There was a book I had to read early in high school called The Giver. Im sure many of you have as well. I apologize if this brings back unwanted emotions attached to high school! In this book, a boy saw things differently than the rest of the world and was given the chance to be the receiver of all the memories. Some really good, others terrible, filled with war and violence. The man who gave these memories to this boy was called The Giver.
There is another called The Giver who loves to bestow gifts to each and every one of us. He is a gift-Giver, dream-Giver, talent-Giver and so much more. I don’t know about you, but being in my 30’s has not stopped me from loving gifts. I still like receiving them and still love the feeling of appreciation and recognition when they are given.
There is a passage of scripture in 1 Timothy that talks about a few gifts that God gives. Verse 7 of the first chapter says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Before we venture in to the beauty of what God has given us, we have to understand that there are things God doesn’t give. In this passage it specifically says “fear.” For me personally, I have a list that could fill a book! This used to bother me. I would look around at other’s talents and abilities and be jealous. I would wish to do the same, act the same, and be the same.
Why don’t I have wealth like that?
Why can’t I sing like that?
Why can’t I run and play sports like that?
Some of you may even take this further by saying, “why can’t I have parents like theirs?” “Why didn’t my parents stay together like theirs?” This misunderstanding can lead us to some tough places with even tougher questions.
We have to be ok with what God has not given you before you can accept and fully engage in what He has given. I can’t celebrate with others success until I get here. I can’t appreciate what I do have, until I get here. If I could give you one piece of advise to walk away from in life, it would be this. God has not given you things, and that is ok!
Now on to what God has given! Of everything God could have Paul write to Timothy, He chooses these three things.
Love - This is all we need! At least that is what I am told. 1 Corinthians 13 shows us how important love is. It is even greater than faith and hope! As God loved us, we have the capacity to love others. This is what God gave us. Don’t walk away from it! No excuses! It’s yours. Use it wisely.
Power - Unfortunately, this is not the ability to bench press 300lbs. That would be a great gift! “God, if you would only give me what you gave Samson, I would serve you with my whole heart!” Anybody with me?! What He does give, is power over sin. Power to do what is right. Power to stand for righteousness and justice. Power to live a consistent, godly life each and every day. “The same power that raised Christ from the dead, resides in us!” (My paraphrase)
Sound Mind - For me, this might be the greatest gift. Again, each of these are for you! This particular one allows me to lay my head down at night and sleep with peace. I can overcome stress and anxiety that comes with life. God is not the author of confusion. My pastor asks a question often of unbelievers, “what do you do with your guilt?” With God, we can give it to Him. We can cast ALL our cares in Him! What an incredible gift He gives to us!
Take advantage of these gifts! Understand how much God loves you. Let that fuel your love for others. Take His power that is within you to live a righteous and godly life so you can have a peace that passes all understanding! God has called us and gifted us the ability to live higher than we are living! Start living it out today!
I did it again! I went a whole month without posting a blog. Why did I wait so long?! I have been asking this question to myself a lot lately.
Why did I wait so long to go back to school?
Why did I wait so long to finish that task?
Why did I wait so long to fix that relationship?
Why did I wait so long...
Believe me, I could keep going with hundreds of things in my life that I waited too long for. Some I have finally finished for others we are past that point. I'm sure you could fill in the blank with your own unfinished items in life.
I think somewhere between kindergarten and senior year in high school we perfect the art of procrastination. There is such a thing as Procrastinate on Purpose, which happens to be the title of a great book on time management by Rory Vaden. But this is not that kind. This is the, I don't want to complete this math assignment because I would rather play basketball, kind! There are a few reasons we wait so long to ask for a first date or to finally mow the lawn:
What if I don't do well? What if she says no? We could go on and on with excuses and reasons why we can't (or rather won't) do these things. Why not conquer that fear and try something new today! I would tell you to turn that fear around on itself. Why don't you instead be afraid of what you might be missing out on? What new thing might God have in store for you? I am, in fact, afraid of missing an opportunity God has for me because I waited too long to work on myself or take that step of faith. Yes, I fear what others might think or say, but I am more fearful of what my Father in heaven might say. "To fear the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom." Let's start here!
When walking down the hall where I work, I have people always asking, "how I am doing?" Or, "how's your day?" I started noticing a while back that my response was often, "busy." I didn't even give them the obligatory, "good!" And the truth is, I am busy. I wear a lot of hats. I am a youth pastor. I oversee a ministry with a lot of moving parts, from four life groups to a middle and high school program to a fine arts program and much more. I am also a husband. In fact, I am a husband first. I want to please my wife. I chose to do life with her, not have her come along for my crazy journey. This takes work. This makes one busy. I am a father to three kids. You all know how busy kids schedules can get. (When did I start living for them?!) I lead a ministry school in it's beginning stages and that takes work. I want to be available to students who need someone to pour into them as they are discovering God's plan for their lives!
I am not trying to impress you with my busy life. In fact, I'm sure your busyness could easily compete with my busyness. I don't think our busyness should be an excuse for waiting. Busyness does not equal procrastination. Which quickly brings me to my next point.
Most of us do not have the luxury of deciding what we should or shouldn't be doing at any given time. Things have to get done whether we want to do them or not. (Procrastinate on Purpose is a great resource to help with this!) What we can do is prioritize. We can make conscious decisions to elevate one thing over the other. If we do not make this decision, the decision will be made for you. I know I am tired of having a task dictated for me because I waited so long to accomplish it, that now it rules my life. I rule my life, not a task. The moment I pushed it away and said not today, is the moment it took control. We could all spend a little more time learning to be efficient in our everyday lives. Hebrews 12 tells us to "throw off everything that hinders us from running our race with perseverance." (my paraphrase)
Most importantly, keep God first. Make His desires your desires. Make His commands your commands. Learn to lean into Him in the difficult days and run with Him in the exhilarating days! Don't miss out on His will and purpose because you "waited too long." And please, don't miss out on an incredible eternity because you waited too long to take the step of faith and ask Jesus Christ to be Lord of your life. It is and will forever be worth it.
Stop waiting and start living!
Joy. As a kid growing up in a pastor's home, this word was commonly used, and not just a name for a random girl in my class. Mostly, it was used in songs at church, not in every day speech.
"I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart...where?!"
"Joy unspeakable and full of glory..."
"The Joy of the Lord is my strength..."
I'm not sure I knew what this really meant though. Again, not a common word we use in every day life. When my mom would ask me how my day was or how I was feeling, I typically didn't respond by saying, "I am full of joy and joyful!" It seems a bit cliche and perhaps too spiritual. Be honest, you know what I am talking about. Someone is going through a really tough time and they break out the "I still have joy in my heart" phrase or "the joy of the Lord is my strength." Really?!
I struggled so much with sayings like this, because often, their actions didn't line up with their words. There are exceptions to this. The always happy, always smiling, enthusiastic about life people that make you feel like an awful human being for thinking any situation could be a bad situation. But, for the most part, I would write off the idea of joy altogether. It was a nice thought, but not realistic. Not attainable. Never achievable. Always a bit out of my reach. When I thought I was there, something in life would happen that shattered the hope of joy again and again.
So what really is this seemingly far-out emotion, and what is the great opportunity lying in wait for us? Webster defines joy as "a feeling of great pleasure and happiness." I like far better how John Piper defines joy from a biblical standpoint. "Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the world."
1. A good feeling in the soul
As I have stated before, feelings are not bad. They aren't fact either, but they certainly aren't bad. Don't you wish you could have a good feeling in your soul in the middle of your stressful situation? What would you give to feel this way in the midst of a tragedy that hits close to home? Throughout scripture we see reference after reference of God wanting our actions and our words to line up. I love that we can say the right things, but we are also allowed to feel the right things. Wouldn't you jump on that opportunity? Joy can be yours!
2. Produced by the Holy Spirit
This is the key to joy that so many of us miss out on. Joy is produced from the inside. The things of this world can produce moments of bliss and happiness, but cannot be sustained. But, if we stay connected to the Holy Spirit, and allow Him to actually do work inside of us, joy is a natural (or perhaps supernatural) byproduct of Him! But the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. We are able to partake of this wonderful gift and even live in it! Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with the fruit of joy! What an opportunity!
3. Joy causes us to see the beauty of Christ
I would like to add to this statement if I could, Mr. Piper?! I believe one of the greatest opportunities in joy is to not only see the beauty of Christ for ourselves, but also for others to see the beauty of Christ in us. What a testimony to those outside our faith. To see our lives at the worst of times and still see a joy that permeates from within us. I remember a specific moment at a job I had a few years back. I was welding metal door frames together for forty hours a week! (Side note: when God calls you to minister, you do that regardless of a "full-time, paid" position at a church) On top of the job, I was going through a tough time personally. I remember my co-workers and manager asking me how I could stay so positive and pleasant through this whole ordeal. Again, what an incredible opportunity. I knew I had to share the joy of Christ in my life that is not based on outward circumstances! I was also able to share that they could have the same joy by accepting Christ into their lives. And guess what evangelism gurus?! They opened the door for me...I didn't even have to create the talking point!
This is the opportunity we all have. To live our lives in such a way, that even in the middle of our emotions, good or bad, that we can represent Christ for a dying world to see. That we could share His joy to the world. This is so much more than a Christmas song or overly spiritual idea. This is a way of life. Even when all of our other emotions are raging, there can be a joy deep in our soul that is able to shine through the darkness and lead people straight to Christ.
Walk in this joy.
Talk of this joy.
Be the person that gets strange looks for always being happy.
It is not just for our peace and contentment, but for His Glory!
The joy of the Lord truly is our strength!
The Dominican Republic. This was the location of my missions trip I just returned from. Every year, I journey to a country with students across Tennessee. Every year, I leave my wife and three kids behind. Every year, I am surrounded by people and a bit lonely. Every year, my wife is with our three kids and lonely. I’m sure you have been here before. It’s funny you can be all alone and feel ok, or be surrounded by people and feel all alone. Either way, it seemed appropriate to discuss this topic of loneliness this week.
Before we go any further, I would like to point out that some of the information I am using in this post, I found in Craig Groeschel's book, #Struggles.
The emotion is sadness. It can come for many different reasons and present itself in many different forms. Some people are good at hiding it, others not so much. It destroys the lives of some and brings about great change and triumph in others. Life truly is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it. Often, this emotion presents itself because of loneliness.
This could be the emotion while waiting to find the right 'person' to marry and you are dealing with being single. It could be that you are struggling to make friends at your new job, new school, or in a new city. Loneliness can be from the loss of a loved one. Wherever you find yourself, there is a good chance that at some point in your life, you are going to deal with loneliness. Let's look at a few thoughts to help us navigate this feeling:
1. God made us for LOVE.
We like this. Or I might say, we 'love' this! In Genesis 2:18, "The Lord God said, 'It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'" There is a deep desire inside each of us to love and to be loved. This Is not limited to the arena of marriage either. Look at the life of David. In 1 Samuel 18, by the time David had finished reporting to Saul, Jonathan was deeply impressed with David. An immediate bond was forged between them. He became totally committed to David, and from that point on, he would be David's number-one advocate and friend.
I believe there is something inside each and every one of us, longing for relationship like this. A friend that sticks closer than a brother. Someone who sees who you really are, and still cares. So what happens when we are not finding this friendship. What do we do in the years before the right person comes alongside us to be our spouse?
2. God made us for LONELINESS.
This might surprise some of you. As presented in my last blog, emotions come from God. He is a God of emotion and longs to be with His people. Look at Matthew 5:9, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." God is okay with and in fact wants us to mourn. It is what drives us to connections. We are meant to have deep, sometimes difficult feelings of loneliness to motivate us into contact with others, meeting our deeper needs of friendship. This opportunity of loneliness drives us toward real friendship, real intimacy, first with God and then with others.
Unfortunately, we live in an age of social media. And I say 'unfortunately' very lightly, as I love what social media allows us to do. It can be of great benefit if used correctly, but can be used for destruction if not. Because of 'likes,' many of us have become addicted to immediate affirmation. This affects our relationships because of something sociologists call "deferred loneliness." We are trying to meet some short-term need, but in the process, we're deferring a deeper, longer-term need.
In other words, we are living for Likes, but longing for love! Let loneliness do it's work in you, so you can come out better. Likes feel great for the moment, but leave you empty. Real connection may take longer to have, but will be worth it, helping you live a fulfilled, content life.
3. God made us for LIVING.
Jeremiah 31:13 "I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow."
There is a great story in John 5, of a healing of a paralytic. This story breaks my heart for this man. He had been in this condition for thirty-eight years. Thirty-eight years! Jesus sees him, as He sees all of us in our need, and asks him, "Do you want to get well?" We could dig into this question quite a bit, with the thought that perhaps we like our crutches. We like the pity we receive. We like having the attention. Ultimately, we are miserable in our state though. This man's response was simply, "Sir, I have no one." No one to help. No one to be there for me. No one to give me an opportunity. He needed healing, but he really needed a friend.
This condition led him to Jesus. We cannot truly live without the hand of God resting on our lives. All of our drive, passion, vision and work comes to nothing without Him. Jesus is there to meet this man's physical need, but in his healing was able to give him what he really needed, a friend and life again.
So Jesus is saying to all of us today, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." We can not stay in our lonely state. It may be for a season, but it is not for your life. It is a means to and end. We were never meant to stay that way. He instead gives us joy, unspeakable and full of glory! Too often we stay longer than we were ever meant to stay. And so today, can I speak plainly into your life? Do not be offended as I offer spiritual help:
Get up! Take what you have. You have gifts, talents, humor, personality. You are not worthless. You don't have to stay paralyzed in fear. You are enough for someone. People will like you. You don't have to hide what God gave you. If you continue to hide yourself, you will not ever find the joy of relationship in this life. Go and do something great for the kingdom of God and for others! They are waiting for you!
Over the next few weeks, I am going to be sharing on various emotions that we deal with in life. Anger, love, worry/stress, loneliness. The list could go on and on. We are a people full of emotion. God created us this way, and we need to learn how to operate with them.
Obviously, we do not need to let them run our lives. Feelings come and go. Facts should be a driving force for us. But to discredit them altogether is also wrong. There are moments that we need to listen to our 'gut.' There are times we should make a decision because of the prompting inside of us. When something terrible is happening, and everything inside us is saying 'run,' it may not be a bad idea!
In an age of promoting leadership, facts over feelings, and over-analyzing life, I believe we are missing a great opportunity in these emotions. An opportunity to use them for good or an opportunity to allow them to paralyze your future! The decision is yours. Here we go...
Anger. Let's start here. You don't have to be driving in Memphis long to come face to face with this ugly emotion. I say 'ugly' because we tend to give it a bad name.
Anger is bad.
Don't let anger control your life.
Push it away and don't let it rear it's ugly head!
To be honest, I felt the same way for a long time. And in truth, anger (along with all the other emotions) can send us spiraling out of control quickly. That is why I want us to find the opportunity in it. Didn't Jesus get angry?! Anger is not a sin. No where in scripture does it mention that this is a sin. What it does say in Ephesians 4 is, "in your anger, do not sin." In other words, you are going to get angry. The questions is, what are you going to do with it?
Here is my favorite definition of anger: "Anger is our response to whatever endangers something we love." So anger is actually a form of love. It is love in motion to deal with a threat to someone or something we truly care about. The problem arises when we take good things and make them the ultimate things. This is the opportunity. It is a telling sign for what you love the most in your life.
We see this manifest in the lives of many throughout the Bible. When we ultimately look at Jesus' anger in cleansing the temple (which He actually did twice!), we see this play out very clearly. Jesus loved prayer. He loved pure hearts. He loved His Father. This love pushed him to action. He could not allow what was going on in the house of God to continue. "My house shall be called a house of prayer. You have made it a den of thieves." Jesus found the opportunity in anger, to call him to action.
We could use a little more 'righteous' anger in today's age. Finding something we love so much that calls us out to action. Something that frustrates us so much, that we have to make a change in our lives. I hear people say a lot, find that thing that makes you mad, sad or glad, and you may very well find your passion and calling in life. We will address sad and glad later, but today, what is it that makes you mad?
Lack of Prayer
Sin in your life
The list could be as long as there are people on this planet. Each of us with something that triggers us to go and do. This is the good opportunity. The place we take an emotion and run with it. The reason we have so many good programs and ministries in this country. A lot of them came out of this emotion, and drove someone to incite change.
There is an ugly side to anger as well. We will end with this side because it should cause you to self-assess priorities in your life. That is, when you are loving the wrong things. When your heart is on the things of this world. That is why as a young boy, I yelled at my brother for erasing my game on a Super Nintendo! Yes, you heard that right. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was Madden '98. You can only save one thing at a time because of the limited storage. Somehow he erased it and I lost my cool! I know you've been there. Afterwards, you ask yourself, why did I lose it like that?! I will now tell you why:
You loved the game more than you loved your brother! (I am sorry Andrew!)
What is this big thing that's so important to me? Why do I get this defensive over something so insignificant? Because you have made it too significant!
The question we need to ask is, "What do you love too much?"
Take a moment and examine your life. Take this next week even and write down the times you have gotten angry, and the reason behind it. Let's examine our lives and put our hearts in the right place. Let's quit finding our treasure in the things of this world! Instead, let's find the opportunity in this great emotion to go out and make a difference for the Kingdom of God!
If you noticed, this is not the normal way we phrase this question. The question asked more often, at least in my world, is, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" If I'm being honest, asking this question somehow feels righteous. "God, why would you allow this? These are 'good' people." We feel vindicated. We can ask on behalf of someone else, and feel as though we care for them.
First, let me state that I have no problem with 'why' questions. I think these are healthy for us even. God is big enough to handle them, and smart enough to respond correctly. Too often we think God cannot deal with us or our struggles. I am thankful that I serve a different God than that. One whose ways are much bigger and whose thoughts are much higher. I serve a God that is not insecure or worried or taken back by anything I can bring to the table. But more on that next week!
Second, as it pertains to this commonly asked question, I tend to see a lot of 'feeling' and 'perception' in it. I feel like this shouldn't be this way. Or, I want to be perceived as caring. I think if we were completely honest with ourselves, we ask the question in title just as often. It sure doesn't roll off our tongue as well. It may be perceived that we are somehow not godly enough. Humble enough.
Why do good things happen to bad people?
Have you been there?
Why did our co-worker get the raise I deserved? They didn't even work as hard.
Why did my friend get the award I was wanting?
Why were they blessed with such talent? And they are a sinner at that?!
Since we are on the topic of sins, why did my sins find me out and theirs didn't?
You've been there. I've been there. This internal struggle that we don't want to communicate out loud for fear of looking like less or feeling like less.
Jeremiah shares our sympathies as he begins chapter 12 of his book, "Why does the way of the wicked prosper?"
I would love to throw out our typical statements that we tell people in church, but those don't always sit well with me. I'm not saying they are a cop out for ministers, or that they don't care. I do struggle however, because I am human. I struggle because I want to be settled with this answer down in my soul. I don't want a surface bandaid to try to cover a fix. Often times when we find ourselves in these situations, there is something much deeper inside of us that is needing mended. Our soul is needing restored. Not in the way we tend to think, like putting makeup on or freshening an already decent looking item. Restoration is to take something broken, unusable, rusted and falling apart, and turning it into a show stopping piece.
Travel with me for a moment to two passages of scripture as we unlock the secret to a healthy soul.
Matthew 20. We see a landowner hiring laborers for his vineyard. He does this four times throughout the day and pays each worker the same wage. The SAME wage! The audacity of this man. The unfairness of this situation. And we've all been there! God, why would you allow this? If you follow me to verse 15 we see the response to our cries for justice.
"Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?"
Here it is again. The pattern we need to follow, but forget. We can not ask God why He would do something without first addressing the fact that He is good. Is not the earth His to do with as He pleases? Should we not echo Job in saying, "should I only accept good from God and not also trouble?"
I am glad God is not fair. I am glad that God has not judged me or condemned me as I deserve. "All have sinned...and the wages of this sin is death, BUT the gift of God is eternal life!"
Luke 15. This is another familiar passage covering the second half of this chapter. We see the wayward son, wanting out from under his fathers house. We also see the faithful son, diligent to the work given him. At some point in the story we see a shift in the demeanor of both sons. The prodigal realizes the error of his ways, and the faithful realizes that he never seems to be rewarded or noticed for his good deeds. If we are not careful with our souls, the faithful of God can become the prodigal.
The Father throws a party for his lost son while the faithful son is out doing what he does best: working hard. As he is returning from the fields, he notices something going on at the house. A party perhaps. Who could be celebrated? Maybe all my work is finally getting noticed? Let me bring a servant over and ask what this is all about.
And in that one act, the faithful reveals our secret. We don't want to talk about it. We call it being disgruntled. We call it being frustrated. We call it anger. We call it many things for fear of digging to the root and seeing that maybe something darker is hiding there.
The son does not trust his father.
And in these two stories we see two problems mankind has with God. We see the mess that we are in along with the solution to a life of heartache, jealousy, envy and pain. Here they are:
1. Is God Good? We don't always believe that He is. How could He? Why would He? These phrases are too commonplace in our lives. If He is truly good, we have to start by saying so. I may not understand it all, but God is good. We can not afford to make Him anything that He is not. We will never be settled in our souls with the unknown in life, until we can come to terms with this thought, "No matter what, I believe that God is good."
2. Do You Trust Him? If we really trusted our Father, we could truly celebrate the success of others. If we really trusted God, we could have peace in the midst of our hurts and pains. If we really trusted Him, success would be defined differently than what we previously thought. If we really trusted, we could lean into Him and enjoy the path He laid out for us without always wanting to be on someone else's path.
These two thoughts go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. You cannot trust if He is not good. If He is not good, you cannot trust. I hope and pray that you can find peace with these truth's about God and about us. Don't settle for an average life. Don't just survive another day. Let's deal with our hurts and pains and frustrations of life by looking up! Turn your eyes upon Jesus! He is that good and He can be trusted!
This may be a bit different from other posts I have shared. I'd like to get more interactive with whoever is out there reading these. Sharing some of my favorite quotes will be a fun way to start the conversation!
Let me preface this by stating that the Bible is the Word of God and there is no equal to it. It inspires, encourages, convicts, and helps us live the life Christ has called us to. With that said, God has given us brilliant men and women to share stories, wisdom and ideas to help us learn and grow. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from along the way (this is not an exhaustive list, and I would love to have your share some of your favorites in the comments!):
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot
"What you win them with is what you win them to." - Kyle Idleman
"To reach people no one else is reaching you'll have to do things no one else is doing." - Craig Groeschel
"Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of Christ." - Sheila Walsh
"True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less." - C.S. Lewis
"You can do nothing wrong, and still do nothing right." - Mark Batterson
"Spiritual maturity is consistent application of elementary things, not the occasional application of extraordinary things." - Jeremy Austill
"I don't pray for victory. I pray from victory!" - Dr. Tom Lindberg
"You can't quit before you start." - Kermit the Frog
"May you live in such a way that your death is just the beginning of your life." - Max Lucado
"Whatever 'call' a man may pretend to have, if he has not been called to holiness, he certainly has not been called to the ministry." - Charles Spurgeon
"Those that would affect others by the Word of God, should have evidence that they themselves have been affected by it." - Matthew Henry
And here are a few of mine:
"When we look to things of this earth of our hope, we will always walk away with less than we started with."
"Don't sacrifice the dreams you had yesterday for the pleasures and comforts of today."
"God's promise is greater than your current position."
Again, these are not an exhaustive list, and I certainly don't have time to share insight about each of them. I did want you to read them, respond to them, and comment your own personal favorites! God bless.
Homeless /ˈhōmləs/ - a person without a home, and therefore typically living on the streets.
In March of this year we closed on the house we have lived in for four years. Twenty-one days later we were to be in a new house (the one above). This twenty-one days turned into a little over two months. Let me clarify, my family was never without a place to stay. I would sometimes tease about being homeless, but that was far from the case. I have been on enough missions trips across the globe and in my own backyard, to know that we have a great life. God has richly blessed my family for reasons I will never know. I would, however, like to share some lessons learned during this two-month time!
Lesson #1 - Routine is not overrated.
For my few faithful readers out there, I have not posted since March and here we are at the end of May. Routine has more implications than whether or not I write. This blog, though, is a great illustration for what can happen when life gets out of sync. You are not always making the wisest choices. We would say things like, "Let's just do what we need to to get by." You eat out more, you spend more, you are not yourself in a lot of ways. And it weighs heavy.
Lesson #2 - Find your equilibrium sooner than later
It took the full two-months to settle into normal. I thank God my work-life was stable along with several other things. I just hate that it took us that long to be ok. To chill out. To realize that it is what it is and make the most of it. We knew it, but that is much easier to say than to live. To really act it out. This doesn't mean you stop striving to be better, do more, grow, etc. It does mean to be content in every situation as the apostle Paul says.
Lesson #3 - Trust God
I know this should be Lesson #1, but I am a slow learner. This is in fact a lesson I have learned many times in my life. You would think by now, I would have it figured out. Every time a new situation arises, I have to learn the lesson all over again. I am thankful that you all have this one figured out better than me.
Lesson #4 - It's Not About the American Dream
We have a beautiful, "American Dream" house that we just moved into. This was never our intention moving to Memphis. And we didn't go looking for it. Our hearts moving to Memphis was to serve God and our church. We had the mindset of missionaries. I remember sitting with my wife as I was typing up a resume for our now pastor. "We are not here for the American dream, but for God's dream." It sounds cheesy and cliche, but it was truly our hearts. My wife decided to not get a job to help with the youth and homeschool our kids. (She is brilliant and more than qualified for any job, by the way!) We decided we were going to make the finances work for us. As we were about to close on this new house, I felt a little ashamed and humbled that God would bless us the way He was. Who am I to deserve anything that I have, especially a new house. The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said it was because we were seeking first His kingdom. I don't understand all that God does, but I know His dream is better. Period.
Lesson #5 - He is better
God is better than you think He is. He will sustain you through the wilderness times. He will keep you in the uncertain moments. He still loves you through the mess that is you. He is good. Every time we would normally ask a question such as, "Why would God...," should instead start with, "He is good." This always comes first. It is His nature. He cannot be anything but that. You can trust that He is for you. He has your best interest in mind. He is not hiding His will from you. He is not what we for so long have perceived Him to be. We have crafted Him into a likeness that we have formed, and as such, become idolators to something that is not God. God is love. God is just. God is faithful. God is merciful. God is truth. God is for you. God loves you. God can restore you. God can mend your heart. God can heal your hurt. God can redeem your moments. He is enough. He is better.
You are never 'homeless' when He is your 'home.'
(2019 TYM Camp Plug!)
April is right around the corner and Easter isn't to far behind it. Each year I re-read the Resurrection story. I start in Matthew, go through Mark and Luke, and end in John. There are a lot of mixed feelings that I have with this story of Jesus. I am a pastor's kid, so I grew up knowing the story of Jesus as well as I knew my birthday. It is ingrained in me to understand what happened, when it happened and why it happened. I have seen the Passion of the Christ, understand all of the implications of the cross, and am well-versed in the understanding of what Christ did for everyone and specifically for me. Even if you didn't grow up in a house like I did, I'm sure you could say similar things. On top of that, the world has done a brilliant job marketing this 'holiday,' and is going to enjoy reaping the millions, perhaps billions of dollars it has made.
This year, before I read any of the story, I made a point to ask God to help me not see Easter the way I have before. Make it come alive again. Remind me again of the miracle of salvation. I say it a lot because it is worth saying, don't forget that salvation is greater than any miracle you have ever witnessed. And it is free. At least it is for us. Jesus paid a great price on our behalf.
I finish Matthew and head into Mark and am stopped by the Living Lord's Last Supper. Are you even a believer if you have not seen or been a part of the remaking of this event. Growing up, this was a staple at our church. In fact, my dad still puts this on every year. You go through each of the disciples. Who they are, where they are from, how they will be martyred for Christ. As they each take their place at the table, the scene then comes alive. Talking, eating. I'm sure mostly eating. As a child, I couldn't wait until the play was over so I could tear into the unleavened bread and grapes on the table!
And then Jesus, before He breaks the bread and hands out the drink, says these words. "One of you who eats with me, will betray me." In the drama I hear the bickering begin. Not I! Peter slams his fists on the table saying, I would never betray you! What I read in Mark (ironic that many assume Mark's Gospel is from Peter's perspective) is a slightly different tale.
"And they began to be sorrowful, and to say to Him one by one, "Is it I?" And another said, "Is it I?" Mark 14:19
It is strange to me that they all thought it even a slight possibility that they might be the one to betray Jesus. They all spent three years with this man. Witnessed countless miracles. The things Jesus said and did could not be contained in books, it was so great! Jobs were surrendered, places of prominence given up, even leaving family and friends, the disciples embarked on this journey. Peter even receives a glimpse of who Jesus is from the Holy Spirit when he declares, "surely You are the Son of God!"
And now centuries later, here we sit. You and I at a table with Jesus. Somewhere in my heart I have to consider, could I betray Christ? For there will be many who cry out "Lord, Lord. I have done many things in your name." There will be many who have a form of godliness, but deny it's power. There will be many who are morally correct. There will be many...
More than a self-accusation, I believe this was a self-assessment the disciples made on this night. And I would like to do the same, and maybe you would join me. Join me in searching our hearts to see if maybe, just maybe it could be me? If my life was asked of me, would I give it? If my possessions were asked of me, would I give them? If my world was shattered, would I still believe? If everything were stripped away, would He still be good?
Would I give it all, or is there still a place deep in my heart where I might have to ask myself, "Is it I?"
I have a friend with a shirt that says, “bear fruit.” It has a picture of a bear holding a fruit, much like above. I didn’t share it because I thought there might be some copyright issues with it. As I was reading through the first chapter of Genesis again, because I love the creativity of God, I was reminded of the shirt.
“Then God said, “Let the land sprout with vegetation—every sort of seed-bearing plant, and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. These seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.” And that is what happened.”
Genesis 1:11 NLT
“And that is what happened.”
Before we go any further, it is important to note that when God speaks something, it will happen. I hate the times I get surprised when God’s Word comes to fruition. The fact that I have such little faith in His word bothers me. We know (head knowledge) that His Word is true, but do we know (heart-based Faith) that His Word is yes and amen?!
With this passage, God set up a principle. What is sown will be reaped, down to the very type of seed you sow. And so we find that God is not a respecter of persons, but He is a respecter of principles.
God set up boundaries and rules for everything. It would be strange to eat an apple from a tree one year and a pear the next from the same tree! We don’t have to re-analyze things. You can manipulate scripture to say what you want it to, but you will still find that even if you sow into your new principle, you will reap from God’s unchanging one.
We see the consistency and continuity. My question would be, do we have the same continuity and consistency in our lives? We don’t aspire to follow God’s decrees to be legalists. Rather, we follow them so we know what to expect of ourselves and others know what to expect of us. We follow them so in a way, we know what to expect out of various circumstances and situations.
Quit feeding people apples one year and pears another. Quit feeding your circumstances apple seeds expecting to harvest pears. Einstein would call that insanity. God would call it unfruitful living that is in need of pruning. So let’s work towards being His good and faithful (consistent) witness.