Perspective

…in humility count others more significant than yourselves. ESV Philippians 2:3

With the challenging demonstrations, protests, tweets and so forth, it seems we grow further and further apart as a nation, especially when it comes to race relations. Paul urged the Philippians (who were also struggling to get along) to consider each other better than themselves. Rather than trying to find what unites us, I feel it’s better to understand where the other side is coming from.

Briefly consider two current topics. First the Blue Lives Matter/Black Lives Matter tension. From the African American side, we need to understand what it’s like to be “pulled over for driving black.” What does that do to your perspective on police? I’ve only been pulled over twice…and both times I was wrong (speeding and headlight out). On the flip side, I also can’t imagine what it’s like to go to work each day as a cop not knowing if it will be your last day on earth. Every time someone makes a sudden move, or reaches in their pocket, you have a split second to make a decision to save your life and/or possibly end theirs. Obviously hindsight is 20/20 (and now 25 cell phones captured your every move). What pressure must they act under in these situations? Secondly, consider the sad happenings in Charlottesville. Many whites are afraid their way of life is dying. Boys used to follow in their father’s footsteps into well-paying blue-collar jobs straight out of high school. Those jobs no longer exist. Life has changed drastically. They feel oppressed, controlled by the government. Heroes are people like Robert E. Lee who led a charge against a perceived oppressive government. On the flip side, consider our African American brothers. People like Robert E. Lee fought to keep them enslaved. Statues honoring him bring pain and remind them or horrible events. 150 years after the civil war, we still fly flags and build statues honoring a painful, sinful part of our past. I’ve personally grown in my perspective through these events.

We should seek to understand motives, and condemn sinful actions. Hatred and violence are always wrong. When we first seek to understand people before judging them, we sometimes see their hearts. Sadly, because we are sinners, our hearts often lead us to sinful actions–hence the violence and hatred. May the gospel of grace and forgiveness allow us to have compassion on one another and work together to show the world the love of Jesus.

What I Can And Can’t Do For My Wife

…For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. ESV Romans 14:10

I’m slowly figuring this whole marriage thing out. As a Christian husband, there are so many things I can do for my wife. I can love her. I can pray for her. I can support her. I can encourage her spiritual development. At times, because of the headship concept presented in Scripture I feel I can do about everything for her. However, this morning I learned directly from God there’s something I can’t do for her. I can’t hear from God for her; she has to do that for herself. God will talk directly to her.

I’m learning to listen to God in my prayers. As such, I’m exploring my past and some of the strongholds of my flesh and the devil in my life. I’m learning to sit still before God and hear His voice as He opens my eyes to where these weaknesses first began, the lies I believed in these painful times, and the ways that impacted me. In turn, I’m learning how to replace those lies with the truths of the gospel and find healing, wholeness and life in Christ Jesus. This has been a profound and exciting experience for me. As my wife and I discussed these things, I excitedly told her I wanted her to benefit from healing prayer as well. She’s reading the book I read, but in my typical impatient fashion, I decided to pray this morning and listen for her. I asked the Lord to reveal to me what He is doing in her life so I could come and tell her. It was quiet for a while. Then I slowly sensed God chuckling. He basically told me that He will reveal Himself to her in His time and way. Hearing the deep ways He is working in her heart is reserved for her time with Him, not my time with Him.

I share this because we want to help our spouses. Wives desperately want their husbands to be changed by God. Husbands desperately want their wives to be impacted by the gospel. We can and should want this, and we should pray regularly for our spouses. However, only God can speak to their hearts. And He will, we can rest assured of that. Be encouraged. God will speak.

The State Of Our Children’s Souls

“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” ESV Mark 10:14-15

So what grade is your child (or grandchild) in? What grades do they make? Names of their best friends? How do they rank on their sports team? What’s their team record? don’t worry, you aren’t a failure if you don’t know all of these. However, let me ask this. What’s the state of your child’s soul? You might be saying, “Do what?” or  “How do you answer that?” True, it’s a challenging question, and I suppose only God truly knows the state of anyone’s soul. However, nothing matters more with our children than the state of their souls before God. As such, we would do well to care more for their souls than we do their friends or their team record. This is actually easier than it seems.

In the verses above, Jesus indicates children are actually prime candidates to believe the gospel. They have a simple “childlike” faith, and apparently that’s what it takes to enter the kingdom of heaven. As we introduce our children to God, sin, the consequences of sin, and the wonderful way Jesus died to redeem us from the consequences of sin, we are setting them up to have faith in Christ and secure the state of their souls. May I urge you the focus is not to get them to pray a prayer or ask Jesus into their heart (both technically unbiblical things). Instead, the focus is to encourage them to understand and embrace these realities in faith. As the the Holy Spirit regenerates their soul, He leads them to place their faith in Jesus, and their souls are redeemed. This should be our passionate prayer and highest goal as parents.

So yes, make sure to play catch with your son. Bake cupcakes with your daughter. Get to know their friends, cheer on their sports team. But above all, talk to them about God. Talk to them about sin. Discuss the ways sin brings death and separation. Revel in the awesomeness of Christ’s death and resurrection. Talk of faith and forgiveness. Pray for their redemption. And through this, know that state of your children’s soul. This is your greatest responsibility.

Planning Our Workweek

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. ESV Proverbs 16:9

With the start of school upon us, my workweek schedule adjusts a bit. I suspect yours does as well. Even if you don’t make changes due to school, most of us review our workweek calendars on Sunday night/Monday morning and note the unique challenges and projects we will face this week. We should consider two things when we do this.

First, we should plan our weeks. God’s clearly reveals His sense of order and structure in creation, and carefully planning our weeks enables us to accurately reflect His image in us. He tasked us with the great responsibility of ruling over creation, so whatever part of the creation you rule over–do it well! Make the most of every opportunity. Consider how to maximize and protect the part of the world you influence. Your clients, your students, your kids, your projects, your assignments, your installs, your service calls, your appointments–make them all count. By carefully reviewing your responsibilities, you can get more done and bring greater glory to God this week. This is part of God’s spiritual formation in your life.

Secondly, as noted in the proverb above, take some time to pray over your schedule for the week. Acknowledge to God that He ultimately guides your steps. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your week in a unique way. Ask Him to open doors you didn’t see coming at the beginning of the week. Ask Him to calm your spirit when plans suddenly change, and enable you to embrace them as God’s special opportunities. Perhaps these will be opportunities to share the gospel, perhaps opportunities to grow yourself. Look to the Lord and His guidance, and know that when you reach the end of the week, He will have been with you every step of the way.

Jesus Cares For You

…He cares for you. ESV 1 Peter 5:7

How are you feeling today? What is the state of your soul? Has it been a good week? A long week? Are you wondering where the week went? Sunday gives us a chance each week to reconnect our soul to Jesus, and on this Sunday I feel compelled to remind you how much Jesus cares for you. Really.

Are you trapped in sin? Did you fail again? Did you yell at the kids, watch porn, overeat, worry, gossip, curse, steal, backstab, or worship another god this week? Know that Jesus cares for you. He died for you. You are forgiven. Claim it in Jesus name. Are you struggling? Hurting? Is your arthritis acting up, your cancer returning, your hair falling out, your ulcer hurting, your hormones imbalanced, your eyesight fading or your mind failing? Jesus cares for you. He knows about it, and He knows what it is to suffer. Remember, he went 40 days without eating and endured a horrifically painful death. Jesus cares for you in your pain. Are you lonely? Are you rejected? Have your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances left you? Jesus cares for you. Remember many turned away from Him during His ministry and His closest friends forsook Him in His greatest hour of need. Are you hurting? Are you anxious? Are you burdened from depression, abuse, neglect, or abandonment? Jesus cares for you. Remember His father turned His back on Him. He knows what you are going through. Are you hungry? Are you lacking clothing? Are you poor, jobless, homeless, carless, behind on bills, not knowing where your next meal will come from? Jesus cares for you. Remember, He trusted His Father daily for His needs–He didn’t even know where He would sleep each night.

Regardless of how you feel now, know that Jesus cares for you. If you are joy-filled, happy, healthy and whole: know Jesus cares for you and ever good and perfect gift comes from Him. If you struggle in any way, may you look to Jesus and find healing, hope and life. After all, that’s what He offers in what we call the gospel. Sins forgiven, hurts healed, life worth living: all through simple faith in Jesus Christ. No matter where you are today, may you be reminded Jesus cares for you. That is enough my friend.

Listening to Jesus

 Oh, that my people would listen to me ,ESV Psalm 81:13

We listen to a lot. Talk radio, our kids, our spouses, the news, lectures, teachers, presentations, commercials, announcements… Solomon commented the ear is never filled with hearing (Ecc 1:8) though we may want it to be when our kids continue to talk, chatter, mumble, chirp, complain and laugh. As believers, we often try to listen to good things. Christian radio, sermons or podcasts, conversations with other believers, even the Bible read out loud. These things are good, and I enjoy all of them. However, in all of my listening, I find that often the person I listen to the least is Jesus.

Granted, from my past, I was taught to be skeptical of listening straight to Jesus. I was taught He speaks through His word, through other believers, etc. (and He does to be sure). I’m slowly coming to realize Jesus earnestly desires to speak to us, and wants us to learn to listen directly to Him. Remember, we have the Holy Spirit living inside us. We have God’s Word hopefully planted deep in our minds and hearts. Through these He often speaks to us in our daily time with Him. However, I’m learning that when I need a direct answer to a deep issue, especially when I’m facing a recurring challenge in my soul, I often need to go sit and listen directly to Jesus. In this form of listening prayer I ask Him a question, then sit and wait for a response. He usually doesn’t say much–only a thought or two–but the power of those thoughts is quite profound.

Learning to listen to Jesus directly forms a profound part of our spiritual development. Begin by asking the Lord Jesus to clear your mind of distracting thoughts and voices. Ask Him to quiet our soul. Then ask Him what He wants to say to you, (realizing He may want to address some deep pain or wounds in your soul), and quietly wait for Him to bring something to mind. As He does, interact with Him, comparing His Words to Scripture to confirm them. The results are tremendous…too much to share in a short post. I pray you will consider listening directly to the voice of Jesus. He wants to speak to you. May He bring healing and hope to your soul as you listen.

Do We Really Need It?

Do not love the world or the things in the world. ESV 1 John 2:15

I’m confused. I recently read an article that asserted my generation is poorer than my parents’ generation. I have a hard time believing that. When I was growing up, I had a bike. As in one. As in it was too big for me when my parents got it for me, and it was too small for me when I finally outgrew it. We got Christmas presents that we shared. We had one tv in the house. Granted, my family wasn’t super rich, and we had lots of kids. I suppose other kids maybe had bikes that fit their size a bit better. Perhaps they got a few more toys than I did. Maybe even had a Nintendo that was their own and not shared with their siblings.

Haha, enter the 2010s. Somehow all of us (kids and adults) have not only our own things, but multiples of them. Do you remember when the whole family shared an iPad? Now every kid has their own. Not only that but they have their cracked one, and their new one. And their phone. And their laptop. And their old iPod they don’t use anymore. And their Chromebook. And their Fit-bit. And their flatscreen. And maybe another phone. (And each member of the family has all of the above). I remember when my friends had a skateboard. As in one. As in one probably handed down from their older brother or bought at a yard sale. Now my son has a skateboard, a penny board, a long board and he wants to order another long board. We have 12 bikes for 5 kids. Stop the madness!

Somewhere we have become incredibly materialistic. We believe multiplying stuff will bring us happiness. Perhaps we have fallen more in love with the world than we care to admit. Spiritual formation calls us to love Christ more than the world. It doesn’t mean these things are wrong, and it’s fine to enjoy what Christ has given to us. However, I wonder if perhaps somewhere we have stumbled off track and multiplied stuff that we don’t need. Perhaps God is calling us back to a simpler life…a life with fewer things. Just a thought.

Living As A Neighbor

Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor? ESV Luke 10:36

Usually I drive straight home from work. However, the other day, I stopped by a widow’s home in our neighborhood and met my boys there to spread mulch. Then I chatted with her for a while. After that, I stopped by another home where I’m getting the mail and feeding the cat while they are out of town. Long story short, I got home two hours later than normal. Yesterday I spent time tracking down the guy that does the sign in the front of the community to coordinate a neighborhood effort to keep them in good repair. Again, it took precious time out of my day. I share these stories not to laud my actions (because this was actually the first sacrificial time with my neighbors in a LONG time), but to demonstrate the cost of living neighborly.

Most people agree we should love our neighbors. It sounds good on paper. It takes a high level of commitment though, more than we are often willing to do. It’s easy to say we want to love our neighbors; it’s another to actually mow their lawn (when your own lawn needs mowing), visit with them (when you haven’t even called your mother), converse with them (when you are running late)… However, as part of our spiritual formation Jesus called us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

This drives us back to the gospel. Apart from the power of God and the indwelling Holy Spirit, it is quite impossible to love our neighbors as we ought. Only when we meditate on Christ’s love for us can we find the power and time to begin to engage them in a way that demonstrates true love. Only when we realize that Christ loved us in our sinfulness, can we engage our neighbors in their sinfulness (it’s very hard for me to love people that I perceive as not worthy of it…for instance, if they blew their money on a BMW, and now can’t afford a mower for their yard, and ask me to mow it, I tend to judge and not want to do it). However, as I realize Christ’s sacrifice for me, I’m moved with compassion to love. Join me in loving our neighbors, and pray they see His love in us and follow Him.

Enjoy Your Spouse

…rejoice in the wife of your youth. ESV Proverbs 5:18

It’s interesting how some things in Scripture at times seem to be a blessing, and at others times a curse. Take the admonition above to rejoice in the wife of your youth. If you are living in a good marriage, this sounds easy, even rewarding. However, if you struggle with loving your spouse, this command seems more like a curse. Perhaps God created many of His commands that way, designed to lead us from the curse of sin into the life God intended.

If you struggle to enjoy your spouse, no doubt some kind of pain or trauma impacted your marriage. After all, you liked each other enough to get married. Somewhere along your journey though, either all at once, or gradually through a series of events, your spouse wounded you and you no longer enjoy living with them. Perhaps God uses verses like these to gently pry into our souls and turn our gaze to Him. What happened to cause your marriage to be challenging? What sins did your spouse commit against you? In what ways have you been unable to forgive your spouse? In what ways might God want to work in both of your hearts? The message of the gospel brings forgiveness and hope. Remember that Christ dies for all the sins you committed against your spouse and all the sins your spouse committed against you. He died to bring you life…life that involves enjoying your spouse. If you struggle to enjoy your life with your spouse, take time now to ask God to search your heart and lead you to the life promised in the gospel.

Sometimes, the power of the gospel has already born fruit in our marriages. If you enjoy each day with your spouse, remember to praise God for it. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him, and if He has allowed forgiveness and joy to permeate your marriage, then rejoice in that. Thank Him for His wonderful work in your marriage. Pray His ongoing protection over things. Of course, being sinners, stain and stress will come. You will hurt your spouse, and/or they will bring you pain. When that time comes, be quick to embrace the forgiveness of the gospel. Only then can we enjoy our spouses. May your marriage be filled with enjoyment!

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