This Old House

We invested time, money, and sweat equity there. It represented memories, a chapter in our lives, and all the ups and downs that go with that chapter.

Billie Sue and I both get a melancholy feeling when we go back from time to time to make sure its clean for the realtor to show it to prospective buyers. It represents sixteen years of our lives.

We sometimes reflect on leaving our house in Benton to move to our current house in the Village. But our three-year-old grandkids, Molly, Maggie, and Asher, punched us with perspective!

Guess how many times they mentioned missing the old house they used to visit? Guess how many times they said they wished they could go back there?

Zero!

They haven’t missed it at all! They came at Christmas and this past weekend and they just wanted Gram and PawPa’s lap. They wanted to play with Gram and PawPa. They wanted to go fishing with PawPa. They wanted to go for walks with US!

It didn’t matter what house we were in. They wanted to be with US. What a joy that brings to a grandma’ and grandpa’s heart to have their warm bodies close and happy to be with US, not a house.

The number one, most mentioned, topic in the Bible shows up thousands of times. The New Testament uses three Greek words translated by this one English word.

  • Eros refers to marital or sexual passion. We get our English word erotic from it.
  • Phileo refers to friendship or family cohesion. The name Philadelphia finds its root here.
  • Agape refers to an ultimate, sacrificial commitment.

It is this third word, agape, John uses here for love:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:15-16 ESV

As a grandparent I would be broken-hearted if my grands wanted our old house more than they wanted our laps! Maybe that’s an inkling of what God is trying to say to us in this verse.

Do you think God is broken-hearted when we love this world instead of loving Him? It is not about where we are but Who we are with!

Our Father, forgive us for loving this old world instead of loving You. We have broken Your heart when we have loved this old house instead of loving your lap. We commit  today to loving Your Presence instead loving this world and its stuff.

Smoke & Mirrors

Maybe if I sacrifice some time and go to church this weekend, it will “make-up” for being dishonest with the grocery store clerk.

Perhaps I can sacrifice some TV time and pray an extra five minutes and read a whole chapter in the Bible instead of asking forgiveness from my relative for how I offended her.

I think I’ll sacrifice and give a little extra cash in the offering plate this Sunday to compensate for not following through on that commitment I made to help.

One of the first verses I memorized as a child was Exodus 20:12,

“Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD they God giveth thee.” 

Jesus dealt with some religious people of his day who “dedicated” their money to God as a religious “sacrifice” to justify not having to use it to care for their parents (click here to see Matthew 15). These very religious people justified breaking the command, “Honor your father and your mother” with a religious act of “sacrifice.”

It was religious “smoke and mirrors.” And Jesus saw right through it!

The LORD is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer Him sacrifices. Proverbs 21:3

God would rather we do what is just and right instead of trying to substitute some religious act or “sacrifice.”

A religious act is something we can do without dying to self. It is our tendency to avoid being crucified with Christ.  Galatians 2:20 says:

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

But to do the right and just thing requires us to die to self. It is precisely at the point of dying to self that Christ can live in and through us. Paradoxically the more we try to gain life the more we lose it.  The more we lose our lives for Christ’s sake, the more we gain real life.

Losing our lives for Christ will always interrupt and inconvenience our controlled religious life.

Do you remember those old TV announcements, “We interrupt regular programing to bring you this important announcement?”

Christ cannot live through us if we keep getting in the way. We must allow him to interrupt our regular, religious programming in order for him to do the right and just thing through us. For the resurrected Christ to live in and through us we must get on the cross and die to self.

Our Father, forgive us for substituting religious things for the resurrected life. Come and live through us as we die to ourselves.

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A Loose Grip

Golf experts write a lot about how to grip a golf club. The tighter you grip the club the more likely you will hit a bad shot.

My brothers have ski boats that create huge wakes. We use a small surf board to actually surf on those wakes. The more relaxed you can stay the more likely you will be able to surf successfully.

The more you try to squeeze, hold, and demand the love of your grandchild, the more likely they are to push away. There is a delicate balance of letting go with love in order to receive the returned affection we grandparents crave so much!

The abundant life we all want comes much the same way. We attempt to buy it, build it, store it, accumulate it, get healthy enough to have it, work out enough to get it, yet abundant living alludes us.

This morning Paul’s words struck me to the core. Paul held a loose grip on life. He relaxed on the surf board God had given him. He didn’t seek to squeeze, hold, and demand that life serve him.  The apostle Paul said:

But I do not account my life of any value or as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24 ESV

What a powerful statement! Notice how he summed up what he valued more than his life on this earth. He loosened his grip on life to:

  1. Do God’s will: “if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus” and
  2. Tell the Good News: “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

Jesus said:

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.  Luke 17:33 ESV

Our Father, we hold on so tightly to this world and the things in it. Help us today to lose our lives for You and the gospel. Forgive us for holding on to the things that will pass away while ignoring the things that will last forever. Help us to let go of life so we may do Your will, share the good news of Jesus, and find Your abundant life.

 

Look Out the Window

Take-off was a rush! I never dreamed that the initial thrust would set me back into my seat the way it did. In no time we were off the ground quickly gaining altitude.

As an adult I experienced my first ride on a commercial passenger plane. I felt like a kid. The thrill of take-off put butterflies in my stomach.

Then came the view! I couldn’t stop looking out the window at the patchwork below me. Seeing things from thousands of feet above the earth gives a whole new perspective!

I thought to myself, “God sees the world like this all the time, yet he knows me personally!”

Our Father always has the big picture perspective for our lives, disasters, sins, set-backs, diseases, and celebrations.

Jeremiah told his countrymen who had just been carried off to captivity to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says he LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

We often see this verse on plaques . It is certainly an encouraging verse. It is one I meditate on when I get discouraged.

But the context is a horrible situation of defeat and exile! Jeremiah tells them in chapter 29 in a letter to settle in, build homes, have lots of children and grandchildren, and make the city prosperous and peaceful, because you will be there a long time, seventy years!

Are you going through a disaster or an exile now? Perhaps your disaster has already lasted a long time. Or maybe it is just beginning.

Remember God has the 35,000 feet view even though you can’t seem to see 3 feet in front of you. God’s really does have the big picture.

Honor and love your Father in Heaven in the middle of your chaos. He indeed knows the plans He has for you! He wants your good, not disaster.  So whether He delivers next week, years down the road, or in heaven, He will come through! The LORD is still your hope!

Look out the window.

Our Father, thank-you for the hope, assurance, and confidence that you never lose control of this universe, this world, and the circumstances of our lives. Fill us with hope in the midst of our exiles. Help us to live faithful lives honoring You inside our disasters.

Read the Directions!

“If all else fails, read the directions.” How many times that has been my modus operandi!

Well to be honest, I had to look that up modus operandi . I just used that phrase to impress you. I’ve heard others use it. I thought I knew what it meant in practice but couldn’t give you a definition!

So, what in the world is a modus operandi? It is Latin for ‘way of operating.’ It means: a particular way or method of doing something, especially one that is characteristic or well-established. I Googled it!

Anyway, so much for my Latin lesson for the day. Back to what I was saying.

I bought one of those gadgets recently that finds studs in the wall of your home so I could know where to drive a nail to hang a heavy mirror. I opened the package and removed the gadget.  I removed the screw on the back to insert the batteries. Uh-oh! The gadget’s insides spilled out!

If I had read the instructions, I would have known that there’s a little slide-out on the back that makes it very easy to insert batteries. Yes, I did get the gadget put back together and re-inserted the screw.  Lesson learned! Well for a little while, until the next time I do something without reading the directions.

Ignoring instructions and despising reproof can have much greater consequences! In fact, it can mean life or death! I prefer life. I prefer wisdom. I value myself pretty highly and would rather not despise myself.

So here’s some really wise words from the writer of Proverbs:

The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself. Proverbs 15:31-32 ESV

Our Father, thank-you for the life-giving reproof of your Holy Bible and your Holy Spirit. Make us sensitive today to accept your reproof and to pay close attention to your instruction to be wise.

Chirping

That cricket on my back porch is chirping loudly and persistently. He doesn’t let up. This has been something I’ve loved about moving to the Village. I can hear the sounds of nature instead of traffic!

Now, back to that cricket. Chir-rup, Chir-rup, Chir-rup, Chir-rup, Chir-rup … The joker’s chirpper just keeps on a-chirping!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12 ESV

I was meditating on that verse when I noticed the little chirpper chirping. What an insight! Our believing, trusting, rejoicing, hanging tough, and praying ought to be persistent just like that chirpper!

Rejoice in hope.

Hope is the confident assurance of our salvation and destiny of heaven! Re-joice, Re-joice, Re-joice, Re-joice, Re-joice, …!

Be patient in tribulation.

Patience is being able to see the big picture and hanging tough till the prize at the end is revealed in spite of the troubles along the way. Pa-tient, Pa-tient, Pa-tient, Pa-tient, Pa-tient, …! (Thanks Polly for the “Hang Tough” Sunday School lesson this past Sunday!)

Be constant in prayer.

Prayer is communication and communion with the Father in such a way He can tell us at any moment what to do and we do it. We mistake prayer often as only trying to get God to do what we want him to do. Pra-y, Pra-y, Pra-y, O-bey, O-bey, Pra-y, O-bey, …!

So, do some spiritual chirping today!

Our Father, we rejoice constantly that you have provided complete hope and confidence in our salvation through Your Son Jesus Christ! We hang tough with patience in the troubled times of life because we know how it all comes out in the end! We commune with you all day ready to obey at a moment’s notice.

What If?

  • What if you knew you could make a difference, would you do it?
  • If you could be certain a particular act of ministry or kindness would be effective, would you act?
  • Would you work differently for the Lord if you were assured God would use it to make an impact in someone’s life?

“Of course I would!” you might say, “but I don’t know what to do.”

Did God create you? “Of course,” you respond.

Did He put IN you a unique set of gifts, likes, abilities, personality, and experiences? “Well, yes He did,” you conclude.

THEN TAKE WHAT YOU LIKE TO DO AND DO IT! Its really that simple. God has already qualified you to work in His kingdom for a specialized task that you can do as well or better than anyone else.

A principle which has permeated by soul is the “cup of cold water in Jesus’s name” principle. It only has two simple parts:

  • Whatever it is I’m capable of doing can be used by God, even if its handing someone a cup of water.
  • Whatever I do, do it in “Jesus’ name,” do for Him and literally SPEAK his name in the process of doing it.

For God loves a griping giver, right? Nope! God loves a CHEERFUL giver. So as you give yourself away in Jesus’ name in cups of kindness and service, ATTITUDE makes all the difference in the world.  Be enthusiastic!

Well, brother Paul said it better than I did anyway. Read this verse and see if you get the same thing I did!

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. 1 Cor. 15:58 NLT

Our Father, we praise you that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. You created each of us with a unique set of capabilities. Thank-you for the opportunities you put right in front of us each day to serve you by serving people. Thank-you for the assurance that what we do for the “least of these” we do for your Son Jesus. What a joy to serve you with assurance that nothing we do for You is ever useless!