Know Yourself

It seems we are often unsatisfied or discontented because we make poor decisions. It’s understandable that this can happen when we don’t have all the facts. The strange thing is that often these poor decisions are based on bad information about ourselves. I read an interesting article yesterday about things we should know about ourselves.  Here’s my take on that.

1. Whom do you serve?

We all serve someone. The problem is that we don’t always realize it. It could be ourselves, our employer, our checking account, our spouse, or someone else. We need to know the real answer to that question.

2. What do you love?

At least once a day we find ourselves saying that we love something or someone. What or whom do we really love? Shouldn’t our decisions be based in significant part of whom we love?

3. What makes you angry?

At least once a day we find ourselves angry or upset about something. These emotions guide us often unconsciously. It is wise to recognize what gets under our skin.

4. What motivates you?

Great leaders and coaches are terrific at identifying and utilizing the motivations of others. We aren’t always that good at recognizing what motivates us. Without that knowledge we find ourselves doing things and avoiding doing other things without knowing why.

5. What are you good at?

The easy answer may be the talent that allows you to make a living. However, there are likely secondary things that you do really well. Have you ever asked someone who really knows you to evaluated what yu do really well?

6. What are you not so good at?

Guess what? You’re not good at everything. People often underestimate the things they are good at or over-estimate their good qualities. An exact evaluation of our talents can make life so much easier. There is almost always someone in our lives available to handle the things we don’t do well so that we can concentrate on the things we are great at.

7. How should you spend your time?

The answers to questions 1 through 6 will probably show that you aren’t spending your time wisely. You are probably not serving your life master well, or pleasing and helping those you love. You are probably failing to satisfy your life motivators and wading into areas of frustration. You likely spend little time doing what you do well and wasting time on what others should be doing.

8. Whom do you want to experience life with?

The greatest factor in living a satisfied life is living it with the right folks. Your spouse is obviously key. The happiest people believe they are hooked up with the right mate. This also applies to other aspects of life. The people you work and serve with make all the difference in the world.

After considering the above shouldn’t the answer to these questions by easy for a Christian?

1. Whom do you serve?

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

2. What do you love?

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”Matthew 22

3. What makes you angry?

Proverbs 15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,  but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. Shouldn’t sin and it’s effects anger us? Shouldn’t wasted and lost lives stir us up? Everything else should be just annoyances.

4. What motivates you?

Jesus set the example for our motivation in this life: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work” John 4:34 Jesus was concerned with pleasing His Father, and so should we be motivated by that same concern. He always did the Father’s will, motivated by pleasing Him through obedience John 8:29. His obedience extended all the way to the cross where He humbled Himself and “became obedient unto death” Our motivation should be the same as His—the obedience by which we prove we are truly His. “If you love me, keep my commandments” John 14:15

5. What are you good at?

Whatever our talents are they need to be put to the service of Him whom we serve.

6. What are you not so good at?

John 15:5b  Without Me ye can do nothing. It doesn’t matter what we are not good at. Jesus will make up the lack.

7. How should you spend your time?

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28 Our time should be spent on what He commanded.

8. Whom do you want to experience life with?

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?  We should experience life with the rest of the body, His body.

Don’t we really make it all too complicated? He’s told us everything we need to know. It’s right there in His word.

 

Why Church?

A Methodist pastor friend of mine lost it on Facebook this week. He went after the non-denominational churches questioning whether folks who go there know what the church  believes and accusing some of these churches of “sheep stealing.” As one Facebook post said this week “It’s now what you believe, but whom you believe.” What you believe is important, but if you believe the right one that works itself out. Further, they are not our sheep. They are His.

It’s easy enough to understand his frustration. Main line denomination churches have lost folks for years.  Lots of reasons have been given. They have become too liberal or too political or not political enough. Some blame the secularization of America. The free love period of the sixties had an impact. Church scandals haven’t helped. Now even some “conservative” denominations are feeling the pinch. The Catholics are feeling a bump aided by a new pope who seems to get it in terms of what people are looking for, but may not get it in terms of theology.

Some churches are doing great. The ones that do often get targeted as being “seeker friendly” or watering down the message. I think that’s mostly the same kind of frustration that my Methodist pastor friend is experiencing. When others are more “successful,” human nature causes us to think they must be cheating instead of looking at what they must be doing right.

I think one writer is on the right track:

“As a long-time Christian, pastor and church planter who has seen church growth trends come and go, I’m not surprised denominational churches are shrinking. That’s not to say all mainline churches are dying, some are growing. However, most I’ve visited are dry and lifeless, losing members, and wondering how their church will survive from one week to the next.

On the other hand, most non-denominational churches (especially charismatic ones) are attracting younger, vibrant crowds who are looking for answers. The religious climate in the United States has changed dramatically over the last few years. The institution of religion has become a symbol of weakness, stagnancy, and lack of knowledge. As a result, many people are moving away from traditional, denominational church settings, and seeking a church not based on religion, but on their relationship and experience with God.

Whether denominational or not, people are looking for the real deal. A faith defined not only by what we can’t do, but by what we can do through the power of prayer and trust in God. And while many continue to debate the relevancy of religion, the fact remains that Christianity is thriving — maybe not in the same way our grandparents experienced it, but real faith in God is still alive and well in the hearts of the majority of Americans.”

I like to think about it this way. There is a subtle but important difference between “give the people what they want” and “give the people what they need.” Success will be only temporary if churches focus on what people want. Jesus is what they have always needed. The churches that forgot that and moved into politics or sociology and those that have moved into glitter and entertainment have all lost their way. Life is tough and there are lots of media sources that are offering “answers.” The internet, Facebook and Twitter are not successful just because they entertain. They also claim to offer help.

As church, we need to offer help: help in understanding what life is about, help in understanding our purpose, help in raising our kids, help in facing our kids leaving and then coming  back, help in facing the end of our lives. To do that we really have to have answers. Jesus is the answer. We really have to completely believe that before we can convincingly offer Him as the answer to others.  Getting together to do that is what church was for. It needs to be what it’s for again. We can learn a lot about how to get that message across for a media that’s great a messaging. We just need to make sure we stick to the right message.

Why Church? Because it’s the way to find The Way.

 

Relative Sin

We all have our favorite sins. In fact, I believe we have two categories of favorite sins. We have our favorite sins that we like to commit. We don’t believe they are really bad sins. In fact, we may not think they are sins at all. They are really just little missteps. We don’t think they really hurt anybody so they are of the no-harm-no-foul variety. We know we would be better off without them, but there are certainly much worse sins out there.  One of these days we will get around to stop doing them. Probably when we are old and they aren’t so much fun. Some of us call them venial sins. “Venial” means “slight” or “pardonable.” These sins tend to be sins of the mind or perhaps sins that occur in private. That’s one of the reasons they are our favorites. We really don’t like people to know we have sins, or should I say faults. We like to keep such things private. They are really nobody’s business.

That brings us to the second group of favorite sin: the sins others commit. They tend to be much more public and everybody’s business. After all that’s how we know about them. They are VERY serious. We usual consider them mortal. “Mortal” means you deserve to be in hell for committing them. They are “unpardonable.” We often believe it’s our job to make the lives of those who commit these kinds of sins a hell on earth. After all, these are the sins, and the sinners, who are tearing down our churches and our countries. These are the kinds of sins that should land you in jail. The committers of these sins may beg for forgiveness, but you have to draw the line somewhere. We believe we should not even hang around with people who commit these kinds of sins. They probably have something we could catch that would lead us to commit the same kinds of sins. We kick these kind of sinners out of our churches or, even better, don’t let them in, in the first place.

It’s really a very good system, this two category of sin thing. It really and fairly separates the bad from the not so bad. It’s such a good system based on such a reasonable set of distinctions that it’s a bit strange that it’s not mentioned in scripture. Oh well, God couldn’t put everything in there. That would take away all the fun. Wouldn’t it?

Loved

The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. 1 Timothy 1:5

The one thing we all really want is love. We want to love and to be loved. We may try substitutes of all kinds but nothing else will do. What we really want sometimes seems unattainable.  It doesn’t seem like a big thing, but three big things keep us from it.

  1. Who we are.
  2. What we’ve done.
  3. Where we’re headed.

We spend our lives trying to change these three things about ourselves. We know who we are and we know we are unloveable and incapable of really loving others. We know what we’ve done and no matter how deep we bury that or how much dirt we shovel into the hole, we can’t cover that up. We know that we are headed no where. We know that no one would be willing to join us on that hopeless journey.

As to number 1, who we are, we seem to have only a couple of options. We can improve ourselves or we can lie about who we are. The problem is that no matter how much self-improvement we attempt, we can’t ever get us the point of being truly loveable or selfless enough to truly love. We can lie and we can get pretty good at that but the lie is so big that it can’t survive forever. We are eventually found out.

As to number 2, what we’ve done, forgetting and lying are our options. Years can separate us from some of the things we’ve done and lying can help. The problem is that every day we add to the list of the seemingly unforgivable.

As to number 3, where we’re headed, the problem is we don’t know. It’s tough to get someone to be our companion on a journey to who knows where.

It’s no wonder that Paul’s life  became dedicated to spreading a gospel that makes love possible. He knew that knowledge of his Lord came with three things that made love possible: a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. The Lord can change who we are. He can change, as promised, our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. He can make us creatures capable of love and of being loved. He can clear our past and our consciences. Only He can grant forgiveness that separates us from all that we’ve done as far as the east is from the west. Finally, He alone can give us a future that is worth sharing. He can give us the assurance that He can and will connect us with an eternal life with Him and all the others who follow Him.

Jesus gives all we seek and more. He gives us a purpose: to show others that it is possible to be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.

Thanks to Pastor T whose life and whose sermon today inspired this post.

Waiting

We waited for three hours last night for word on my grandson’s visit to the ER. It all turned out well but most of us are not very good at waiting. It seems like we are always waiting for something. The issue is what to do while waiting. Here are some thoughts.

  1. Don’t just wait. There’s often much we can do while waiting. Watching the clock is not a useful activity. We often say we are waiting on something, when it’s just an excuse for not doing all the things we really should be doing. Most of us have “smart phones.” We can check our email or read some scripture or maybe just turn it off and pray.
  2. Why.  Delays often have a purpose. A couple of weeks ago while I sat for 6 hours at the Lafayette airport. It occurred to me that sitting there might just be better than flying in bad weather.
  3. Encourage someone else.  Waiting seems so awful because it’s a time of self-concentration. Trying focusing on someone else. Look at what others are doing. Trying talking to them or even better listening.
  4. Trust God. Things happen in God’s perfect time. Just because we think something should be happening now, doesn’t mean it should. This is the easiest one to say and the hardest one to do.

Well I’m tired of waiting for my wife to get ready for church. Guess I’ll drive alone.

The Fig Plant

This year we made a vegetable garden. We got tomato, eggplant, pepper and herb plants. I made a raised  bed and we planted and fertilized and watered. The plants are doing great. In fact they are very fruitful indeed. We also bought a fig plant. We couldn’t figure out where to plant it. So we didn’t. We just placed it next to the raised bed. It gets the same sun as the vegetables and the same watering. It isn’t doing anything. It looks fine, but it isn’t growing and there seems no chance we will get any figs this year.

The Christians I know are like that. I don’t know all of my Christian friends’ theology on eternal security. I do notice this. Some of them are well planted, watered and sunned. They are very secure in who they are and who they are in Christ. They are very fruitful. Others I know are not planted. They tend to roam about without any roots. They get water and sun but they aren’t very secure. They are not fruitful at all.

Is it possible that first comes justification, then assurance, then sanctification with the fruit that goes along with that? I know we should know them by their fruit, but to be fruitful do we need a certain amount of assurance and security. It seems to be that the insecure tend to be very self focused and selfish. All of their energy and concern is focused on themselves. The secure folk aren’t worried about their place. They seem concerned about others. They seem able to focus on their purpose and their mission and not on themselves.

I know Jesus cursed a fig tree that didn’t produce. But I think if next year we plant our little fig plant in its own special place. If we give it a feeling of permanence and security. We may get figs after all.

I don’t know. I’m no botanist and no theologian. I’m just saying.

 

Thursday Night at VBS

It was Thursday night at VBS. Anyone familiar with VBS programs knows that’s a big night. It’s the night of the special time, the quiet moment, the invitation time. This year it was handled in great fashion by Della (the lady with the neon hair). It’s tough to pull off an altar call and get kids to all of a sudden take you seriously when your hair can be seen all the way in Abbeville. Nonetheless, it was a great success. At the proper time many little hands went up. Many precious prayers were spoken while almost all eyes were closed. Alright, I know it was supposed to be every eye closed. I was in the back row. It was hard to miss. So sue me. I consider myself the press and inquiring minds want to know.

Lots of thoughts come to mind at a time like this. Special. Precious. Moving. Worth all the hassle. Thank God tomorrow’s Friday. Other thoughts creep in. Young. Don’t really understand. Following the crowd. I already had some thoughts over the last few weeks. Repentance. Conversion. Justification. Sanctification. Assurance. Cheap grace. Words from scripture come to mind. Love. The whole world. Whosoever. Will be saved. I never knew you. Confirming, comforting and often confusing words.

There is no doubt that some who raised their little hands last night will have, by the time this is written, forgotten the whole thing. Others couldn’t tell you why they raised their hands or what it meant. On the other hand, I  have to believe that years from now some will remember Thursday Night at VBS as the time they came to know Jesus. They will remember it as the beginning of a wonderful life in Christ. It’s a night they will never forget.

Lots of hands get raised at Crusades, on Sunday mornings, and on Thursday Nights at VBS. You can count them and put them in a book. You don’t really know what they mean. They can mean nothing or they could mean everything. It’s challenging enough to know where we stand with Christ. It’s not our function to try to decide where anyone else is. It’s our job to wear funny wigs, do funny dances, tell our stories and follow Our Lord. It’s up to Him to do the rest. That’s a very good thing. I trust Him to sort it all out.

Follow

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24

And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew 19:28

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever followme will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

We worry that we haven’t done enough and stress in trying to do more.  All because we aren’t doing what we are called to do. We are called to follow Jesus. In order to do that we have to stop following whomever and whatever we are following, or we need to stop wandering aimlessly. Sometimes we call that repentance. Repentance is a change of mind followed by action, so a change in direction.

Following Jesus means keeping your eye on Him. That means taking your eye off of everything else.

Following Jesus means you are never anywhere that He hasn’t already been.

Following Jesus means you don’t have to plan and scheme. You just have to follow.

Following Jesus means you don’t do all the changing that needs doing, just following, just keeping your eye on Him does that.

Following Jesus means life is never boring or meaningless. You are always headed someplace new and exciting.

Following Jesus means never being lost.

Following Jesus means never being part of the crowd.

Following Jesus means never being in the dark.

Following Jesus means being at the front of the only parade that matters.

Following Jesus means you don’t have the time or perspective to judge or condemn.

Following Jesus means walking with assurance.

Following Jesus means always being exactly where you are supposed to be even if it’s a really uncomfortable hard or scary place to be.