This last week we drove thirty hours straight (with some food, restroom and stretching breaks) back to the East Coast from Colorado. And this was with four kids seven and under! Needless to say I’m not particularly looking forward to the drive back! But it was well worth it in being able to spend quality time with friends, family, partners and potential partners of ServeNow in New Jersey & Pennsylvania.
During this week I have had many conversations with people and shared different things via sermons and social media. I wanted to use this blog article to “pull together” some thoughts and things I’ve been thinking about or sharing this past week. I hope you find something worthwhile for your life.
- Don’t lose heart…you are here for “such a time as this.”
The phrase “such a time as this” comes from the book of Esther when Mordecai, her uncle, is attempting to persuade her to go into the King’s presence and “intercede” for the Jewish people. Even though it would be a risk (it would be breaking protocol to go into his presence without being summoned), Mordecai reminds her it would be a greater risk not to speak up for her people and he says in effect, “Esther, this is a dark time, a dire situation…but God may have you brought you to this place and this position at this particular time for this very moment and purpose.” And sure enough, through Esther, God brought about one of the most dramatic reversals in history. Her bold intercession for her people resulted in multitudes being saved!
I have noticed a sense of despair and discouragement among many believers regarding the “times” and “culture” in which we find ourselves. There is much fear and even anger. We need the ““Mordecai’s” to come alongside us and speak to us from heaven’s perspective. We need reminded that nothing of what we see is taking God by surprise (Psalm 46). We need reminded to not give into fear (Psalm 27). And we need encouraged that God has put us and placed us right where we are and in this part of human history for “such a time as this.” Through our finding courage and boldly interceding before the throne of God for mercy, God wants to use our lives and demonstrate his power and goodness through us. You are here for such a time as this. Rather than continually complain…pray without ceasing!
- Sometimes all Jesus asks us to do is cling…and keep clinging…to Him.
While sharing with a group in NJ this last weekend, I had an image or “picture” come to mind that I believe captures the place some people have been feeling they are in. Many have felt like a “ship” being tossed or lost on a stormy sea. But as I “watched” it was like the “camera” panned back further and you could see that the ship was in between two bodies of land; the land it had set sail from and the land that it was heading towards. On my Facebook page I posted this encouragement: “If you feel like a ship being tossed or lost on a stormy sea…just remember that with Jesus in your boat, that ship (you!) is merely in transition and being tested. Dry ground…solid ground…is coming to stand on again. And storms end…giving way to clear skies and a calm sea once more. Keep clinging to Jesus the master of the ship, sea and your own soul!”
Sometimes all Jesus asks us to do (especially in storms) is to simply keep clinging to him. He will see us through, the storm will break and sea will grow calm. Storms are seasonal and storms are temporary. Even as I write this I feel in my own life that one “storm” is “dying down” and clouds dissipating as the sun is beginning to shine once more. This doesn’t mean I am “safely ashore” yet in this situation, but it does mean the ship is moving towards it!
- This is about relationship.
I believe many of us, even subconsciously are hearing many of the commands, instructions and exhortations in Scripture as a “list” of do’s and don’ts…divorced from God’s heart and relationship with Him. Be very careful not to hear or separate his commands from his person. This is about relationship and fellowship with him…not a list of rules to keep because “we should.” Obedience to God comes out of love for God. And love for God comes out of the assurance of His love for us…not to earn his love. Meditate on his love for you. Stand in child-like awe of the fact that God does sincerely, deeply, genuinely, passionately love you! Think on the wonder of those three little but revolutionary words: God loves you! He knows everything about you, every secret, every struggle, every sin, every weakness. Yet, despite our flaws and faults he loves us (Psalm 139). That is not to say he accepts our sin. Rather it is to say his kindness leads us repentance (Romans 2:4). His unfailing, unchanging, everlasting love ought to provide the assurance, security and motivation to want to bring joy to his heart by the way we live our lives.
- When you boil true Christianity down to its most basic, essential “ingredients” you are left with three things: faith, hope & love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
It would make a world of difference if we were to focus on and continually grow in these three dynamics. This is where the battle lies because Satan knows the power of these three aspects activated and being walked in by a believer. So he will seek to rob us of these three very things. He will attack our faith and try to plant doubts and unbelief in its place. He will try to steal our hope (and joy) and replace it with despair and defeat. And he will do all he can to drive a wedge between us and God and one another, planting and nurturing seeds of rebellion, disobedience, compromise, bitterness, unforgiveness, hatred, selfishness and division. Don’t let him! Have faith in God. Put your hope fully and solely in Christ. And let God fill you with his love and teach you how to love others (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10). In other words as Jude 20-21 puts it: “But you dear friends, build yourself up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourself in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”
- Loving the unsaved is different than living like the unsaved.
As Christ-followers we are called to love like Christ AND live a Christ-like life. It seems to me that some talk about “love” and “not judging” but they are living like the devil…or at least very loose and liberal with sin. On the other hand there seem to be others who talk about living a “Christian life” but are very harsh, judgmental and self-righteous. Neither is the way of Jesus or calling of Scripture. John 1:14 tells us for example that Jesus came “full of grace and truth.” Grace without truth leads to compromise, acceptance of sin and condoning of sinful behavior/lifestyles. Truth without grace however, leads to condemnation, self-righteousness and being more concerned about winning arguments than showing the love of Christ. This is not about either/or. It’s not even about being “balanced.” It’s about being full of both grace and truth. It’s about being like Jesus. It’s about being inwardly devoted and externally demonstrating that through service to others. As James 1:26-27 puts it: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
- The wisest, greatest, most secure investments you can make are not “earthly” investments but eternal investments.
Jesus was not against investment…he just pointed us beyond earthy investments! In Matthew 6:19-21 we find him putting it this way: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Think about the wisdom in this. Life on earth is brief, uncertain and temporary. Eternity however is certain and eternal! When you invest in God’s kingdom your investment is not subject to stock market crashes, human theft or mistakes. Therefore we would be short-sighted and foolish not to invest in the kingdom of God. Plus what we invest in is what our hearts are truly devoted too. To what or whom do you want your loyalty, affection and commitment to lie? What we say is not what is real…but where we sow.
- It is so much easier to quote verses from the bible and post them on Facebook…then for those same words to actually get inside of us and be displayed and “read” by others through the example of our lives.
Quite honestly, I find myself cringing when I see many of the cute little “bible” quotes people continually share on Facebook. Sometimes it’s just being shared to justify their own feelings. Other times I see posts continually put up to dig at someone specifically. And sometimes the quotes are very shallow and not even biblical. That is not to say posting or sharing quotes or scripture is wrong (I do it too) but it is to say this: just because we post something on our Facebook wall doesn’t mean it is truly written on our hearts or being “fleshed” out in our lives. A lot of people quote or share verses to try to show how “right” or “spiritual” they are…but the greatest need we have is for more people to model it in their lives. Otherwise it is superficial, shallow and a “spiritual” facade without substance.
- Motives are just as important as actions.
God looks not only at what we do but why we do it. Are we doing what we do for attention and applause of people…or with the humility of a servant trusting that our Father in heaven sees and will reward regardless of whether others notice or recognize us?
Jesus said in Matthew 6:1-4: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
- Church is not a place for “cool” people to show off how wonderful and gifted they are. It’s a place for God to display through broken people how good and gracious he is.
I know of one church in particular where there is a “vibe” that smacks of a high school popularity contest. But God isn’t looking for those who want to “show off” how awesome they are. He is looking for those with a contrite heart who will commit themselves fully to him so he can show how great he is.
Sometimes I also think our services are too “smooth,” “slick,” and “controlled.” Life however is messy and the Holy Spirit cannot be contained. There is certainly a pattern and order to his movement…yet he is also as unpredictable as the wind in the way he moves in the lives of his people (John 3:8). Maybe if we spend more time humbling ourselves before him, rather than exalting ourselves and our ego’s/agenda’s, we would know more of his presence and power. If we are full of ourselves, how can we be filled with the Spirit? If we are too busy trying to be in the spotlight, we won’t have time to wait upon him and allow him to lead us and guide us.
- It’s often the little thoughtful things that make the biggest difference.
I admit…I am more a “big” person than “little-detail” person. I like the saying “go big or go home!” I have always been the person who would rather try to hit a homerun and strike out; then attempt to bunt to move a baserunner while sacrificing myself. While this may mean attempting “big” things that others might not; I easily forget the simple things that sometimes matter or mean the most.
For example, I can’t tell you how many times I get up from a meal and don’t even think about putting my dishes in the dishwater. I was eating at my parents’ house the other day and my brother in fact said to me “how many times growing up did you hear mom say to put your dishes away when you’re done?” I responded with: “oh, I have heard her say that a million times. The issue is not hearing it. The issue is remembering to do it.” It wasn’t that I was being intentionally lazy (although sometimes that is the case!). The issue was if I am not intentional in regard to little thoughtful things…I don’t even notice.
Yet, it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference. My wife’s birthday was today. Being the kind of person who either wants to go all out…or do nothing at all…I was thinking of some “big” and expensive things to do…or thinking of doing nothing! The second option was out (or else I would be the one “out!”)…but then I remembered a “conversation” we had just had about how “little things” go a long way and are romantic for her. So I decided to buy a couple of “little” things that would communicate thought and care. I am happy to report I am still “in” and earned a few “romantic” points!
Along with this, three women from Arkansas took a little time out of their schedules to put together a little video of them singing one of Lauren’s favorite hymns and then singing happy birthday to her. That “little” gesture touched her so much that she cried while watching it. Sometimes the little things make the biggest difference. I challenge you to be intentional this week. What can you do..no matter how “little”…to simply show someone you were thinking of them?