There is section of Scripture that comes up often because it hits at the heart of what it means to follow Jesus. There is a practicality to it that is challenging, probing and affirming at the same time. Last night at bedtime one of my boys was reading a new Bernstain Bears book that had Matthew 25:40 in the front of it.
The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ (NASB)
I read the verse to him and started to talk about what that actually was referring to. It is a verse that is in the context of kindness showed to people and how that translates to the same being done for Jesus. I told him that if we were to give someone water because they needed water it is just like giving that water to Jesus. At the same time, if we ignore a need like that when we can help, it is like we are ignoring Jesus.
“Dad, if you were at the grocery store around dinner time and I saw that you only bought milk, I would buy you more food. If you only had milk you would be hungry. I guess I need to bring my wallet along with me and give some dollars to people who need it, right?”
Once again my 6-year-old son has summed up Bible passage for all of us in a way that makes sense. He has maybe a dollar in his wallet, but he would give it away. This begs the question for all of us: Would I give away something I have, even if it is the last bit of something I had? Would you? Who are the people right in front of us that could use some help today? We might need to open our eyes a little bit more and ask God to bless others through us. One thing I know: When we bless others, we are also blessed and, more importantly, Jesus is honored.
My kids never forget the things I tell them I will do. They have gotten so good at it that they even imagine things that I said and then convince me that I said them. It is quite the gift. As it turns out, my kids enjoy spending time with me because they view it as precious time. Often at dinner one of my boys will ask me if I have a meeting. If I say yes, they will groan as if I am going away for two weeks. There are days I find myself wishing they would just leave me alone only to step back and realize that my children want to spend time with me with no other gift required. How precious is that!
What a bonus it is when I tell them we are going to be doing something special. Last year I traveled to Minnesota with one of my boys, and I took another to Six Flags. When I go to the grocery store, or anywhere, I always have a bunch of offers to join me. They don’t require these things, but I love to do this with them. They, in turn, look forward to them with incredible anticipation.
When it comes to God, we also enjoy being in His presence, but He does not stop there with the blessings. He makes it possible for us to participate in what He is doing. He gives us precious promises in order to equip us for this journey of life we are on. We need this because the world is full of corruption, beckoning us to join. Our flesh tries pulling us away, yet God provides a way out.
“Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” – 2 Peter 1:4
Here is an excerpt from A.B. Simpson’s Book “The Cross of Christ” which I think illustrates this very well:
“Someone tells of an old man who was riding through a country district when he was accosted by a native who asked him for a ride. He soon began to talk to the man and found that he was not saved. The natives asked him after a while what his business was in those parts. He said, ‘I represent a very large estate that has just been divided by the will of the testator and some of the heirs lived around here, and I am looking for them. Their family name begins with the letter ‘S.’ and they are a very large family.’ Immediately the man became greatly interested.
‘Why,’ he said, ‘I know some of them; they are the Smiths, are they not?’
‘No,’ said the man, as he looked him earnestly in the face. “Their name is ‘Sinner,’ and I think you are one of them, and I have come to bring you a fortune.”
We are in a season leading up the Resurrection Sunday. This is what it is all about! There are only two other times this word precious is used in the Bible. It is used to describe the faith of believers, the blood of Christ, and then the promises here in 2 Peter 1. These are not just some small token of God’s grace, they are Himself! We have been given Jesus Christ because in Him we find the answer to sin’s grip on us and our only way out of it.
May you find joy in the very presence of God today and comfort in the provisions made by His promises.
One of the best parts of a loving church family is their desire to invest in other people. I know I have been blessed as I have taken time to interact with some of the youth at some sort of school event or other outside activity. Just showing up speaks volumes. What has started to happen now is my own children are finding themselves on the receiving end of this. There are various adults who will give up time to show my children some support. It has made me understand the value in that all the more.
Tuesday night I took all four children to the high school for something my oldest was doing. He is involved with uni-cycling and they were going to be performing at half time of one of the basketball games. What a joy it was for me to see some of our church people there to watch him. One of them even asked him for an autograph. You should have seen his face.
The church is about more than showing up on Sunday. We live in the context of community. We love each other, cry with each other, and celebrate the life of faith we have. Having more people who love the Lord coming alongside my children is a blessing that means more than I can adequately articulate. I guess what goes around does actually come around. If you don’t believe me, check the video out.
This leads me to a challenge for me and for you. How are you intentionally investing in other people? I know that might sound scary. But it is not just the role of pastors to come alongside people. This is the job of the entire church. It is not too difficult, but it does take time. Showing up at something that is meaningful to a student, or a family, will make an impact.
Here is a short video I shot of the event. Keep in mind that I was wrangling a couple of children as I shot this video. My son is the one that comes around the far side at the two second mark and then comes closest to us as he makes the circle.
Today I want to give you five days that changed my life for the better.
August 2, 2003
August 18, 2004
March 7, 2007
October 15, 2009
September 27, 2011
Our entire family picture from this past week
This week’s Lego Jar includes some more of my kids’ discussions and more of their creativity.
To start, I was awarded another award by another kind blogger. I have posted it on the award page with more information about it. I appreciate the recognition as a sunshine award winner and appreciate all those who take the time to read and comment.
A New “Friend” - Last Saturday I took my two oldest boys to a service project in the rain. The whole time they were looking for a salamander. They had great plans for this poor salamander, but they didn’t find one. Then a few days later I got home from work and they had found one. They took it on a walk with them and were carrying it around in a little container. Unfortunately, their friend was not as durable as they would have hoped and didn’t make it through the experience.
Ice Cream – I think it is funny that whenever my boys go over to the neighbor’s house to play, they come back with ice cream. They are good at what they do. I mean, how could you say no to them?
Something I wonder- Who decided to include white jelly beans with all the delicious ones?
Speaking of Jelly Beans- If you saw my picture post on Thursday, you know that we had done a short egg hunt on Wednesday. We have since done another one inside the house. That one was funny because my oldest wanted me to hide his eggs in really difficult places, so I did. Well, his brothers were both eating their candy and he still hadn’t found any. I eventually had to help him. I guess I can still beat him at something and I will enjoy it for as long as I can.
Overheard this week- On Monday night I was on my way to something called “Supper Club” with my 5-year-old son. Supper club is a program put on at the local senior citizen center where we go and serve a meal to them. These are all people who are alone and is a way to get them out with other people. Anyway, we were on the way and the conversation was something like this:
Child: Hey dad, why do they add supper to club?
Me: That is what it is called.
Child: Is it a club with supper?
Me: No, it is not that kind of club.
Child: So, they took a club and added supper to it. Get it?
Me: No, I don’t.
Child: Hey dad, have you ever been to a dungeon with chains?
Me: No. Why do you ask?
Child: Me neither. You’re funny dad.
Another night at dinner my 7-year-old son said these two unrelated things. First of all, he asked, “What if days rewind?” When I asked him to explain, he just shrugged his shoulders. Then he said, “What if a fireman got fired? Get it. You know, fire and fired?” I wonder where they get their humor from?
Creating Lego Ships without Legos- This week, as I mentioned in last Monday’s post, my 5-year-old got his new Lego set in the mail. That same day I looked out the window and saw that they were creating their own ship outside using the materials in the yard. Pretty creative.
She needs to slow down- Our daughter is 6 months old and she is starting to think she is older. She now pulls herself up on things and then lets go. As you can imagine, she really can’t stand. Well, just trying telling her that! Also, you will notice she got a few hats this week. This one has a huge flower on it. I guess that is the style that little girls are to wear. This is my first girl, so what do I know?
I guess that wraps the week up. This week we also had a few sick kids and sleepless nights. But, I guess that is just part of parenting.
Have a great weekend!
Wednesday is my day off and seeing as this week I have a lighter load, I was able to get to some of the things around the house. The boys and I started with cleaning the vans. To them, cleaning a vehicle is a lot like finger painting. They figure as long as they get some soap near the van, it is clean. They don’t know it, but their role is merely for their own enjoyment and mine.
Of course, after a while I went to hose the van back off. The kids decide to wash the area again. Every time I turned around there was more soap.
Meanwhile, my daughter does not seem too upset about not being invited to help.
It was also a time to get the bikes out. I had a few repair matters to get to and we were off.
My kids don’t tell time the “normal” way, they use food as their guide. You have essentially 5 different times per day: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, supper. Today we had the afternoon snack on the deck.
I also had this realization that I had bought some Easter candy for the kids, but I wanted to eat some. The only way around this, as I saw it, was to have a short Easter egg hunt. This brought the candy out and allowed me to have some. So, each kids got two eggs hidden in the yard. I figure we will do this for a few days. We call this a win-win.
It was a pretty eventful day, as you can see. As I look at the pictures, it makes me appreciate the blessings that God has given me. My children always surprise me and bless me with their love. The Lego Jar posts show some of that each week. Making this even more obvious is the coming celebration on Sunday of our risen Savior. There we remember again the ultimate act of love on our behalf. God blesses us with many things, like children, but He did even more in a sacrifice of His only Son for our salvation. May our lives reflect obedience to Him and may our hearts never forget what He has done for unworthy sinners like us.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8
With so much diversity, it is not a surprise to see worldwide debate on religious freedom. Religious freedom gets politicized and leveraged for selfish gains, all while actually limiting the very freedom they are claiming to defend. Even atheist or secular humanist groups stand for something and would want the freedom to express that. Thankfully most of us aren’t forced to believe something for fear of death, like some parts of the world. Take the story of Iranian pastor Pastor Youcef Nadarkhan who was to be executed for refusing to recant Christianity and turn to Islam. Iran is now denying this is the case, even though Iran continues to raid worship meetings and arrest people for their faith. These are not isolated cases of people being bullied for their faith.
I have followed the work of the Voice of the Martyrs and find it amazing the way so many people will still gather to worship, even after being harassed. In one case I read, the officials locked up the church forcing them to meet on the sidewalk instead. There was another story about someone who entered a church at the conclusion of service with explosives on himself. He ended up killing himself, but no one else was killed. In the face of all of this, the church continues to see great advances. People, when faced with dangerous circumstances, still choose to follow Jesus Christ.
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” – Matthew 16:18
Of course, these cases stands as the antithesis of religious freedom, but it still does make me wonder what religious freedom ought to look like. This week there was a story about a road in Florida that has been blessed by a church group using oil. I guess they are thinking that this blessing is going to prevent certain people from coming to that county in Florida. I do agree that it is a bit harsh to say it like that and that this actually proves to muddy the water for religious liberty. People took offense to this because it marginalized certain people who they didn’t want to come into their county. That is a confusing message for a church to send to a community they want to reach for the Gospel. It is true we want God’s blessing on our lives, but that doesn’t mean praying harm on other people. I have no issue asking God’s blessing over areas, lands, buildings or whatever, but I think it is done with God as the starting point for that blessing. In other words, it is not a blessing based on what I want to see, but based on what God wants to do. It is a “Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven” type prayer. If that were to happen, people would notice!
This story is especially funny because the atheist and humanist groups went out there to unbless the road. To their credit, they weren’t being mean about it. But, I do again wonder why an atheist group would care if a church blesses a road or not. I thought they didn’t believe in God. To them wouldn’t it be like someone asking the tree gods to bless our land. There seems to always be more to it than what meets the eye. Even if the blessing of the road was not done with the right heart, would that mess with an atheist’s worldview? The country still has a foundation in the Bible, with mention of a Creator in the declaration of independence. I know that doesn’t mean everyone will believe in God, but it should at least allow people to express their beliefs. Scrubbing oil off a road in order to prove a point doesn’t really accomplish religious freedom, it just shows that we have become somewhat petty in our thinking.