Google?

The first time it happened, we were sure it was a coincidence. “I was talking to so-and-so the other day about such-and-such and now I can’t stop seeing ads for that exact such-and-such all over my phone! How weird is that?”

It wasn’t long before we figured out this was no coincidence at all, but Google’s brilliant marketing strategy. As technology progresses, we expect our ‘smart’ phones to be smarter, or in other words, more ‘helpful’ to us – and everyone knows a good helper begins by listening! 

Whether we’re talking, messaging, searching, singing, driving, or shopping, our phones and home speakers are getting to know us. They’re working hard to determine (or prescribe) our future interests based on our current activity. The ads in my Instagram feed shift topics daily depending on what I Googled the day before. Yes, I looked up a cupcake recipe, but that doesn’t mean I plan on becoming a professional food blogger or visiting every possible cupcake bakery in my area! 

It’s gotten to the point that every time something we recently mentioned shows up in another conversation, in a TV show, or even on a billboard we look around in fear and say, “Google…?” 🤨

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Desire is a fickle thing. From the moment sin entered the human body, our senses have ached for all the pleasure, comfort, satisfaction, promotion, and protection the things of this world seem to offer. My desires seem to know me so well, showing up in more-than-coincidence-level form. Taking advantage of that heightened awareness, my very own sinful nature convinces me that ‘coincidence’ is, in fact, destiny.

Though we try to blame our temptation on anything (and anyone) else, James reminds us in his letter that: “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” (1:14) If our desires come from within, we can’t blame our giving in to them on anyone else (not even Google!). Our attention, and therefore action, naturally defaults to our ever-shifting whims.

Just a few verses later, James gives us the antidote to our wayward desires – a Father who is not of this world who is only and always giving “good” and “perfect” gifts. Unlike my drifting desires, with Him “there is no variation or shadow due to change” (1:17). My Father knows me better than I know myself, better than my desires seem to know me, and yes, even better than Google knows me! He knew the whole me before I was born and will know the whole me at every moment for the rest of my life.

Because I have Him, I have everything I will ever need. When I’m being lured by my desires, I’m meant to remember that my Father has already given me every good gift. Positive or negative, joyful or painful, fulfilling or depleting, every circumstance has been prescribed by His desire to grow in me a greater desire for Him. That’s my destiny and there’s no such thing as a coincidence!

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1,000

My favorite subject in elementary and middle school was math. Numbers came naturally to me. I was in the special math ‘club’ and rarely got second place in the 50-problem  “Mad Minute” competitions. When 1 + 2 = 3 became a + b = c, I kept up, but after having an auctioneer for a geometry teacher (no joke!) and the introduction of equations that included words, math lost me 😮

You don’t have to be a math genius to know that 1 is a little and 1000 is a lot. 1 is 1 and 1000 is 1000 of those ones. 1 multiplies 1,000 times to get 1,000. 1,000 is 999 more 1’s than 1. 1 is a little and 1,000 is a lot more than that little.

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How lovely is your dwelling place,
  Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
  for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
  for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
  and the swallow a nest for herself,
  where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
  Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.  

Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;      (Psalm 84:1-4, 10)

I am one person. I often wish I were more than one person because of the 1,000 things that are pulling for my attention. It feels like there are 1,000 things I could be doing at any given moment, but I can only do one of them. There’s work and writing and laundry and errands and scheduling and friends and keeping up with social media and texting people back and email and paperwork and bills and sleep and running and time with my kids – and oh yeah, I have a husband, too. Even at my multi-tasking best, I might be able to pull off two or three – but then none of them well. 

All of these 1,000 things are loud because if I don’t give my attention to them, there will be fairly immediate consequences. 

But one other thing has a much quieter voice. This voice doesn’t yell, demand, whine, or threaten. But this one thing may be more important – or in fact “better” – than all of those thousand yelling, demanding, whining, threatening things.

Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;

In ancient Israel, the people met with God by physically entering the temple courts. They had no choice but to take the time to go there – sacrificing any work or gain they could have otherwise accrued during those hours. Once they entered, worship was the only thing they could ‘do’. There were no smartphones connecting them to what they left behind or buzzing to remind them of what they were missing out on.

In our post-Jesus world, traveling to God’s presence is no longer necessary. As a believer, the Spirit of God resides wherever I’m at and any 1 of the 1,000 minutes I’m awake each day can be a minute of worship. 

But spending time with God is exactly that – spending. Even though I don’t have to physically go somewhere, it’s still expensive. It costs productivity. It costs time with my kids and husband. It costs perfection in my work. Sometimes it costs sleep and entertainment and a clean house.

While [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.  (Mark 14:3-5)

Every minute I spend in God’s word, prayer, or worship feels like that perfume: wasted. “This time could have been used for something more profitable!” yell the voices of urgency and efficiency, “Why would you choose 1 when you could have chosen 1,000? Why would you waste what could have been 1,000 on 1?” 

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”  (Mark 14:6) 

Every minute you give to worship will cost you. On top of that, the minutes you invest will likely not return immediate tangible profit. And on top of that, there will always be 1,000 more-immediately-profitable “elsewheres”.

When you deposit money in an investment account, it can feel wasted – there are so many other things you could be spending it on! But interview someone who was able to retire comfortably and early, and you’ll hear them say that every dollar they invested was worth it. 

It may be costly, but it’s never wasted. In a world obsessed with tangible gain and instant gratification, there are 1,000 “better” things I could be doing at any moment. 1,000 goals I could be accomplishing. 1,000 tasks I could be completing. 1,000 good feelings I could be experiencing. But the numbers add up: Every one minute I invest in my relationship with Jesus now has a 1,000% return!

Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;

 

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Wonder

We may have missed “foliage” season in Vermont, but we didn’t miss “frost” season. Last week’s Thanksgiving trip, during one of the blandest times of the year (as far as scenery goes), did not leave us disappointed! Though the trees had long lost their colorful leaves, those above a certain elevation had gained a shimmering layer of white that left us wanting to stop and take pictures around every corner.

On Friday morning, my restless husband convinced our family that, despite the below-freezing temperatures, it was a good idea to go for a hike. We layered up and headed out, parking at the base of a mountain, ready to trek up into the frosty heights!

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As we walked, the drab, dry, brown woods gave way to a winter wonderland. Yes, we had just seen Frozen 2 the night before, so yes, we all burst out in, “Into the unknown! Ah-ah-ah-ah!” as we gazed at the icy splendor around us. Every branch, down to the smallest twig, was coated in white. And good thing I had my camera because I never could have described what I saw when I got up close. Wow!

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Christmas is supposed to be a time of wonder. Mary’s troubling announcement, Joseph’s angelic dream, and the shepherds’ otherworldly experience were meant to bring us sensations of awe and amazement. We’re meant to be like the people of Bethlehem who “wondered at what the shepherds told them” (Luke 2:18). 

This word “wondered” is used dozens of other times in the gospels as people eyewitnessed the God-in-human-flesh Messiah calming storms (Matthew 8:27), casting out demons (Matthew 9:33), and healing all sorts of human conditions (Matthew 15:31). It’s used to describe the reaction of the crowds to Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 22:22), the reaction of Pilate to His silence (Matthew 27:14), and the reaction of the disciples to the empty tomb (Luke 24:12).

To wonder means to be awestruck by something. It means to be confused and therefore question or speculate about that thing and what it might mean. It only makes sense that the Bible characters we read about would have “wondered” – a once-in-all-of-human-history event was taking place in front of their very eyes! They were genuinely confused as they didn’t know what was happening and had a very limited understanding of what it might mean. 

But 2,000 years later, we’re merely celebrating that event, which most of us have done every year for our entire lives. We know what the birth of Jesus means. We understand the significance of God coming to earth as a human to show us Himself and give His life to bring us permanently into His presence. We get it!

My childlike wonder at the celebration of Jesus’ birth may have existed at one time, but like the Vermont trees, it’s long lost its color and gone dull. For many of us, the wonder faded when we grew up and stopped believing in ‘magic’. Or maybe it was when we started taking on the stress of shopping and gifts and decorating. Or when we sang the same songs and heard the same stories year after year after year.

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My wonder at the mountain frost was nothing compared to my reaction when I took a closer look. How in the world did those icicles attach themselves like that? How were they staying like that? How did this happen? Sure, I could have pulled out my phone and Googled it, but for the moment I was content to remain in wonder.

This Christmas, a friend invited me to take a closer look at Jesus by joining her in reading through an Advent devotional called “Unwrapping the Names of Jesus”.* We’re only a couple of days in, but I’m looking forward to experiencing wonder – not because I want the magical Christmas feelings, but because I want my worship to be genuine. From a distance, the manger holds a baby, but up close I see the Bread of Life, the Prince of Peace, the Light of the World, the King of Kings, the Man of Sorrows, the Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God!

*“Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional” by Asheritah Ciuciu

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Search

Despite my irrational fear of planes crashing, I love to fly in them. I love the anticipation of arriving at the airport, the feeling of hundreds-of-tons lifting like magic off the ground, and the temporary sense of bonding I feel with people who are all going to the same place as me 😊.

But what I don’t love are the lines. Especially the security line. Born with an innate fear of doing anything wrong, the security line is my nightmare. The possibility that I may unknowingly be breaking the law and that I may then be publicly exposed for breaking the law is unnerving!

Every time I set my backpack on the conveyor belt, I’m sure that it’s going to get pulled off for something. As a mom of three, my backpack just collects stuff. And in the last-minute-packing rush, dumping everything out to check for any TSA problem items isn’t at the forefront of my mind… until my bag disappears through the curtain into the luggage scanner.

Both Tim and I have had bags pulled off and hand searched, revealing giant pairs of scissors and pocket knives that we had no idea were in there 🤦. The funny part is that it’s always been on the flight home, which makes us a little concerned about the “security” of the Philadelphia Airport!

Before the first act of disobedience, all humankind knew was complete known-ness with God. Adam and Eve had nothing to hide and, had they heard them, the words of Hebrews 4:13 would not have induced even an ounce of anxiety:

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

“Of course!” they would have said. The fact that they were unable to hide anything from their Creator was no big deal because they didn’t have anything to hide. They knew of no potential hazards to their relationship with Him and there were no surprises in their bags!

But in our post-fall world, hearing that “everything is uncovered and laid bare” before God can prompt panic. We’re packed with a mix of sin we are fully aware of, sin we are semi-conscious (but also potentially in denial) of, and sin we haven’t yet been humbled enough to see (but we know may exist). Fearing the humiliation and loss that might come with everything being uncovered, we zip up our bags and hope maybe He won’t notice us.

Psalm 44:21 says: 

If we had forgotten the name of our God
    or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
would not God have discovered it,
    since he knows the secrets of the heart?

Our hearts may be packed with secrets, but the Spirit of God is packed in there, too. There’s no thing that can be “hidden” from His awareness, so even if we have “spread out our hands to a foreign god” in ignorance, He knows because He was right there when it happened.

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On our trip to Colorado last year, we took on a whole new endeavor: getting our entire family through airport security. We were as prepared as we could have been (minus the “water baby” doll I had to frantically squeeze the life out of over a trash can 😜). Regardless, my bag was so chock full of stuff, I felt like I should have just handed it to an agent and said, “You might as well search this, I’m sure there’s something in there!”

I didn’t, but of course my bag did get pulled off and a thorough search involving multiple agents and special testing tapes revealed our snacks to be the culprit! Yes, my bag of “Snyder’s Cheddar Cheese Pretzel Pieces” had traces of a substance used in bomb making on it. I mean, the amount of cheese in these could surely cause some *explosive* activity for some people, but who knew the Target cashier’s hand lotion could make such a scene?

As strange as a voluntary bag search sounds, a voluntary “heart search” is always in order. As theologian A.W. Tozer taught, God is “never surprised, never amazed. He never wonders about anything nor (except when drawing men out for their own good) does He seek information or ask questions.”* God doesn’t have to search our hearts, but He is very willing to perform a scan for our “own good”. Especially if we ask!

Most of us know, like Adam and Eve probably did, that the “fig leaves” they used to cover themselves were not an effective way to “hide” from God. We know He knows it all, so when we’re hiding it’s not really that we’re trying to keep something from Him, but more that we’re trying to keep it from ourselves. Admitting there’s something in there means facing it, which makes us want to grab our stuff and exit the terminal immediately!

But what if? “Traces” of glycerin may not seem like a big deal, but what if there’s healing in my relationships that I don’t even know needs to happen? What if the particular weakness or temptation in me is something that, when shared, could help another believer who is struggling? What if it could lead someone to Jesus?

What if you handed your heart to God today and asked for a full search?

*A.W. Tozer, “The Knowledge of the Holy”

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Dance

I can’t dance. I was born, as they say, with two left feet, and the moves that look good in my head don’t seem to become reality in my body. That doesn’t mean I don’t love to dance (especially if it will embarrass my kids 😉), but fancy footwork is not my thing!

If you know my husband, you also know that dancing is not his thing either, as proven by our attempt at learning how to “floss” last fall:

When Tim and I were planning our wedding many (many!) years ago, we understood there would be dancing. Neither of us had a problem with dancing in a group where you can blend in, but we were slightly intimidated by the required “first dance as a married couple”. Trying to coordinate our uncoordinated selves in front of an audience seemed impossible!

So we did the logical thing and signed up for “Ballroom Dancing Lessons”. As the token “young engaged couple” in a class full of senior citizens, we were taught the basics of the Fox Trot and the Waltz. Tim learned to “lead” and I learned to “follow”. And though we may have spent more time laughing than dancing, we walked away feeling semi-confident we could pull this off. 

When the big moment came we used none of the formal steps we learned, but that “leading” and “following” thing came in very handy. After all that practice I had learned to sense Tim’s motion and then take my next steps in accordance. Our Ballroom Dancing instructors may not have been very impressed, but we certainly were!

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God is always on the move and our relationship with Him is a dance. We sense His lead and take steps in response. His action demands re-action! 

Psalm 30 describes it like this:

I will exalt you, Lord,
  for you lifted me out of the depths
  and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
  and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
  you spared me from going down to the pit. (v. 1-3)

What did God do? He listened, He lifted, He protected, and He healed. What did David do in response?

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
    praise his holy name. (v. 4)

David praised. He worshipped God and invited others to do the same.

You turned my wailing into dancing;
  you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
  Lord my God, I will praise you forever. (v. 11-12)

Again, God initiated by doing the “turning” and the “removing” and David responded with active praise.

In her article, “Lead and Follow – The Secret to Dance Partnering,” writer Kate Swanson states that, “As you progress, you’ll learn that partner dancing isn’t about set routines… If you’re following correctly, you won’t take a step until your partner tells you to. He may do that by pressure with his hand, by shifting his weight or even by making a hand signal – but whatever the signal is, you must follow it instantly. Practice and you’ll be able to respond in a split second.”*

It’s tempting in our “Learn Anything In Five Easy Steps” culture to think of our relationship with God as a formal dance, where we simply practice the right routines until we’ve mastered them. But a relationship with God is not a predictable, pre-choreographed routine. Instead, it’s a practice of praise. He moves and we respond with worship. And the more we practice the praise, the more we’ll sense His movements.

This spring, I had the pleasure of attending a youth group student’s spring dance recital. I sat there mesmerized at the ability the human body has to move in ways that move our souls. Dance can move us to ecstatic joy or deep sadness. It can take us to a place of peace or an area of anger. Dance can be simple and silent or chaotic and complicated. The emotions may vary, but the movement continues.

There are moments in my dance with God when I am ecstatic with joy about what He is doing. There are moments when I’m mourning what He didn’t do. There are moments when I’m going with the flow because we’re good and moments when His silence frustrates. There are moments of slow and moments of fast, moments of close and moments of far. And in every moment, praise can be my response. 

God is moving. He is leading and waiting for you to respond with worship. Your relationship with Him is a beautiful movement – so dance on!

*https://hobbylark.com/performing-arts/Ballroom-how-to-lead

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Cruise

I’m the driver in this family. No, really – I do all the driving when we’re together. PA to NY to VT to PA to NC to PA – this can’t-even-ride-in-the-passenger-seat-because-I’ll-get-sick Mama racked up over 2,000 miles behind the wheel this summer!

With all this highway travel, cruise control has become my very good friend. Though I’m fairly cautious and concerned about my speed, my attention span is not the greatest and it’s not uncommon for me to be going 55 in a 70 (or vice versa 😮). But with the push of a button, I can make my car do the thinking and I can get our family where we need to go without annoying the drivers behind me.

Cruise control works great on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the New York State Thruway, or the seemingly endless 400 miles of Interstate 81 through Virginia, but Route 26 from the Tennessee border to Asheville, North Carolina? Not so much! 

No matter how much I love cruise control, I-26 is not the road to use it on. Climbing to almost 4,000 feet in elevation through Sam’s Gap in the Appalachian Mountains, this highway’s twists and turns and ups and downs make it impossible to stay at a single speed. I always think I can pick the perfect speed to make it work, but as we careen around a sharp corner and I have to slam on the brakes to keep control, I quickly come to my senses!

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When David became King of Israel, he was not elected by the people. He did not inherit the throne by birth, nor did he usurp it by his own might. David became King because He was chosen by God to become King. He was called out and anointed by God through the prophet Samuel and then promised by God, through the prophet Nathan:

I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
    I have sworn to David my servant,
“I will establish your line forever
    and make your throne firm through all generations.”  (Psalm 89:3-4)

Since David’s journey to the throne was no drive in the park, when he finally got there it was time for the promise to be fulfilled. Having been attacked, pursued, and deceived by the former king, it was time for a smoother ride – time for cruise control. Psalm 89 recounts the expectations David (and his people) had for how this was going to go:

 Once you spoke in a vision,
    to your faithful people you said:
“I have bestowed strength on a warrior;
    I have raised up a young man from among the people.
 I have found David my servant;
    with my sacred oil I have anointed him.
 My hand will sustain him;
    surely my arm will strengthen him.
 The enemy will not get the better of him;
    the wicked will not oppress him.
 I will crush his foes before him
    and strike down his adversaries.
 My faithful love will be with him,
    and through my name his horn will be exalted.
 I will set his hand over the sea,
    his right hand over the rivers.
 He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father,
    my God, the Rock my Savior.’
 And I will appoint him to be my firstborn,
    the most exalted of the kings of the earth. (v. 19-27)

But, lo and behold, twists and turns and ups and downs happened and therefore cruise control did not:

 But you have rejected, you have spurned,
    you have been very angry with your anointed one.
 You have renounced the covenant with your servant
    and have defiled his crown in the dust.
 You have broken through all his walls
    and reduced his strongholds to ruins.
 All who pass by have plundered him;
    he has become the scorn of his neighbors.
 You have exalted the right hand of his foes;
    you have made all his enemies rejoice.
 Indeed, you have turned back the edge of his sword
    and have not supported him in battle.
 You have put an end to his splendor
    and cast his throne to the ground.
 You have cut short the days of his youth;
    you have covered him with a mantle of shame. (v. 38-45)

This was not how this was supposed to go! Rather than feeling sustained, strengthened, protected, and exalted by God, David felt rejected, broken, scorned, and shamed by Him. And it wasn’t just David who felt this way – this psalm was written by Ethan the Ezrahite, expressing the feelings of the people, who also expected that once David was King, a smooth course was in front of them.

Riding through life with Jesus is anything but cruise control. It’s not any form of control! It is constant twists and turns and ups and downs – all for the sake of His glory and my eternal good. Though there’s a perpetual mirage of “the steady straightaway that will happen when I figure all this out,” it’s never quite attainable and just as soon as I think I’ve reached it, I’m suddenly careening out of control around a corner. 

Life with Jesus requires diligent focus and a readiness to adjust at any moment. We aren’t good at predicting what’s for His glory and our eternal good, so we don’t know what shape the next few miles (or even feet!) are going to take. It’s probably not going to be what we expect, but an attentive, stirred up spirit will give us the ears to listen to God’s voice, eyes to see what He is doing, and the ability to navigate the twists and turns.

The last verse of Ethan the Ezrahite’s psalm ends his lament with a quick change of tone:

Praise be to the Lord forever!
Amen and Amen. (v. 52)

These words of praise reflect back on the psalm’s introductory verses: 

 I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
    with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
    through all generations.
 I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
    that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself. (v. 1-2)

The end destination – God’s glory and our eternal good – will happen, no matter how windy the road gets. We don’t have as much control as we would like, but in His faithfulness, He’s got every corner mapped out. We may feel a little woozy, but He always stands firm. Plus, the view is totally worth it!

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Speaking of cruise control, I’ve had mine set to “post every week during the school year” for four (FOUR!?!) years now, but this summer the Holy Spirit threw a curve in the plan by saying it’s time to slow down in order to give more time to publishing my youth curriculum. I like this place because I can write whatever I want – I have no one to impress and very rarely do I get any criticism, but submitting my curriculum to people who will criticize and potentially tell me it’s not good enough is super scary! I’ll still be posting on the first Wednesday of the month for this school year – and we’ll see where the road goes after that 😉

“Our gifts and talents should… be turned over to Him. They should be recognized for what they are, God’s loan to us, and should never be considered in any sense our own.” A.W. Tozer

If you’re interested, you can check out this 22-day Bible study I wrote as a follow-up for our SERVE students this year. I’d love to hear your feedback if you do!

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Repost: Foothold

Our family did a lot of things this summer, but one thing you can be sure we did was climb. From random boulders to hiking the toughest trail up the tallest mountain in Vermont, we certainly made use of some footholds!

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Originally posted April 2018

Elevation is in our genes. Not only do Tim and I find our favorite places at the tops of mountains, but our children are equally obsessed with getting to the top! From the time they could walk, these girls have been climbing anything and everything they can get their hands and feet on.

This spring, our oldest daughter, Ada, joined a youth climbing team at the local rock gym. Two afternoons a week she gets to climb her little heart out, moving from handhold to foothold, foothold to handhold as she ascends an assortment of vertical (and more-than-vertical) walls.

Last week, while watching her attempt a new bouldering (that’s climbing without a harness – but don’t worry, it’s on a shorter wall) route, I noticed her struggling to get to the top. Though she had successfully grasped the handholds above the overhang (yikes!), her body simply wasn’t long enough to gain a foothold within that route that would allow her to reach any higher.

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When we think of climbing, we think mostly of people using their hands to ascend the side of a mountain, but equally as important as the hands are the feet. Finding a ledge or crack that at least a portion of your foot can occupy is necessary, not only to give your tired arms a break, but to give you the leverage you need to boost your body higher.

Though I’m sure this is not the exact meaning of the “foothold” referred to in Ephesians 4:27, I think it still gives us an idea of what Paul was talking about.

Anger is a fundamental human emotion. When someone does something that threatens us or threatens someone we care about, our blood pressure rises and our bodies become tense. Filled with emotion, we are spurred on to fight injustice and protect ourselves and others.

And though it can in some ways be beneficial, Paul urged those who were being “made new” by the Holy Spirit (4:23) to be careful with their anger. “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (4:26-27) Since most of our anger is only the result of our egos being threatened, Paul knew it had the potential to tear down the body of Christ.

The word translated as “foothold” in this verse is the Greek “topos” which means “an inhabited place” and, in a military sense, more territory.* With more territory comes more “opportunity,” as the ESV translates it, for power and influence. The more ‘inhabitable space’ we give to the devil, the more ‘opportunity’ he has to create hurt and division in our families, churches, and communities.

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When climbing outside of the manufactured holds found in the gym, climbers take advantage of every indentation, protrusion, ridge, and crack real rocks have to offer. Over time, erosion has enlarged these ‘inhabitable spaces’ that give climbers the ‘opportunities’ they need to expand their ‘territory’ by climbing higher.

Since Adam and Eve’s first bite, elevation – of ourselves – has been in our genes. In his commentary on Ephesians 4, Albert Barnes states that: “The heart is deceitful; and seldom more deceitful in any case than when a man is attempting to vindicate himself from injuries done to his person and reputation.”**

When our egos are wounded, our tendency is to dwell on the situation. It baffles me that I can let the few seconds it took for someone to say something that offended me consume the other tens of thousands of seconds left in that day – or the following days! But the more I rehash what they said or did, trying to diagnose their sin and convince myself of their error, the more ‘inhabitable space’ I create. Dwelling is the erosion the enemy uses to carve out bitterness and resentment, which give him ‘opportunity’ in my life and relationships.

But as a follower of Jesus, I’m the one with the opportunity! Every time I want to vindicate myself, but choose to elevate Him instead, I leverage His power and grace. Every time I say, “I’m hurt, but Jesus, I will trust You with this,” I take the territory back. Every time I cut short the erosion process by saying, “Jesus, I surrender my reputation to You,” I shrink the devil’s inhabitable space. Every time I choose to “not let the sun go down” by having a hard conversation, apologizing, or offering forgiveness, I fill in the footholds – with my own two feet.

Anger is unavoidable, but the Holy Spirit is at work, empowering us to be careful with it!

*http://biblehub.com/greek/5117.htm
**http://biblehub.com/commentaries/ephesians/4-27.htm

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