What is God Keeping You From?

Following Jesus isn’t getting any easier, is it? While God’s plumb line for distinguishing right and wrong has remained eternally the same, the world’s keeps changing. Things that our grandparents would have considered appalling have become commonplace. Acceptable. The lines have blurred, and so have our convictions.

Dear one, allowing anything other than God’s truth to shape our thinking leads to trouble. Sadly, tasting the sweet enticements of this world eventually results in death.

Kelly Minter witnessed this lesson experienced the hard way.

Lessons From a Lizard

Last week I was out for one of my neighborhood runs on an exceptionally hot and humid day in Nashville. Stifling is the word that comes to mind. I was about 20 minutes into my route when I noticed the oddest thing on the sidewalk . . . a lizard of some sort . . .about 9 inches long . . .

The really bizarre thing . . . is that its head was stuck in a Dr. Pepper can. I am not making this up. I have several theories, but my best one is that the glistening drops of sugary water lured this reptile in on a hot summer’s day. The poor little thing had worked so hard to wedge its head in there that it couldn’t get it out. It suffocated in the smothering heat.

. . . I couldn’t help but catch the symbolism. As I stood there staring at this peculiar sight, I thought of the many times I had discovered a few drops I thought were sure to offer life. They were sugary sweet and went down smoothly, offering a respite from the blaze of summer’s heat. . . In the end they left me more thirsty and desperate than before . . .

[Kelly Minter, No Other Gods, Lifeway Press, 2007, p.54-56]

Funny how some things are so easy to walk into but so impossible to back out of.

Have you ever found that to be true? At first something seemed so appealing, so right, so perfect. So you went after it. But once you got yourself in, you discovered a whole other side you hadn’t bargained for: the death side. The part that, had you known about it up front, would have stopped you from ever going in.

Beloved, God sees all of it, including the danger lurking just beyond the temptation. That’s precisely why He has established boundaries for us, not to keep us from experiencing the sweet, sugary taste of momentary refreshment, but to protect us from the suffocating death that accompanies it.

The enemy has been deceiving and tempting us out of God’s protection since the Garden of Eden. Perhaps it’s time we got wise to his schemes.

Look at God’s instructions to Adam in Genesis 2:16-17.

“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Pretty straight forward, right? Eat anything you want, except this one thing that will bring you death. Simple enough.

Enter the serpent.

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1

God tells us one thing. The prince of this world suggests something else.

That’s where our enemy always begins, dear one, getting us to question God. He raises doubts about His motives, His goodness, His trustworthiness. Did God really say . . .

  • Sex is only for marriage
  • Wives should submit to their husbands
  • Drunkenness is sin

Then he makes us believe we’re forfeiting something by obeying God.

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5

And here’s the really tricky part. The deceiver always offers some truth in his deceptions. Their eyes were opened (verse 7), and they did become like God in the sense that they would know both good and evil (verse 22). But what really hurt them—what devastated them— was what the enemy failed to reveal: the consequences of experiencing those things.

Had the serpent given full disclosure, I’m quite certain Adam and Eve would’ve made a different choice. But that’s not his way. No, our enemy reveals only what we’d perceive as benefit to entice us. The rest of the dark horror that follows he keeps hidden, relishing the moment we’ll discover it for ourselves.

Picture Adam and Eve experiencing a rush of emotions they had never known before. Shame. Fear. Guilt. Isolation. Blame.

Imagine their terror as each chilling feeling gripped them and they began to face the reality of what they’d done. Feel the awareness creeping over them that the relationship they’d known with their Creator was lost. Sadly, that wasn’t the end of their pain.

Seeds of sin that we allow the enemy to cultivate in us don’t just sprout immediate fruit. They continue to birth consequences long after they’ve been sown, even transcending generations.

As a mother of two boys, I’m especially stricken by the unimaginable grief that must have consumed Adam and Eve as they suffered the loss of their beloved son. I wonder if they held Abel’s lifeless body in their arms, staring in disbelief into the vacant face of the first dead man.   Far worse must have been the knowledge that he was taken from them at the hand of their firstborn. In one terrible moment, jealousy and rage—two devastating results of their choice to sin—stole their two oldest boys from them forever.

Beloved, when you disregard God’s instruction, you may experience a momentary thrill. But what follows will devastate you and those you hold most dear. Sin’s consequences are not always immediate, but they will always come.

Sin's consequences aren't always immediate. But they ALWAYS come. Click To Tweet

This is precisely why salvation comes through faith, dear one. We must decide whose voice we will trust to guide our steps. Will we follow the voice of Truth who always gives us full disclosure? Or will we trust the enticements of the world’s prince and allow him to deceive us into death?

I don’t know about you, dear one, but I choose Jesus.

How You’re a Lot Like My Dogs

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8

The morning didn’t exactly go as planned.

It was supposed to be a nice walk in the woods at a local park catching up with a dear friend and former prayer partner. Great plan. Until she suggested I bring my dogs.

I knew they could use the exercise and would love the adventure. And I could picture our little Jack—only a year at the time— happily bounding along with his heart full of wonder on only his second time exploring a trail.

But I also knew having my little darlings along would greatly alter the dynamic of our time together. I wasn’t sure. She said bring them.

I brought them.

Excited is a bit too small a word to describe Jack’s mood.

All his lessons of heeling calmly at my left vanished as though they’d never happened. I guess his sidewalk experience didn’t translate in the woods. I found myself severely tempted to take him off the leash.

He repeatedly bounded ahead up the trail darting from one side to the next sniffing everything, often tying me and Jen up with crossed leashes. And there seemed to be some discrepancy between the dogs over who deserved the right to lead.

Let’s just say Jen and I didn’t set our pace.

We told ourselves they were just excited and would soon calm down and keep pace with us. It was a good thought.

Little did we know that half way around the loop the trail would narrow to single file, only intensifying their bids for first place. Up and down they pulled us, over fallen limbs and under leaning branches.

Through lots of laughter and panting breaths, we managed to share a bit with one another. But I can’t help thinking how much more enjoyable our time would have been without all the tugging and straining.

Always straining after what's ahead diminishes our present blessings. Click To Tweet

Not just for us, but for the dogs.

By the time we made it back to the car, the soft fur under their chins hung in soaked strings from their excessive panting. Exhaustion had so overtaken Annie that she missed out on one of her ultimate joys: feeling the wind on her face while riding with her head out the window. Apparently after all that exertion, it was too much effort to sit up and rest her head on the car door. Instead, she lay sprawled on the seat, panting heavily.

I had a mess to clean up when I got home.

We may chuckle at the silly antics of lesser creatures, but God’s been showing me that we humans are a lot like those dogs. We insist on striving and straining for more, always tugging at God, trying to pull Him in the direction we want to go.

And we want to get there fast!

But all our tugging only pulls us further away from Him. And we don’t get to enjoy the incomparable pleasure of just being with Him.

Funny, isn’t it, how instead of simply receiving and enjoying the blessings God gives us, we insist on striving, even in the midst of them. Rather than savoring each moment, we dart ahead to see what’s coming around the next corner.

No wonder God’s Word speaks so often of rest.

God isn’t holding back from us, dear one. He’s always giving. That’s His nature. God is love (1 John 4:8, 16), and He loves so deeply that He gives (John 3:16). He’s simply waiting for us to receive. Yet instead of resting in what God is giving, we tug and strain, trying to force our way into grace.

I’ll let Paul ask you the question God’s been asking me.

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Galatians 3:2-4

Beloved, no amount of striving on our part will usher us into what faith alone can reach.

While I can know that truth in my head, I still often find myself compelled to want to do something to catch myself in the flow of His grace. Reason suggests: If I …, then God will …

Yet God’s Word shouts the simplicity of grace freely given, and beckons us to believe it.
You and I don’t need to keep striving after the things we’ve already been given, dear one. We need to rest in them. We need to believe God when He says that we have them and press in close. Exercising that faith ushers us into His abundant grace.

Oh, how I love Jesus.

Does God Choose Not to Hear You?

O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you! Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! Psalm 141:1-2

God continually calls His people to pray. In our opening scripture, David calls upon God to respond.

I love his candor with the God who loves him. Hasten to me!

I want to have that kind of faith when I approach His throne. Don’t you? David confidently asked God to come near, full of expectation that he would be heard. Then he asked Him to open His ear to his voice.

Why is that significant?

John 9:31 reveals an important truth.

We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.

David confidently asked God to respond to him because he knew he had God’s ear. Do you, dear one?

If you’re not certain, we just read the qualifications describing one God listens to: anyone who worships God and does His will.

You and I want God to hear our prayers, beloved. More than that, we desperately need Him to—far more than we realize. But John 9:31 brings up an important point we often overlook.

God doesn’t listen to every prayer.

I know. Making a statement like that seems scandalous. It doesn’t sit well with our cozy view of grace. But God’s word remains true—all of it, not just portions of it. And scripture undeniably declares, God does not hear us all.

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. Isaiah 59:1-2

You’ll notice the problem is not that God can’t hear. But there are times when He chooses not to.

So why would God choose not to hear His own children? 2 Timothy 2:11-13 offers some insight.

The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.

Beloved, if you and I live our lives denying Jesus, His word declares that He will also deny us.

Perhaps I’ve lost your attention because you feel those words don’t apply to you. But I’m not talking about denying that Jesus is the Son of God. I’m talking about the decisions we make every day that either deny or acknowledge Him.

Let’s be honest. Many of us cheerfully associate ourselves with Jesus’ name. But when He calls us to actually live our faith through obedience, we deny Him.

• When His Spirit prompts us to forgive, we deny Him by embracing bitterness.
• When He invites us to walk in holiness, we deny Him by choosing the ways of the world.
• When He calls us into His presence, we deny Him the time.

Then we wonder why He doesn’t seem to bless our prayers.

If we deny Him, He will also deny us.

Beloved, God will never empower disobedience and idolatry. We cannot expect Him to unleash heaven’s blessing upon us while our choices deny His leadership over us.

And that, dear one, is why David had God’s ear. Listen to God’s description of him.

“I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.”
Acts 13:22

God’s ear tunes to the sounds of the godly. Let’s put it another way.

God listens to those who listen to Him.

God listens to those who listen to Him. Click To Tweet

Do you want God to hear you, dear one? Listen to Him. Choose to live in agreement with His Word. Seek Him in the secret place to discern what He is speaking. And then follow where He leads—in every area of your life.

You and I can’t expect God to listen to us while we refuse to listen to Him. But when we seek to live according to His will, His promises abound.

But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. Psalm 4:3

The Staff of Power

“Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground.” Exodus 14:16

When God appoints a person to a kingdom task, He provides them with the power to accomplish it. But what happens when we insist on passing off our purpose to someone else? Do we also pass on the power?

I only ask because God revealed something to me about our friend Moses I’d never noticed before. I wonder if you’ll see what God showed me.

When Moses asked how he would prove that it was really God who had sent him to deliver the Israelites, God responded with a question of His own.

The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” Exodus 4:2

In the moments that followed, God used that staff to reveal His miraculous power, and Moses’ staff became the staff of God (Exodus 4:20, Exodus 17:9).

Take note, dear one. God didn’t give him something new to prove His power. He anointed what Moses already possessed.

God will anoint with power what you already possess. What does He ask you to offer Him? Click To Tweet

And when Moses finally submitted to return to Egypt with his brother by his side to speak for him, God gave him one final instruction.

And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”

… So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand. Exodus 4:17, 20

Here’s where it gets really interesting.

When the time came to confront Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron did everything the LORD asked of them. God gave instructions to Aaron through Moses for each of the first three plagues.

And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, so that they may become blood…’” Exodus 7:19

And all the water turned to blood.

And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the canals and over the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt!’” So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. Exodus 8:5-6

Still Pharaoh would not relent.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats in all the land of Egypt.’” Exodus 8:16

 But something changed when the time came to unleash the fourth plague.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself to Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. Or else, if you will not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants and your people, and into your houses.”’” Exodus 8:20-21a

Did you catch it, dear one? God took Aaron out of the equation at the fourth plague.

The God who’d first called Moses at the burning bush challenged him to return to his original calling. He asked him to trust His power through him, without relying on someone else. As promised, God had made his mouth, and He would help Moses speak (Exodus 4:11-12).

When Moses complied, a great distinction occurred.

 But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth. Thus I will put a division between my people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall happen.” And the Lord did so… Exodus 8:22-24a

Beloved, until that point, the Israelites experienced every plague God poured out through Aaron. When Moses finally trusted God completely and took his true position, blessing fell on the people of God. And they were spared from suffering with the Egyptians.

I wonder, dear one. What blessings might God’s people be missing because you and I allow doubt to keep us from trusting God fully in our purpose? What has God asked you to do that you’re relying on someone else to accomplish? What if the anointing God appointed for the task won’t manifest fully until you step by faith into the role God ordained as yours?

Don’t misunderstand. God had always intended for Aaron to go with Moses. How do I know? God had already sent Aaron on his way to meet Moses while he argued with God at the burning bush (Exodus 4:14). But it wasn’t Aaron’s job to confront Pharaoh. That was Moses’ task. God appointed Aaron to help Moses, and he would minister as a priest of God.

After that, Aaron still accompanied Moses to every meeting with Pharaoh, but Moses did the talking. And the staff of power that proved God was with them returned to Moses’ hand.

Then Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt. Exodus 9:23

 Moses didn’t relinquish his staff again. And he shouldn’t have. After all, it belonged to him.