stories, lessons, and a lot of nonsense

Don’t Be Surprised

People are not always dependable. There are times when I ask someone something, reach out to someone, or depend on someone to get something done, but deep down, I’m not really counting on their doing whatever is I need. Usually that’s because I’ve been burned by that particular person. It just happens. So, when that person does come through and do what I hoped, I’m surprised. I never tell them that I’m surprised, because that’s just rude. But in my heart, I’m surprised when a person I cannot on with 100% confidence delivers.

Unfortunately, there are other times I am surprised, as well. Sometimes I am surprised when I pray for something, and God does it, provides it, whatever. There have been times I have said, “I cannot believe…” only to later realize that I should have believed. I asked God to work in a particular way, and He did it. When we are surprised when God acts on our behalf, we reveal our faith to be more limited than we’d probably like to admit. When we pray to God, we should pray expectantly. We should believe it’s already done, just as we have asked.

Mark 11:24 (NLT) says, “I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.” Jesus is speaking here, and He’s telling His followers that God can do the impossible. He had just told them that with absolute faith in God, they could move a mountain. Faith in prayer leads to God’s showing up in the impossible. Keep in mind, though, that the motive must be Godly. James 4:3 says that we don’t have, because we don’t ask, and when we do ask, we ask with the wrong motives. So, you can’t just take Mark 11:24 out of context of the whole Scripture and plan for God to give you anything your selfish heart desires. But when you ask in faith, out of a pure motive, God can and will show up.

Don’t be surprised when God heals someone you’ve prayed for to be healed. Don’t be surprised when God provides financially in unexpected and miraculous ways when you’ve cried out to Him. Don’t be surprised when people in your family who are so far and in opposition to God come to know Him if you’ve been praying for exactly that. Don’t be surprised. Pray in faith, believing He will do it, and watch Him go.

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He cares

I was at a soccer game last night watching one of our former students. I sat towards the front, because it was cold, and I wanted to have the Sun on me. After a few minutes, a young lady and her grandpa moved down from the top of the bleachers for the same reason. She said, “I just want to sit in the Sun.” Because they sat right behind me, I was able to hear everything they were saying. Each was talking into one of my ears. I didn’t mind, though. I enjoyed their conversation, particularly the grandfather’s part in it all.

The young lady seemed to talk endlessly. Periodically she’d stop, and he would respond with short answers or questions. It’s been a long time since I was a college student, and I was never a traditional student, so I didn’t really connect with a lot of what she talked or complained about. Much of it seemed inane to me. I wasn’t her audience, though. She was talking to her grandpa, who clearly loved her and cared about every little thing she talked about. For every complaint or need, he offered encouragement, told her it was going to be okay, and when applicable, offered to provide for her. He was compassionate and generous, and he never got bored with her. She talked for almost the entire first half, which was 40 minutes straight, and he hung on her every word.

It was a long, boring drive back from the game, which gave me time to think. I spent time thinking about those two. The grandpa reminded me a lot of Sarah’s grandparents in his companion and generosity, so I spent time thinking about them. I spent time reflecting on whether or not someone would listen to my talking or listening to my kids and get the same impression of me. I came to the conclusion that I need to work on that. Then I thought about God, and how He is like the grandpa. I’ve heard people tell others that it’s a waste of time to pray over certain things, and so they won’t. I won’t say anything specific, because I don’t want to draw attention to anyone inadvertently. But I will tell you that they are wrong. You can’t waste God’s time. He’s not bound by time, anyway. He doesn’t see your concerns as trivial, because their your concerns, and He loves you more than you understand. If you care about it, He cares. He may not have the same conclusion as you regarding it, but He cares.

It doesn’t matter what your care is. You can go to God. He is compassionate, generous, and never gets bored listening to His children. 1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all of your cares on Him, because He cares for you. You are the catalyst in His care, not the concern itself. It may seem trivial to others, but you are not trivial to God.

are you passionate?

I’ve been helping with the Comstock Football team this season. I’m not a football coach. I’m not qualified to be one. I’m the chaplain. That I can do. My primary role is to support the team and encourage the players. On Tuesdays, we have an optional meeting for any player or coach that wants to attend. At those meetings, I will discuss a topic that is pertinent to the team and a focus of the week, but I approach it from a Biblical perspective. This week, we talked about passion. As I was preparing for it, it occurred to me that while most of us (me included at times) would like to say we are passionate about God, it may not be an accurate description based on definition.

A passion is a strong emotion or drawing to something that is nearly uncontrollable. When you are passionate about something, you will go to great lengths and through extreme difficulty to accomplish it. Jesus’ last week leading up to and through His dying on the cross is called the Passion of the Christ. Why? Because His desire for your being saved was strong and nearly uncontrollable, so He was wiling to go to great lengths and through extreme difficulty to accomplish it. Jesus epitomizes passion. Do I? Do you?

I’m passionate about a lot of things. I’m passionate about my wife and marriage. I’m passionate about my children. I’m passionate about youth ministry. I’m passionate about food. I go to great lengths to ensure I’m achieving whatever I view as excelling in each of those areas. You can probably name some things you are passionate about, as well. Whatever it is, it’s probably okay that you’re passionate about it (barring sin, of course). It’s not like you only have the capacity to be passionate about one thing. You can be passionate about many things and still be passionate, even most passionate about God.

Are you, though? How passionate are you about God? To what lengths would you go to spend time with Him, to worship Him, to read His Word? Is God something that you fit into your schedule, or is time with God the cornerstone of your schedule? Do you pass Him by, because you were just too busy, or do you turn down opportunities when you know they’ll keep you from Him? God shouldn’t be getting what’s left of our day. He shouldn’t just be getting those last few exhausted minutes before we crash and sleep. He should get our best time and best focus, whether that’s the morning, afternoon, or evening for you. You should be excited to read the Bible. You should be excited to go to church and worship Him with your friends and family. It shouldn’t be the option you choose only when other better opportunities are not available.

How passionate are you about God? Is there something in your life you need to set aside, because it’s stealing your passion and focus?

Lose-Lose Proposition

I like being right. I may like knowing that you know I’m right even more than I like being right. It’s hard to tell. That comes from pride, of course. It’s something I have to consciously push past in my relationship with God, with other people, in my job, etc. Having a predisposition to pride doesn’t excuse living pridefully any more than being predisposed to any other sin excuses it. We all have choices to make.

Because I am naturally prideful and like to be right, I used to find myself always ready to be in an argument where I could exercise being right. It didn’t matter if it was a major issue or not. I was ready to argue my case in any situation.

I would keep my eyes and ears out for foolish people to argue. For a while, this made me happy. It’s not like I won every argument, but I won my fair share, and each time stroked my ego. After a while, though, I got tired. It ceased to bring me joy. It only brought me aggravation.

The thing about arguing with fools is that, even if you win, you’ve still spent your time with openly foolish people. That’ll wear you down after a while. Not only will it wear you down, but it will also rub off on you. We tend to assimilate to what we are exposed to often. That’s why the Bible says that bad company corrupts good morals. When I was always looking to argue, it’s safe to say that I was also being a fool.

The Bible tells us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us. That means we need to be prepared to share the Gospel and maybe even defend it at times. It doesn’t tell us to always have an answer for everything and be ready to argue with anyone who wants to argue.

I have found arguing with fools to be a lose-lose proposition. Proverbs supports this. If you don’t answer him he will think he has won, that you’re afraid of him, and he is smarter than you. He may even share that with other people. But if you do answer him, you may have to sink to his level, and other people will see that, too. There’s no way to win with an argumentative lifestyle. The only way to win when it comes to argumentative, foolish people is to make sure that you are primarily spending your time with other people.

don’t get overrun

I don’t know about you, but I have a habit of making hasty or poor decisions “just this once.” Just this once turns into just a couple times, turns into days, weeks, and months of the same type of decision. Whether that is related to spending, food, or some other area I may slip, I have a long history of struggling with it. I’ve gotten a lot better with it, but how often I have to fight certain impulses lets me know that I’m not where I want to be yet. Maybe I never will “get there,” which is probably fine, because it’ll just give me more chances to learn and exercise self control.

I am not of the belief that you should never make a frivolous purchase just to treat yourself or family, nor do I believe one should never take a cheat meal. What I do believe in is planning and choosing self control over impulse. That looks different in different settings. For example, with dieting, I try to plan my cheat meals. I had something to look forward to, which helped me resist temptations along the way, and through resisting I gained a better ability to resist. With spending, I’ve adopted the habit of waiting at least a day. If I see something I really want, I don’t buy it the first day. Sometimes that costs me the ability to buy it, which I just chalk up to God’s not wanting me to have it. I was recently offered a really good deal on something I really did want for one of my kids, but they insisted that I had to decide that day. The offer was only available the first time it was offered. I explained my conviction, thanked him for the offer, and moved on with my day.

Self control is one of those areas of my life that God has truly convicted me, probably because it had been one of my greatest areas of struggle. It’s a fruit of the Spirit, which means if I’m walking in the Spirit, I will see it. But it’s also a matter of protecting oneself from harm. I’ve come into a lot of harm (mostly financial and health related) from a lack of self control. God doesn’t want me to say, “no,” to things to steal my joy. He wants me to say it, because it’s better, healthier, and full for me to avoid certain things. Self control is given by God, through the Holy Spirit, to protect us and keep us. It’s a big deal. Don’t let yourself get overrun by your impulses, leaving yourself exposed to or suffering some sort of harm.

routine but not a rut

I am a habitual person. Whatever I’m into, I’m really into it. I may not necessarily enjoy it, but I feel the need to do it, because it’s what I always do. Here are a few examples: I loved pop and energy drinks. I couldn’t start a day without one. I couldn’t eat pizza without one. I couldn’t drive long distances without one. Sometimes it had to do with being tired, other times with just wanting something sweet, and other times just because I never did certain things without one in hand. Drinking pop was as much a routine for me as a desire. One of my current routines is to exercise before I start my day. I don’t actually enjoy exercising, though. I don’t go home after the gym and tell Sarah about all the fun I had doing this lift or that lift. I find it boring and tedious. But, it’s what I do now, so I feel like I must do it. On days that I don’t exercise first thing, I feel like something is missing. Plus, I’m generally more tired. Exercise has become part of my routine, and without it, I feel my day was incomplete.

I have a lot of other routines in my life. I do certain things a certain way on a regular schedule. I think routines make a lot of people comfortable, but I know for sure that they make me comfortable. Sometimes my routines become ruts, though. I do something the same time, the same way, every day. My mind isn’t invested in it. I sometimes wonder if I followed my routine a couple hours after doing so, because I honestly don’t remember it. Sometimes this doesn’t matter, but other times it’s very important.

I do read my Bible every day, as a matter of routine, but sometimes it’s more of a rut. I don’t always get much out of it, because I don’t always put much into it. I don’t give it as much thought as I should, but I keep going, because at least I got it done. It’s mindless, though. I caught myself on this just yesterday. I read my Bible before leaving for the gym. Ninety minutes later, I got a notification reminding me to do my reading plan. I thought, “oh yeah, I still have to do that.” When I clicked on it, it was already done. I’d read it. I’d highlighted some stuff. I hadn’t given any of it a second thought, though. I hadn’t hidden any of it in my heart. My eyes passed over it, technically reading it, but nothing got into my mind.

I decided to change my routine a little. I still want Bible reading to be part of my every day schedule, but I don’t want to just read it and forget it. Instead of reading it while I’m getting ready in the morning, I’ve moved it to a different time, to a different place. I want to spend time with God, I want to hear Him. I want to have a regular routine, but I don’t want my relationship with Him to get stuck in a rut.

foolish or wise

I’ve been reading through Proverbs for the last couple of weeks, and something has struck me. I’ve noticed it before, but it really stands out this time. There is a pattern that runs throughout Proverbs. It will often tell you what a wise person would do in a given situation, immediately followed or preceded by what a fool would do in that exact situation. I’ve taken to asking myself after each comparison which sounds more like me. I’m sad to report that I’m not scoring 100% on the wise or righteous side of the aisle.

Here are just a few of the comparisons that have stuck out to me, either because I see foolishness in me, or because I am grateful to have seen a shift from foolishness to wisdom in some of the areas:

Proverbs 1:7

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 9:7-9

Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.

Proverbs 10:18-19

The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool. When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

Proverbs 11:9, 12

With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered. Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.

Proverbs 12:15

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

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These are just some examples that stood out to me over the last week. There’s so much more! I want to align my life to what God wants. I want to be best described by the things that are true of the Godly, righteous, wise man of Proverbs. I challenge you to read through Proverbs soon. Every time you see a comparison between the foolish and the wise, the Godly and the godless, etc., as yourself which one better describes you. Take it as a challenge to surrender that part of your life to God and begin growing. Don’t settle for a foolish life. A wise life is a full life.