Monday, September 15, 2008

The Other Shoe

"Waiting for the other shoe to drop." We've all heard this expression. It is used to say that we know that when one thing happens, it's paired with something else, so we are expecting the second thing because of the first.

Last year, we studied the book of James. James was Jesus' half brother, the son of Mary and Joseph. James didn't believe Jesus was who He said He was until James saw his brother risen from the dead. Then James went on to spend the rest of his life encouraging other believers in the truth. He ultimately gave his life for the truth of salvation through Jesus Christ. This fact makes the book of James all the more poignant and meaningful to me, because it was written by a man who grew up with Jesus, in his own house, who came to thoroughly understand the truth once it was revealed to him. What a rich experience that must have been! James made it his life to further the salvation that Jesus died for, that all might know the grace that is available through the sacrifice of Christ. James lived a life of obedience and sacrifice to further God's truth because of his faith. He knew it was true. It was worth dying for.

But this post is about shoes... isn't it?

We were studying in the book of James how true faith is expressed in actions. What you believe, you do. If you want to know where your beliefs are, look at what you do. What you do reveals what you believe. Ultimately, true faith acts:

Jam 1:22

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Jam 1:23

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror

Jam 1:24

and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

Jam 1:25

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.

I was thinking on these things throughout my day a few months ago, when I found myself distracted in the grocery store with three young children. Sama was in the grocery cart. Dylan was pushing Jacob in the umbrella stroller. With budgets, menus, choices, children's behavior and time all on my mind, I didn't notice Jacob taking off his flip-flop in the produce department. Further down the isle we were stopped when a little old lady said, "Excuse me, ma'am, but your son dropped his shoe." "Oh! Thank you!" I said, relieved to have it back. As I turned and knelt down in front of Jacob to put his shoe back on, I said to him, "Jacob, you don't want to lose a shoe. What good is just one shoe? We might as well throw away your other shoe because without them both, you don't have any shoes!" Well, you should have heard the gravity with which that statement hit my heart. "Just as faith is worthless without action, you must have both to be effective in this world. To have effective faith, you must obey my Word." Oh my, suddenly it was so clear, just how useless is that one shoe!

Well, now its about 9 months to a year later, and I'm still learning this lesson. And God is still using shoes to demonstrate it in my life. Last week I had a run-in with Sam's shoes and Jacob's shoes in the same day. I bought Sam a new pair of shoes and didn't come home from the store with them. When I realized we'd left them, we immediately went back to the store, sans naptime. Well long story short, we did finally find the shoes I paid for, thankfully. At this point, with everyone up, I had to go to the local grocery store to get the things that the first store didn't have, so on we went to the next store. When we got there, I realized Sam didn't have on any shoes! So on went the new shoes from the previous store. After picking up the last few things at the second store, we unloaded into the van with a one-shoed Jacob. I knew he had taken off his shoe in the cart. I made a mental note to retrieve it and promptly left without it! Once home, with a one-shoed Jacob, back to the second store I went again to get his flop out of the cart in the parking lot. And, thankfully, there it was! I found myself asking again, "What good is just one shoe??" I can tell you. It's no good. Now, Dylan's newest flip-flops are down a shoe. Just one lies in the middle of the dining room floor, very lonely and very useless. Just like my faith, if I don't learn, desire, to obey all that I have been revealed from studying God's holy Word.

Dylan hasn't worn that one shoe out of the house in weeks. He can't find the other one. Every once in a while he'll go around the house with that lone shoe on his foot, limping about. What use is just one shoe? What use is it to say you have faith, but have no deeds or any actions that show others and even yourself, that you believe in the Living God?? What good is it to tell everyone about who Jesus is, which is true, but then go on to act like you don't believe it, which makes it seem untrue. Actions speak louder than words. You have to have the shoe of faith to have effective actions, but without the shoe of actions, your shoe of faith has no pair, no mate that makes it worthwhile or effective to you or anyone else. And isn't that what faith is all about? Something that effects your life and how you live it. Not just talking the talk, but more importantly, walking the walk. Funny how God used shoes to illustrate this lesson...!

Jam 1:26

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

Jam 1:27

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Words versus actions. Actions, obedience to God's Word, they are the evidence of a true faith. They are what affects others for Christ.

I pray we find Dylan's missing shoe. I pray that I apply this lesson to my own life and never step out without both the shoe of faith, and the shoe of obedience. If you truly believe it, you will act accordingly, especially before expecting anyone else to take your word for it. I must remember this.

You wouldn't go into battle with just one shoe on, would you? It's not safe! Your steps would not be sure. You wouldn't try to run a race with just one shoe? You won't get very far. And it would hurt! Yet we are called to do both in this new life, to fight the good fight and run the race with endurance. For these, we need both of our shoes. Faith and Obedience.

Help me, Lord, to love and teach my children with both shoes on, the effective pair of faith and obedience. May the next step I take be done in faithful obedience and love for You and Your Word. May I be inspired by the life of James, the brother and willing bond-servant of Jesus Christ.

I'm looking forward to that other shoe dropping, the shoe of action and obedience. After all, what is the next step for a faithful child studying the Word of the Living God? :-)

Thank You, Jesus for Your Word. Your Word is truth.

I love and adoration, Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bread Enough to Feast On

Today's lessons... God-given, in perfect, child-sized bites:

Today my children and I talked of David and Goliath and my heart cried...
Lord, make me like David.
May I not only faithfully step out on the battlefield, but even after I know my foe is defeated, may I also cut off the head of my enemy, declaring to all that I am not longer under the oppression of such an aggressor. May I be dedicated to public victory!

1Sa 17:23

As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it.

1Sa 17:45

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

1Sa 17:46

This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.

1Sa 17:47

All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

1Sa 17:48

As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.

1Sa 17:50

So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.

1Sa 17:51

David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine's sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.

When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.

We talked of Zacchaeus and my heart cried...
Lord, make me like Zacchaeus.
May I know my limitations and do what ever it takes to get above my obstacles and make every effort to see you and not miss You. When you call my name, may I also respond like Zacchaeus, repentant and eager to just be right with you above all else.

Luk 19:1

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.

Luk 19:2

A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.

Luk 19:3

He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd.

Luk 19:4

So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore‑fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

Luk 19:5

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

Luk 19:6

So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

Luk 19:7

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ”

Luk 19:8

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Luk 19:9

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.

Luk 19:10

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

We talked of the parents bringing their children to Jesus and my heart cried...
May I be so bold as to bring my children to sit on your lap despite what others may say.

Mat 19:13

Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.

Mat 19:14

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Mat 19:15

When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

We talked of football and watched highlights on TV and my heart cried...
Lord, make me like a flag-bearing cheerleader.
May I run into the stadium of life, jubilant and smiling, giving all my effort to exult You, holding your banner up high that Your Name might be displayed with joy and glory.

Exd 17:11

As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.

Exd 17:12

When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.

Exd 17:13

So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

Exd 17:14

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”

Exd 17:15

Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner.

Exd 17:16

He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord. The Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

Isa 49:22 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: "See, I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders.

Lord, thank You for little lessons that carry me through my day. Each of these lessons, though discussed individually and in unrelated ways, teaches and emphasizes what I long to have in my life. May I be determined and dedicated to You alone, just as Your Word teaches us that David, Zacchaeus, the Godly parents, and Moses were dedicated and determined to follow and live for You alone. Write these qualities on my heart and on the hearts of my children, make them the method of my walk. Thank You, Father. You, and Your Word, are so good. May You be exalted.

With Love, Amen.