Disaster Averted

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I had this old water heater in my last house. One night I noticed a tiny droplet of water on the bottom the expansion tank. Close by was a spot that looked rusted over. Directly below, at the bottom of the heater itself was another rust spot. Around that was a water spot on the platform that the water heater sat on. My assumption was that the drip from the expansion tank had been leaking onto the base of the water heater and causing it to rust. So I shut the water off and ran to the store to buy a new tank. Once I got that replaced I felt confident that the problem was resolved. A couple weeks later the water spot around the tank looked larger. I examined the tank that I replaced and all seemed well. I made a plan to come back and look at things in another day or two. But…it didn’t make it that long! The next day I get a call from my wife telling me how the garage is flooding. The water heater had ruptured. I told her how to shut off the water until I could get there to clean up the mess. My awesome father in law and along with one of my friends came to the rescue and helped switch out the tank for us before I even got there.

A slow drip had turned into a disastrous leak. Just like sin in our lives. There are things that are hurting us and are slowly showing signs of concern. Some allow anger to build and it slowly alters the way they treat others until one day they explode. Some allow lustful thoughts to creep in until one day they are wrapped up in an affair. Some pour themselves into their careers more and more year after year until one day they are so distant from their families. We have a choice to address those signs early and correct the problem before the flood happens. We can’t be negligent with sin. We can’t put it off for another day. Our motto cannot be, “I’ll just get through this and tomorrow I’ll do it differently.” Tomorrow will be too late.

I can’t say that I blew off the water heater issue. But I was not diligent in discovering the entirety of the problem so only part of it was solved. Partially dealing with our sin amounts to doing nothing. The disastrous flood is coming unless the sin is wholely addressed. We need to figure out why this is part of our lives. Why do I put such a high priority on work? Why do I lust after others? Why am I angry? There’s always a root and it’s not always easy to find. That’s why we need to be surrounded by safe people who we allow to speak into our lives. That’s why we need to abide in the Lord and devote ourselves to being connected to Him. That’s why we need to spend time consistently reflecting on our lives and motives. None of us are leakproof but we can all be patched up and made whole by the One who made us.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;
    save me, and I shall be saved,
    for you are my praise.

Jeremiah 17:14 ESV

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Sloppy Christians

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The Christian is the partaker of the greatest gift in human history – God’s grace. A sad byproduct of grace can sometimes be sloppiness on the part of the recipient. People can get lax, neglectful, and take their faith in a very casual manner. Those are three words that are never found in the Bible and never meant to describe the follower of Jesus. Instead, it says:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Romans 10:9-11 ESV

Our faith is not a competition but it should be something that is propelling us forward. Progress is never casual, lax, or neglectful. The key contrast in the above quotation is between slothful and zeal. The Believer should be extremely zealous for the Lord and the mission we’ve been placed here for. We should be growing love for God and for others. We should be more about others and less about ourselves every year we get closer to the Lord. To have zeal is to have great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. Our cause is to know Christ and to make Him known to the world. Our objective is humanity set free from the bondage of sin and death through a relationship with Jesus.

…and so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…

Colossians 1:9-11 ESV

We need to be growing in knowledge and wisdom. We need to be bearing fruit. We need to be experiencing His Holy Spirit power working in us. This is not the description of a sloppy Christian, this is someone who is in love with their Savior.

Wait for the first raindrop

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At a hospital near where I live, they’ve been building a large two-story add-on wing. They’ve been working on it for months and they’ve had large crews of trained construction workers, as well as the luxury of all the modern day equipment. It seems like weeks go by and it doesn’t look like much progress is being made. Several months in the project is nowhere near completion. That brings me to another large building project. In Genesis chapter 6, Noah was given an incredible task…to build an ark in preparation for a disastrous event, unlike anything that had ever occurred in human history. This ark was far larger than the hospital wing in my home town. It was even many times the size of a famous landmark that has made headlines recently…the Cathedral of Notre Dame. It’s one of the most famous buildings in all of Europe. Construction of the massive church began in 1163, during the reign of King Louis VII, and was completed in 1345. That’s nearly two hundred years for one building. Noah had a work crew that consisted of his family and no modern building equipment. That’s a monumental task!

Have you ever been asked to do something extremely difficult? How about being prompted by God to do something that would cost you big? Noah’s entire life was dictated by this project. It was his future. It was his calling. As if this wasn’t hard enough, the Bible also tells us that he spent those years preaching about the impending judgment and the path of redemption that God had provided. So now, Noah has to build a giant boat, that would house multiples of every animal on Earth, and in addition, he is tasked with sharing a difficult message to a world that had rejected God. I imagine that there would have been plenty of opportunities for doubt and weariness to set in.

If you find yourself involved in circumstances that don’t exactly make sense, take heart. Keep moving forward. Learn from Noah, who continued on the path God had set him on, regardless of the hostility he faced. Regardless of the length of his efforts, Noah persisted. Keep in mind, Noah worked on the ark longer than any of us have been alive. That’s perseverance. That’s commitment. That’s faith. For Noah, it was all about being faithful while waiting for that first raindrop to fall. The reward, for Noah and for us, is in staying the course regardless of the cost. If you were asked to build a giant boat for an apocalyptic event that had never happened before, you wouldn’t think it made sense. I’m sure Noah had his questions too. It was, after all, human. But he weathered the uncertain because he loved the God who was certain. Don’t lose heart brothers and sisters. That same God is certain in your life too.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV

You’re Being Read

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Very few people in the world today actually read the Bible. The above image was taken from Christians….CHRISTIANS! More than 50% of Christians are not familiar with the Bible. Only 20% have actually read the entire thing. This is God’s story. This is the story of humanity. It’s the story of redemption, past, present, and future. It’s the most valuable information we could ever gain. It’s universal in application. It’s faultless. Yet, for so many, it’s collecting dust on people’s shelves or sitting as an unused app on their phones. If this is the case among Christians, you know that far fewer non-believers are reading it. But do you know what they are reading? You and me. If people aren’t reading about who Jesus is, we need to show them. We may be the only image of Jesus they get. What message are the people in your life getting? The message of Christ is not contained when it lives in and through His followers. Let’s show the world the contents of the Bible by how we live and love and the truth that is the banner of our lives.

Don’t Look at the cup, look at what’s inside

 

My two little girls are obsessed with what color plate or bowl they get whenever I make them something to eat. The other day I brought home some yummy buttery popcorn as a treat and my wife poured it out in a couple bowls for them. In less than two seconds they started arguing over which bowl they got. Talk about first world problems. It made me so sad, and if I’m being honest, a little upset too. I took the opportunity for a teaching moment. I told them they need to stop focusing on the bowl and focus on what’s in the bowl. They were missing their treat for the sake of having a Wonder Woman bowl or Noah’s Ark bowl. The container was more important to them than the contents. I know my kids will outgrow this as they mature and learn the true values of life. Unfortunately, so many don’t. I’ve met them. You’ve met them. They’re everywhere. They can’t see the value of what’s inside a person because all they look at is the outside. Our physical bodies are only a container for the most important aspects of who we truly are.

The Bible is full of object lessons on this very topic. God has been wanting us to look at the world through this lens from the very beginning. Think about it. The Garden was just place. What made it special was the presence of God there. Same can be said about the tabernacle and the temple. They were all empty shells without the treasure of God’s presence dwelling there. The Ark of the covenant was only a fancy box. What made it special was the contents. Noah’s ark was merely a boat without the precious cargo inside. Jesus Himself was simply flesh without the fullness of God being embodied in Him. Even the new heaven and earth that awaits is simply a beautiful new world but would be pointless without the glory of God radiating there for all eternity.

We are all but flesh and bones apart from the true beauty within. In the first pages of the Bible it states that we are made in the image of God. That image does not consist of our outward appearance, but our ordained purpose, great desire for love, our longing for relationship, and the fact that we are intimately designed by the Creator of everything in existence. The real treasure is on the inside. Don’t miss out on it.

Know Where You’re Going?

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Recently I was sitting in one of my coworker’s classrooms and I caught a glimpse of a poster hanging on the wall. It read, “If you’re not aiming at anything in life, you’re guaranteed to go nowhere.” The poster encouraged kids to set goals for their life and pursue them in order to have a sense of direction. I think most people can relate to a feeling of floundering and waywardness at certain junctures in their journey through life.

For me, goal setting was really emphasized growing up. With that said, I can’t say that I was encouraged to set all the right goals. Most of mine had to do with career, athletics, and school. Those are all good things but something extremely important, downright vital, is missing from the list. Spiritual goals were never an important aspect of my life until about 10 years ago. Because of that, I floundered. You better believe my schooling, athletics, and career pathways were darn near precise. I stayed on track and achieved a lot of what I set out to do. But it was empty because of my lack of direction in the spiritual sense.

I think goals are great. Everyone needs to have them no matter who you are. I will raise my children with that. But I will go further, for their sake. Their spiritual goal is first, foremost, and above all others. It will not be the leftovers from whatever energy they have remaining. It will not be something they put on hold until they graduate, start a family, or “arrive” at the career they want. That’s how I operated, and I want more than anything, to save my kids from that troublesome pathway through life.

Several places in the Bible we are given spiritual goals to pursue. That saves us from the hardest part…figure out where we want to go. The most essential part of any journey is knowing the destination. Without one, everything in between is a lump sum of haphazard choices and consequences. God never intended anyone to go through life that way. So He gave us a destination (knowing Him), a guidance system (His Holy Spirit), and a straight and narrow road (Jesus) to get there.  Here’s a great starter list of five common goals for anyone needing a jumping off point for setting their spiritual goals:

#1- Declare the Praises of God

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9

#2-Serve Jesus and live like He did

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

Colossians 1:16

#3-Respect God and live the way He’s called us to

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.

Ecclesiastes 12:13

#4-Be a light (different from those in the world) to help people know God

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

#5-Love God and love others well

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’This is the first and great commandment.And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40

Please don’t make the same mistake that I did. Set the goals that matter first and allow them to shape the rest. There are a lot of great things to aim at in this life, but they are all secondary to the centerpiece of life.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:14

Offering our Best

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And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it. Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the Lord or give them to the Lord as a food offering on the altar.You may present a bull or a lamb that has a part too long or too short for a freewill offering, but for a vow offering it cannot be accepted. Any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut you shall not offer to the Lord; you shall not do it within your land…

Leviticus 22:21-24 ESV

One thing I’ve been guilty of is giving away my leftovers. I make a trip to Goodwill or the Salvation Army with things that I no longer need or want. I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with passing along things that others may find useful. Hoarding it would be wrong and selfish. The problem lies in the singularity of giving. If these are the only types of things that I am offering to others, then my heart needs to get realigned with the biblical concept of giving.

According to Leviticus chapter 22, the heart devoted to God is one who gives freely, gives things that are in perfect condition, and gives what would still be of great value and use to him or her. That’s super challenging! In preparation for writing this post, I’ve tried to take inventory of anything that I’ve given that fit these three criteria. I can tell you, it wasn’t a huge list. For myself, and I’m tempted to say most Christians, I don’t think freely giving is the hard part, until it comes to giving away the prime stuff that we still want or need. Honestly, we should be giving our suits and nice things away and not just the clothes we no longer fit in and utensils we no longer use. If we value a possession too much to share it, then we don’t deserve to have it. That’s the principle I’ve tried to instill in my children, so I better make sure I’m living by it as well.

Jesus calls us to offer our lives for the sake of the gospel so no possession we have should be a problem. Nothing is valuable enough to stand in the way of showing God’s love. Since everything comes from God, nothing is off limits as an offering of praise. To withhold anything from God is like saying that I’m good enough to receive it but God isn’t good enough for me to offer it up to Him. That was the problem with the rich young ruler that Jesus spoke with in Mark chapter 10. All he had stood in the way of serving and following Jesus. That was in stark contrast to the first century Christians who sold of their own possessions to give to those in need. Nothing was off limits for them and nothing should be off limits for us today. What applied to them, applies to Christians still today.

And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?”And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise…

Luke 3:10-11 ESV

Jesus doesn’t say if you have 10 tunics give away one or if your pantries are overflowing with food then give some away. If we have more than one of something, it’s an abundance. That’s something that is hard for many in a modern society to grasp. Let’s give more because we want to love more, both God and others.