Clear the Way | Prepare
Monday— …’Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ Mark 1:3
“Hey, I just got a call from Mom,” said Jordan, tossing his backpack on the couch. “They’re coming up for parents’ weekend and want to stay with us. I told ‘em we have room.” Justin leaped up from the floor, sending his game controllers flying as he toppled a stack of pizza boxes. “No way!” he cried. “Why’d you say that? Look at this place. It’s a mess! Mom will expect it to be clean. She’ll give us that look.” Jordan opened his Chemistry text and frowned at his brother. “Mom knows us, dude. Why would she think our place is clean?” Justin grimaced. “Well, maybe I texted her a picture of Diane’s house our first week here.”
Two college guys were not prepared for an inspection by Mom. Even worse, Justin had set them up for failure by implying that they were. He pretended that Diane’s spotless cottage was his own. But reality was a different story. When we think about preparing our hearts for God’s inspection, we sometimes hide behind other people and say, “Well, I’m kinda like that.” Or, “I’m not as bad as some. Nobody’s perfect, right?” We set ourselves up for failure by not being honest with ourselves and with God. Excuses, justifications, and a refusal to see the stacked pizza boxes keeps us from preparing the way for the Lord. We prepare to be used by Him when we first admit who we really are, then confess any sin in His way and let Him clean house.
Final Thought: What in your life might create shame if Jesus came for the weekend?
Prayer: Father, I’ve gotten lazy about my personal life. I’m excusing a lot that you don’t excuse. Open my eyes to see my life the way you do. I submit myself for your inspection and commit to changing whatever you show me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday— “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” Mark 1:15
You’re a finalist on Jeopardy! You’ve bet it all on the final question. Alex reads this clue: “The first message that Jesus Christ preached during His earthly ministry.” The music starts and your opponents begin to write. Snippets of Jesus’ words flood your mind: “Love one another? Fear not? Do not judge? Be kind?” The buzzer sounds and you’ve got nothing. Larry on the end wrote: “What is ‘Let the little children come to me’?” WRONG! Ruth in the middle wrote, “What is ‘I will turn all water into wine’?” WRONG! Alex looks at you. You shrug. Then he reads “What is ‘Repent of your sins and believe the Good news?”
Really? You, Ruth, and Larry exchange looks. You go to church a lot, but you’ve never heard that before. Why didn’t any of you know that? It’s most likely because the real Jesus has been kidnapped by a man-centered religion that barely resembles Christianity. His words have been sifted through a politically-correct filter so that the only ones we hear belong to a lamb-wearing socialist who went around preaching “Love is love” and “Tolerance is the greatest virtue.” If you actually READ all the words of Jesus, you get goosebumps. He’s a lot harder on us than the social justice warriors realize. His primary purpose in coming was to shake us up, warn us to repent and believe before it’s too late. Would you have won that Jeopardy! round?
Final Thought: Before reading this, would you have known Jesus’ first message? Tomorrow we’ll dive deeper.
Prayer: Jesus, it’s embarrassing that I might not win a game show if you and the Bible were the main categories. I say you’re my Savior, but maybe I need to read for myself what you said. Maybe I’m trusting in the wrong Jesus. Open my eyes. Amen.
Wednesday— Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Acts 3:19
Yesterday we learned that Jesus’ first message was repentance. But what exactly does that mean? Hasn’t everybody repented at least once for something they regret? Is that what this means? No. The English language has three “R” words that we think are synonyms, but they’re not. We speak of regret, remorse, and repentance as if they all take us to the same place, but they do not. Regret means I wish I hadn’t done that. Remorse means I feel emotionally bad about doing that. Neither of those is commanded or required for salvation. Repentance is. To repent means we have a change of mind that results in a change of direction. We do an about-face. We were going one way, but learn we are wrong, so we turn and go a different way.
Picture a family loading up the van and going on vacation. They’re having a great time, but suddenly Mom notices a kid is missing. That realization changes their mind and their direction. One minute they were solely focused on what lay ahead; the next minute, they threw on the brakes, turned around, and raced back. They were no longer dreaming about the theme park ahead or relaxing by the pool. All they can think about is finding that child. They had a change of mind that resulted in a change of direction. That’s what repentance means. We can feel bad about our sin and regret the consequences, but if our direction doesn’t change, we haven’t repented. We begin to live God’s purpose for our lives when we repent and turn.
Final Thought: The only way to receive forgiveness of sin is to repent of it, turn around, and head toward God.
Prayer: Father, I’m convicted by this. I’ve excused and justified my choices but I’m only putting myself in Satan’s prison. I want to prepare myself for whatever you have ahead for me. No sin is worth losing your purpose for my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— The LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your people … to the land I will show you.” Genesis 12:1
We read only the edited version of this event, as with all events in the Bible. Genesis allows five verses between Abram’s call and his destination. But the real story was raw footage. “Abe, are you sure that was God?” “Excuse me, sir, but as chief servant, I can’t fathom how we will transport an entire feedlot full of livestock.” Think about how overwhelmed you feel moving your three-bedroom houseful of stuff across town. Now, what if you had to move your entire neighborhood to the Equator? By camel. That’s close to what Abram did. It was unsettling. Scary. And difficult. But he did it because the move was from GOD.
We give others the edited versions of our life events, but the real story was raw footage. Sorrow. Betrayal. Loss. Discovery. When we left the familiar to move into new territory, sometimes it was our idea. Other moves were out of our control. Then there’s a third category, the one Abram experienced—God’s direct order. It may sound like this: “Sell everything and serve me in Ghana.” Or, “Give up having a baby and embrace the orphans I will bring you.” Or, “Say goodbye to your old life and step into a new one.” As with Abram, God is preparing us for something new, His dreams for us. We can’t get there while clinging to the old. We have to clear the way. Old habits, relationships, viewpoints, and behaviors won’t fit with where God is taking us. It can be unsettling. Scary. And difficult. But that’s how we grow. We must leave the familiar in order to move forward with GOD.
Final Thought: Be willing to leave the familiar by abandoning your own plans to follow God’s.
Prayer: Father, how much of the familiar am I clinging to instead of abandoning myself to your dreams for me? I don’t want fear to keep me in bondage to my old ways. I want all you have for me, so I let go, Lord. Lead on. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— …lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set before us. Heb.12:1
John had been training for months for his first 10K run, and he was pumped. The best shoes, the best gear. He was pretty confident. He drove to the beginning point, parked, and got out. Opening the trunk, he began to stuff a backpack with files from the office, unpaid bills, and a wood project from his garage. With the pack over one shoulder, he fastened a belt around his waist with a full water jug and a metal lunch pail. He clanked to the starting line, smiling as he envisioned the trophy. His competition heard him coming. “What’s with that guy?” they asked. “No serious runner would carry all that if he expects to win.”
That’s what this verse is saying. If we expect to win this race God has set before us, we’ve got to shed the junk that slows us down. When we’re loaded down with sin habits, laziness, bitterness, and shame it’s like a heavy backpack on a marathon runner. We clank to the starting line, smiling as we envision all we’re going to do for the Lord. When He’d asked us to get rid of all that, we responded, “No, Lord. That might work for some people, but I can handle it. You don’t know how much I need to carry these old wounds, this addiction, this pet sin of mine. I can serve you just as well if I keep them.” And we never complete the race that was set before us. It was too long, too hard, and the stuff was too heavy, so we went back to our old lives.
Final Thought: Do you clank when you show up for God’s roll call? What extra baggage are you carrying that’s in your way?
Prayer: Father, I think I’m clanking. I’m trying to drag stuff from my old life into my new life, like sins you want me to get rid of. Habits, relationships, and attitudes that don’t belong in my race, I give to you. Free me to run my race. In Jesus’ name, amen.