Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Managing Minutes

I watched our son climb the apple tree with a pair of loppers and begin pruning the branches. Nineteen years of watching, helping, seeing, learning, pursuing--and he is the expert. It's not the only thing he's done. It wasn't his greatest goal or focus, but it grew out of the unnoticed, quiet moments of life.

Life is about the minutes; the everyday, commonplace practices of life. I can't determine the outcome or dictate my future, but I can live intentionally in this moment. As God gives grace and I learn to live with an awareness of His presence, I can glory in the mundane. I can take joy in each moment's needs and train myself to invest in daily responsibilities and joys.

As someone who belongs to God and bears His identity, He is my primary priority. My time is His time. And when I consider the things that lie before me, none is more worthy than reading His precious Word and praying, asking for His help. Left undone, the hours unravel; the anchor is absent; the ship follows the way of the wind. Day after day; moment by moment. It begins with intention and delivers with action, trusting God with the outcome..

My second God-given priority is my husband--and for husbands, one's wife. There is no more vivid picture of God on the face of the earth than a husband-wife partnership. God created mankind in His image; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:26-27). It takes both to represent God. Amazing. Then, as the Bible unfolds, Jesus presents Himself as the Bridegroom for the Church (Ephesians 5:25-33). The picture takes on 3-D form. This isn't about people, it's about God uniting Himself with His one-of-a-kind creation. Wow! To think that in my daily moments, my care of my spouse is a reenactment of God's eternal essence and design? Moment by moment; choice by choice. It begins with intention and delivers with action, trusting God with the outcome..

Children are a natural outcome of the marriage relationship. God cares for children through us, their parents. This is my third biblical priority. These are my God-given disciples--the disciples I teach and train as I am going (Matthew 28:18-20). Moment by moment the story is told, day after day the minutes unfold. Simple things: brushing teeth, looking for God, listening to, talking to and trusting God, learning responsibility, being on time, loving others. These choices are practiced and learned day after day--or not. The consequences fall in both directions. Children don't suddenly do good things. They don't automatically become responsible.When we fail to train our children to do what is right and good, we are training them to do what is wrong and destructive (or negligent and lazy). It begins with intention and delivers with action, trusting God with the outcome..

God wants me to take good care of what He's entrusted. "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much" (Luke 16:10). He's given me so many blessings, abilities, time, resources, relationships, influence, opportunities--and He wants me to use them to make much of Him at work, in my community, church and organizations.

So the question for today is, where are the moments? How do I spend them? What have I been putting off?  The things I view as small and unimportant are the things that grow, expand and take on a life of their own. They bear fruit--good...or bad. It begins with intention and delivers with action, trusting God with the outcome.

And need I say--it's all about Jesus? Who started small, though Creator of all. He is the One who calls us to act based on trust.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

There are four things which are little on the earth,
But they are exceedingly wise:
The ants are a people not strong,
Yet they prepare their food in the summer;
The rock badgers are a feeble folk,
Yet they make their homes in the crags;
The locusts have no king,
Yet they all advance in ranks;
The spider skillfully grasps with its hands,
And it is in kings’ palaces. (Proverbs 30:24-28)

Then [Jesus] said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.” (Mark 4:30-32)

Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Luke 18:15-17)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Where's Jesus When We Need Him?

The woman looked at me, pain in her eyes, "Is there anything you can do to help?"
It was a moment for honesty. "I can't solve the problem or make it go away. But together you and I can find God in this. It's an opportunity for you to draw near to Him. Together, we can find peace. You can have peace with God and peace in this situation." I paused. "Are you willing to give it a try?"

We used to say love makes the world go round but that's not true anymore. Psychology makes the world go round. When a problem or crisis hits we may google it, ask our closest friends, or, if it gets really--I mean "really"--bad, we may talk to the pastor. Then, after days and weeks and months of struggle, we look for professional help and seek a psychologist or psychiatrist. That may or not make a difference.

If you are a person of influence in your church, you have had opportunity after opportunity to speak to broken, hurting hearts. And if you're a person like me, those hearts are not only outside, but inside your home--and your head as well.

Let me challenge each of us to get real about who Jesus is and what He can do. Does He love me? Real, down-to-earth love or love that was written on a page 2,000 years ago and forgotten? Does He know what's going on my life? And does He care? If it's true that He cares, where is He in this mess called life?

You and I can quote rote answers to the questions of life and suffering, but until we have tried Him and found Him true, until we know Him, have studied and questioned and lived Him, we can never place our full weigh and dependence on Him. If you are struggling with not seeing Jesus right now, where you are:

- Pray and ask God to reveal Himself. He wants to be found (Isaiah 55:6)
- Spend time daily reading God's Word and calling out to God. If you don't know where to start, begin with Psalm 42 and continue. Make lists of who God is and what He does as well as proper responses to His wonders, grace and love.
- Praise God. Yes, that's right. Praise Him. Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving. God is worthy--even in our pain. Put Him in His rightful place with your prayer, words and actions.
- Seek help from godly sources. Talk to your pastor, a godly friend, or biblical counselor. Seek books that exalt God and direct your focus to Him in the midst of your suffering.

When we have tried and tested Him ourselves, we are equipped and able to answer those who ask, "What can you do for me right here, right now?" In that moment, we will say, "Not I, but Christ. He is here. He is waiting. He is enough." And in that moment, as we love and give of our lives in response to their pain, Jesus has given, is giving...and loving--through me and you. Will you be His Body, broken for them?

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

"I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me....

"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.... 

"Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 16:32-17:26 NIV)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Crunch of ice; foggy breath;
dreary sky; grass of death.

As I walk across the yard it's hard to imagine that a few months from now the grass, plants and trees will be overgrown. The air will be thick with heat and humidity. Flowers will be in full bloom, dotting the landscape with bold and bright colors.The same world; a different world.

Winter. Summer.

Mourning cry; meal of tears;
clenching gut; house of mirrors.

As I walk through life from day to day, it's hard to imagine that the absence of breath is eternity. For those in Christ, there will be no tears. No sadness. No death, pain or sorrow. All will be Christ. Light. Life. Beauty. The same world; a different world. A better world. A new world.

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”  (Revelation 21:1-8)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Jesus, Bullies and Me

Our American schools have an incredible anti-bullying campaign running these days. In preschool, children hold out a flat hand and set the other on it vertically to say, "Stop." At older levels they're taught to say, "I don't like what you're doing and I want you to stop." Recently I encountered an adult bully. That's a little trickier, isn't it? (Pssst. It's not you--unless we already had this discussion.)
Jesus dealt with bullies: Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, teachers of the law. They were determined to have their own way, regardless of right, wrong, better or best. At the heart of their behavior was influence.They wanted to feel and look important, but Jesus kept getting in the way.

When they sought to seize [Jesus], they feared the people....  (Matt. 21:46)
And they were seeking to seize [Jesus], and yet they feared the people.... (Mark 12:12)
Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” (John 6:14)
And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all. (Luke 6:19)
And [Jesus] also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt.... (Luke 18:9)
The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people.... (Luke 18:11)
The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on [Jesus] that very hour, and they feared the people.... (Luke 20:19)

In the end, it was envy and jealousy that drove them to have Jesus crucified, For "for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God." (John 12:43).

Isn't that why we give in to bullies? We want the approval of men, too. We don't want to make waves or deal with conflict, so we give in and move on. But what if we loved God more? What if we loved Him so much that we loved bullies more than ourselves? In that case, I would not only refuse to give in, I would speak and live truth. "Stop. You're hurting yourself and you're hurting others. I love you too much to let you continue. Did you hear what you just said? Do you see what you're doing?"

That kind of love holds the mirror of God's Word where they can see it. Jesus said it like this:
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 22:33-27)

That's not politically correct or warm and fuzzy. It's honest. In his (justified) anger, Jesus did not sin, He loved. He forgivingly chastised and rebuked. By His words and actions, He led them to the cross. He showed them their sin and gave them (one more) opportunity to confess and repent. That should be our greatest desire for those who sin against us--eternal life, eternal forgiveness, eternal blessing.

I can be angry, especially when someone hurts and misleads others. I can speak against their wrong, but in the end, I must love them, be ready to forgive, and willing to lead them to Jesus.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21)