It is Monday and yes I have had to remind myself of that a few times. My wife and I returned late last night from our trip to Tampa. This was not a vacation trip, even though we were without the kids. It was an opportunity to be with the Christian and Missionary Alliance family. I walked away excited about what God is doing among us.
Over the course of the next few days I will be unpacking some things I heard from God. This is always such a refreshing time for me and I know that I received some pertinent items from God. Today my mind races with many thoughts. My hope is that it starts to settle a bit in the coming days. I think a few more pots of coffee will help with that. To be honest, ministry has taken a real sharp turn since our church fire. It was nice to get away and gain some perspective.
As I reflect today, I am incredibly thankful to God for His kindness toward me. I also am praising Him for the many who leave all they have to go to the ends of the world to carry the message of the Gospel to those who so desperately need it. In fact, it is always such a moving experience to watch the missions parade on the final day of our time together. They walk around holding flags and banners indicating the countries they serve in. To God be the glory!
So, thank you God for loving me enough to call me to serve. Also, thank you God for calling willing servants to the field. May God’s work continue in my life and in the many others on mission with Him. It is truly a privilege to serve the King.
When the mind gets slippery, so does the slope of one’s life. Don’t believe me, find someone who has ‘enjoyed’ the same mistakes over and over again and ask them. The inevitable question asked is: ”When will I learn my lesson?” That is a worthwhile question, but it might be harder to answer than people think. In my mind someone who has been caught driving drunk multiple times would stop drinking. I would assume that people who have nearly lost their job or spouse because of some mistake would learn from that and certainly not repeat it again. Of course, things don’t always work out to be so simple.
There are factors at play that keep us from remembering the right things. I have talked with enough people to know that certain habits, or addictions, can be far more difficult to overcome than simply being deterred by the pain it might cause. That is until later when they realize what they have done again. Drugs, alcohol, or gambling addictions, to name a few, can be debilitating to a person. The person often knows that it is a problem for them and that they are not learning their lesson, but they can’t stop on their own.
Those might be the obvious ones, but there are also certain default positions to life that we all take because we are sinful people by nature. The main culprit, pride, says, “I don’t need to follow anyone else and I am the only one who matters.” If that is the case, well then the things that our time is spent are irrelevant. The problem is that when pride takes over, people inevitably get hurt. Does it mean that we stop going there knowing that it will hurt us and others? We would hope so, but instead it continues.
We all have a sin problem and it affects everything. So, even if you want to learn and remember what the right way to live is, that sin nature is very loud and wants you to forget. The sin nature is at work encouraging you to forget; this is a constant struggle.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. – Romans 7:21-23
If you read this section of Romans you can hear the frustration in Paul. He knows sin is a problem in him and he knows that it is painful, but he just can’t shake it. He wants to do the right thing, but he feels this overwhelming pull to the opposite. So, how are we able to remember and apply truth?
The question is, can we do anything to help ourselves and our families have better chance at remembering the things that matter? For the answer to that, I want to highlight two different areas of Scripture. The first is Deuteronomy 5:15.
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. – Deuteronomy 5:15
Remember the Faithfulness of God - Life is filled with changes, but God is never-changing. It is wise to remember this within each day because there are so many pressures that pull at our lives. Making it a habit to remember the faithfulness of God allows for this to be a natural way of thinking when things are not going well. It was important for the Israelites to stop and remember that it was God who, through His mighty hand, had brought them out of slavery. It had taken much longer than they would have liked to get to the promised land, but God had led them and would continue to do so. He does the same for you. Don’t forget Him and the work He has done for you in Jesus Christ. He has set you free from your slavery to sin. Remember it!
Remember the Power of God - Our faith increases as we realize who God really is. In Mark 6 we have a large crowd that needed food and limited food with which to make that happen. The disciples are concerned about how they are going to care for the people. But, Jesus takes 5 loaves of bread and two fish and feeds 5,000 people with some to spare. Can you imagine that moment in the lives of the disciples? You would think it would be hard to forget that one, right?
Yet, what happens? If you skip ahead two chapters, there you have a large crowd and Jesus wants to feed them. His disciples’ answer is almost comical.
“His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” Mark 8:4
Are you kidding me? Jesus had just done nearly the exact same thing and still they had no idea how Jesus was going to make this work out. The disciples failed to remember the power of God in their midst. This was a problem for them many times. Can you relate? What do you have in your life that appears to be impossible? Remember the power of God.
How slippery is your mind when it comes to the nature and commands of God? When we face the challenges inherent in life, it can be easy to get discouraged. At times, yes we will forget. With consistent remembering of the power and faithfulness of God in our lives, especially through salvation in Jesus Christ, we are prepared to approach anything that comes our way.
Remember: Slippery Minds, Slippery Slope
This week my wife and I have been in Tampa for a conference. This means we have been without kids for a few days.
Have a great weekend!
The other morning my son was standing by the counter getting his breakfast when he stopped and asked me what time it was. As he did this, he pointed to three different digital clocks, each a minute apart. One of them said 7:24, one said 7:25 and the other said 7:26. His question was, “Which one is correct?” Time is set by some standard and he recognized it.
To most of us these say the same thing. After all, time is most often measured in relative terms. I might have answered him by saying, “It is almost 7:30.” I would not have been leading him astray; I just would have been giving a less than precise answer. We do understand time in precise terms, at least most of us do. If you are someone who keeps relative time, my guess is you are late to most things. I like to consider myself late to something if I am not five minutes early.
Time has a lot to say about our lives, whether we like it or not. In fact, time takes on certain characteristics that we toss around without much thought.
I have time. I ran out of time. Give me some time. I need more time. These all illustrate one way we look at time, as a possession. It is obvious that we only have so much time in a day. That time gets divided up into various segments and activities that make up our lives.
If time is a possession, it can be wasted. The problem with this is it is hard to define what it means to waste time. Some people will claim that spending 12 hours a day on social media is a quality use of their time, while others would call them lazy. What is the standard for the use of time?
If time is a possession, I can lose it. I am sure that everyone has lost something in their life. Time, as a possession, gets lost when people ignore it. It is like losing track of a child at the mall. Time will do that to you also, if you don’t pay attention to it.
If time is a possession, I want more of it. People are clamoring for all sorts of possessions, time not withstanding. How can I get more of it? How can I save it? Great questions, but not too helpful if you don’t know what you need the time for. I could gather more and more money, but at some point I go from necessity to want. Then all of a sudden there is trouble. Time can be that way too. When some people have too much time on their hands, they get into trouble.
Time does certain things to people. Time can heal wounds, mend relationships, or calm people down. Time can also get people worked up, make anger build and cause harm to the human body.
If time is a drug, it can be overdosed. Too much time without some sort of helpful input from others can actually be harmful. Time might also be an enemy to people as they start to obsess about something and maybe even get worse. On that same theme, people can get addicted to time, or the lack there of. If someone is chronically busy, they might be addicted to that lifestyle. It becomes something that they have to be in order to feel normal. These people have a hard time saying no, even though they have more than they could possibly do.
If time is a drug, it can be ineffective. People who need time and don’t get it get stressed. Take a college student who has several large papers to write, books to read and a job. If they do not use the time they have correctly, they will be in rough shape. Coffee can keep someone awake, but coffee does not conjure up more time. This creates stress and stress causes harmful things to happen to people.
Time as a drug can also encourage the healing of wounds. They say that time heals wounds. Given time, people will usually calm down and start to at least get their head on straight again.
Limiting Time’s Rule
Time is important and necessary. It cannot be left to manage you, you must manage it. Too many people run through life in a hurry just hanging on until the next thing comes along. There needs to be much more thought put into things. Here are a few ideas from my crazy life to yours:
Priorities – Do you know what is important to you? I have talked to people who have made excuses for everything from school to family responsibilities. My question is always the same, “What do you do with your time?” Some people will claim they have no time for their kids and then spend an entire Saturday working on some hobby apart from them. Students who struggle to get school work done but spend 4 hours on Facebook each night have a priority problem, not a lack of time problem.
Be Reasonable About Commitments I have learned this the hard way at times. If you realistically cannot do something, then go ahead and say no. It is far less stressful that way. In fact, say it out loud right where you are, if you need to.
Stop Making Excuses Kids, families, work, and school are all huge time consumers. Everyone has their own box of craziness to sort out, so let’s not make excuses. I think making a plan is a better idea. For example, I know that my schedule is full, but I still prioritize dinner time with my family. At dinner, we talk about the day without phones, or television. Those little investments of time add up. (over time of course)
Don’t Get Lazy- If you have set your priorities, then stick with them. I have had to give up things I wanted to do because I had to do some work for my Master’s Degree. I could have skipped it, but that is borrowed time and you know what happens with that. It will catch up to you and sleep is lost as a result.
Time never stops, but it doesn’t need to be the boss. My 4-year-old son noticed this one day while looking at another clock. He said, “That clock never stops ticking.”
He is right, time does not stop. So, what can we do today to not waste the opportunities before us? That is, after all, the whole concept behind “No Throw Aways.” We have limited time, so let’s live with purpose.
When people see you coming, what do they perceive? That can be a difficult question to answer, but I believe it is important. It is important because so much of what people know about Jesus Christ comes from their interaction with people who follow Him. In other words, how we treat people with both our actions and also with the way we speak says a lot to people about Jesus Christ.
We are going to have a little fun today as we look at ourselves. The overarching question here is: “What effect does the way you talk have on the people around you?” What we want to see is where we are and how we essentially can adjust ourselves to God’s Word.
There is nothing that says summer like a campfire. Sitting around burning wood has the ability to help people slow down and relax. Fire, in its proper place, has many useful functions. Take fire at the wrong place and time and there will be problems. When you take fire and add gasoline you have a potentially deadly mix.
If your personality is what you would call a fiery one, you could have a hard time expressing love to people. This will severely hinder relationships you have and ultimately push people away.
Gasoline is an important material for our daily life, but it is also a highly dangerous substance. We put it into our cars where a spark ignites it and it makes the car move. If you take that gasoline out and throw a match on it, it is highly explosive and volatile.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
Now take the picture of the unstable nature of gasoline and apply it to your friends, co-workers, or your spouse. We all know what it takes to get the people closest to us worked up. Some people take great pleasure in getting the people in their life all worked up.
This also has a lot to do with temper. Hot tempered people are often hard to be around because you just never know when that sudden burst of rage will come from.
“A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.” Proverbs 15:18
When someone has a hot temper, it is as if they are taking a fire that is dying and stirring it up with gasoline. The fight might not even have amounted to anything until they started to overreact. The phrasing here literally used is “cool it.” Just cool it already! A patient man will calm a conflict by exhibiting self-control.
Are you a hot-tempered, gasoline type person?
Seems like they are putting aloe in a lot of different lotions and things now. But, Aloe Vera is a plant which has inherent soothing and healing qualities to it, especially for burns.
“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:14
Words can bring healing to someone, or words can crush a spirit. Someone who operates as aloe, will bring healing words to a situation. They understand that words mean something and therefore can hurt someone. They also recognize that with their words they can speak words of healing into a situation.
” A man finds joy in giving an apt reply– and how good is a timely word.” Proverbs 15:23
An aloe person is able to speak the right words into situations. It might be a nice word, some piece of advice, or a scripture that has some meaning for the circumstance.
Are you a healing words, aloe type person?
When I read through this the image of lukewarm milk came to mind. I have had many times at a gathering where I have grabbed the milk and it has been warmer than I would have liked. It wasn’t sour yet, just getting warm. People who live this way with other people have the same influence on someone as a person who just poured a glass of milk and realized it is not as cold as it should be. But, since they don’t want to be rude and waste it, they just drink it. They do avoid that person in the future, creating a strained relationship.
“The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” Proverbs 15:33
People who are living life following Jesus Christ, desiring to be used by God, will have wisdom available to them because they are reading God’s Word. They can then provide some meaningful words to others. Those who think they know it all, but don’t have any substance to their answer, those are like lukewarm milk.
These are the loud mouth people in your life. The people who have something to say about everything, but they have no idea what they are talking about. They might be nice, but no one really takes them all that seriously. You might fall for it once, but as soon as you take their advice and get hurt, you never come back.
Are you a meaningless words, know it all, lukewarm milk person?
What does this mean for you?
“Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.” Proverbs 15:17
The real motivator for all of this, the real substance for purpose in this, is love. Love motivates us to encourage, to support, to pray for and uplift people with our words. Love calls us to have some substance to our speech, to read the Bible and apply it to life in a way that is meaningful for others and ourselves.
This is a hard assessment because it causes us to critically consider how our lives are impacting other people. Essential to this discussion is our love for God. If we love God, then we need to set aside the temper and let God use us to love others.
Make today a day that your words are used for healing and love, not for quarrels and meaningless talk. It will make a huge difference in the relationships you have with others.
Stephen was not afraid to stand up for Christ and we can learn how to be like him. (see Acts 6)
Positive – Signs and Wonders
He is a man full of God’s grace and power. Stephen was one of the guys that was sent out by the apostles to take care of the passing out of resources to the widows. There was a controversy where the Greek speaking Jews thought they were being left out. So, some greek speaking Jews were commissioned to go and do this.
This is Stephen, he is a man full of God’s grace and power. What does a life full of God’s grace and power look like? What sets Stephen apart from the others?
If I take a milk jug here and fill it up, when is this it full? It is full when there is nothing in it but water. So, to be full of God’s grace and power means that the complete person of Stephen is about God’s grace at work in him and his power.
He did, what they described as great signs and wonders. This was not a simple magic show or card trick. This was purely the spirit of God, healing people, doing miraculous signs, making Himself known through Stephen. And, naturally, people took notice. These people get noticed! I remember I was in Mexico for a missions trip and there was this man, who during the red lights would run out into the road, dump a little alcohol in his mouth and throw a little fire in there and blow fire. He did it over and over and over again while people watched. People naturally notice when things out of the ordinary happen. But, this causes a negative reaction also.
Really, it doesn’t take long for people to start to get upset with him. Why would they do that? Because what he is doing is a threat to them. Put yourself in the position of these people- the Greek Jews. They were the outsiders, already looked at as a little strange by the long-time Jews. Now, one of their leaders is stirring up controversy and making them look bad. They are embarrassed.
But, also, there was certainly something else. Stephen is challenging the way things have always been.
So, they start to argue with Stephen. Stephen why are you doing this? What do you believe? Where is this power from? Why are you happy? What is your purpose in life? How are you saved? And one, after one, whatever they brought to him, he answered.
Positive….Wisdom is showcased
This is like stacking the deck in your favor, but they knew that Stephen was a man with a Godly reputation. They obviously didn’t have any real idea what that meant. Stephen had the Holy Spirit; He was filled with the power of God and yet they somehow thought they were going to outwit him. That’s amazing. =
Let’s see, how can we get people to turn on Stephen. I know, let’s use blasphemy. Blasphemy in this culture, was any sort of slander spoken against God or anything associated with His majesty and power.
Except, Stephen hadn’t blasphemed, so it would be hard to get that on him, unless they took something he did say and twisted it to say something he didn’t. So, Stephen, talking about how the worship of God was no longer just for the temple was accused of attacking the temple, the law of Moses, and God.
So, that being the case he had to go before the Sanhedrin who oversaw those types of trials. Except, what would a Sanhedrin trial be without witnesses. But, seeing as he didn’t do this, it would be hard to find some. What if we bribe some. They produced false witnesses; ones that testified that he is speaking against the law and this place and he is talking about changing customs that moses handed down.
Positive: God is glorified
Stephen on trial for his life, as a man of grace and the power of God, had the face of an angel. God was blessing Him, not saving Him, but revealing himself in the midst of hard persecution.
Stephen was a man that was all about God. It was not about him at all, but his entire life was lived like this: to God be the glory. He had an opportunity to save himself, to not be here, but He recognized it was not about him. It would be hard to not back down in the midst of heavy opposition.
I had someone tell me one time that if they were persecuted like that, they would just renounce God and then ask for forgiveness later. But, see, that is not what God has in mind. If we are really serious about our faith, we will be willing to die for it. Who gets the glory when someone is killed for their faith? It is not the killers; it is the one who with gun to their head would not turn their back on the one who saved them from sin. Why would someone die for something if they truly were not captivated by it?
Attitude can make a fun activity seem very lame or it can take a task you don’t like and make it fun. When I ask my kids to clean up their mess I often get two different reactions. Sometimes they are indifferent about it and comply without too much complaining. At other times I hear all kinds of complaints. The only difference between the two scnearios is attitude. We are told in Philippians 2 to have the attitude of Christ. What does that look like? It certainly changes a lot of things.
Your relationship with others
Christians have something very special in common; as different as we all are, we are united with Christ. He is our common bond. It was His love that took away our sin and gave us a new life, an eternal life, in Him. This is really a fun picture, as we look at the world and consider all the different cultures, languages, and situations in the world. We realize that salvation comes through one way, Jesus Christ, to all of them.
So, there is unity in that. We are to live in that unity because that is what the Gospel is all about.
There are people in my life that have hurt me in some deep ways, and I am guessing you have people that have done the same. So, the attitude of man says, “they hurt me, I am going to hurt them, .or I am going to always be on guard for people that might hurt me again” You set yourself up to invite conflict again. A new attitude, the attitude of Jesus says, you and I are connected and despite any differences, we need to love each other.
Will you always feel like it? No! Feelings don’t help us determine what is right or wrong. Do you think it is always easy to love people who ignore you? No! In His strength, we can love one another.
Your comparison of others to yourself
How often do you compare yourself to someone else and think “well, let’s see how I am better than them.” We tend to measure people by our own view of ourselves, as if this is somehow the image of perfection. So, what are we to do?
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves”- Philippians 2:3
What do you think it means to “consider others better than yourself?” Does it mean that we completely ignore ourself and let ourself get trampled on and destroyed, as long as we look at others as better? Nope, that’s not what this says. Does it mean that you lose all self esteem and refer to yourself as pond scum? No!
This has to do with comparison. Instead of walking around and showing people all of the great things that you can do, and how awesome you are; focus on the things that other people excel in.
This could be summed up as the “open your eyes” principle. Don’t get so self absorbed that you forget the people around you and what is going on in their lives. Take a genuine concern for other people!
Your motive for serving others
There are essentially two main reasons people serve other people. 1- Because they want to hold it over them and hope to get something in return or 2- Because they want to serve like Jesus
It does seem like most of the time the mindset is out there that if I do this for you, then you must do this for me. This is the “you owe me” approach to service. This approach is not the approach of humility, it is not the approach that Jesus took. Jesus treated me as worthy of his service when I was not worthy of his service.
So, in Christ, the motive is not…well, they are nice to me so I will help them. It is, serve them because that is what Jesus Christ calls us to do in love. But…but…but…they are mean to me….Yeah, well, they crucified Jesus!
Jesus Christ, 100% God, possessing all the benefits that goes with being God, did not hold onto that status. No one took that away form Him, He have it up. He gave up some of his privilege and took on the nature of a servant in human form. Jesus does not ask us to do something He did not already do. The attitude of Christ is what moved Him to love you and me. It motivated Him to die for our sins. This was not easy and it was not fun. It was necessary and because He loves us, He did it.
The Savior took a place of submission and service and He then tells us, do as I have done for you. That is a command that we must follow.
God, I am selfish and I don’t want to be. Open my eyes to the people around me; may I make a difference for you. I want to be emptied, like Jesus, so that I might be obedient to your service.