I am blessed to be a part of a blogger chat group that meets via zoom on Saturday mornings. One of the regular attendees, Alicia, has a recurring problem: She burns her morning toast (a lot!). Though she does not claim to be the world’s greatest chef, Alicia finds this on-going issue frustrating; probably because it occurs more often than not.
As the discussion turned to failed attempts in the kitchen this morning, talk of Alicia’s toast problem surfaced. It was as I listened to what happened that God nudged with some Spirit-filled advice for her. You see, the root cause of her burning bread was not the toaster, but rather the fact that in an attempt to use her time constructively, Alicia goes off to do other chores while the toaster does its thing. Invariably, one task leads to another and the inevitable burnt toast pops up.
The words of the Prophet Micah popped into my head and in them I believe is the end of all of Alicia’s failed toasting: But as for me,I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. (Micah 7:7 NIV)
The God-given answer seems clear: Stop all other activity and wait by the toaster form your meal! Knowing as I do that Alicia wants to make every second of her day count, I then counseled her to use that time of waiting to praise God. Maybe a short gratitude list of things she is thankful for. Or perhaps spend those few minutes while waiting for her toast to pray for her kids and husband. Using time in this way is certainly productive, with the side benefit of not having to throw out burnt toast.
As I like to do, I then apply this advice to myself, looking for areas where I allow busyness to cloud or even block my awareness of God around me. Having identified a few, I will take the same Spirit advice I shared with Alicia and apply it to myself. Very rarely is a thing to do so important that I cannot slow down to simply be in God’s presence. He already knows my heart, so why not bask in His wonderful presence. Doing so will make whatever is pressing at hand fall into a clearer perspective.
Like Micah, I will watch in hope, knowing that God has only good for His children. I will wait for God my Savior, for waiting for Him is better than anything I might accomplish on my own and I will cherish the knowledge that He hears me. And not only hears, but listens with a loving heart that will direct me in His ways, if I only will open myself to Him.
So I tip my cap to the last burnt toast Alicia ever makes, and join with her as we proclaim the greatness of the God of the Universe!
Greetings in grace to you Most Appreciated Readers! I wanted to take this quick opportunity to check in with you all.
I realize I am not the most prolific blogger on WordPress. Yet even my less than regular jottings have been even more spaced out than usual. Hence the update.
As you may remember, I have gone back to my old painting job at Le Moyne College for the months of June and July in an attempt to help my replacement (who also happens to be our oldest son) get the thousands of square feet of dormitories and other living spaces re-coated before the new academic year begins in August. This effort keeps me more than busy during the week, as the 8+ hours of painting each day go speeding by.
Weekends are spend primarily doing the things around our house that get neglected during these weeks, thus leaving little time for blogging. I don’t know how it is for you, but the less I write makes me more aware of how much I enjoy sharing this time with you.
Even in these uber-busy times of my life, God is faithful. In fact so much so that He is presenting me with a new ministry opportunity. Beginning in September I will be joining the staff at a Lutheran Church just a few miles from our home. I will be serving there ½ time, as I also go back to seminary to tackle some courses in the Lutheran foundations. This tract will be leading me into full-time parish ministry so time down the road.
I will embrace this new chapter while maintaining my roots in the local church Betsy and I belong to, as well as seeing to the ministry opportunities presented to Lakeside Christian Ministries.
I realize that some folks get to my age and begin to slow down or at least start to look at the possibly of life after work. I say blessings to them.
But for me, it is full speed ahead (with God’s leading)! I am energized by what lies ahead while enjoying the blessings of the moment. God is so good!!
I hope to keep you all posted (a little more frequently) going forward.
If I were to ask you, Dear Reader, what is a good Samaritan, I am confident that many would relate the parable Jesus told that has come to be known as The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
In case you need a quick refresher, here is my synopsis: Jesus, in response to the question, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ tells this famous parable. In it a man traveling the 16 miles between Jerusalem to Jericho is robbed and beaten as he traveled. A priest and a Levite, see the injured man and deliberately pass by on the opposite side of him, not giving any kind of help to someone who clearly needed some.
Then comes our Samaritan, a social outcast in this setting, who lends what would have been life-saving assistance at the scene. He then transported the injured traveler to an inn, where he pays in advance for the care the injured man will need as he recovers.
Jesus used this parable to get his questioner to think about who exactly is a neighbor. When the man answered that it was the one who showed mercy, Jesus told him he was correct. But He also told him to go and do likewise.
As I mulled this over today, Luke 10:25-37 was part of my daily bible reading, I too got to thinking about just who is my neighbor. The answer is not as straight forward as I might want it to be. Oh, there are my next-door neighbors; the elderly couple with the seemingly countless grand kids and on the other side the married couple with two young daughters. Across the street is another older couple and a single mom of 2 teenagers. These are my neighbors. We are all on friendly terms and make ourselves available to help one another as needed.
This seemingly fulfills what Jesus is saying, but only to a point. Being ‘neighborly’ is important and should be done with a glad heart, but if it is as far as I take the question of who is my neighbor, it is terribly short-sighted.
If I am to be obedient to the teaching of Jesus in this regard, I must take a much broader view of who my neighbor is. Clearly, Jesus wants each of us to consider all others as a ‘neighbor,’ especially when someone is in need.
Being a good neighbor in the context of what Jesus is teaching is to have the willingness to give of yourself to help another. Under the Lord’s direction, there is no room at all for social bias or injustice. Both the priest and the Levite in the parable were duty-bound to help, yet they passed on the other side of the road, ignoring the need simply because they did not want to get their hands dirty on someone who they felt was beneath them.
The good neighbor in this parable cut through all the layers of dislike, distrust and disdain and simply rendered assistance.
I would like to think that if I were in there instead of the Samaritan, I would have stopped to help as well. But being honest, I know that the perceived tightness of my schedule has caused me to join that priest and Levite in passing by a need from time to time. Typing these words makes me cringe at my selfishness and I ask God to forgive me of my hard heart. And while I am asking of the Lord, please also prevent judgment to worm its way into my mind.
With this now fresh in my heart, I am confident that should I come across someone in need to today, I will offer assistance. That is right and good of course, but I believe there are still things I can be doing for others even if I do not happen upon someone who has been robbed and beaten. In other words, I can be pro-active in helping out.
For example, there is a soup kitchen here in town that is always in need of volunteers. I also know of a home-bound person who may need a prescription picked up today. Perhaps there is another person that I know is struggling with loneliness. Today is a good day to call to say “Hello, I am thinking of you today.”
My point, to both me and you, is that there is plenty of need out there. We do not have to look to long or far to see it. May I encourage you to be a Good Samaritan today. I believe that when Jesus said, “Go and do likewise,” He included us in that direction.
I would love to hear how you have been moved to help others or perhaps share a unique way others can reach out to fill needs.
Can you remember your very first job interview? If so, do you recall the feelings that it inspired? I would be willing to wager some of the common ones were: Nervousness, outright fear, and uncertainty, to name just a few.
Then when it was finally over, came the wait, which produced more questions than answers. Did I get it, when will they let me know? If the wait dragged on, then came the inevitable doubt about how you presented yourself or your qualifications.
Thanks for taking this quick stroll down memory lane with me. Now that I have got those feelings stirred up, forget them. As followers of Christ we automatically get the job! The difficult part is not in getting the assignment, rather it is in the carrying it out.
I am speaking about the task(s) God would have us undertake once we have accepted His Son Jesus Christ as Savior. If you would, please read Matthew 25:14-30 for the basis of what I propose today.
The verses mentioned above contain Jesus telling the parable of the talents (a talent was a measure of monetary value). This parable is one in a series the Lord was telling in answer to the question of when He will return to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth.
Jesus has already made it known that no one on earth can know the day or hour of His return. Instead of wasting time worrying or wondering when this will be, Jesus teaches that we should be about our God-given task so that no matter when He returns, He will find us ready for Him.
In the parable of the talents, Jesus explains that God gives us responsibility in this work according to the abilities He gives us. The first two servants are given 5 and 2 of these talents respectfully. Each man then goes to work at multiplying what has been entrusted to them. After a long time the Master returns. He is overjoyed that these two servants have done so well with what he has tasked them with.
It is the person who received only one talent that I can best relate to. In the parable he concocts some lame excuses for avoiding what he has been requested to do by simply burying the talent in the ground. When he is approached by the Master, he is rebuked for his poor attitude and unwillingness to use what had been given him to further the master’s business.
I was headed in a similar direction. From very early on in my Christian life I had been encouraged by my many folks to consider using what God had given me and enter full-time ministry. I heard things like, ‘You have a pastor’s heart,’ and, ‘I find you very easy to talk to.’
My response at the time to these obviously mis-guided people was ‘thanks but no thanks. I have too much on my plate at this time.’ I would then list the many things that I had to see to. This would quiet those well-meaning voices for a time, but none of my excuses could ever completely still the One that kept tugging on my heart.
These days, I am ever so grateful that God shows abundant patience with me. When I finally gave up rationalizing my disobedience away and embraced the talent God had given me, my life has been put on the path that I now know was the one God had planned for me.
Like the two who took what the Master gave them and went to work for him, I too have been invited into my Master’s joy. And yes, like in the parable where the obedient servants were then given more responsibility, I have more these days as well. As I remember who it is that tasks me in this way, and that He makes available to me all I need to accomplish it, the joy is on-going.
My last bit of advice on this topic is that you embrace what God gives you to do immediately. Don’t put it off. There are blessings to be had, both by you and those you will encounter. And even if you were not to realize a single blessing as you undertake your Kingdom call, you will have the deep satisfaction in your soul that you are simple being obedient to God’s greater plan.
Lastly, there will be no better place to be than at your God-given assignment should He come back to settle accounts today. I realize that some folks work best under a looming deadline and in the workday world that might be ok. Not so in the all-important call that God gives you. Grab and run with it today! As you do, may you find the indescribable joy that comes from knowing you are right in the middle of God’s will for you!
The Labor Day Holiday was established in 1884 in a time of unrest among the working class. Exploitation was often cited by the fledgling labor unions as low wages and long hours in unsafe conditions were often the rule. Workers were perceived as little more than replaceable parts in the greater machine; if you didn’t like conditions or the wages being offered, someone else would. The Carpenters and Machinist Unions both claim to be the impetus behind this movement.
Many of these labor leaders were campaigning for an innovative idea, one that would curtail the overuse of the labor force. What they were asking for was not only one day from work per year to celebrate those who worked by the hour, but also for the idea of a balanced day. They were proposing that management establish an 8-hour work day which would then allow for this balance: 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation and 8 hours of rest.
That equation for the use of 24 hours sounds good, doesn’t it? However, as it is true today that you cannot legislate morality, coming up with a formula to live each 24 hours by is equally fruitless.
We might get one segment right, but overdo another which then disrupts the third. My experience and the experience of many that I know is that the segment that gets most short-changed is rest. Ask yourself, how’s this balance working for you? Many work more than 8 hours a day and yet will still attempt to get full time in on recreation. The result is less than ideal, for even though you get away from the workplace, fatigue still wins out. You can look at any of these three segments of time, I guarantee for most of us the one that gets cheated the most is rest/sleep.
As He is always faithful to do, God provides us exactly what we need. In the context of resting from our labors, please consider what Jesus said as recorded in Matthew 11:28-30 in your search for balance:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for you souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (NIV)
Jesus calls us to life in Him. We have eternal life assured through the salvation He has won for us. Paul’s letter to Ephesians clearly spells this out:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God –9 not by works, so that none can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).
Salvation is God’s gift to all. We play no active part in it other than to receive it. God’s grace is extended to anyone that professes Jesus Christ as Savior.
However, there are plenty of God’s promises to us that do require us to do our part to realize them. With regard to the rest Jesus offers, He tells us that we are to “come to him, all who are weary and burdened.” Please do not miss that all-inclusive invitation to all of us who are weary and burdened!
Acknowledging that we play a part in experiencing this rest, what are we to do?
First, admit our need of this balanced life. If we’ve honestly looked, we’ve seen that we need to have it. Also, it’s ok to admit “I’m tired.” No shame in that, as matter of fact many of us succumb to pride when we push on through fatigue thinking we can overcome any obstacle if we work long and hard enough. This is rarely possible for us and never long-lasting. Only Jesus has ‘overcome the world.’ He’s the only one who could. Humbly go to Him seeking this rest.
And it’s not not just weary, but ‘burdened.’ What are you burdened by today? Finances, health, children, work, the state of the country/world, etc.? Plenty to be burdened about and they quickly become too heavy if we try to carry them on our own.
However, there are two things we need to do to hold up our end of the promise to have rest. In verse 29 of Matthew 11, Jesus tells us first to: “Take my yoke.” This is an act of our will. We take what Jesus offers, here referred to as a yoke (oxen teams; we’re made up of two animals with the smaller, less experienced one on the outside). Jesus is on the inside carrying the heavier load, to symbolize that the Lord’s guidance will bring us peace and rest.
Secondly, we are to learn from Him. “You’ve tried the rest, now try the best!” Look over your track record with dealing with problems and difficulties on your own, or in your way or power. If your past success rate is as low as mine in doing things this way, you can see that we have some things to learn from Jesus. Hence, once yoked to Him, we are to learn from Him; the One with the strength and wisdom, the One on the inside.
In conclusion: Doing life; isn’t that what the original proponents of Labor Day were attempting to legislate? So much time for this, that and the other thing. Jesus has been and is still offering this way of life all along!
His yoke is not easy because He expects less from us, rather it is light because He carries so much of the load! In the same way, our burdens don’t lighten or go away simply because we follow Jesus, but again because He carries the majority of the weight, they become so much lighter and easier for us to carry.
Is there a balance that can be found in life like the people who established Labor Day 135 years ago were striving for? If you are looking for a neat and well-structured formula of 8-8-8, the answer is most likely no.
But if the balance you seek has Jesus in the heart of all you do, then the answer is a resounding yes! Jesus has told us again today that He will give us rest. His offer is true and reliable. He will give it if we seek Him for it. It all boils down to a question of faith: Is what God’s Word says applicable to us today? If you believe that it is indeed ‘active and alive,’ the answer is again yes!
With the truth of God activated in your heart and mind, you can know and experience the wondrous truth that Jesus Himself provides the ‘rest for our souls’ that we need.
On this Labor Day, and every day, keep all that you do centered on the Lord Jesus. As you do, you will find that the rest He gives doesn’t just come at the end of our physical activity, but in fact is present and available to us all the time. As you let this truth take root in your heart, you will find that you will not need legislation to provide you balance between work, leisure and rest, Jesus Christ has and is your balance in abundance.
Does the person who cut me off on the highway know I am a Christian. Did my one-fingered salute clue him in that I profess to follow Jesus? Do the folks around me at a hockey game experience my love when I loudly disagree with the referee’s call? Does my wife see the love of God displayed in me when I grudgingly agree to help with a project around the house? No, no and no.
Looked at in this light, I am missing by a wide margin the command Jesus gives in John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (NIV).
The word love in these verses is God’s all-encompassing love. It is the love given to us that we are to express back to Him and others. Another place in Scripture tells us that, we love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
How do I do this? On my own, I can’t. I/we can only exhibit the love of God if it is in us. In order to obey this command, we must believe Jesus to be the Son of God who gave His life for all sinners and was raised from the dead to give the final victory over death.
Ok, I do believe that; why then do I have trouble obeying this command? The answer comes down to understanding the sacrificial nature of Jesus love. More than understanding, I must become willing to supplant my wishes in favor of others. That means I have to grow to be less selfish as I live my faith out.
Allow me to share some insight into what I see as the lack of appeal in today’s Christian to the outside world. My current ministry has me visiting different churches in our area as I fill in for vacationing pastors or as I help my wife lead worship when there is a need. These churches have some things in common. One, the people that are there seem genuinely glad to be there. Second, there aren’t many of them. The churches we help out at always seem to be more than half, if not two thirds, empty.
Why is this? Why are there more empty seats than warm bodies present on any given Sunday (except for Easter and Christmas)? The answer, as I see it, is that going/belonging to a church has lost its appeal. What has happened in the relatively short period of time from the commitment of my parent’s generation to weekly attendance to the mass exodus from church today? I understand we live in a busier world today, with each of us seemingly being pulled in multiple directions constantly and that Sunday morning for many is the only chance to catch up on sleep. There is also soccer and hockey and a myriad of other activities going on these days that never were on help on Sunday morning before.
Ok, I get it; folks are busy, stressed, or just too tired to even think about church. This has resulted in a generation of people who are not necessarily anti-Christianity, they simply have not had any exposure to what a life of faith is all about. The majority of this group has formed their opinion of what a Christian is based on how it is portrayed on television sit-coms.
This my fellow-believers, is our fault. Somehow, in the busyness of our own lives, we have lost the attractiveness of what being a Christian should be. Many of us, myself included, tend to ‘love others’ at our convenience. In so doing and ever so subtlety, we have traded the command to love everyone for the desire to love ourselves first. Said another way, once our wants our met, we can see to the needs of others.
When we profess faith in Christ, yet live with a ‘me first’ attitude, we fail miserably at obeying the Lord’s command to love others. Our love of self limits our ability to experience the love God gives us. With this restricted flow of heaven-sent love in us, we become far less appealing to the hurting world around us.
If we find ourselves falling into this trap, there is but one way out; ask God to forgive us our selfishness and restore to us the joy of His salvation. This allows us to see our relationship to our Creator more clearly. As we do, we bring our weakness in to the light; His light!
Remember, God is not a about condemnation when we screw-up. What He is always doing is inviting us to enjoy a deeper life of fellowship with Him. As we accept this invitation, we will find our ‘wants’ list to be greatly reduced in size as we realize our utmost need is being met. Living in this freedom then allows more of the Father’s love to flow in to us, thus making us better able to love the world around us. That appeals to me and it is what will make the life of obedience to Jesus appeal to others.
It’s simple really, just not easy. But it is so wonderfully worth it! Let’s all make today the day we will take the Lord’s command to heart and love others as He has loved us. In this way we can best make our appeal to those who don’t know Him yet. For my part, I will pray blessings on that next driver who cuts me off, I’ll acknowledge the referees good work at the hockey game and joyfully join with my wife in our next project.
My writing style, such as it is, attempts to inform and instruct both followers of Jesus Christ and those who do not. It is my goal to present the truth of Scripture in meaningful ways to all who might read these jottings. This entry, however, is written specifically to those who profess to have put their faith in Christ. Please read on, even if you haven’t made that decision for Christ yet, for even this discussion might contain something you can relate to.
I recently attended an area meeting of Elim Fellowship. This is the group that has ordained me and that provides headship over independent ministries like ours. These bi-monthly gatherings give the opportunity to meet and network with others in our geographical area. There is also time set aside for praise and worship and usually a message from the Area Director, Rev. William King. What he shared the other day has had a positive impact on my walk with Christ. I share it in hopes that it will do the same for you.
It came to him as he was reading through Genesis, specifically Chapter 26:18 which states: Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them (NIV).
Meditating on this verse brought a question to Rev. King’s heart and mind: “What wells of mine have been stopped up.” In other words, what things had he gotten away from or had lessened in importance to him in his walk with the Lord over time. He mentioned several things that he became aware of and has since asked for the Lord’s forgiveness and is now making the effort to walk in them more fully.
I took his experience to heart as I too contemplated the question about filled in wells in my life. Two things jumped out at me as I did: my personal prayer life and my attitude of gratitude (I wonder if they are connected?).
I thought about the mornings some years ago when I would simply stand in my kitchen and pour out my needs to God and then take some time to simply be silent before Him, allowing His Spirit to speak to mine. Somewhere along the line I have allowed busyness and the need to get things done to crowd out and diminish this precious time. It didn’t happen all at once, but in keeping with the illustration of the well, it slowly filled in with other things I thought more pressing.
The well dug next to this one I named Gratitude. I was told early in recovery (the timing of which coincides with my Christian life) that gratitude was an action word. If I was grateful, my life should reflect that fact in how I lived. By daily remembering that God was sparing me from the scourge of addiction, my life ought to be a joyful one filled with giving of myself wherever He led me to. Alas, this well too has gotten somewhat filled in by the cares and concerns of my life. Gradually, as I look back, I can clearly see how I have allowed them to overshadow my gratefulness.
Here’s another thought about wells: in this part of Central New York, most wells need to be dug 15-20 feet to hit water. The wells Isaac was reopening were generally dug to a depth of 70 feet! To carry this analogy further then tells me that there is quite a bit of work involved to get my wells flowing again. The key for me is to remember how sweet and fresh the ‘water’ tasted when I first dug them, thus encouraging me to open them up more fully again.
The same quality of the water Jesus offers is abundantly available to all. Only His water can give life to the fullest. It is the same spiritual drink that the Lord offered to the woman at the well; life giving water that quenches our thirst in/for Him forever.
If these thoughts have helped you to realize that some of your wells have been stopped up as well, won’t you join with me in asking the Lord’s forgiveness for our negligence? I have found that by doing so, He has allowed me the pleasure of experiencing once again the joy of His loving touch. My prayer today for me and you is that we make every effort to keep anything from blocking the flow of the living water He has for each one of us. Amen.
In his devotional book titled My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote the following for May 25th: Whenever right is made the guidance in life, it will blunt the spiritual insight. The great enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but the good which is not good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best.
I/we tend to settle for the good. Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with good. In fact, Scripture encourages us to not grow weary of doing good (Galatians 6:9 NIV). The stumbling occurs when we decide something we have done is ‘good enough.’ It’s almost like admitting we know that it is not the best, but that it, (whatever it is), will have to suffice.
Jesus had much to say on this topic. If you have a bible handy, please read Luke 10:38-42. In case you don’t, here’s a quick paraphrase: Jesus and His entourage are passing through a village on their way to Jerusalem. As was the custom of that time, He and the group with Him stopped at the home of some people He knew, Martha and Mary (whose brother was Lazarus).
As was also customary then, the hostess, in this case the older sister Martha, was expected to provide a meal for these guests. With no microwave or take-out available, meal preparation was an involved process back in the day. Martha goes about these preparations while her sister Mary opts to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him talk. Martha is so upset by this that she goes to Jesus in an attempt to have Him intervene on her behalf and make Mary help her.
I love Jesus’ response: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NIV).
Though compassionate toward her heart, Jesus tells Martha straight-up that Mary had chosen what was better. Yes, preparing a meal for guests was a good thing, but being in the presence of the Son of God was (and is!) infinitely better.
We all need to be careful to not fall into the ‘it’s good enough’ trap because it is almost always a self-serving one. I can rationalize with the best of them that my reasons (excuses) for not going the extra mile are legitimate. After all, look how busy I am, and at least I’m doing something, are frequent thoughts I struggle with in this area.
The bottom line is this: if I say something is good enough simply for my own reason(s), it isn’t. When I honestly look at a certain set of circumstances over which I have said or felt this way, this truth is invariably revealed. The root of the vast majority of my ‘good enoughs’ is selfishness. There is usually something I have/want to do that seems more important, hence the need for the good enough label placed on what I was doing.
How shallow this is, particularly when viewed through the lens of eternal matters. Jesus’ mild rebuke to Martha thankfully is speaking to me today, reminding me that I am but a small cog in the cause of Christ. Today, I choose what is better, which means I am closer to Jesus than I was. As I get closer, I realize how much more I need Him. He offers the absolute best, why would I want to settle for anything that is merely good enough?
Please take a moment to re-read the title of this blog. Thanks. I want to be clear that I am not trying to re-write what Jesus has said. The Apostle Paul has already summed it up: “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
I’m sure we are all at least a little familiar with the saying ‘it’s better to give than to receive.’ Though Jesus is never quoted as saying those exact words, the weight of His teaching makes it clear: Giving is far superior to receiving.
This most certainly rings true is our dealings with other people. The Lord’s instruction is that we always be willing to share our resources, time and talents to help others, seeking no gain for ourselves. The blessing that comes from this obedience is in knowing we are pleasing God Himself. Jesus, the ultimate servant, gave His very life that lost people (like me) could come to accept His forgiveness. I find this truth in Mark 10:45 as Jesus said: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Any time we give of ourselves in service to others, we are modeling the lifestyle of the greatest servant ever.
Bottom line: Giving with a right heart with the right intentions is never wrong. So what about the title of this blog? Again, I draw your attention to the first two words; With God. With God, our priorities change. As clear as His word is about giving to others, so it is about receiving from Him. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33). Go to God first, the receiving part will be taken care of.
Jesus spoke those words during a discourse on how we ought not be consumed with worry about the things of this life. He was telling folks then (and now) that if God the Father takes care of the needs of birds and makes the lilies of the field be resplendent in beauty just because He can, He will certainly meet all our needs as well. (Notice we’re talking about needs, not wants).
I believe there is a greater blessing than these when we receive from God. First, we learn to trust Him more. He will do what He promises to do. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6). Ask God to show the way and believe He is with you always as you traverse it.
My wife Betsy often remarks that the longer she walks out her life of faith, the more she realizes how much she needs God. There is such wisdom in this! Living each day with the expressed agenda of knowing God better today than yesterday, she has learned to trust him all the more. Betsy has met no circumstance that God hasn’t provided for or seen her through. The Prophet Isaiah has this to say about how God responds to those who will live this lifestyle: You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3). Trusting in God is fertile ground for faith to grow!
What a thing to receive from God: His perfect peace! I know for myself that I cannot share with anyone what I do not have; hence I must receive God’s peace so that I can give it away. Understand, it comes to me perfect from God, but I have a knack (being human) of diluting it somewhat. That’s o.k. though, I simply have to believe/trust that He gives it. My responsibility is to walk more closely with Him today than yesterday for as I do, more of His perfect peace will leak out of me and into those around me. Don’t worry if this seems a little hard to grasp, for God describes His peace this way: And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7) If God says His peace transcends understanding, I’m good with that!
At this point, maybe you are intrigued by the idea of receiving from God. His peace, building faith and trust, sounds like a pretty good idea. But how do I receive it you ask. Once again, the Scriptures provide the answer: “Be still; and know that I am God; (Psalm 46:10a). That sounds simple enough, but for many of us experiencing this truth is much harder. We must first ‘be still.’ This is difficult in our culture; for most of us are either busy doing something full tilt or we are wiped out from that activity.
Here’s a brilliant insight: To be still, we must be still. That means we must quiet our hands, feet and mind so that we can contemplate this God I’m talking about. Let yourself be still by ceasing the crazed pace of life. I know it’s not easy to do because A, we’re used to doing things this way and B, being crazy busy keeps the mind so pre-occupied that it can’t/won’t think about the Almighty and all that that implies.
But if you’ll just try it, I believe you will receive from God some of what He has for you. When you do, I promise you’ll want more. This is the one place where our wants are important, for if we are wanting more of/from God, He will supply it. He’ll do it in ways you can’t imagine or maybe even dream of, but if you want to spend time with Him, He’s got all of it you could ask for!
I’ll sum it all up this way: Prioritize your list by putting God always first on it. When you can consistently do this, many of the other items on your list will melt away, for receiving from God is simply the best thing you can ever get!
I happened to watch some of the Winter Olympics the other day. I was fascinated by the biathlon as I watched these athletes cross-country ski various distances and then stop to do target shooting at dollar sized target at 50 meters (160 feet). Such a test of skill and physical endurance. I’ve never been a skier, but I have done some target shooting with rifles, shotguns and handguns. My eyesight, which has never been sharp, made hitting the bullseye next to impossible. I cannot imagine attempting to be accurate during strenuous physical activity as these biathletes were doing. Racing against each other with the pressure of shooting straight seems implausible to me.
Yet, one after another they did just that. How much practice went into this I wondered. Countless hours of skiing, weight training and target practice were undoubtedly accumulated to gain this level of proficiency. Obviously, not everyone has the skill and the persistence to make it to the Olympic Games. What sets these top-notch athletes apart from the others? In addition to their natural abilities, the dedication to hone their skills didn’t waver. I am sure that sacrifices had to be made if they were to reach their goal.
As a teacher/preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I am always looking for examples in the events of the world around us that shine light on biblical truth. The above-mentioned biathletes have accomplished this for me! As I said, I am not skier nor a marksman. Yet the results of these competitors’ tenacity in preparation can still inspire me as I apply that same principle to my life of faith.
The athlete’s I mentioned didn’t just wake up one day at their peak of physical abilities, it took much hard work and practice. St. Paul uses this same line of thinking to encourage us about our spiritual condition as well. In his first letter to his young apprentice Timothy, he wrote the following: Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV).
Notice that Paul does not discount physical training. He recognized, as we should too, the importance of maintaining our health through physical activity. We are not to ignore this in the pursuit of a deeper spiritual life.
Having said that, the Apostle does not apologize for what is of far greater importance. Deepening our spiritual lives provides benefits in the present as well as for the future. The plusses in this life might be; a greater sense of peace and purpose, or simply a deeper assurance that God does indeed have everything under control.
The question is, how do we train ourselves to be godly? Maybe first we ought to consider what it is to be godly. I define being godly as: practicing what I preach! I can espouse wisdom and good counsel in this venue, praising God for all His wonderous deeds both then and now. If, after having done this, I close my laptop and go about the rest of my day seeking to fulfill only my selfish desires, I am hardly being godly. To further hone my definition, I would add that my life is to be lived in such a way that points always to God and that my being transparent ought to give hard evidence that I am devoted to the Lord.
If living life in love and honestly wanting to be of service to all is my goal, how do I train for it? Going back to our athlete’s example, they didn’t suddenly wake up one day ready to compete in the Olympics. As I said, they put countless hours into their preparation. This same approach works in training in godliness too!
Like the athletes in their pursuits, I didn’t merely come to one morning with knowledge of the Scriptures. I spent (and spend) the time to read them. I sought out people with deeper understanding of God’s word and asked them to teach me. Probably the greatest lesson these devoted folks shared with me was this: God will reveal as much of Himself to me that I desire Him to. Much the same as prayer is, the reading/studying of God’s word is done to know Him more deeply. With this in mind, I do read/meditate/study the Scriptures every day expressly to deepen my relationship with Him.
Another training discipline I have embraced to become more godly is the memorization of passages and verses of the Bible. If, as I believe it is, the Scriptures contain the very essence of God, what better nourishment could I possibly ingest? God desires me to follow Him whole-heartedly and by His grace He has supplied me with the manual to do so! If my bible is sitting on the shelf collecting dust, I can assume my relationship with the Almighty is crusty as well.
The last point I will draw from the example of the Olympic athletes is this: making the time to do the training required for excellence. I am positive that they built their schedules around the activities they undertook. The training was the priority, and they made the appropriate time available to achieve their goal. The same mind-set should apply to our training in godliness. If I wait until it is convenient to do so, I most likely will never get to it. If I think I will put the time in after everything else is done, I am fooling myself. To train in godliness is to take on the responsibility of growing in the faith. No one can do it for me, I must make the commitment to do so.
Listening to the interviews of the Olympic athletes, I have yet to hear one say they regretted the hard work and sacrifice they put in to get to this stage of their career. Likewise, I have yet to hear anyone lament the time and effort they have made to grow in godliness. I take that as great encouragement and hope that you do to. Wherever you are on your faith journey, there is always more opportunity to grow in it. If you put the time in to do so, the rewards will be great. The bible doesn’t say we will get a Gold Medal for our efforts, but it does tell us that the faithful will receive a crown of righteousness!