hymns about the spiritual battle we are in? Check out my YouTube channel playlist called Hymns With Hannah where the sixteen-year-old song leader at my church sings such songs as Keep on the Firing Line , Victory in Jesus, and more.

Lessons to Learn

When Obedience IS the Sacrifice

Picture of a clock with the words "Redeem the time" to represent the time sacrificed to do what my job required.

As Christians, we are held to higher standards than the world. We are expected to follow the requirements of those in authority over us as long as what they are asking us to do does not conflict with what the Bible commands. We do it because we are representatives of Christ, and our behavior reflects on Him. And, we do everything as to the Lord and not to men. But what happens when those requirements aren’t wrong but just annoying? Not only that, but others around you refuse to comply. This very situation happened to me this week at work. I learned a lesson about obedience that reminded me exactly who my Boss really is.

The Mandate

I’m a high school English teacher. I get to school around 7:00 AM and leave around 3:45 each day. So when the email came through instructing English teachers to sign up to attend a meeting scheduled from 4:45 to 6:45 PM the next day, I was already not happy. To make matters worse, the purpose of the meeting was so that the teachers from the two high schools in the district could get together to share ideas and plan for the next quarter. But the other high school teachers don’t do the same things we do at my level of English. They don’t even do the same things as each other. The whole thing would be a pointless waste of time, and it would add three extra hours to the end of my day.

I mentioned what a bummer it was to my two my teammates on my level. “It’s three hours after school,” said one. “I’m not going.” “What’s the worst they can do? Slap our hands? Not going,” said the other. Well, I decided. Then I’m not going either. But no sooner had I hit “delete” on the online sign-up sheet, the nagging feeling of guilt started in my head. 

Indecision

“I’m supposed to be representing Christ. Everybody knows I’m a Christian. If I just do whatever I want, what does that say about my integrity?” I thought. Wasn’t there a Bible verse about that? I looked it up: 1 Timothy 6:1, “Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.” Then Colossians 3:23 popped in. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” “Besides,” that voice in my head continued, “I don’t work for people. I work for the Lord. He called me to teach. He put His fingerprints all over my job when I got hired at my school over ten years ago. I’m supposed to do my best at work to please Him.”

“But I don’t waaaaant to!” I whined back to the voice. Plus, if nobody showed up, maybe the person in charge would get the idea that the online version we have been doing to this point was fine. I was just being a conscientious objector. It was like chaining myself to a tree or refusing to leave a sidewalk. I was protesting really. I’m sure that’s allowed, right?

A Choice to Obey

But the nagging feeling just would not go away. I sat at my desk for over an hour after school going back and forth in my head. I decided I wasn’t going, and that was final. Then the nagging feeling stopped. Wait. A small shiver of fear shot through me. Did it stop because I had finally convinced myself that it was the right thing to do, or did it stop because the Holy Spirit was tired of dealing with me? THAT scared me. If it was the Holy Spirit who had been behind that feeling of guilt the whole time, this was a game changer. I never want to get to a place in which I ignore God’s voice so that He stops speaking.

Plus, just a few weeks ago, I had been in a similar position. I had a strong feeling that I was supposed to share Jesus with a certain someone, but I didn’t do it. I was in a place and at a time when it wouldn’t have been exactly convenient, so I “straight-armed” the Holy Spirit. As soon as my split-second decision was made not to comply with what He was asking, I felt the sting of regret. I had made a promise to myself at that time to always look at things from the standpoint of hindsight. So now here was my chance to do things right. Which would I regret more? Losing three hours of my time or the opportunity to show obedience to God? I decided to go after all.

It Was a Good Night

Long story short, it wasn’t a bad meeting. Only one other lady at my level showed up from the other high school, and we actually had a good conversation. I found out that we have similar backgrounds and were hired the exact same year at our respective schools. She told me some stories from her years teaching at her school, a lower-income version of my school. I shared some lesson plans and talked about my love for my kids . I also told her how I believed God had sent me to my school. On the way home, I prayed for three accidents I saw. And, when I stopped for gas, I felt led to give out a Spanish tract I had in my purse to a guy pumping gas next to me.

Looking back at the evening, I had the very strong feeling that I had done the will of the Lord. I believe that I was in the place He wanted me to be at the time He wanted me to be there. I think I had made the difference I was supposed to make – whatever that difference actually was (only God knows). The whole thing was annoying and pointless in theory, but the reality was that God put me in my position for a reason. I am not my own. I was bought with a price. He gave me the exact advantages, skills, and background I needed to do the job He sent me to do. Submission to my employer is submission to God, and obedience is the only option.

When Obedience IS the Sacrifice

The idea for the title of this article came from 1 Samuel 15:22: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” While I was meditating on it this week, I believe that the Lord showed me something about this verse I had never heard mentioned in any commentary before. Since no sacrifice is needed unless there is sin, this verse means that It’s better to do what is right the first time than to have to repent for doing what’s wrong/sinful (which would require a sacrifice). And even when obedience has a cost attached – our time, our effort, our submission when we don’t understand the point – that sacrifice IS the obedience that God desires. Then, when we look back on the situation, instead of regret, we will have the amazing feeling that we have done the will of the Lord.

Interested in more articles about workplace encounters? Check out Check out God Knows Even When You Don’t, So Pray!  It’s about a time when I prayed for the graffiti to stop, and it did. Or, try Make God’s Will My Will: A New Way to Pray. It’s a “God wink” story that teaches a new way to pray to get what you want. Or, see God Answered the Prayer I Did Not Pray. In it, God teaches me a lesson about leaning on Him for strength.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Lessons to Learn

An Object Lesson About Pride in Our Hearts

This is the space heater that God used to show me an object lesson about pride.

God does enjoy a good object lesson. In Ezekiel 4, God has the prophet lay on his side, eating food by weight for 380 days, to illustrate the siege of Jerusalem. In Hosea, God has the prophet marry a harlot to show the relationship between faithful God and unfaithful Israel. Both of these stories involve spiritual concepts symbolized by physical items in order for the audience to better understand. God still uses object lessons today for those who are watching for them. The winter before last, He used an unlikely scenario with a space heater to show me a lesson about pride.

The Set Up

It was a cold January morning around 5:30 am when I hit the bathroom to get ready for work. Immediately, I reached to turn on the space heater that my son had bought me for Christmas the year before. Nothing. I saw that my husband had unplugged it to charge his phone, so I plugged it in and tried again. Nothing. Thinking it might be the outlet, I took it to my side of the bathroom and plugged it in there. It still didn’t work. I was frustrated that my relatively new space heater wasn’t working, so. I set it on the edge of the bathtub for a minute and turned on the shower to get the water warm. 

When I turned back around, I noticed something I hadn’t before. There was a band-aid stuck to the plug. Now, I know what you might be thinking: this is pretty far-fetched. And, I have to agree. But, this story happened exactly like I’m telling it. When my husband unplugged the heater, the cord had come down into the tiny trashcan next to the counter where it must have picked up the sticky band-aid. As soon as I pulled off the band-aid and plugged in the heater, I was in business. The heater worked just fine.

I wondered at the whole scenario as I finished getting ready for work. I knew that God can help us see things that we wouldn’t ordinarily see. Apparently, He also sometimes can help us miss things that we wouldn’t ordinarily miss. But why? I had a very strong suspicion that this was a lesson of some sort. Really, there could be no other explanation for the weird way it went down. It wasn’t until later that day when I happened onto a Word from the Lord that it all came together.

The Lesson and a Confirmation

Someone on my Facebook feed said that she had heard from the Holy Spirit that pride can block the flow of love. Then it hit me. The sticky band-aid had blocked the flow of electricity to the space heater. It was a perfectly good heater. It simply could not get the power it needed to operate because it was blocked. This was a physical representation of a spiritual lesson. I commented on the post about my experience, and we both had confirmation that the Word was from God. But what specifically did it all mean?

Pride Blocks us From Loving the Weak

When we have pride in our hearts, it can lead us to look down our noses on those around us who are not as strong and/or healthy as we are. I thought about times when I was exasperated by people who didn’t seem to be “pulling their weight” at work or others who seemed not to have the same commitment to coming to church every service because of illness or pain. Instead of having compassion on those who are built differently or who have different crosses to bear, I have been guilty of thinking of myself as better or more committed instead of loving them and asking how I can help.

Pride Blocks Us From Sharing Our Faith

When we have pride in our hearts, it is very hard to live our lives out loud for God. Worrying about how other people see us can cause fear to overcome any sense of love or compassion for people who will find themselves in hell without our Savior Jesus Christ. We are commanded to tell others about Jesus. But how many of us go about our lives interacting with store clerks, customers, bank tellers, and the like without ever mentioning Jesus to any of them?

A while back, God convicted me that I needed to do more, so I do pass out tracts when I’m out, but I struggle with pride every time, forcing myself to do it and even sometimes scurrying away with a quick, “Have a blessed day!” instead of sticking around to see if there are any questions or prayer requests. I worry about how people see me instead of being concerned about the consequences of not sharing the great blessing of salvation that someone had to first share with me.

Pride Blocks Us From Loving God With Our Hearts

Finally, having pride in our hearts can block the flow of love toward God Himself. He requires obedience and humility. When we are disobedient or proud, He chastises those whom He loves. When this happens, we have two choices. We can submit and humble ourselves, or we can bristle, get defensive, and pull back from Him. Like a child with a parent who says, “No,” or “Stop,” we can start to see God as strict or (God forbid) mean instead of the compassionate, loving God that He is. It’s obvious to us why children can’t go into the street or touch hot stoves, but as adults, it isn’t always clear why God has us do (or not do) certain things. We just have to remember that it is all for our good and His glory. We must humble ourselves to be grateful for His correction and love Him with our whole hearts.

Pride is bad news. It’s the sin that caused Lucifer to fall, and it’s the same one that is still causing trouble for many well-meaning Christians today. Just like the heater was blocked from power, our hearts can be blocked from having compassion for others and even fully loving God Himself when we have pride there. But loving God and loving others are the two greatest commandments, and without that power, we aren’t truly functioning the way Christians should. It is up to us to pull off that sticky pride and plug ourselves into the Source once again.

Enjoy object lessons? Check out Spiritual Warfare: A Defeated Foe. In it, God uses a housefly to teach me about the way I should view the enemy. Or, try Message in the Moisturizer: We Can Choose Change. In that one, God shows me that we don’t have to stick with bad choices once they have been made.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Lessons to Learn

What My Dog Taught Me About God’s Timing

My German Shepherd Angel looking up at me after she taught me about God's timing.
Angel Marie G. Excuse the mess!

God’s timing is perfect. Ours is not. It’s one thing to know it and believe it. It’s another thing to experience a situation in which we want something so very badly, and it’s not yet God’s time for it. This morning over breakfast, I think my dog taught me a lesson about God’s timing that I will take to heart from now on.

The Setup

Bagels and cream cheese. Yum. I love them. My dog Angel loves them. This morning, I was sitting in bed eating my bagel. (I’m a teacher on summer break, so I can do stuff like that.) My dog was sitting with her little snout on my bed. Her eyes looking up so very longingly at my plate. The crispety, crunchety sound of bagel munching was in the air. Angel wanted a bite of my bagel. She licked her chops with a little sigh.

I took a sip of my coffee, surveying the bagel landscape. The bite at the end would be just perfect for her. It wouldn’t be too much to give her a tummy ache, and my own stomach would be satisfied by that point, too. I made my decision to give her the very last bite of my bagel. I continued eating, my plan firmly established. And then she left.

The Lesson

In that moment, I saw myself in the many times I have come before God asking Him for the latest thing I WANTED. I have pleaded with God over things in my life, looking up at Him with plaintive eyes and practically licking my chops. But how many times have I gotten tired of God’s timing and wandered away right before He gave me the thing I was asking for? Of course, I have no way of knowing, but it sure made me think.

The next time I come before God, asking Him for something in my life, I’m going to remember this breakfast. I’m going to stay at the altar until the situation resolves itself and the door is either swung open wide or slammed tightly shut. I won’t give up while God still has the bagel in His hand.

If you like object lessons, try Message In the Moisturizer: We Can Choose Change . In it, we learn that bad choices shouldn’t trap the child of God. Or, if you like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His,” check out Telling Hearts.

Lessons to Learn

God Answered The Prayer I Did Not Pray

From the time I was a child, I have always been an independent person. I even remember jerking away from my mother as she tried to help me tie my shoes, saying, “I do it!” In the world, independence is a good thing. It keeps us responsible for our own affairs and moving toward a life away from our parents’ couch. As Christians, though, we must remember that ultimately, it’s not always up to us to do things on our own. Instead, it is in our very own weakness that God shows Himself strong. Recently, God taught me that lesson by answering a prayer I did not pray. 

The Set Up

That day I had gone to Costco to pick up a few items, and I found a great deal on water. Getting the giant pack into my cart wasn’t hard because I was able to use gravity to swing it down from the tall stack with a thump. Getting it out of the cart would prove to be another matter. I’m not physically strong at all, and after securing everything else into my vehicle, I found myself alone in that parking lot trying to lift that water. I would strain and get the heavy pack almost up to the top of the cart…before watching helplessly as it fell back down. 

The Verse

Then the verse from 2 Corinthians 12:9 popped into my head. “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness’…” So I said a prayer: “Lord, if your strength is made perfect in my weakness, give me the strength to lift this heavy pack of water out of my cart.” I lifted again, harder than before, with the same results.

The Answer

After a few more tries, panting and grunting and bulging my eyes, a family pulled up a few spaces away. It was a mom, a dad, and a teenaged boy. Without any prompting, the boy came directly over to my cart and offered to lift the water. A moment later it was done, and I thanked him profusely. He even took my cart back to the corral for me. I considered the situation. I had prayed for God to give me some sort of burst of supernatural strength to lift the heavy item for myself, but I really just wanted the water in the truck. God had answered the prayer I did not pray, sending instead another pair of stronger arms.

The Lesson

I then reconsidered the verse. It’s not about God making us strong enough to do things for ourselves. It’s about leaning on His provision to get things done. He never promised to take away our weakness. He promised to meet our needs despite them. Too many times, I realized, I really just want to be able to do things myself. It’s easier, somehow, not to involve other people in my own messy life, but God doesn’t work that way. If I had been able to lift the water myself, I would not have witnessed God moving on my behalf, and that boy would not have received the blessing of helping a stranger in need. I also realized that at other times, I am the one who is blessed when God sends me to help.

I think that’s where the rest of Paul’s sentiment comes from. “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” God delights in taking care of His children and shows Himself strong on their behalf. The very weakness we see as a hindrance is sometimes just an opportunity for God to work in our lives. 

Interested in more articles about prayer? Check out Make God’s Will My Will: A New Way to Pray, a “God wink” story that teaches a new way to pray to get what you want. Or, see Hope For Lost Loved Ones: God’s Mercy in Trials, a new way to pray for lost loved ones.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.