15 April 2010
12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Weekdays can be very busy. Pastoring is so definitely not a 'Sunday only' job. Typically there is church work of some sort be done at least 7 days a week, and for emergencies you are on call 24/7/365. Praise God, He provides balance, and there is great joy in seeing Him work in the lives of the people around you, great joy indeed. But with time being tight, despite the hectic schedule, I look forward very much to the time I spend with my kids in our bible studies together. I want to share a bit of that with you all today.
For the first time, I gave all three children a homework assignment for this bible study. I wanted each of them to show me something, anything from scripture that they did not know before. Wyatt, my oldest son did exactly that. At 14 Wyatt is a young man. Growing by leaps and bounds, now nearly as tall as me, sharp in intellect and wit, and with his voice now changing as he sounds as if he is turning into Barry White, he is also maturing spiritually as well.
He came to me with this passage out of James 1:12. Then he read it to me. Then he went on to show me that even though as parents we sometimes do not see it, that God is working in his life.
None of us know how much time we have before us on this, the God created earth. As Christians we all have the promise of our future with bridegroom ahead of us. But when will that time come? Sooner for some than others, this is for certain. But in the mean time, not knowing how long we have, each trial or rough spell we go through we must persevere. Seeing and hearing this concept expressed through the experience of a new believer or a young person can be, well, a little odd. As old fogies, our first thoughts (of the flesh of course) are, 'what can you teach ME about perseverance? You're only 14!" But when you look into the eyes of that person as they explain what that means to them, you are drawn back to that simplicity of the gospel, and that love drives it all.
Understanding and waiting with anticipation the blessing for perseverance is something we all must learn. But what that blessing might be, or what we imagine it to be can be far different for a 14 year old than a 45 year old. Even more importantly, understanding that one must persevere the temptation in order to see that blessing can be very motivating. Knowing that we have been approved by God because we have persevered is a boost to our faith that may not ever be topped. Life can be very hard for us. For some it is financial matters. For others it might be health or disease. For still others, it might be not lashing out at that bully in the playground or gym who likes to push our buttons. For the very young in age and young in Christ it might be as simple as making it through the day without forgetting to do your chores. Not matter what we are called to persevere, we must obey God in that. But we must just as equally understand that to do so is to be blessed and approved of by God.
Wyatt did teach me that day. He taught me a lot. He taught me that understanding comes from God, and that it comes in ways that others may not understand, or that others may not see. He also taught me that the love we have for God sometimes needs to be expressed in very personal ways as we mature. And he taught me that I need to be patient with the Lord, and trust Him to know that the work that I want to do, is already being done by Him. That short visit opened my eyes in many ways. God humbles me often as we have a tendency to take too much control of things spiritual that the Holy Spirit must do. God is so working among us. In our families, in our churches, and I believe we will see it all the more as things begin to crumble around us. The meek inherit the earth. All others inherit something else.
14 April 2010
2 Timothy 3:17
17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
I was blessed, so blessed yesterday to go to the local home improvement store where my two sons both bought their first tool belts. How awesome. It was their decision, and pretty much their idea. I had been looking at a small unit for myself, and they both decided, one before the other, that they too wanted one. AND, they needed some tools to go in them as well! It was like a Tim the Toll Man moment!
I'm not sure what the Lord has in store for either of these boys. The oldest still has motivations that surround aircraft, flying, and weather. The younger has it all mapped out; first the military, then the NFL, and then he wants to work at my place of employment. But as of late, they have both gotten their hands into building and construction, and as with most men, building things with your hands is a very satisfying thing. Scripture encourages us to do just that (I Corinthians 4:12, Ephesians 4:28, I Thessalonians 4:11). But our spiritual lives mimic our physical ones in this way: WE must have the tools for the job before we can accomplish the work, we have to do the best job we can with the tools we have, and finally, as we get more practical hands-on experience, the better the results that can be attained.
It's no accident that Jesus was a carpenter. When we speak of Christian leadership, it seems that we focus so much on the shepherd. There are of course many references to shepherding in the gospels as it refers to leading Christians in the 'flock'. Pastors and teachers are often referred to as shepherds and commanded to guide their 'sheep' (new Christians) in a manner consistent with the character of God, the leading of the Holy Spirit, teaching them the Apostles Doctrine. Pastors today are still referred to ask shepherds, and that leads to all sorts of analogies of pastors as leaders and congregants or church goers as sheep following the lead of their shepherd and appropriately so. But not much is made of analogies to the carpenter.
For a carpenter, there are all sorts of tolls that assist in the work that needs to be done to finish your work. I encouraged both my boys to start with the basic tools; square, tape measure, level, razor cutter etc. Basic tools that allow any man (I say man generically in an all encompassing sense of mankind…) to do the job better are always helpful. Power tools can be even more helpful, even desired. But the best craftsmen do everything by hand, and a premium is given to them for that work in both platitudes and remuneration. But the reality for the carpenter is this: his only real tool needed to do his work are his hands. All other tolls are to compliment his hands, and make the job for hid hands easier.
As Christians, the only tool required is God's Word. Through it, we have all we need to accomplish our work. Yes we have other tools, dictionaries, concordances, lexicons, maps, charts timelines etc. We even have 'power tools' with electronic bible software such as my personal favorite Logos®. But all we need is scripture. All else is there to help our bibles do more for us in an easier way, but all we need is God's Word, alive in scripture, to finish the job; that is to be forgiven, and accept salvation from Jesus Christ.
It is a joy to watch my sons equip themselves with the tools to do the work of a carpenter. It is an honorable profession. But even though carpentry is always in need, and is a time honored profession, I have no idea whether this will become their bread winning income or not. I just have to help them along the way, point them to the things that will help them most, correct them with examples of practical experience so that they do not make the same mistakes that others who came before them did. Ultimately however, their future lies in God's hands, and will be one appropriately judged and or blessed based on the decisions they make themselves. Their spiritual lives are mirror images of that. I can guide them, offer assistance, give them the tools they need to make their lives better, easier, pass on personal experience and joys of success and times of hurt from failure in hopes that they do not do the same. But ultimately, their futures are in the hands of God. Their blessings and judgments will come at His hand and will be justly administered based on the decisions they make in their lives.
As a pastor and a father I shepherd three of my own children and the loving wife that God has so blessed me with, plus the flock that he entrusted into my care. My main responsibility is to ensure that all those under my care are well equipped for the good work of God. Secondarily as a shepherd, I need to provide protection. This can apply to physical protection when it comes into play, but mainly spiritual protection. Doing this makes it doubly important to see that all those whom God has entrusted into my care are fully equipped, and equipped with the uncompromised word of God. In the end however, it all comes down to the choice of the individual. Each one of us must choose daily to carry our cross, or throw it to the ground as if this is somehow going to lighten our burdens. Being thoroughly equipped is a prerequisite. But it is insurance of nothing.
May God bless you with His word today. May we all seek to not just be more fully equipped, but ready in our hearts to obey, and put God's guidance into action.
12 April 2010
and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Each day I'm faced with some new moment that shows me that children are not so little any more. We love our kids, and being with them all the time means we do not get to see the jumps in growth the same way that others do. But it is getting to the point where I'm ready to take down all the pictures of our kids when they were littler because it is just reminding me all the more that they are growing up so fast. My oldest son now wears my show size, and has a voice as deep as mine at time. Makes me sad…
Every time I muse on this subject I am almost immediately reminded of all the passage in the New Testament where Jesus refers to the little children. They are so important to Him. He desires them. He wants them to be near Him. Let them come (Matthew 19:14), bring them to me (Luke 18:16), do not forbid them (Mark 10:14), receive them (Mark 9:37), He touches them (Luke 18:15). I realize that in these passages, Jesus is speaking about/to actual infants, small children running and playing, and that can sit on His lap. But the analogy is that they are like so many of us, young and impressionable in their faith. I'll grant you, I'm a bit large to be sitting on most people's laps, but the lap of Jesus is big enough for any of us.
I am most intrigued by the fact that Jesus tells us that we must become like children to enter the Kingdom. If you have been a believer for long, you have reviewed or at least heard this verse taught. We talk about the attitude of a child, the simplicity, the vulnerability and especially the innocence of the child as points to mark in our own lives. If we can just look at faith and our relationship with Jesus on those levels, it sure seems like things would be so much easier to understand, believe and trust. How true this is, and these are certainly points we need to consider and focus on as we study and meditate on this passage. But I see more.
What about progression of growth? What about growing in knowledge to the point we begin to think and understand things in a more mature way? As we all know, not all children are the same. They analyze things and assume things differently. A two year old does not think the same way as a five or eight year old. As we get older, we are expected to handle the same situation in a more mature manner.
I think Jesus real point is the simplicity of it all. I understand how children are oh too often the victims. Adults make things over complicated or over-look our children way too often. The most glaring example of this is the children's table at family dinners. Granted, some of this is simply a matter of space, but how many of us relegate our children to the basement, or another room as soon as dinner is over?
Jesus example is to have the children close, interacting with us, using us as an example, and us always loving them. But to use the analogy of being like children in order to get into heaven, means we must be constantly placing ourselves in the shoes of children as we seek to understand God's will in our lives. It does not mean we have to act like two year olds, far from it. But it does mean that we have to act and react with simplicity and love. We need to react by being available and always wanting to be with the Father. It means we need to examine how we are thinking, and are we analyzing and meditating on scripture in a way that is equal to our maturity, in this case in Christ?
If you have been a believer for some time, it is time to look at what God has you going through in your life with the eyes of a mature believer, but with the heart of a child always wanting to be pleasing to the Father with little or no prerequisite as to how the outcome might make us feel. If we are seasoned believers being over looked, being spiritually sent to the basement or a different room, or relegated to something less than what we all are in Christ, EQUAL (Colossian 3:11)! Apply the simplicity of faith to your daily walk, and as you mature in faith, seek not to complicate that faith, but rather to put that simple faith to work in more and more areas of your walk.
Being 'as a child' does not mean we become "Toys-R-Us"® Christians where we never grow up. What is means is that AS we grow up, we keep the heart of a child, always wishing to be on the lap of the Father.