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
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.
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.
Each year we get close to summer and people start to get a little restless. There is that summer vacation looming, graduation for some, excitement about being out of the middle school for others. But even with the change of pace, it is important to continue to draw near to God. Each one of us has the opportunity right now to grow nearer to Jesus Christ; to let God’s Word affect our lives in deep ways. Summer might be the perfect time to really dig in!
My kids are constantly digging in the dirt for various hidden treasures. I have mentioned before how our backyard often resembles a scene from the movie “Holes.” They also have tried to plant things. If you have ever planted a garden you know how much of a challenge it can be to prepare the soil because of all the different aspects of growing healthy plants.
It is not so different from what we do here in the church. The only difference is that the soil is your heart and the seed is God’s Word.
In Matthew 13 Jesus tells a parable about a farmer who sows seeds. He describes 4 different soils there. Each one of us falls in there somewhere.
Path – If you picture a well-worn path, dry, beaten by the sun, that is what this is. If you took a handful of seeds and tossed them onto the path, they would not live.
People in this place are people who have no interest in God’s Word at all. They never read it and don’t listen when it is read. They have completely shut God out.
Rocks – In this case the soil looks nice, but not for very long. The top soil looks good, but there is no place for it to go deeper. It is easier to pull the plant out, it gets washed away, or dies because it can’t get any water or nutrients in the soil. The sun comes out and dries it up.
People in this place are constantly up and down in their growth. They might receive what God says but only to have it quickly fall away. They learn the same lessons over and over again because nothing ever sticks.
Thorns – This is when the weeds have not been completely removed and they come back and kill the plant. So, the soil looks nice again, but there is death coming because of the weeds that are allowed to be there.
People in this place try to live in both worlds. On Sunday they are a Christian and the rest of the week they live like the rest of the world. God’s Word is heard and sometimes responded too, but any bit of growth that might develop is quickly choked off by peer pressure or other influences.
People in this place are pursuing God, turning away from self and to Him. They are reading the Bible, asking God to develop a hunger for it, and growing deeper in that as they hear and receive more. When the soil is in the right place like this, lives are changed and people are excited to know God. They love other people and serve.
What is your approach to God’s Word? How is the soil of your heart? What needs to happen to move it toward the good soil? Removing thorns and rocks is not an easy task, but it might be what is necessary to see real growth take place in your life.
But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” – Matthew 13:23
It is time to dump out all of those pesky Legos in order to help them find a home. Unfortunately, I often drop some of them on the floor, step on them, and they end up back in the Lego Jar for next week. I guess that fits well with the theme this week. It dawns on me that we put a lot of time into getting to some destination and then home again. I was driving to the airport the other day and I turned on an old Mark Lowery CD. On it he sings a song called “First Class, Wrong Flight” in which he describes a time someone got on a plane to the wrong city while flying first class. He says, “It doesn’t matter where I go; I’m going there in style.” I guess that is what life is like sometimes.
The Human G.P.S.
My 6-year-old son took a trip with my wife to a house she is going to be cleaning. He was supposed to be her G.P.S. for the return trip. I was informed that he is defective. This is the essence of his directions:
“Go straight” — recalculating —- “Go straight, then turn” — recalculating — “Go straight until you turn, then go straight, turn” ”You are home.”
I think we will keep him busy elsewhere.
Just recently I had asked my 3 year old to direct me to our house from the elementary school we are having our worship services in. He did a great job. I would come to the stop sign and I would say “which way” and he wold point. He does wear his sunglasses at night, so I think that helps him out.
The Challenge of Free Swing-Sets
I love when people offer free things to us. The hard part is moving it and making it fit in our yard the right way. Someone offered us a bigger set and I naturally took them up on it. We spent some time moving it last week and then I was finally able to get all the bolts in the right places this week. I bring this up because it was an answer to a request my kids have recently had for a treehouse. Just a week ago I was given a request for a tree house. I did some research and found that it would be quite expensive. It wasn’t more than a week later and we had this one in our yard. I know it is not a big deal to most people, but to my kids it was a huge deal. I am grateful for generous people.
Did you know why girls wear shorter shorts than boys? Because they wear shorter underwear. That is what my boys said.
Also, evidently my 6 year old has a crush on all the girls in his class. I think this is fine at this point because I don’t even think he knows what he is talking about.
If I say to my daughter, “are you a baby” she tells me “no, a girl.” We didn’t teach her that. She is just that smart. I guess she did get that from me.
I was also tagged and told that I had just been “cheese touched.” What is that? I don’t know. My brain is recalculating.
Have a great weekend!
So the Lord Jesus Christ takes us, a company of poor, worthless sinners and things that are despised, and, by the transforming power of His grace, He lifts us into His own likeness, and crowns us with His glory.” – A.B. Simpson from the book Danger Lines in the Deeper Life.
It would not take much for any of us to get depressed at the things we have done in rebellion to God. It can be overwhelming to stand before the holiness of God and wonder how it could ever all be made right again. How can I ever change?
In John 4 there is a story about a woman who had a long list of issues in her past. We find out that she has had 5 husbands and was living with what could potentially be number 6. She was certainly living with a regret or two with a side of guilt or shame.
The story is of her going to the well to get water; this is a task she had to do over and over again. I can’t imagine what that was like because we don’t have to work hard to get water today. But, all the time walking back and forth to the well would leave one to their thoughts a lot. Jesus interrupts her daily routine to ask her for a drink. She has no idea why he would ask her for a drink given that she was a Samaritan woman and He was a Jew. Either he had no idea about the cultural issues between the Samaritans and Jews, or he just had a lot of nerve. In either case, she had no idea what his angle was. So, Jesus pushed a little more.
“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” – John 4:10
Can you picture the look on her face? I think she probably had a rather confused expression while her mind tried to understand what this was all about. In fact, she vocalizes this: “You have nothing to get water out of the well from.” In other words, “sir, you are making no sense. The well is deep and you are empty-handed.”
Jesus goes on: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I Give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4: 13-14
This seemed like a good thing. I mean, after all, she was coming here daily to carry heavy water back home. I think any opportunity to make life easier would be nice. Except Jesus was after something deeper than that; He was after her heart. He tells her to go get her husband, hitting at a likely sore spot in her life. Of course she doesn’t have a husband, something he tells her he is aware of. In fact, He makes it clear that he is well aware of her sin and He still wants to offer her a way out.
She is clearly impressed and leaves to go back to town without her water jug. She came to get water and Jesus had offered her something far greater. He changed her life.
So many people live with heavy sin burdens like this woman. They walk around with a burden of sin and regret. They work hard each day to satisfy a thirst in order to just keep things together. Jesus offers a way out of that. In fact, it says that she went back and told everyone about Jesus and many of them believed. He got to the heart of the matter and offered her grace. She knew she needed it and that others needed it as well.
Jesus meets people where they are at and calls them out to a place of forgiveness and hope. The question we all need to consider is: what well are we drawing our water from? If it is any other place than Jesus Christ, we will never be satisfied. The thirst quickly returns and the cycle continues. Sin is not something we should take lightly because when we look at it all in light of the cross, it makes the good news that much better.
“Let me never forget that the heinousness of sin lies not so much in the nature of the sin committed, as in the greatness of the person sinned against. When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me, by showing me that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch but that in Christ I am reconciled, made alive, and satisfied; that I am feeble and unable to do any good, but that in him I can do all things; that while I now have in Christ His mind in part, but shortly I shall have it perfectly in heaven. - Humiliation from The Valley of Vision.