Articles

50 and 20

Ephesians 5:16 – making the best use of the time…

Today our son, Joseph, is 20 years old, and tomorrow my parents will celebrate their 50th anniversary. Wow! Congrats Mom and Dad! Happy Birthday, Joseph!

It is just a special reminder to me of a few things. One being the blessing of family, marriage and parenting. There’s a lot of joy in these God-given relationships, but surely there are quite a few bumps on the road as well. But through the years as we grow closer to God and to each other, we see such a wonderful peace and fulfillment that comes from family.

But the other reminder that is just really glaring to me today is how fast time flies by! Thinking of my parents being married 50 years is just really hard to fathom. Seeing Joseph as a man now in his 20’s is even weirder! My mom told me many times in years past about how fast time goes by, and I didn’t really appreciate that until the past couple years.

Young men, if you are reading this, please listen to those older men and women who are telling you to enjoy the moment and rejoice in the blessings of today. They are so very right when they tell you that life hurries by. Don’t be in such a hurry to get to the next stage/phase. Make the most of what you have right now.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
(James 4:13-15)

It will not be well with the wicked

Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.
(Ecclesiastes 8:11-13)

It may seem that the wicked get away with their wickedness, but as Solomon reminded us here, it will not be “well” with them in the end.

Read it again, “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life…but it will not be well with the wicked.” There is no “getting away with it” when it comes to God. But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out (Numbers 32:23).

Many times in the Scripture, we see God’s people groaning and lamenting over the wickedness done around them. They, like God’s people today, wonder why God lets it go on and when God’s going to do something about it. It is especially hard when the good people suffer so much at the hands of these wicked people. But remember that God is very aware both of the righteous and the wicked. He will eventually deliver those who fear Him, and He will bring swift justice on those who do not fear Him.

Here is a passage from 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 that once again brings comfort to the righteous that God will take care of them and He will punish those who do not fear God.

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering–since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

Do Not Take to Heart

Sorry for no article yesterday, wasn’t feeling well.

Anna and I were reading Ecclesiastes 7 and came across this passage:

Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.
(Ecclesiastes 7:21-22)

Is that wisdom or what? Don’t take to heart all the things people say. How easy is it to get caught up in everything that people say or think. I’m not sure if it is harder now, but it seems even harder with so many people freely and quickly posting their thoughts and judgments through internet, text, social media, etc.

Here are a few quick things that we observed when talking about this passage:

  1. “Lest you hear your servant cursing you.” It’s better not to know sometimes what people are saying. Do you really WANT to know what people are saying about you? Of course there are times you need to hear something so you can make the proper changes and address a situation. But sometimes people just get frustrated and say things they shouldn’t. Then they work through it and all is better. Do you really need to know that whole process? Your servant may have been temporarily upset, but he’s better now.
  2. Don’t be so quick to be offended. It just seems that so many folks are just waiting for the wrong word to be said so that they can be upset. That shouldn’t define us as Christians.
  3. Remember the things you’ve said about others. Before you get all self-righteous with indignation, look in the mirror. We’ve all gotten fast and loose with the tongue at times and said things about others that we later regretted. We want grace and mercy when we behave that way, so let’s extend it to others as well.
  4. Keep this in mind as a parent. Do you remember all the things you said either to your parents or about your parents when they weren’t around? Yeah, reflect on that for a bit. Don’t be so hasty to react and step on every thing your kids say, otherwise they won’t want to talk to you. Again, if you want grace as a parent, give grace to them. It is so easy to get caught up in reacting to the things our sons and daughters say. A simple conversation can turn into a nightmarish battle because we are all reacting instead of responding. I know this parent constantly needs this reminder. Don’t take to heart everything they say, and that is very easy to say. We can really get hurt in a hurry by taking to heart everything our kids say, but let’s calm down and put things in perspective. If God took to heart everything you said to Him or about Him, would you still be alive? God’s loving-kindness should be our model in how to handle all those words that get thrown around and spoken to us carelessly.

Committed Thomas

Doubting Thomas. We’ve probably all heard that term. Even people who aren’t Christians use that term to describe someone who is skeptical and needs evidence.

Thomas was not with the other 10 apostles when Jesus first appeared to them the day of His resurrection. It wasn’t till 8 days later that Jesus appeared to the 11 and turned Doubting Thomas into Believing Thomas (John 20:24-31). This is where we sometimes talk about “Absent Thomas” and what he missed out on because he wasn’t there.

But rather than talk about Doubting or Absent Thomas, I’d rather think about Committed Thomas today. Even when Thomas didn’t understand exactly what Jesus was doing, he was still willing to follow. Committed Thomas wanted to follow Jesus, but he just didn’t understand where Jesus was going.

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5).

Committed Thomas wanted to follow Jesus, even if it meant dying for Jesus. When Jesus wanted to leave the safety of beyond the Jordan and travel to Bethany (near Jerusalem) in order to raise dead Lazarus, the disciples knew how dangerous that would be. Thomas led the group in support of going with Jesus.

So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16)

Indeed, Thomas sought for affirmation and proof, and he wanted to understand, but Jesus gave him that evidence, didn’t He? Many other followers of God in Scripture come to mind that asked for confirmation and evidence, Gideon being the first one that comes to mind. Gideon was given reassurance and proof repeatedly by God. Gideon is highlighted in Hebrews 11 as one of the heroes of faith. We are no different from Gideon or Thomas, we all need that divine blessed reassurance once in awhile.

Jesus didn’t give this kind of evidence and affirmation to the Jewish leadership. They asked for a sign, and He told them they were a wicked and adulterous generation (Matthew 12). He may have rebuked His disciples for their unbelief (Mark 16), but He still gave them the evidence so they would believe. The hearts of the disciples, unlike the hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees, were committed to following Jesus.

Thomas most likely died a violent death for Jesus and the gospel. Yes, he was at times “doubting” and “absent,” but we see his true heart as fully committed to following Jesus.

God’s Training – Time and Events

Where we are now is a result of a lot of people, choices, successes, failures, joy, pain, experiences, time and events.

My wife and I were discussing this topic earlier today, specifically in connection to her desire to start a soap business. All of her previous experiences, jobs, being a manager, and other entrepreneurial endeavors have trained and prepared her for this time and this opportunity. She has learned about customer service, attention to detail, marketing, confidence in your product, etc. Her confidence and abilities to do what she’s doing now have come from decades of doing other things, all of which helped shape her thinking to do what she is so passionate to do.

We talked about Joseph in the book of Genesis and how all his experiences, both good and bad, prepared him for the moment he would be called to be second in command to Pharaoh. You could say the same about many other people like David, Esther, Joshua, Nehemiah, Paul, Ezra or Moses.

Think of where you have been, what you have experienced and how that has shaped who you are today. It could be painful experiences that have taught you compassion for others. It may be developing the confidence of seeing your efforts pay off and your plans turn out successfully. Also there are times when you have to go back to the drawing board a thousand times and keep trying to make it work, and it finally does (Just like Thomas Edison)!

What has happened through all of that time? From a secular perspective, you are becoming a much wiser person, a more well-rounded individual. There are things you can do now that you may never have been able to do before because you are a much more seasoned individual.

Even better, if you are a follower of Jesus, God is working in you and through you to refine you and conform you into the image of His Son. He is preparing you to be a vessel in His house and an instrument of His righteousness. As He prepares you to work in the world developing your skills and talents, He is also molding and shaping your character. He sees farther than any business, trade skill, or sports ability you may have; remember He is the one who gave these things to you in the first place. Through you working in the world using your talents and skills, He is working on the rest of the world to show them His glory through you.

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

Love Your Neighbor

I just finished talking to my neighbor across the street. What a good man. His father, who lived in the house next to him, recently passed away. The family put the house up for sale recently, and they quickly received lots of bids. My neighbor was going through the family’s thought process as they talked through the various bids.

What I absolutely loved about hearing this was that money and top price was not the issue. They were more concerned with who was going to live there and what that would mean for others. The character (not race or creed) of the people buying the house is what mattered. Some bidders were apparently either dishonest or very rude, and that weighed heavily on their consideration.

It just impressed me that this family came together and discussed this matter not based on the best price, but they also considered their neighbors who would be affected as well. That is truly being a good neighbor. This is part of looking down the road to see where certain choices may end up affecting others. It may mean sacrificing a few bucks in the short term but in the end the right decision is worth more than any dollar amount.

Proverbs 3:29 – Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you.

A lesson from Preston Sharp

Last night in the State of the Union, President Trump put a national spotlight on a 12 year old young man named Preston Sharp.

Preston had taken notice that many veterans’ graves were not taken care of, and he started a movement and a Go Fund Me page. Since then, according to the President, 40,000 graves now have been properly cared for and American flags posted at the graves.

It is just another reminder for parents and young people that age is not a barrier to what you can do to make a difference. Let’s continue to encourage our sons and daughters to follow their dreams and passions as they walk alongside Jesus. Let’s be the kind of parents that fan the flames.

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
(Ecclesiastes 11:9)

Getting a Brain Lock

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
(2 Corinthians 10:5)

We’re told here by the apostle Paul that we are to bring every thought captive in order to obey Christ. But we know that our mind can really go downhill in a hurry. Someone just gets under our skin, and we just can’t let it go. It affects how we treat that person, just like Joseph’s brothers got to a point where they could not speak peaceably to him (Genesis 37:4). Then how we treat others is affected because we are really upset at someone else (Heb. 12:15). I’ve heard the expression, “I’m so mad I can’t see straight.” That’s exactly right.

So, what are we to do when our brain gets locked on something negative? What I mean is someone at work did something that bothers or irritates you and you just can’t seem to get your focus off it. Or you have perceived that your spouse was insensitive to your needs and you just can’t let it go. It ruins the whole day and puts everyone in a sour mood. Or maybe you are on a sports team and the referee makes a bad call. It just seems to overwhelm your thinking and you go into a mental downward spiral. I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point.

How do we resurrection ourselves when our brain gets focused on something that really bothers us?

Recognize the source. We have to recognize that this is one of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). The wrath of man doesn’t produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20); instead, we become instruments of the Devil to do his bidding. Sinful thoughts lead to more sin (Matthew 15:19).

No excuses. God has told man from the beginning that we have the power to control our thinking and we can harness and redirect our emotions (Genesis 4:6-7; Jeremiah 4:14). Cain hated his brother and was very angry, and God told Cain to “rule over” his anger. Again, no excuses, no blame-shifting.

Take a moment. Even Jesus went out to the mountain to pray. Jesus had time alone with God. You may have to take a minute to yourself, go out and cool down. There is a time to speak and a time to BE SILENT. You may have to tell those around you that you need a few minutes to yourself and think things through. It may be that the more you talk the more you make a mess of things, so it would be best to be silent and chill for a bit. This is not the silent treatment, this is taking a few minutes of silence so you can later give the right treatment.

Meditate on these things. Read Philippians 4:8. I’m not saying this is a quick fix, but when our brain is at DEFCON 1, you need a go-to-place for your mind. Passages like Philippians 4:8 are Holy Spirit-given guides to tell you WHAT to think about. Imagine if you took a few minutes to thank God for 50 amazing things about your wife instead of getting OCD about the one thing that ticks you off? And, what really upsets you may not have even been a good reason to be upset in the first place!

Talk it through. In the multitude of counselors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14). Walking through it with a wise, godly older person will help you see that you were really silly in being so upset about this. Or even if you do have a good reason to be upset, that wise person can give you the calm guidance to work through it.

Learn to see it coming next time. A wise man sees danger and hides himself (Proverbs 22:3). With wisdom and experience should come the ability to see the warning signs that your brain is going down the wrong road. God knows the inclination of our hearts and he wants us to warn ourselves of attitude problems that may come up (for example see Deuteronomy 15:9). Daniel knew what kinds of things he would be asked to do in Babylon, and he prepared his mind on what to do beforehand (Daniel 1:8).

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
(Isaiah 55:6-7)

He can deal gently

He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.
(Hebrews 5:2)

Since he himself is beset with weakness. I looked up the word that is translated “beset” here in Heb. 5:2. The mental picture I get from this word is something that surrounds us, hangs about us and binds us. That is a very accurate picture of sin, isn’t it?

Why could the priest “deal gently” with those who are weak and wayward? Because he understands at a very personal level the weight and power of sin that can overwhelm us. The result of his sinful struggles was not hardness and judgmental-ism, but rather compassion and mercy. He knows the struggle.

It is the same for us today as Christians. We are all priests of God in His royal priesthood (1 Peter 2). We all know the weight of sin and how it can hang about our necks, surround us, and bind us. What is (should be) the resulting attitude in our hearts toward others? Compassion. Dealing gently. Why? Because we understand. We get it.

…to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us..
(Titus 3:2-7)

Jesus Our Brother

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
(Hebrews 2:10-11)

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
(Hebrews 2:18)

It was “fitting” for Jesus to be made flesh, live like us, and to be made “perfect through suffering.” This makes Him our brother. More than that, it says Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers. He being the Son of God and we being the children of God all have one Father (“source”).

When you are tempted, and when you are suffering, you have a brother who understands. I know that I have a physical brother, Mark, who is also a brother in Christ. When I am struggling or down, I know he will listen, understand, pray for me and give me wise counsel. That is such a comfort. But even more than that, Jesus is my brother. He understands, and He listens, and He brings comfort. Jesus went through all that we have gone through, and He knows our situation completely. When we come to the throne we find mercy and grace because He is our brother.

I often think of Jesus as Lord, God, Savior, and Christ, but not as much as my brother and my friend. Maybe you think the same way, I don’t know, but take time to meditate upon Jesus being your brother and what that means for you.