Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

God of the small things

Posted: April 6, 2016 in Faith, Life
Tags: , , ,

Sleepyhead kid

Sometimes we think the Bible only speaks on the big issues. But scripture has very imminently practical instructions and advice in small matters as well. Take Proverbs 27:14 for example:

Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice,
rising early in the morning,
will be counted as cursing.

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Does God owe me anything?

Posted: February 3, 2016 in Faith, Life

youoweme

Who has first given to me, that I should repay him?
Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine. — Job 41:11 ESV

God owes me! I’ve seldom heard someone make such a bold statement so openly, but I have heard the sentiment expressed in subtler ways all too often. Truth be told, I am guilty of thinking and saying this, or words similar.

I remember a time in my ministry when I doubted. While I did not doubt God’s existence or the saving work of Christ, I doubted whether I wanted to be an active worshiper much less a missionary. The work had been hard, the rewards few, the wounds painful and deep. All night I railed at God. The paraphrase of my cries can be expressed this way:

“I’ve worked hard. I’ve been faithful. I’ve sacrificed so much. You owe me!”

In the stillness that followed my tirade the thought entered my mind, “God doesn’t owe me anything.”

A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. — John 3:27 ESV

My family had eaten dinner that evening. We had a roof over our head. We were in relatively good health… No, there was nothing I had “sacrificed” to God which he had not first given me. My debt far outweighed any payment I might have made.

Life is often difficult. We often face disappointment, heartache, and tragedy. How do we respond to these trials? Do we focus on what we think we have lost and blame God for these or do we remember that they were never ours to begin with and praise the Giver of all good things for His generosity?

Life is a Battlefield

Posted: September 19, 2015 in Family, Life

The summer after 8th grade my parents moved our family from the city to a house on five acres, twenty minutes away from a small mountain town with only one stop light. I was a bit bitter about leaving friends and conveniences. I didn’t understand all that went into that decision but I believe it saved our family. I’m fairly certain it saved me. Now with a family (and young teenager) of my own, my wife and I find ourselves contemplating a similar move.

The city has been beneficial in some ways, but there are forces at play, tearing at our family, which would be more easily mitigated against in a smaller, more rural community. Such a move would entail great sacrifice and tremendous inconvenience. But what are the hearts, minds, and souls of my wife and children worth? 

We’re not talking of an attempt to flee and hide from the world. The war cannot be avoided. Nor did Christ instruct us to withdraw from the world (quite the contrary). Rather we are seeking to choose a battlefield which is advantageous to our cause.

Which battlefield depends on our strategy. And the battle plan is what we are developing now.

A Spark of Life

Posted: July 29, 2015 in Life

spark

It’s been over a month since I’ve posted to my blog. My private journal isn’t fairing much better. I won’t go into it because this will just turn into a big whine fest and I’d rather not go there. I will say that while God hasn’t given me what I want, He has given me what I need.

Another reason I haven’t been writing is that I’ve been writing. Come again? I have been doing some freelance writing which has kept me busy, and quite frankly doing all that writing for cash has made me less interested in writing for pleasure (e.g. this blog). Even my short stories have fallen by the wayside as I create what other people want me to.

I’ve also been reading. A great many articles and blogs on church ministry concerns. God is in the process of reshaping my ministry philosophy. I picked up Pilgrim’s Progress again. It’s been twenty-five years or so since I read it last. I’m not qualified to review Bunyan’s seminal work. It has impacted me (again) greatly. Christian’s journey of sanctification is … encouraging, challenging, convicting, enlightening, etc. I’ve also been reading the Prose Edda (Norse Mythology). I knew Tolkien was interested in mythology in general and Norse mythology in particular, but I never realized how much his Middle Earth writings were influenced by it until now. The Eddas are not an easy read by any means, but they are interesting.

And that about wraps it up. Maybe I’ll post again before another month and a half elapses.

Rules of Conversation

Posted: June 10, 2015 in Life
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conversation2341

The following is a modernization/paraphrase of Rules of Conversation from Some Fruits of Solitude by William Penn (14 October 1644 – 30 July 1718) with some reflections following.

Don’t be a social butterfly. Avoid company where it is not profitable or necessary. When you are out with people, don’t speak too much. Listen a lot, speak little.

In silence there is wisdom. Running your mouth off is foolish and can get you into all sorts of trouble. Silence is always safe.

Some are so foolish as to interrupt and think they know what someone is going to say instead of listening and thinking before they speak. This is both rude and shows a lack of common sense.

If you think twice and speak once, you will speak twice the better for it.

It is better to say nothing than to say something which has no purpose. To speak pertinently, consider both what is relevant and appropriate to say.

In all debates, let truth be your aim, not victory, or an unjust rewards. Strive for truth, and to learn, not just to defeat your opponent.

Don’t seek arguments nor let your temper get the better of you.

If your position turns out to be wrong, don’t be so pig-headed as to stick to your argument no matter what. And don’t use wit or charm to derail the conversation from the facts. Don’t try to provoke your opponent either or argue simply do show people up. Remember, the purpose of all debate should be to inform, or inform others: to suss out the Truth.

People are too prone to be concerned for their own reputation than for the truth.

Reflections
There is no way I could count how many times I’ve heard someone say something like, “You have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk.” Clichés like this become clichés because they’re often true. I’m also reminded of the builder’s adage, “Measure twice, cut once.” I know I’ve gotten myself into trouble several times by failing to follow that advice.

I’ve made horrible mistakes in life by not following Mr. Penn’s Rules of Conversation. I’ve learned painful lessons about listening more, and speaking less (and still I err in this). I’ve lost friends through argument, but gained several through listening. Conceding the point is so very difficult, but when we humbly admit where we are in error, people are more likely to consider our words when we have the right of a matter.

The Art of Manliness has a great post on conversation and avoiding what they call Conversational Narcissism.

In short, my takeaway here is to increase my awareness of listening more and to be gentle in conversation.

Out on Visitation

Posted: June 9, 2015 in Life
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Vulcan 900 Classic

Now, for a rambling post with practically no point:

A pastor friend of mine joked about naming his motorcycle “Visitation”. You know, I think I like that.

“Sorry, no I can’t meet tomorrow. I’m out on Visitation.”

My Visitation needs a new battery though. It’s a heart breaking thing when the day is beautiful and you go to get on your bike…and it won’t start. “She’s dead, Jim.”

She needs a transplant. For my next trick I’m going to predict the future: “I foresee a journey to the parts store in my future.”

Riding in Colorado in the Spring and Summer is awesome. The snow is gone (though I love snow), the roads are (mostly) clear. You can either ride through the eastern farmland and let the throttle unwind or choose mountain vistas and take a leisurely, winding trip. In the afternoon when the squalls come through you find a nice little bolt-hole (tavern, restaurant, coffee shop) to relax and let it blow over. Though the past couple weeks have been the exception they usually blow over in a short time. Then you hit the road again accompanied by the scent of freshly fallen rain.

SOAP: 1 Samuel 29:1 – 30:15

Scripture
And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. (1 Samuel 30:6 ESV)

Observation
David and his men had been put through the ringer. Living at the behest of King Achish of Gath in the city of Ziklag, David was expected to join his liege in the Philistine attack on Israel. David had been living a lie, raiding the Geshurites, Girzites, and Amalekites but telling Achish he’d been raiding Judean towns. In reality he was protecting these towns he was supposedly raiding. I’m sure as he and his men joined Achish to attach Israel he was praying for God to intervene. And God did. While Achish was completely fooled by David, the other Philistine kings were not happy about having the Hero of Israel, David who had slain his ten thousands, at their rear. They compelled Achish to send David back. David argued to keep up appearances, but “reluctantly” returned home.

One can imagine the great sense of relief which must have washed over David and his men on being sent back and not having to fight with the Philistines against their own people. One can almost hear the joy and elation, the sounds of praise and cheer which must have accompanied these men on their journey home. And then it was suddenly dashed. Joy was turned to mourning. Good feelings gone.

Upon returning to Ziklag they discovered that it had been sacked by the Amalekites. Their property had been stolen, their families taken captive.

And the people blamed David. In their distress they were ready to stone their lord, the Hero of Israel.

Scripture records that David was “greatly distressed”. Well who wouldn’t be. He’s been bankrupted. All he owns has been stolen. His very family has been enslaved. Then to add insult to injury, his people blame him and want to kill him.

David’s response is interesting. “But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” When his world had fallen apart and all was lost, David turned to God. He felt distress, or great distress as scripture says, but he was not controlled or defined by his circumstances. As Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:12b, “… I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”

Our strength fails, but God never does. We grow weary, but God is never tired. We become discouraged, but God is Sovereign. Again we are promised in scripture that “…for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV). Not that all things are good or pleasant or easy, but that for those who love God (notice the qualifier) and are called according to his purpose, they will work out for our good, and I dare add, for His glory.

Application
Focus. In Matthew 14 Peter walks on water. As long as his gaze, his focus, was on Christ he was able to do the impossible. The storm still raged but it affected not his ability to stand on aqua liquida as if it were terra firma. Until…he took his eyes off of Christ and focused instead on the storm.

The storms in my life are great and cover all major areas of my life: my relationship with God, my family, my ministry, my employment, my health. There is no area untouched by the storm at present. Where will I look?

Salvation from even these light momentary afflictions (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) comes only from God via His Son, Jesus Christ.

Prayer
I lift my eyes up to the hills just outside my window. Does my help come from there? No. Not from the high places. Not from nature. Not from man.

My help comes from You, Oh my LORD, who made heaven and earth. Sovereign God, without variation or shifting shadow, from whom every good and perfect gift comes.

I am the desperate father crying out “I believe, help thou my unbelief!” I am undone. Pick me up and carry me through, oh my redeemer and provider.