Trying to Find Some Order

Chaos.

That’s describes my dining room at this moment.

You’ve experienced what I’m feeling. Maybe you are building a house or working on a remodel project. Maybe you are moving or reorganizing your basement or garage. All of those require a certain amount of chaos and disorder before you finally arrive at the order that you are seeking. When the project is finished and you stand back and look at the completed work you sigh in satisfaction and feel a sense of peace that it’s done and everything is now in order.

My dining room isn’t there yet. It’s actually an ongoing project, getting this room into some kind of order. Our dining room isn’t the kind you would see in a beautiful homes magazine. It’s really an all-purpose room. It’s a craft room, a school room and also houses our extra refrigerator. And, yes, sometimes we also manage to eat in there. We recently removed a built-in cupboard that I would call a monstrosity. It wasn’t built well and needed to go. In its place are two sets of commercial wire shelving. Not much to look at but oh so practical. With a family of boys, I have learned long ago that usefulness is way more important than how things look.

Yesterday my table was so covered with the items that had been removed from the now dismantled cabinet that we couldn’t eat there. It was chaos.  But I knew it would eventually come into order so I kept working.

While I was laboring over where things should go, God drew a picture for me.

His creation was designed with perfect order. Then sin entered the perfect world and created utter chaos. We have been living in this world turned upside down by sin ever since. God is waiting for the day when His work will be complete and we will finally return to the order He had in place in the beginning. But it is a process, just like organizing my dining room.

Sometimes we look at our lives or the events of the world around us and wonder if things will ever come into order. We tend to fret and worry and question God’s actions and timing.

But God is waiting too. He understands what we feel when things seem out of control. But He has a plan. God does some things that we should learn to do as well.

God doesn’t lose His peace. He remains in perfect peace because He knows the outcome. It WILL all work out eventually.

God is patient. He knows He must wait and He does so without getting irritable or angry. He doesn’t get discouraged when things take time. He knows the end of the story.

God is faithful to do what He has promised.  He continues to guide us and direct us in the direction of His plan. And he expects us to cooperate and do our part. We need to listen to Him to see just what He would have us do.

The final peace and order will only come when Jesus returns to restore all of creation to God’s original design. Until then there will be chaos, and you know sometimes the mess gets bigger before you see any progress!

Whatever chaos is in your life, ask God to give you peace in the midst of it. Ask Him to help you wait with grace and patience and ask Him what He wants you to do while you wait.

John 14:1  Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more

The Umbrella of God’s Love

We’ve had  a lot of rain lately and that means pulling out the umbrellas. I don’t think we see as many umbrellas now as we used to. It seems that people are not too concerned about getting wet. Some would rather run and hope to avoid a few raindrops than bother with getting the umbrella out. Others would rather just get wet knowing that they will dry eventually so what’s a little rain?

Consider for a moment that God’s love is an umbrella that He places over you. You can come under His umbrella and be protected from all kinds of evil and danger.  You can be shielded from the hurts of life.

Life under God’s umbrella isn’t perfect. Just because you are under His covering, it doesn’t mean that you are never affected by evil or the ugliness of this world. When it rains, sometimes the dirty water splashes on you even with your umbrella up.

Life is like that. Sometimes we are touched by evil and sin and we must make the best of it.

But there is something we should never do. We should never choose to step out from under God’s umbrella thinking that a little of the evil in our world won’t hurt us. We should resist the temptation to just make a run for it on our own thinking that whatever we encounter will eventually evaporate like a spring rain.

God has offered us His umbrella of love and under His shelter we are safe. Always choose to remain in His care.

Does it look like rain? don’t leave your umbrella at home.

Isaiah 4:6 There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.

Psalm 91:1-2 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

 

What Does it Mean to be Set Apart?

In your closet you have an assortment of clothing. Some items are for wearing to important events, some are for casual outings, and others you might wear when painting your living room. You know exactly which items are for which purpose.

In your kitchen you have a variety of utensils. You know which ones to use for cooking, which for serving, and which for storing leftovers. You would never store your leftover spaghetti in the crystal bowl with the silver trim that Aunt Martha gave you for a wedding gift. That isn’t its purpose.

We are like those various items in your closet or your kitchen or your garden shed. All the things you own have been acquired to serve a purpose. You care for your belongings according to their purpose.

God does the same with us. He has designed each of us with a specific purpose in mind.  Before we were ever created, God set us apart for His Kingdom work.

We have been set apart. Think about that for a moment. What does it mean to you that God has set you apart for a purpose that pleases Him?

1 Peter 2:9 says But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

To be set apart for God means to be carefully chosen to perform that particular work that you were designed for. God doesn’t make mistakes. He won’t accidently try to use you for something you weren’t designed to do.

Remember Aunt Martha’s crystal bowl? God knows exactly what to use it for. He won’t use it to contain anything but what He specifically created it to do. No leftover  spaghetti. Nothing that isn’t worthy of the beauty of that sparkling bowl.

It’s the same with you. God designed you for a special purpose and when you allow Him to set you apart and use you for what you were designed to do, you will be like that crystal bowl.  When you are serving the Lord in the way you were created to serve, the glory of God will come shining through you.

And He will be pleased!

It is What it is

Have you heard the phrase “first world problems?”  It refers to the fact that in first world or affluent countries where we have nothing of any real urgency to worry about, we can still find things to complain about.

It’s really quite true. In comparison to the conditions the rest of the world has to face every day, our “first world problems” are of no consequence.

Your car has a flat tire and you have to get a ride to work.

Your electric bill goes up $20 a month.

Your dishwasher breaks down.

You’re having a bad hair day.

All first world problems.

Can you even imagine that someone is Sudan or Syria or __________(fill in the blank with another country who is experiencing war or famine or some other national crisis) could be worried about any of those issues I just listed? Absurd.

And yet we get overwhelmed by these and other relatively insignificant issues every day. We get bogged down by worry about things that are not life and death. We are quick to feel like life is out of control if too many of these things happen at the same time.

I’ve learned a new way to view the first world problems that I face and that’s to say “It is what it is.” Then I proceed to consider my options in dealing with each of the issues as they present themselves.

This past week I’ve had to deal with a fourth week of back pain stemming for an injury that isn’t healing as fast as I would like. I also learned that one of my sons has been diagnosed with diabetes. In addition to those things, I also had to deal with the trauma  of three of my sons being involved in a car accident. Thankfully, they only experienced some bumps and bruises.

I could feel life was closing in on me as these experiences piled up. I could have just given in and allowed myself to shut down and refused to go on. But instead, I chose to engage my secret weapon. I chose to say,” this is my life today. It is what it is. What am I going to do with it?”

What’s going on in your life today? Are you feeling overwhelmed?

Take a fresh approach.  Look at your life.

It is what it is.

What are you going to do with it?

Who Invented Music?

IMG_0277smallI read an interesting article that reminds me how pompous we humans can be. The article was discussing why humans invented music.

What?

I’m serious. It was a complete discourse on why early humans felt the need to invent music.  And then there was the article that talked about whether humans invented music or just discovered it and that it really was a part of evolution as we became more intelligent and found a need for entertainment and community.

Really?

The Bible speaks of music in Genesis. It talks about how Jubal was the father of all who played the harp and flute (Gen. 4:20) Isn’t it interesting that we use the words jubilation and jubilee to talk about joyous celebration?

The Psalms are full of instructions to sing and make a joyful noise unto the Lord.  Singing and making music is a way for us to show our thankfulness to our Lord for all He’s done for us. And in the stories of David and Saul, God showed us that music is also good for our health, both mental and physical. Scientific studies confirm that singing and listening to music reduces stress and makes us healthier. Imagine that!

But just to set the record straight about who in fact invented music, we need only to go to Zephaniah 3:17 to see that the invention of music belongs to God alone.

Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.  

God sings over us. He rejoices with loud singing. I guess that settles who invented music. But don’t miss the incredible point here.

Have you ever had anyone sing over you? Have you ever felt the desire to sing over someone else? God has. He is so full of joy when He thinks about you that He can’t contain His joy and He bursts into song. That makes me want to sing!

Psalm 104:33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

Psalm 95:1-2 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

 

Me and My Shadow

shadowsIMG_3802

When my older boys were hitting their teen years, we helped them find opportunities to shadow some men in the workplace. The purpose was for them to get an idea what it was like to work in each career field. They spent the whole day following the man around like a shadow.

Have you ever considered your shadow? What does your shadow look like? It looks like you! It is the silhouette of your body as it appears in front of the sun or another bright light. Your shadow moves and acts exactly as you do.

So consider for a moment that someone approaches you and asks you if they can shadow you for a whole day to see what your life is about. Much like a career shadow, they would follow you around watching your actions. Watching how you interact with others. Watching how you make decisions. They would see how you handle stress, what choices you make regarding your health, and perhaps how you handle your money.

As a Christ-follower, you are made in His image. You are supposed to reflect His character. So your shadow should look a little like Him, don’t you think?

So, the question is: If someone followed you around all day, would they know, without you telling them, that you have asked Jesus Christ to be Lord of your life? Could they tell from your actions that He is the most important person in your life? Could they tell by your interaction with others, that you exhibit His compassion for those you come in contact with every day?

Throughout the Bible there are examples of foreshadowing. What that means is that something is just a glimpse of what’s to come but not the real thing. Many times there are instances of foreshadowing that hint at the coming of Christ and what He will be like.

If we were to shadow Jesus, we’d know exactly who we were following. If others shadow us, who would they see? Do we look more like Jesus or more like everybody else?

1 John 2:6 Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

1 Corinthians 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Who’s in Charge Here?

Have you ever been involved in a large event and things seem to be out of control? One of the first things you might hear from a frustrated participant is, “Who’s in charge?”

Why would it matter who’s in charge?  Because it is assumed, or at least hoped, that the person in charge can fix the mess. Solve the problem. Straighten out the chaos.

And what happens when someone who is not in charge tries to step in and take over thinking they can fix things? They have no idea what planning occurred or what foresight was used to make the decisions that were a part of the planning. They can’t know the all the goals or the reasons certain actions were chosen and others rejected. Things can go from bad to worse very quickly.

And yet, we do this with our lives. We are the ones who step in and assume that when things are going a little different than we expected or when things are flat out a total mess, we have all the answers.

We don’t.

God says in His word that man makes the plans but God directs his steps. God is the one in charge. He is the one we should go to when things aren’t going well. It’s a mistake to step in and try to take things into our own hands. That goes for our own lives as well as other people’s lives. God’s in charge in both places. No matter how it looks.

Proverbs 19:21 Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand.

Psalm 22:28 For the kingdom is the LORD’S And He rules over the nations.

Humility or Humiliation?

What’s the difference between humility and humiliation?  In a word – pride.

There are many things that happen to us in our lives. Things that make us feel embarrassed or defensive. It’s interesting to see someone react with humility. It’s refreshing to see the calm peaceful response. How do they do it?

The secret is that they have put aside their pride. They react with humility because they have allowed God to be their source of strength.

If we usually feel humiliated and offended when something negative happens it may be time to examine our hearts. Are we allowing pride to stand in the way of God’s instruction? And are we willing to set aside our own need to be right so that God may work in the situation? Or do we see each situation as a personal attack? To react with humility means to look at a negative situation and ask what God would have us learn from it instead of dwelling on how to get out of it without looking bad.

The scripture is very clear about what God thinks about being prideful.

Proverbs 29:23 A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.

James 4:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

How Well Do You Wait?

It’s hard to wait. Waiting in traffic, waiting in line, waiting on hold with someone else’s choice of music playing in your ear. We find ourselves impatient and frustrated because we want to see progress. We want answers, we want resolution so we can move on.

Our society doesn’t wait well. Everyone, it seems, has no time to wait. We have too much else to do. Places to go, people to see, work to be done.

But there is a lesson to be learned in the waiting. God uses waiting to teach us to depend on Him and not ourselves. To trust His timing and not our own. He is never bound by the clock or the calendar. His timing has eternity in mind where today and tomorrow have little meaning.

Sometimes the things we have been asking the Lord to do in our lives are things we must wait for. You’ve heard the saying that God’s answer is either yes, no or wait.

Trust is like a muscle. It gets stronger when we use it. God uses waiting to strength our trust muscle. In the waiting, we are becoming more like Jesus.

It’s hard but there is no other way.

Psalm 27:14  Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.

One Brick at a Time

What if your life was like a brick wall? Each day of your life would be represented by one brick.  Each brick adding to the wall that tells the story of your life.

In scripture there are many references to walls. In most cases they represent the strength of a city or a nation. Some references speak of building up the walls and providing protection while in others the picture is of a nation being destroyed as it’s walls are demolished. There is strength in a well-built wall.

What if each day that you wasted left a hole in your wall? Would there be a lot of gaping holes? But let’s not get rigid about this — some holes might be perfectly acceptable. After all, a few windows here and there would add a nice touch.

But if wasted days are holes and you accumulate too many, you would weaken the whole wall.

What constitutes a wasted day? Perhaps one where you spent more time on yourself than on others. Maybe a day where you procrastinated and never really accomplished what you set out to do. Or it might be times when you spent the day nursing hurt feelings or holding a grudge.

We don’t always get it right, but each day we can purpose in our hearts to faithfully continue building.

One brick at a time.

Ephesians 5:15-17 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.