Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT)
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”
After eating good food and opening their gifts, the kids decided to play a game of “Monopoly”. Believing this truly may be a Christmas Day miracle, my heart got all warm and fuzzy as they joined each other around the table with the well-worn board. Many a wars had been started over this game between siblings, but surely since the majority were now adults it would be more peaceful and fun. I was in the other room when the argument erupted. Our two sons and son-in-law in a heated debate with the girls trying to interject some peace and love. I had to chuckle as I moved in like Switzerland to find some common ground. Each person had what the other one needed to make a “monopoly” so they could build houses and begin to build their tiny empires. One son and our son-in-law had both masterminded compromises which they were trying to encourage our other son to join in. He did not like the deal. Finally agreeing to disagree the two made exchanges, and the game went on…for about twenty minutes and then the next bomb went off. When I entered the room again, my daughter was on the couch shaking her head while the guys engaged in yet another heated debate with our usually quiet giant in the thick of it. Now the two who had traded had mini-cities all across the board and the other boy wanted it but now had nothing to bargain with. He refused to roll the dice or move because he now wanted to make a deal but refused to give anything anyone else wanted but wanted what he wanted. He wanted the blessing but did not want to take the risk. Trying to help him understand that he had to take a risk to earn a profit, he firmly disagreed. He made his choice several turns before and now could only salvage what was left. He was mad. He did not understand. It seemed illogical to him. Finally to the great relief of everyone else, the game ended with two happy young man who enjoyed the past time and one very disgruntled man. The household order finally restored.
Life is all about perspective. The course of our life is set and established before we were born when God created us with a purpose and plan. (Psalm 139:16) Life is not what we make of it but rather the course we choose to take walking with the Lord or doing it our way. These are the only two choices that we have to make. They also bear the mark of “life” and “death”. We make the choice of which way we go in every single breath we take including our steps and decisions throughout each moment of every day. How do I know? Our life is written by God moment by moment. The entry to God’s Kingdom AND His Presence are very narrow gates. However, the highway to hell is wide and well-traveled. But the gateway to life, the life we want to live is narrow. We must intentionally choose to live it. But most of us are like my son who didn’t want to make a deal that did not clearly benefit him from the beginning. He wanted it his way or no way. He refused to give in and ended up losing the game blaming everyone else for his own distrust and lack of vision. We have the “monopoly” on life. Monopoly means exclusive possession or control of something. You want life? You got it. It is the gift of God. In the game called “Monopoly”, you cannot buy houses and then hotels until you own all the property in a certain block. We expect God to prosper our life even when we do not give Him our all. It doesn’t work either way. So today…God is reminding me to make better choices. I want to prosper in the coming year. I must evaluate my life in spirit and in truth to be sure that my perspective and bearings are on course.
Romans 6:14-18 (NLT)
Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.
God’s Grace has given us the freedom to choose how we live. I am trying to fully grasp the potential of God’s Grace in my life. It should create humility that a God so Big and a Son so Powerful would come down to rescue me who was born into sin and so often doesn’t do anything about it despite the ability to do so. When the Israelites were given the right to choose life or death, they did not have the Grace of God yet as I do. They had to return to the Law. I am free from the Law yet most of the time bind myself to it. Trying to do all the right things, say all the right words and be the right person rather than allowing the unfailing love and grace of God, I try to change me and do not allow the Lord to complete the work that He has begun in me. It is easier because I can do it my way. I feel in control. I am my own person. Not really, not anymore. If I want to choose life, it has to be God’s Way on His Terms.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NLT)
“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
If I follow Jesus, I will never miss it. I will have life if only I become diligent in my pursuit of Jesus Christ. When God offered the Children of Israel the choice between life and death, it says “Today I have given you the choice…” Every day is God’s Gift and every day we have the ability to choose whether or not we will live life or choose to return to death. Like everyone else, I like to skip through the Word of God to the good parts. The verses that benefit me directly are always my favorites. But the verses before and after are of infinite worth. We are not bound to the Law of God any longer, BUT it is still the key to life. God’s Word does not change. We just have the grace to go back when we mess up. So the Word of God is still very important to finding life in everything that we do. If at any time I decide to return to the Lord and obey with my heart and soul, He will accept me. (Deuteronomy 30:2) So this must mean that I cannot ever have the things of God my way but must always remain repentant turning my life back to Him day by day. God uses His Word to do His Work in me so that I can serve Him with all my heart, mind, soul and body. (Deuteronomy 30:6) I will become successful in everything that I do living in agreement with God. (Deuteronomy 30:9) It begins with the Word. We must know the Word of God, study it cover to cover and apply it to our life. It is our life contract. It is the only way that we will ever find eternal life. Jesus is the Word of God. Looking back over the past year, I can evaluate my successes and failures according to this principle. It is clear to see that when I chased after God attempting to live according to His Word, trust His Word, do His Word and believe His Word that I indeed was successful. I did not see it coming, but chose to live as I believed. It happened over and over again. The enemy wants to forget the times the Word worked in my life to convince me that it will not work now or forever.
John 4:23-24 (NLT)
“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Not only must I worship the Father by obeying His Word, but also by worshipping in Spirit, too. We need to couple God’s Word with His Spirit. To live according to God’s Word means humbling my life to live His Way according to His Word. To live according to His Spirit means that I must humble my heart and mind to be led in the right direction. This is a choice. My flesh will not ever go down without a fight. It seems as the New Year approaches that God is bringing me into it on my knees completely humbled before Him. I am so weak. I am so tired in my spirit. I just want to see the success that He promised when we walk in His Way. I desire the prosperity that begins in our heart overflowing into our life. I want to be a true worshipper in the coming year even though the thought is quite scary. The road is narrow and the gate is small for those who truly want such a life. It is a simple choice made every day in every breath of every moment. With each exhale, we must whisper from our heart, to our mind, through our body releasing it into the atmosphere – I choose life. Then we must live according to our declaration. That’s the challenge of it all remaining totally surrendered to God’s Will, His Way, and His Word each day in every way. I want that life but can I really ever live it?
Isaiah 66:1-2 (NLT)
This is what the Lord says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you build me a temple as good as that? Could you build me such a resting place? My hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are mine. I, the Lord, have spoken!
“I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word.”
Just like everyone else, I have no idea what 2015 will be like. I do not know what to expect. Truthfully and transparently, I am afraid to dream right now. I have found my heart, body, mind and soul engaged in a battle stance of faith. God has been encouraging me to drop my sword and rest. I am slowly trying to let it down. I have been on the offense so long after being caught off guard a few times that I am afraid to ever drop my sword anymore. He is the One who fortifies my soul. I can rest in Him. There is nothing that I can give Him other than my love and trust that matter. Everything belongs to Him anyway. God gave me life. Jesus gave me my birthright back. These are the keys to life that I needed. Faith keeps me close and hope keeps me searching for all of Him. But right now, I must consider not so much what I have given up for God but what the Lord is trying to give me. He wants me to have life more abundantly. Perhaps in that abundance will be the wisdom that I need to see the purpose and meaning of the past year’s struggles. I can do nothing apart from Christ. I must cling to my faith in Him at all times. I may have become distracted but with the each breath I have the opportunity by His Grace to refocus and reroute my course. God didn’t designate me to be strong but asks only that I am humble with a contrite heart. I can do that.
Proverbs 22:1-3 (NLT)
Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold. The rich and poor have this in common: The Lord made them both. A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.
Charging into the coming year is not where I am coming from this year, but rather a position of prudence. When my son was struggling in the game of Monopoly, it was because he could not see past what his logic comprehended to the possibility. He wanted to see an immediate return or he was not willing to make the investment or take a risk. “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1) For the past couple of years, I went into the New Year asking God for specific things according to my will that did not happen. I am not perplexed or bewildered because in the end I have seen the Goodness of God working in our life. Rather than putting my expectation for this New Year in what I think I need or what I want, I have decided to put my expectation completely in the Hands of Jesus Christ. I am not asking for anything specific but rather just choosing life. How does one do that with a grocery list of wants, needs and desires? Put it all in Christ alone. Faith is confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. Do you want it your way or do you want God’s Best? Hope is the assurance that what we don’t see will happen. Worshipping God in Spirit and Truth allow us to have His Wisdom so when things don’t go according to our plan – we will not abandon the narrow road or give up on abundant life. I didn’t choose Jesus – He chose me. (John 15:16) I scarcely can imagine someone going through everything that He went through just to make my life a living hell. No, His Love for me was so great that He suffered and died for my sins alone. How can I expect anything short of miraculous from a God and His Son who loved me that much? I do all the time. But that was last year, this year I will take the “risk” of trusting the Lord with all my life. I choose life for 2015. Whatever that entails is up to God according to His Plan!
Proverbs 8:9-11 (NLT)
My words are plain to anyone with understanding, clear to those with knowledge. Choose my instruction rather than silver, and knowledge rather than pure gold. For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it.