No Hurries



Last week at work, I read over an article for a marketing campaign. After review, my boss told me the article didn’t fit the campaign because it pertained to Europe, not America. I missed that in my initial skimming of the article. (even though it clearly stated ‘UK’ at least 15 times). I sent an email the other day about a special event, and neglected to state the time of the event. (I’m willing to bet there will be typos in this blog after I’ve published it.)

The other day I went to the grocery store with a partial list, and not my typical coupon organization. It was a last minute decision to stop there on my way home, figuring I’d get it done early. Only, while I was there, I wasn’t paying proper attention to the sale prices verses what coupons I had, and long-story short, I ended up paying $8.00 more than necessary.

And this past weekend, I had my hands full while walking through the foyer, and my giant horse of a dog stopped right in front of me. Trying to avoid falling on and over him, injuring us both, I grabbed for the wall, knocking down a ceramic cross wall hanging and breaking it. Then the next day as I was cleaning up my flower beds, I (assume) lost my balance and fell in the road as I tossed out the weeds. I placed my hand down to help break my fall, and for a moment thought I’d broken it. (I could continue this paragraph indefinitely, as I walk into walls, furniture, trip, etc. on an almost hourly basis).

Why do I tell you this? (Besides hopefully making you feel a little bit better about yourself) Because I’ve come to realize that I’m always in a hurry. Everything I do is done in urgency. Maybe my impatience plays a hand in this. Or my overwhelmed plate full of tasks. Possibly I’m a careless and haphazard person. Maybe I have attention and focusing issues. Or maybe I’m just lazy. But the lesson I’m learning is that I need to slow down. Why do I have to rush to get everything done?

In this past week’s aggravations at my mistakes because I rushed through tasks, I’ve begun to understand that I need to slow down some. (Notice I noted ‘some’—this is going to be an on-going struggle for me) God never intended for us to always be busy and in a hurry. Why do we tend to think we have to always be doing something, or getting things done as fast as we can—only to do more stuff? We’re missing out on all that God entails for us in this life because we’re so busy. Holiness can’t be rushed or instantaneous. The way of God is the way of waiting. (Psalm 46:10; Hebrews 4:11) Take a breath before completing tasks. Stay focused on what you’re doing, and for Whom you’re doing them for. (Colossians 3:23) Do you know what you’re missing when you’re rushing through life? Life. The ordinary and the extraodinary. Enjoy each piece of it, as this life is short. (Ecclesiastes 9:9)

In my hurriedness, I end up making mistakes; mistakes that cost me money, time and energy. If I’d gone slower on the above tasks, I wouldn’t have had to redo my workload twice; I wouldn’t have wasted $8.00; and I wouldn’t have fallen, twice. (Well, yeah, I probably would have- I’m a klutz.) But in my efforts to save time, I wasted it, and so much more.

There are 24 hours in a day; 7 days in a week (and so forth); yet we try to stretch them into more than they were inteneded for. Do we forget that even God rested on the seventh day? (Genesis 2:2) (How about diving a little deeper into that and notice that the other six days, all of the work that He had done was ‘Good’ (Genesis 1:31); not ‘good enough’; not ‘I have other things to do’… but it was ‘Good’. Can we say that all we accomplish in our busy-ness is ‘good’? (I know I can’t)

Drowning?

My youngest daughter started swim lessons this week.  It is her second year, and to be honest I almost didn't sign her up.  By the end of summer last year she was jumping from the diving board and swimming to the side of the pool after a short confidence break in my arms once she surfaced from the dive.  This year, however, it was as if she had never swam before.

Our first visit to the pool I asked her to stay where she could touch until I got everything settled and could get in with her.  She got a little overconfident and swam out to where she could just barely touch, and her feet slipped out from under her.  She instantly panicked.  I saw it on her face as I was entering the pool.  I began to push through the crowd to get to her as I saw her bob in the water as she attempted to right herself.  It lasted about 5 seconds but it was enough to convince her she could no longer swim.  I spent the day trying to restore her confidence but by the time we left I stopped at the lifeguard table and added her name to the swim lessons list.

This past Monday I saw this video popping up all over social media about the dangers of drowning.  In a lot of cases a drowning person doesn't LOOK like a drowning person.  To the casual observer it just looks like a kid splashing around in the pool.  The adults around my daughter, the ones right beside her had no idea she was struggling.  It's a scary thought for those of us with kids, but then God laid another thought on my heart...

In this world we are surrounded by people who are drowning, and more often than not we don't even recognize that they are in trouble much less reach out a hand to help.  I am not talking about the obvious people, those who are homeless, living a lifestyle that is blatantly opposed to God, addicted.  While all of those people are drowning in their sins, I was reminded that there are many who appear to be okay and yet they are still struggling to inhale the breath of life.  These are the people that seem to be "ok".  The person you work with, the cashier that is scanning your groceries, the neighbor with a newborn baby and a husband that works long hours, the single father struggling to make ends meet and still be there for his kids.

We are surrounded by people who just need to know they aren't alone, people that thirst for a kind word or a helping hand.  And yet we, who are called to love them, often barely recognize them, much less reach out to help them.  It is easy when you are "in the pool" to shift focus to those who are "yours".  After all, you know them and love them.  But Jesus reminds us that our calling is to care for more than just those who are in our inner circle, but to care for all his children.

This first begins with those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ. (Romans 12:13, Romans 15:1, Galatians 6:2)  But beyond that, we are called to care for those in the world.  Did you know that of the 132 intimate contacts between Jesus and individuals in the Bible, 122 of them occurred either when Jesus went to them or while He was on His way somewhere?  In other words, Jesus met the people who needed Him most where they were.  He didn't require them to come to Him, or to visit the temple or synagogue.  He knew the people in the world were drowning, and just like a drowning person in the water they needed to be rescued.  We don't expect a drowning person to go to the lifeguard stand and request help.  Why do we expect the people of the world to do any differently?

So today I encourage you to look around you for those who are drowning and offer some help.  What does this look like?  Sometimes it just means to smile at the cashier and really see them while they scan your groceries.  Others times it may mean noticing the mom in the beat up car with three kids in the backseat who is only putting $5 in the gas tank and anonymously paying to fill the tank for her.  Other times it may mean just listening to someone, just being there for them.  And maybe, just maybe a door will open for you to tell them about Jesus.  But first you have to love them.  After all, you don't give swim lessons while a person is drowning.  First you address the immediate need.

Supplements



I don't know about you, but I take a vitamin supplement every day. My food choices aren't always great and it is often a struggle for me to eat the recommended daily amount of vegetables; I'm pretty selective about which ones I like and very confident that I am not eating the ones I don't. So I take a vitamin every day to help fill in the gaps that my diet leaves.

God gives us a list of supplements to fill our faith gaps as well. We don't always have the faith that we should. Sometimes fears and doubts get in the way and cause us to question and worry. Fortunately God has a plan for us to supplement our faith. In 2 Peter 1:5-7 He lays it all out for us:
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love. (ESV)
The verses preceding this tell us that we are to do this because God has given us all that we need and allowed us to share in His nature.  His gifts are not given to us IF we supplement our faith.  The gifts have already been bought and paid for (thank you Jesus!).  Rather Peter is making that point that while our faith saves us (Ephesians 2:8), it should motivate us to want to do something in return.  And in the doing sometimes our faith needs some gaps filled in because we aren't feeding our faith properly, and the list he provides helps us to strengthen the health of our spiritual life - our faith.  So let's take a look at these things.

Virtue is an outward show of our moral values.  This is where we walk the walk and talk the talk.  God says don't steal, so we don't.  We know lying is wrong so we choose to tell the truth in love instead.  It is possible to behave virtuously and not have faith, but if you have truly have faith it is impossible to not have virtue as well.

Knowledge is gained by actively studying God and His word.  You can have a set of morals based upon your understanding of God, but you have to take the time to know Him, to understand His character.  Not everything we encounter in this life will have a neat Bible verse to turn to.  Sometimes we have to make decisions based upon what we know of God and his character.  That is why knowledge is so important.

Self-Control, admittedly this is one I struggle with.  Our faith sometimes will require us to react in a way counter to our instincts.  When we learn to control those instincts and choose to react according to our virtue and knowledge instead we give God room to work.  We also set an example for those around us of what it is to live what Jesus preached.  (Matthew 5:38-42)

Steadfastness is the choice to stand firm, even when it is easier give in.  This is especially important in the world we live in now.  When we are told at every corner that life is about our personal happiness, having more than our neighbor, and that anything we desire should be allowed it is hard to stand up as the dissenting voice.  However, it is so important to not waver.  When we remain resolute in Jesus we are choosing the less traveled, but correct path.  (Matthew 7:13-14)

Godliness, or devotion to God that results in a life that is pleasing to Him, is something I strive for daily.  When we keep this goal at the forefront of our mind it will affect every aspect of our lives.  Living a life for God is to trust in who He says He is and to devote yourself to Him.  That trust helps to fill in the gaps when our faith wavers, when we don't understand why things are happening we can choose to continue living our lives for Him because we know He has our best interest at heart, that He loves us.

Brotherly love, or phileo, is to feel affection for others.  This is where we open our eyes to those around us and choose to really see them.  All of the previous "supplements" have been about personal growth.  This one asks us to look outside ourselves and start looking at people the way Jesus does.  They may not be perfect, but they are our brothers and sisters trying to make it through this world just like we are.  Some are even worse off, because they don't know they aren't alone on this journey; they haven't met Jesus yet.  Here we are called to not only recognize them but to care about them.  And when you start caring you get a glimpse of God's love in a special way.  THAT is a definite faith boost.

And finally there is LOVE, real, agape love.  This is more than just an emotional response or an affection for another.  This is a conscious choice to put others before yourself, to consider their needs more important than your own.  When we get this right it is as if we are walking with God.  Next to loving Him, this is the most important thing we can do.  (Matthew 22:36-40)

So today I ask you, have you taken your supplements?  Maybe you should!

When you are walking in the fire



"So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames." ~Daniel 3:23

I was recently watching a documentary with my daughters about two college boys who left the comforts of home to spend two months living in a third world country on an average third world salary.  While that alone was eye opening, I was drawn to the story of one man, 24 years old with a wife, 3 children and elderly family members he was responsible for.  This family lived in what most of us here in the U.S. would consider deplorable conditions.

They all lived in a one room home.  He was among the "rich" in his community because he had a job cleaning in a local hotel and thus had a steady, although meager, income.  They had saved and been able to purchase a stove for the house rather than cook over an open fire but school for their children was not something they could afford at $25 per child.  Despite all of the difficulties, and yes he did recognize and struggle with the difficulties, he appeared to be always cheerful.  He usually had a smile on his face and was quick to help those in his community with not only knowledge, or physical help, but even financially - despite the burden it put on his own family.  And I wondered....how was this man - who had so little in the world - able to maintain that joy?

Many of you know the story of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego;  Three young men taken captive from their homeland with Daniel to go live in Babylon.  They were trained up in the ways of the people and expected to serve the royalty.  These boys remained strong in their faith and true to God despite all they were surrounded with.  When things got hard, when they faced the fires, they didn't waver.  This, I think, is where so many of us fail - myself included.

When things get hot, when we face the fire, we begin to question God.  We begin to shake our fist or bow our heads in defeat.  Whereas Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego stood tall and declared that either God would save them, because they knew it was within His power to do so, or He wouldn't. (Daniel 3:17-18) Either way they would not be swayed from doing what they knew God had asked of them.  WOW!  Personally this is the point that I am questioning if I really heard Him.  After all, it wouldn't be so difficult if I were walking the path He chose, would it?

The king then had them bound and tossed into the fire.  Not just any fire, but one that was so hot that when they were being led to it, their guards bust into flames.  (Daniel 3:22)  This was a trial that even the strongest person, without God, could not withstand and yet these three boys had accepted their fate.  In this instance, God chose to display His power to those observing.
“Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!" ~Daniel 3:25
The faith that these young men had not only saved them from the fire, it released them from their bonds.  I believe that this is the mystery of the fullness of joy that God calls us to.  (Psalm 16:11)  Sometimes, the fires we are called to walk through  are there to unbind us from the things that keep us captive.  So I ask you, what keeps you bound today?  Is it a fixation on the things of this world?  Are you tied up by the pursuit of things? of money? of prestige?  If you feel like you are in the fire, perhaps you need to examine yourself and see if God is trying to release you from bondage. If so, is your faith strong enough to willingly step into the furnace?

Maybe, this is what the man in the third world country had discovered.  

Working toward 'Perfection'...



This might come as a surprise to you, but you’re not perfect. Neither am I. {sigh} And no matter how hard we try (and we should be always trying) (2 Corinthians 7:1), we will never achieve perfection. (Ecclesiastes 7:20) However, working towards this perfection, or holiness, implies maturity in your faith. God has given us all we need—the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:2); however as we discussed last week, He allows distractions to keep us focused on Him and eternity. (1 Corinthians 10:13) I’ve found that when things are going good, and I’m comfortable, I easily become bored, and then I tend to slip. I skip a day of Bible study; which leads to another and before I know it, I haven’t opened my Bible in two weeks…and things don’t look so great, and my mood and attitude are far from Christ-like… Life’s distractions easily cause us to sin. (Genesis 4:7) But the true test of our maturity is how we handle our sin. Do we repent with remorse like Peter, or do we in essence commit suicide like Judas? (Hebrews 6:1)

Are you taking the discomfort He’s put in your life (to shake up your complacency) and using it to not only grow in your own Christian walk, but to also help others?  God doesn’t excuse your sin, He uses it. He allows you to live by example of how messed up you can be, and still have a relationship with Jesus. (1 Corinthians 1:4) Too often we depend on ourselves when life is going well, and only turn to God when we feel we can’t do it alone; when we feel powerless. It’s when we fully rely on God that our faith begins to mature. (2 Corinthians 1:9-10) This attitude of dependence draws us closer to God, rather than further away.

We so easily want to follow the world’s view; but we should be following God’s view. On Earth, as we mature, we become independent. But in Christ, as we mature, we have to become dependent. The closer we draw to God, the closer to perfection we get. (Philippians 3:12)