Sunday, August 29, 2010

I was talking to a friend on Friday over lunch. He was relating to me how he drove over the other side of the state to make a hospital visit. It was six hours of driving for a 30 minute conversation. He talked about how he was so glad that he went and how he was able to be with this woman and her husband just before surgery, comforting them, praying with them, being with them in a time of uncertainty.

He asked a question that surprised me. "I wonder how much of that visit was selfish and how much of it was selfless?" He went on to explain that he had been thinking about if going traveling this distance, of meeting with this woman was about making him feel significant and good than it was for her. He confessed that some of that was probably in his motives somewhere.

I began to think about this. How much of what I do, think and feel is really about me and not about God and others? I thought of an experiment that I do not want to do - take a piece of paper and make three columns. One column titled "Selfless Things", the second titled "Selfless/Selfish Mix Things) the last column titled "Selfish Things". My fear if I did this experiment is that I would have a very small list in the first column (if anything), hopefully a longer list in the middle column and probably a very long list in the last column.

The fact that I came to this conclusion troubled me. I have walked with God for many years, I pursue a relationship with him, I try intentionally live a life that is Godly, I try and use my finances to help others, blah, blah, blah. That what it felt like: blah, blah, blah.

I was struck with two things during this mental exercise:

First, the whole sin thing is pervasive IN ME. I mean, it has a huge foothold on me - even though I think that I am a pretty good person. When I really understand my heart and really look at my motives, I really am not a good person. I am selfish a LOT of the time - even in the midst of acting to be selfless, some selfishness creeps in. Someone said it this way - we all draw from a polluted well. Paul said it this way in a letter that he wrote to a church in Rome - the things that I want to do I don't and the things that I don't want to do I do (see Romans 6-8).

Second, God is EXTREMELY gracious. Even when one of his children is not where He wants them to be - even when I act for myself a ton of the time, He still loves me, works with me, cares for me and wants my best. He is NOT waiting for me to sin so that He can whack me. The death of Jesus took care of all the punishment for my sin. He is though, working, moving, trying to help me, through His Spirit, to root out the sin junk in my life.

All the more reason to worship Him....

Monday, August 23, 2010

It is funny how God uses so much in nature to teach us lessons. Not really that funny I guess; He designed it so He could illustrate how things work. Kind of like living parables.

I was doing some work in my yard tonight. I have some areas in my yard that are more crabgrass than they are grass. It seems almost pandemic this year. I mix weed killer in a tank sprayer so that I can treat only the areas that have weeds.

As I was spraying areas that had crab grass, I noticed something: weeds travel in packs. Around the crab grass there was clover, a random dandelions, a bit of buck horn, etc. Rarely was there just one weed or one type of weed. It seems as if the weeds find the weakest spot in the grass and then get a foot hold. The areas where the grass is thick and full and has a good root system, there doesn't seem to be room for weeds.

I know that this is a generalization and there is no guarantee that weeds will not form in "good" grass, but it seemed to be a pattern in my yard.

As I pondered this, it seemed to be a reflection of sin in our lives - it kind of travels in packs. This may say more about how we let sin into our lives than it does about sin itself. When we open the door and allow a sin in, we don't "close the door". It's as if we are inviting sin in.... With the door open, other sins start to walk in and take residence. They are always outside the door waiting to get in. When they see opportunity, they come in. (The scars of the old nature leave us highly susceptible to the return of sin.)

How do we weed sin out of our lives? First we have to recognize it as a weed. Easier said than done sometimes. Second, we have to do the work of rooting it out. This really is the work of God, but our role in rooting out sin is confession (see I John 1:9). This last step is the where the time is spent. Recognition/confession, recognition/confession, recognition while the weed is growing/confession, recognition of the weed seed/confession: repeat.......

Monday, August 16, 2010

Read a troubling article this afternoon about youth and the church. The fact that struck me was that in 2007 a study showed that 70% of 18-22 year olds are abandoning the church.

I have been struggling with this with my kids. My oldest is 21 and in her 4th year at college, with an 18 year old not too far behind. I work at a church and have grown up in the church, so this next statement, that I have made to my older kids, has tormented me a bit: "You don't have to go to church, you just need to have a spiritual input into your life".

What I started to realize is that, as a parent, I was "going to church" as a euphemism for "spiritual vitality and growth". By continually pushing going to church, I was missing the real point - you have to connect with God.

This is a fine line to walk as my kids have been developing in their relationship with God. There are things that they must learn - there are facts and knowledge from the scriptures that they have to have. I see no problem with making my 7th (soon to be 8th) grader go to church, go to the Jr High class and attend LifeLine (our church's version of student ministry). However, as my older kids begin to move "out of the nest", I found that I needed to challenge them to begin to make their own spiritual decisions.

After my daughter's first year at college, I recounted how many times I asked her "did you go to church?" I realized that I was nagging her about an activity, not challenging her about where she was getting spiritual input. (I hoped this would be at a church, but it turns out that Campus Crusade for Christ was instrumental in her growth.)

I am thinking that if we want to reach the next generation, we have to be more concerned about guiding them through their spiritual journey PERSONALLY, not relying on an organization called the church to do this. I hope that the church can be a tool in that journey (in fact I am staking a good chunk of my life on it), but what this article tells me that the journey is going to have to start at a different point and take a different path than I and previous generations did. It is going to be a harder path because it is going to take more work, but I think that it will be worth it.

See this link for the article.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

A couple of years ago, I removed the sand from the kids sand box with the intent of planting a garden. My youngest daughter and I worked on tilling the garden with a borrowed rototiller. We then planted beans, corn, sunflower, watermelon and squash seeds the week before Memorial Day.

The first thing to pop up were weeds - lots of them. We spent time hoeing and pulling weeds to allow the plants to sprout. After a couple of weeks, the seeds sprouted! It was so cool to watch the expression on my daughter's face as we looked at the sprouts.

Then it was more weeds. Weeds, weeds, weeds. Lots of work to keep the vegetables growing and the weeds down! The sprouts grew, the plants flowered and small beans began to form. It wasn't log before had beans!

The reality is that what I wrote in a a couple of paragraphs took about 60 days of time and many hours of labor. I was reminded of what Paul said to the church in Galatia:

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

We understand this - planting comes first and then harvesting. However, we want the time between harvesting and planting to be measured in minutes, not weeks and months. The reality is that there is a lot of time between the planting and the harvest. Tilling, weeding, hoeing, weeding, keeping the rabbits from eating the plants, thinning the plants, weeding....lots of time and work and THEN there is the harvest.

Paul is enjoining us to believe that we WILL reap a harvest; keep planting, keep weeding, keep the rabbits out - you will reap if you continue to obey. God gave us a garden to illustrate this eternal principle!

(PS Anyone want some tomatoes?)

Friday, August 06, 2010

Have started studying Joshua. Four times in the first chapter the words "be strong and courageous" are used. Note two of these times....

1:7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.

The beginning thought and the end thought of this section are "be strong and courageous". Sandwiched right in the middle is the counsel to be obedient; radically obedient. Be careful to obey ALL the law; do not turn; do not let the law depart from your mouth, do everything written in it.

Remember that 37 years before this command was given, the Israelites had failed to enter the land because of lack of courage. They had wandered for 37 years in the desert until all the men over 20 years old died. God did not want a repeat. They did not want a repeat. They needed courage to be obedient; to move into the land and take it; to be the purveyor of God's justice in a totally evil culture. They needed the strength and the courage to obey; to faithfully obey.

Be strong and courageous: VERY hard to do when the siren song of sin is calling you to move away from God. Radical, 100% of the time, doing everything that God desires obedience is tough. It takes strength of character, it takes sustained courage of conviction - it is just plain hard.

What is God saying to me? What is he asking of me? Do I have the strength to radically obey regardless of the circumstances? Do I have the courage to stand in the face of evil and obey? Do I have the depth of faith to totally obey? Am I strong enough to walk in faith when my emotions tell me to walk another way? Good questions......... Something to pray for and to prepare for - I know that the day that I need to be strong and courageous is coming.

PS Note what the result of radical obedience it: then you will be prosperous and successful. Quite a promise.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Sorry that it has been while since I have written. Was on vacation for the past two weeks and fully intended to write, but my laptop decided to fritz, so...... (it is fixed now; it was waiting for me when I arrived home).

We traveled to Tennessee to stay for a while in the mountains. We rented a place that was on the side of a foot hill of the Smokies, a few minutes off the main drag.

It was a week of stark contrasts. The place where we were staying was off the beaten path, winding roads, pastoral settings (with the occasional dumpy place thrown in), hills, etc. Not a lot of people around.

It struck me as I drove through the Smoky Mountains, that there is intrinsic beauty in God's creation. Walking through the Smokies and finding waterfalls reminded me that God did us a HUGE favor by creating such a beautiful place. What if He had created everything in black and white? What if He had created everything flat? What a boring place this planet would be.

But He didn't. He created and said that it was good. It is good. It is beautiful. It is amazing to see the creativity of His handiwork and understand that he gave me eyes to see this and a place to experience it!