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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Red Flags

“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
For I have the desire to do what is good,
but I cannot carry it out.
For what I do is not the good I want to do;
no, the evil I do not want to do – this  I keep on doing.”
Romans 6:18-19 NIV

“For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;
 but I see another law at work in the members of my body,
waging war against the law of my mind and making me
a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.”
Romans 7:22-23 NIV
“What a wretched man I am!
Who will rescue me from this body of death?
Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Romans 6:24-25 NIV

The sun is up! That puts a smile on my face. The coffee is fresh and smells wonderful! I hurry to pull on my “Life is Good” tee-shirt and start my day. As the day progresses, things happen, my mood changes, interruptions frustrate me, people irritate me, and from afar I see ridiculous red flags popping up in my heart’s garden. The flags are flapping in the whirlwind of my life reminding me to be careful, slow down, and take a Jesus break! I am ignoring the flags and one by one more things happen to spoil my day! The spiral down from “life is good’ to “you’ve got to be kidding” is out of control and about to do me in.
In total frustration I head for the garden. At least I can get those bizarre, random red flags out of my garden. I am so self-absorbed that today the flowers along the path in the garden are just so-so! Not ugly, but neither are they beautiful. As I pass by the Master Gardener I give him an over the shoulder “hey, how ya doing?’ as I make tracks to remove the annoying red flags.
As is his practice, the Master Gardner sneaks up behind me and taps me on the shoulder and says, “Paula, what’s your hurry?” Clearly, I am in no mood for this. Again, he speaks, “What’s up with the aggressive flag removal?” So I turn quickly on my sassy heels and look him square in the eye and say, “I’ll tell you what’s up!”
And so it begins. I begin to recall my morning. First the sun came up and I enjoyed a cup of coffee. Then I burned my toast! After that I had a relational conflict with a family member. Next my computer was not cooperating. Then phone rang revealing yet another problem. Grabbing my keys I ran to the car ready to begin my errands. Of course, the gas was on next to empty and as I was driving to purchase gas to feed my starving car I realized I had made a huge mistake in my checkbook. Since the Master Gardner seemed to be so interested in my insane life, I now dared to express to him that my impulsive nature was begging for a quick fix for all of these matters. Surely he could see that I was getting more and more frustrated by the minute.
While I had his attention, I told him about an incident that had happened a few days ago when fear nearly got the best of me. I also recalled the week before. I had been unmotivated, lazy and daydreaming my time away. It had left me with a deep sense of regret and lack of accomplishment. Then Jesus asked me a question, “Didn’t you see any of the red flags?” My response, “what red flags?”
I then began to lecture him about my lack of time for his red flags! Lord, you know I am an independent person and I am more than capable of controlling all that bothers me. Then Jesus smiled and said, “How’s that working out for you?” Sometimes he can be so annoying!
I wanted to pour my heart out to him but my pride kicked in and I wouldn’t admit my defeat or need. Secretly, I knew I was an emotional mess and on the edge of a melt down. Truth be told, none of this was a secret or a surprise to him. I knew he was listening so I began to complain about the good fortune of others. My pity-party was in full swing! Once again, Jesus asks, “Didn’t you see the red flags?” My response was, “Well maybe a couple, but I just didn’t have the desire or time to investigate why they were there.”
Then Jesus taught me as only he can teach. “Paula, I am the one who places the red flags in your garden. When I look into your future and see that you are in danger of making a mistake, heading for emotional melt down, or facing fear. I know when you will face an opportunity for an outburst of anger, or when you will be in a situation that will position you for greed, control, self-pity and selfishness. I know when you will be facing conflict with another person, depression, and discontentment. I purposely wave a red flag and then I place that flag securely on your pathway to serve as a warning.”
“Lord, what do those red flags mean?” Jesus replies, “My child, they mean you are about to sin!” “Lord it seems that I either do not see the flag, I ignore the flag, or like today I simply want the flag out of my sight!”
Now that I think about it, some of the same flags continue to reappear over and over flagging my repeated sins. I really don’t like to call them sins; I am far more comfortable labeling those incidents as mistakes or personal failure. Today I am wondering why I can’t seem to learn from these flags. Lord, why don’t you give up and stop making opportunities for me to heed the red flag warnings in my life. Lord, I try but I’m pretty sure I will never change. I don’t think I will ever get it right.
The fact is Jesus loves me so much that he will stop at nothing in order to get me to recognize the sinful flaw in my spirit that is keeping me from personal spiritual victory regarding every sin. There is no limit to the opportunities he will allow me to experience regarding sinful behavior. I am beginning to understand that Jesus simply wants me to trust him with my failures and allow him to help me overcome all my repeated sinful behavior. But because of God’s great love the opportunity to succumb to Satan’s temptation will always come with a red flag of warning.
The purpose of red flags is to make us all stop and evaluate what we are thinking or about to say or do. Red flags are an opportunity for us to consider the consequences. Red flags slow us down so we can remember all that Jesus has done for us and then, out of love and gratitude to him, choose to heed the red flag warning and obey his law. We must all come to a point in our spirit when we choose to love God more than we love our sin. Red flags are meant to be retrieved, placed in the hand of Jesus and their warning must be embraced and obeyed. The Holy Spirit lives inside of us to assist us in our weakness. Wretched people that we are, it is only Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit that can rescue us in our time of need.
There is no future in repeated sin. It fractures relationships; it ruins marriages, creates addictions, piles on debt, fosters discontentment, ends in unwanted consequences, and pushes God further away.
God is not the enemy. He does not find pleasure in slapping our hands or shaking his finger in our face. He is the one who raises the red flag. It is not a yellow flag of caution; it is a red flag that demands we stop! His precious hands prod and pull, He lures and loves. He convicts but he does not condemn. His purpose is to take us higher and perfect our spirit in the amazing process of sanctification. God is both consistent and persistent in his work of perfection in our life.
Satan on the other hand is the deceiver. As I walk in the garden of life Satan is busy stuffing self-interest propaganda flyers by the handful into my pockets as I pass by! He applauds my impulsive nature as I shove God into the background and sprint ahead. He throws smoke bombs between me and my Savior so that he will be out of sight and out of mind. He is giving away free tickets to Pleasure Island, but when all is said and done, he laughs and says, “You are a pathetic failure.” and my spirit is crushed!
But Jesus says, “Come to me, I am the lifter of your head! I am the lover of your soul and a very present help in trouble. I am able to change you from glory into more glory! You are precious in my sight!”

  1. What sin is it that God continues to bring you back to over and over again?
  2. Have you considered the fact that God alone is able to help you overcome repetitive sin in your life?
  3. Are you amazed at the extent that God will go to allow you to continue to repeat sinful mistakes in your life until you are able to surrender that sin to his forgiveness and restoration?
  4. Is there currently a red flag waving in your heart’s garden?
  5. What will you do with that flag? Will you choose to ignore it or heed it?
  6. Will you ask God to help you to overcome the repeated sinful habit of the flesh that wars with your spirit?

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for your amazing love. Thank you that your love will not let me go. I even want to thank you that you continue to bring me back again and again to my point of disobedience until I finally learn a lesson and choose to heed your red flag of warning. It stands to reason that I will never have victory over that sin in my life unless I hand you my sin and obey your laws. Father I know that there is no way out of this trap of sinful behavior apart from you because I am weak, but I know that you are strong. You are my rock, my fortress, and my constant help in times of need. Jesus I know that there will always be opportunities for me to fall backwards. Therefore Lord, help me to focus daily on you so that I will not miss your red flags and that I will desire to heed every warning you set before me so that the victory will be mine! With you Lord, I know that all things are possible.
It is in your name I pray. Amen.