Do You Have a Lot of Stuff?

This weekend I went with my husband to a tool collector’s auction and annual meeting. It was a wonderful group of people. The men were very knowledgeable about tools and the women had a vast knowledge of collectibles as well. It was a nice weekend, getting to know some new friends.

On Saturday night they always gather at one man’s home in a large two story barn that he built. He built the barn to hold all his vast collections. There were more interesting old items in that barn than I’ve ever seen. But as I looked at all the walls loaded with stuff I felt a sadness. All that stuff, all that treasure being stored up…on earth.

The scripture says we are not to store up our treasures on earth, but are instead to store them up in heaven where moth and rust will not destroy.

I have no problem with people who enjoy collecting things. I think it’s fun to learn about how things are made and used throughout history. But there was something sad about seeing this man’s life work displayed in his barn and knowing he can’t take any of it with him into Eternity. I overhead several of the older men talking together about what arrangements they are going to have to make for all their stuff when they die. One man teared up and said he didn’t know what to do since none of his children were interested in what he’d spent his life accumulating.  How sad.

It also made me think of the story of the rich young ruler. He asked Jesus what he needed to do for salvation and Jesus ended the conversation with direction to sell all he had, give to the poor and follow him. The young man went away grieved because he was so rich.

I’ve spent the past three decades raising a houseful of boys. We didn’t have the money to spend on expensive toys or extras. What we have isn’t worth much but we’ve still managed to accumulate a lot of stuff over the years. But I have to ask myself if Jesus asked me today to part with my stuff, little as that may be, would I be willing? Is my stuff standing between me and my Lord?

Would I be willing to sell all I have, give to the poor and follow Him?

Would you?

Matthew 6:19-21  Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;  for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Do You Have a Thankful Heart?

What if I were to tell you that I know what God’s will is for your life? Sound a little iffy?

Actually, I do. I can tell you that it’s God’s will for you to be thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

That’s pretty clear. And I didn’t say it, God did.

So what does it mean to give thanks in all circumstances? We’ve heard sermons on how this doesn’t mean we are thankful FOR all circumstances, we just have to be thankful IN them. But really, what is the difference? No, we don’t have to say thank you God for cancer or for tragic accidents, but we can still say thank you God that we don’t walk through any of it alone. We can be thankful for what God will teach us as we walk through. No, we don’t have to like what is happening but we can still find something to be thankful for. In God’s economy, nothing is wasted so each life circumstance has some sort of value in eternity. We might never guess what that value is as we are in the midst of a terrible situation, but God knows the value and must have decided it was worth it or he would never have allowed it in the first place.

As I watched my mother die of cancer over an 18 month period, I had a hard time being thankful. But at her funeral, my father came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Was it worth it? I think if I could ask my mother today, as she sits at the Lord’s feet, she would say it was absolutely worth it.

How do you remain thankful when you are watching a loved one die an agonizing death? Or when a friend has lost a child? Or when a marriage has disintegrated beyond repair? God could have prevented those tragedies and yet, He allowed them. How can we be thankful?

We are thankful that God is still good. We are thankful that God is still a loving, caring God. We are thankful that God walks with us through every step of every journey he calls us to. Life is difficult. We can easily forget to look for the things to be thankful for.

I recently read a book called Lessons I Learned in the Dark: Steps to Walking by Faith, Not by Sight by Jennifer Rothschild. She talks about how she lost her sight at the age of 15 and how she’s learned to be thankful for her life in the 30 years since that time. In the book she says,  “I genuinely thank God for what I do have, because it’s so much greater than what I’ve lost.”

And, Dietrich Bonhoeffer perhaps summed it all up the best when he said,” Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.”

Life is bittersweet at times and we must never allow ourselves to hang on to the bitter at the expense of the sweet. Thank God today for where you are, because He is right there with you. Sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Be thankful for the morning!

Does Not Play Well With Others

When my boys were young there was a family we got together with on a regular basis. This family had young boys too and when our families were together they enjoyed playing with each other. All except one boy. It seemed strange, but when I would see this mother with just this particular boy, he would be well behaved and a pleasure to talk to. However, when he was together with his brother and several of my boys there was a transformation. He could not get along with any of them. He was constantly tattling and arguing and just being contrary. He was a perfect candidate for the label “does not play well with others.”

It’s sad, but I see this all the time in the adult world as well, and Christians are not exempt.  One of my boys works for a car dealership and he made a statement the other day that has made me think. He said it was disappointing to see how many of the rude, demanding and grouchy customers were the ones with Christian bumper stickers on their cars and their radios set to Christian radio stations.

We have no excuse to ever be contrary to anyone. If you check the scriptures there are four groups of people mentioned.

Our enemiesLuke 6:27: But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.

Other believers. John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Neighbors. Romans 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Strangers. Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.

We would have a difficult time finding a person who is not in one of these groups. In every case, we are to show love and kindness. We should never be in a situation where we are the ones wearing the tee shirt that says ” doesn’t play well with others.” Be like Jesus to the people you encounter today.

Still Waters

Have you ever gone to a lake and skipped stones? What happens to the surface when you throw a stone into water? Or how about going on a windy day? What does the wind do to the water’s surface? In both cases, the surface of the water is disturbed.

I  recently read a quote from a German philosopher named Hans Margolius  that said “Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.”

It’s easy to see the significance of this observation. When we are disturbed or anxious by the things that impact our lives, we have a distorted view of life. We can’t see things as they really are. We must be willing to calm our hearts, casting our cares on the Lord so that we may see and understand what God is trying to show us. The reflection is made clearer by our willingness to let go of our anxiety. The only way that happens is for us to drop our rocks and wait for the water to become still.

The Lord has much to teach us if we are willing to still the waters.

Proverbs 17:27  The one who knows much says little; an understanding person remains calm. (MSG)

John 14:27  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (NIV)

Take the Stairs

At the mall, my husband and I take the stairs as often as possible. We avoid the escalators and elevators because we know that we need the exercise whenever we can get it. Sometimes we get funny looks when we choose to climb a flight of stairs while other shoppers relax as they ride effortlessly to the next level. As they ride, those other folks can casually look around, taking in all the distractions happening in every direction. We, on the other hand, must pay attention to our climb or risk losing our footing and taking a tumble.

I believe our walk with the Lord is the same way. God didn’t design our walk with him to be a mindless ride where we glide along without a thought of where we’re going or how we are getting there. He intended for us invest some effort into growing in our relationship with him. He intended for us to pay attention to our daily walk with each step. We aren’t supposed to begin our life with Christ by taking that first step toward him as we take the first step on an escalator and then just relax and enjoy the ride.

The destination is important, but what we invest in the journey we take to get there is of immeasurable value.

Choose today to be intentional in your relationship with Christ. Choose today to take the stairs.

Philippians 3:12-14  Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Are You a Person of Influence?

What does it mean to be a person of influence?

I recently read an article that listed ten steps in a strategy to becoming a person of influence. Among the suggestions listed were to become more visible on the social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Also suggested was writing a blog or e-books and seeking out speaking engagements.

These suggestions might work fine in the business world. But how can you become a person of influence where spiritual matters are concerned? What suggestions might work to influence the world for Christ? How can an average person ever hope to have influence that changes the world for the better?

Farther down the list I found a couple more suggestions. One was to start a movement around something you are passionate about. Well, this one is an easy one. We don’t have to start a movement, we are already involved in one with firm foundations that began with twelve passionate men who took Jesus at His word and were faithful to share it.

Another useful recommendation said to become a subject matter expert. In the business world that means to learn all you can about the subject you care about. Isn’t that what we are called to do with the Gospel? The purpose of God’s Word is to make us experts on the subject of His gift to humanity. We are called to learn all we can about Jesus and His Kingdom.

Finally, it was suggested we become super connectors. The article went on to explain that there is always someone we can introduce our friends and colleagues to in order to create a greater network. Business people are always looking for new contacts that will advance their business. This in the suggestion that rings true to the believer. We were created and commissioned to be super connectors! What better goal in life than to connect all of our friends to the one person who matters most to us? Jesus is waiting to be introduced to everyone you know.

What does it require to become a person of influence where Christ is concerned? Become a follower of Jesus, learn all you can about His plan and purpose by reading His Word and then determine to look for every opportunity to connect everyone you know to the One who already knows them by name.

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

Daniel 12:3 Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

You Are Not a Know-It-All

The dictionary defines a know-it-all as someone who gives the impression of knowing everything. It’s not something anyone would want to be called. Why does it have such negative overtones? I think because we all know that we do NOT know it all and we resent or become annoyed with anyone who acts like they do. It’s an unspoken recognition that we are lacking in something. We can’t possibly know everything so why should anyone act like they do? We can feel threatened by someone who seems to know so much more than we do, especially if they seem to brag about it or flaunt it. It reminds us that we are always going to be imperfect and we don’t need any reminders in that area!

But there is One who is a know-it-all in the best sense of the term. He is called the Omniscient God for a reason. He truly knows everything.

A.W. Tozer said it this way: He knows in one free and effortless act all manner, all spirit, all relationships, all events.

God doesn’t have to try to understand because He already understands everything without a bit of effort.

When you are tired of trying to figure it out on your own, go to God. He already has the answer.

When your life seems to be unraveling and you don’t know what to do, go to God. He already has the answer.

When you’ve really messed up and think there is no way to fix it, go to God. With Him, all things are possible because He already knows everything about your situation.

Don’t hide from God. He already knows anyway. Run to Him and let him heal your hurts and restore your relationships. He’s waiting for you. He is the Know-It-All who loves you.

Psalm 147:5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.

Do You Need a Do-Over?

Have you ever done or said something and instantly wished you could have a do-over? That you could take back what you said or make a different choice in your actions? We’ve all had times when we’ve made wrong choices.  Times when we would like to rewind and start again. But we can’t. That’s not how it works in the natural world.

Wouldn’t it be great if it worked that way in everyday life?  If every time we did something wrong or unwise we could just rewind and try it again? Yes? Well, actually, it wouldn’t.  What would happen is that we would never learn from our failures and never realized what Jesus has done for us. We would get too comfortable with just hitting the rewind button and going back to start over again.

Jesus specializes in do-overs. But they aren’t really do-overs in the sense that we can rewind and do something different. What He does is give us a second chance to get it right. He allows us to try again and do things differently with His help. He allows us to be forgiven of the wrong and move forward as though it never happened.

He also gives us grace to face the consequences of our actions. He walks with us as we mend relationships. He helps us learn and grow from our mistakes. Certainly we are to be wise and try to make good choices in the first place, but there is always mercy when we don’t get it right.

Grace and mercy are the gifts Jesus gives to us to help us live on this earth. He knows we are fallible humans and He is there to help as soon as we ask. All we have to do is ask.

Lamentations 3:22-23 The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

In the Silence You Can Hear Him

I thought I was losing my mind. On several occasions I have been lying in bed reading and heard music. Once I got up and went into the boys’ room to see if they could turn off their music for the night only to find that they didn’t have music playing. It was puzzling but I didn’t think too much of it. I’d go back to bed and put it out of my mind.

I have inner ear issues, so maybe I’m really not hearing anything, I would tell myself. Maybe it’s other normal house noises that I’m perceiving as musical. I’d just get it settled and then a few nights later I’d hear it again. I finally told my husband I was hearing music. He thought I must be imagining it. Maybe I was.

The only time I could hear it was at night when the house got quiet and I was finally still and ready to rest. This morning my husband heard it too and we finally solved the mystery. A few months ago I received a small television that belonged to my grandfather. We put it in our room along with a DVD player so we could watch movies once in a while when the boys were using the only other TV in the house. We also hooked up a set of computer speakers. As sometimes happens, the system is picking up radio waves and in the stillness at bedtime, I can hear the faint music coming through the speakers.

I’m not losing my mind after all! You can imagine how relieved I felt! But the Lord wasn’t done using this experience. He took this opportunity to remind me that this is what I have to do in my spirit. His voice is often like those radio waves. I have to shut off the noise of the world in order to hear Him. It isn’t because He can’t speak loudly. He could shout if He chose to. But He would rather I quiet myself and chose to turn away from the noise of life around me to give Him my full attention.

He has intimate things to say to me that are for me alone. He has things to tell you as well. He wants to speak to you in the voice that only you can hear. He wants to whisper to you how much He loves you and what wonderful things He has in store for you. We can hear Him best when we turn down the volume around us.

Psalm 85:8 I listen carefully to what God the LORD is saying, for he speaks peace to his faithful people. But let them not return to their foolish ways. (NLT)

To Know in Your Knower

flowersIMG_2709What does it mean to hear the voice of God? It’s an age-old question. Sometimes you listen so hard and it seems like all you hear is silence. Sometimes you think you’ve heard more than one voice and it seems difficult to know which voice is the real deal.

I’ve had my children ask me, “How do you know when God is speaking to you? What does His voice sound like?” Of course there isn’t any audible sound, at least not when He speaks to me. But there are times when I know that I’ve heard from the Holy Spirit as surely as if He had spoken aloud.

I’ve explained it to my sons by telling them that I just know in my knower. I can’t pinpoint where that is exactl—it’s somewhere between my head and my heart. It really can’t be confined to one or the other because both have been known to want their own way and not be totally honest with me!

I remember a time when one of my boys asked permission to go somewhere. I’d prayed about it and felt sure that the answer should be no. Logically there was no real reason I could give him and my heart really wanted to let him go. I knew he would be disappointed but there was just this deep sense that it was not to be. He pressed me for a reason and I finally told him that when you walk with the Lord for a long time you develop a place inside that is for God alone. It’s not your mind or your heart, it is God’s place. It’s where God speaks and if you are willing to quiet both your heart and your mind, you will be able to hear God’s voice. I told him that I trusted that God was speaking about the situation and I knew enough to listen even when I didn’t understand.

I recently read an article that was trying to explain the difference between your heart and your mind. It said, “If it feels good it’s your heart and if it feels right it’s your mind.” I suppose that could be true, but it isn’t always helpful.  Sometimes what is right doesn’t feel right and certainly doesn’t feel good so how can it be either mind or heart?

Have you ever needed to make a decision that just wasn’t fitting into logical arguments and you also  felt clueless as  to  what your heart really wanted? That’s when you must direct both to be still and listen with your knower. God will speak. He’s waiting for the clamor to cease so you can hear.

Jeremiah 33:3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

John 14:16-17 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.