Wait A Few

It seems like we just can’t help ourselves. Recently, I was attending a conference which was attended by church staff members. Christy and I sat at breakfast the morning after Trump had announced that he was going to meet with the Dictator of North Korea. The gentleman behind me, who also happened to sit at my table for the conference, gave us his immediate and prolonged opinion on this move.

As he opined to the group of unfortunate folks at his breakfast table, Christy and I spent a few minutes noting how pastors have a tendency to think that not only do they have an opinion about something, but they must all share that opinion. As children of pastors, and having served in pastoral roles for the past 15 years we realize that the blame for this behavior must be shared. The pastors, who are convinced that God has given them insight into crop planting, national security, and the correct way to discipline each individual child, are plentiful and obstreperous. Plentiful too are the members who want to shirk personal responsibility and seek to burden a pastor with a decision that he is unqualified to address due to lack of personal knowledge or limitations outside of his control.

I have spent some studying the need of Sabbath lately and have come to a conclusion: Our inability to wait is directly linked to our belief that we must always be in some type of production. Our culture, and yes, our desires, have convinced us that either we must be producing something or we must be planning to produce something. In fact, we have complete conversations in which we try to ‘out tire’ each other. This leads to constant sharing of opinions when we have given little thought, much less prayer, to the realities of the situations and opportunities which confront us in our lives.

This is one of Satan’s tools. You see, the enemy does not know the future. He only knows that right now, today, he has a chance for destruction and he wields that tool as forcefully as he can. God, however, knows the future, and encourages us to wait on him. He tells us that He will provide, while we scurry about like a chipmunk in November, hunting the few remaining nuts and then piling them around us as if they will prove to others that we are more resourceful than them.

To have an idea about the work of Satan we need only to look at Pharaoh of Egypt. When questioned as to whether or not he would allow the Israelites to stop work for a period of time to allow them to worship their God his response was that production must remain the same while their supplies would be drastically cut. The stipulation is clear; we must always produce more from less. Less information, more opinions. Less, time, more perceived work or production.

Just a few days into the wilderness God beautifully contradicts the economy and behavior of Pharaoh. Every day but one, manna from heaven fell on the ground. On the 7th day manna did not fall and the Israelites were forced to eat from what they had gathered the day before. The truth is clear; God can, and does, pause. He waits.

I need to learn to wait. Words spoken in haste often lead to anger and foolishness. Opinions formed at the drop of a hat are based more in our pride than our knowledge and as such are sure ground for destruction and peril. In a sermon I made an observation that Satan works in the immediate. He cannot wait. When we surrender to the rush of immediacy in our relationships and our lives we surrender ourselves to our passions.

As you think about waiting take a moment and listen to this wonderful song. You won’t have to wait long to figure out what it’s about, or where it’s at.

 

 

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Clearing the Temple

There are a lot of things that I’m confused about and even more things that I don’t understand or know. Having said that I do want to attempt to expound on an area that I don’t have a complete understanding on and I hope that you will show me some grace if I’m not as clear as you would like or expect me to be. In fact, to some degree, I hope to write in such a way that causes not only my unsure realities to be exposed but maybe to allow the reader to see somethings from a different perspective as well.
One of the most quoted passages is found in John 2:13-22. This is the passage in which Jesus takes a whip and drives out the animals from the court of the Temple. He then flips the tables of the money changers and proclaims that His Father’s house is not a marketplace.
If you have never studied this passage I would encourage you to give it some thought. As you do so pay attention to the setting into which Jesus entered and seek to apply it to our lives today. Let me give you some things to consider and I’ll leave it with you.
First of all, the presence of God is no longer found in a building. The “church” is not the house of God but rather it is the people of God. We know this but it is such a difficult concept to grasp – well, not really, it is just easier to trust our efforts than it is to trust God’s promises – that we constantly find ourselves confusing the to/too/two. If Christ dwelling in us is the presence of God then I believe that the courtyard of the Temple would be our own material and experiential lives.
Secondly, and for me this is where it is easy for me to miss the forest for the trees, the restriction on the presence of God is something that Jesus and God take very seriously. I say easy to miss because it is very easy to become distracted with various theories and prognostications as to what exactly was happening in the courtyard. Were the priests really charging an exorbitant rate for the exchange of money? Was the High Priest condemning the animals brought for sacrifice and demanding that the individual purchase an “approved” animal? These are all theories that I have heard taught and they may or may not be correct.
This is where I begin to veer a little of course and just want to point something out that is fairly easy to overlook. You may or may not be familiar with the fact that there were actually 4 courts the led to the Temple. This was the outermost court and anyone was able to enter and mingle in this courtyard. It was crowded; it was loud; it was obnoxious – and it offended Jesus.
It offended Jesus because the Temple was to be a place of reverence and worship and not a place to hear the calling of the herders or the clink of money being passed. Translate that to today and apply it to my life; your life. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that we are extremely consumer oriented as believers. We are for a cause, against a cause, angry with a cause, hoping for a cause and if I’m not careful my life begins to sound like an animal marketplace. Having spent a little bit of time in animal marketplaces I can assure you of one absolute truth – they stink.
I’ve got a challenge for us; can we take a little bit of time, just a little quiet time and enjoy the presence of God? Can we stop being a consumer of the newest item of rage or praise and just enjoy some quiet time alone in presence of God? I’ll close with a verse that has been a source of comfort for me many times over the last few years: Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. James 4:8a

Whom Do We Serve

Psalm 34

I will bless the Lord at all times:
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make her boast in the Lord:
the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he heard me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
They looked unto him, and were lightened:
and their faces were not ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him,
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encampeth
round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good:
blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
O fear the Lord, ye his saints:
for there is no want to them that fear him.
The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger:
but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.
Come, ye children, hearken unto me:
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
What man is he that desireth life,
and loveth many days, that he may see good?
Keep thy tongue from evil,
and thy lips from speaking guile.
Depart from evil, and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous,
and his ears are open unto their cry.
The face of the Lord is against them that do evil,
to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth,
and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart;
and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous:
but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.
He keepeth all his bones:
not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked:
and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.
The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants:
and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate. Psalm 34

He Made Me Do It

He Made Me Do IT

“He made me do it, dad!”

“Do you mean, son, that he made you hit him?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well son, show me how exactly that he made you hit him. Did he hold your arm? Did he promise to break your favorite PowerRanger? How exactly did this happen?”

“He looked at me wrong.”

“He looked at you wrong? His looking at you made you hit him?”

If you have more than one child in your family you have probably had a very similar conversation at some point with your children. If not, you’re probably not properly interviewing the prime suspects in the destruction of one or another’s choice toys, artwork, missing Lego’s, hidden clothes, and the various joys of sibling rivalry. I would offer you a discount rate for my next Disciplining with Daniel series but my manager has informed me that you can’t discount free and they no longer want to be liable for any of my advice. Bummer for you.

Here’s the thing: kids grow into adults. Jim Hancock has written a book (no recommendation: haven’t read it) which points out that we should be reminded that we aren’t raising children but rather we are raising and training adults.

It is in this adult realm that I want to dally for a few moments. I wrote a post last week about our discovery of life-changing, Biblical truths by having a steady and consuming diet of Scripture. Two days later I read through a passage of Scripture that I want to point out to you today.

In Genesis 13 we see Abram arriving in Canaan. This is the land that God has promised to him and to his heirs forever. The first reality of Abram’s arrival is that he and Lot cannot continue to dwell together as they are without some change. Lot is Abram’s nephew and as such is very much under Abram’s rule or control.

At this point Abram offers the first choice of the land to Lot. The land that has been promised to Abram is extended to another (could really go on about grace here, but suffice to say that Matthew 5-7 is a great passage to read with this in mind) and Lot takes full advantage. He chooses the best. He chooses that which everyone would desire. He chooses the plains of Jordan.

After Lot departs to claim his prize God reappears to Abram and says this:

Genesis 13:14-17
The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”

Here’s the point; God’s promise and God’s blessing to Abram was not at all influenced by Lot’s selfish claim. God’s promise was not impacted by Lot’s assertion of himself. God’s plan was not altered by Lot’s simply act of looking out for himself first.

Here’s to you and I

I can’t count on all of my fingers and toes the times just in the past month that someone has made a comment to me similar to these below:

I was having a great day, and she came along with her attitude and stole my joy.

Everything was great in my life until I had to deal with the idiot at the repair shop.

My blood boils any time he walks by. I know what God says, but …

On and on I could go but chances are that many of us have come very close to those three statements above.

Lot couldn’t take Abram’s blessing because the blessing was from God to Abram.

Psalms 28:6-9
Blessed be the Lord!
For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.
The Lord is the strength of his people;
he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!
Be their shepherd and carry them forever.

If The Lord is our strength then our joy will come from him. Therefore, no one, no one, can take our joy unless we surrender our joy to them. This surrender is usually in hopes of some self-satisfaction, some selfish ambition. This could have bound Abram but it did not, and as we trust in The Lord, we can rest assured that it won’t bind us as well.

So the next time you are convinced that someone has stolen your Happy Jar, just allow this truth to remind you that this is a symptom of not trusting in the One who has made the promise that He will one day make all things right. Remember that the One who has said that He will be the shield of those who trust in Him.

Daddy, thank God that I can laugh too: Amen.

I had a fun day yesterday. I know that it was Monday and many others did as well, so there probably isn’t anything unique about that fact. What was unique is what my 3yo decided to share with me while I was attempting to put her to bed.

We were praying and thanking God for a myriad of things: her brothers (!), sister, mom, the sky, the sun, and all of the the other wonderful things that children are grateful for. As I was reciting these things she interrupted; “Daddy, thank God that I can laugh too!” She then preceded to giggle uncontrollably for another minute.

Amen. Thank God that she can laugh. Thank God that I can laugh. Thank God for the joy that children have that makes laughter such a fun part of their lives.

Do you remember what Jesus said?

Matthew 18:1-5 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 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. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.

The promise of Heaven is in that Jesus Christ acts on our behalf. That our charge is to humble ourselves as a child. He will work the change in our lives as we surrender to Him.

I laughed with my daughter for a few moments and then resumed the task of putting her to bed – not a fun task in that she likes to try to stay awake longer than me. The problems that had arisen from my day didn’t disappear, but there was a willingness to trust those problems to Jesus.

She laughed because she is secure in her dad’s love. She laughs because she is certain that if she can’t handle a problem that her dad or mom will. So today, if you can laugh, thank God. If you cannot laugh seek the One who simply desires that we trust him as a child trusts.

Don’t Shoot The Jukebox

Bubba shot the jukebox last night,

Said it played a sad song that made him cry.

Went to his truck and got his .45

Bubba shot the jukebox last night.

Shooting Jukeboxes

I would say that in my life I have shot a few jukeboxes. A few messengers, if you will. Moments in my life when I was confronted with the realities of a situation that the jukebox exacerbated by it’s plaintive mournings, or disconsolate jiving.

Much like Bubba though, I find that the momentary relief from shooting the jukebox does very little to mitigate the future consequences. A jukebox could be seen as anything that makes us think of a particular person, place, or thing; a noun, so to speak. The noise/words of the “jukebox” take us to a particular place. Unfortunately for many jukeboxes they probably never know why they were shot.

Jukeboxes I’ve Shot

This may bother some, but I have certainly lashed out at my children when their behavior has brought to my mind some of my own shortcomings and failure in behavior. We are in our second week of summer and I am strongly pushing my children to accomplish something this summer that will be a continued blessing in their life. I have to admit that some of my own frustrations with their lack of motivation may be frustrations with my own lack of motivation at times.

I would certainly be remiss if I did not point out that often in our spouses we become annoyed by the same behavior that we perpetuate. Too much info for you to hear from a pastor? Sorry, but I wasn’t called to act like I’m perfect, although at times it is certainly the easier alternative.

I’m sure that we can all think of random jukeboxes that we’ve shot. The cashier who is sllooooowww at the convenience store, although we are the ones who pressed the snooze button five times that morning. The friend who points out a small inconsistency or annoyance in your behavior and we reward them with a week’s worth of ignoring.

Should Jukeboxes Be Shot – Ever

No. What if the jukebox is playing a country song about a dog, a woman, a truck and the other prerequisites for being a country song? Still, no. To a large degree the jukebox is not the problem. Certainly some jukeboxes bring their own playlist to the table but still, it’s just a jukebox. The problem is the emotions that the jukebox conjures up. Anger, Annoyance, and Antipathy, are just a quick Alliteration of what the real problem is – Me.

You see, Bubba simply shot the jukebox because of the emotion that it stirred up in him. Folks, if we go around destroying all of the things that bring up a negative emotion we will simply go around destroying our lives. And the real truth is, that if everyone where to behave in the way I just noted, then some of us had better be ducking, before we are shot.

What’s Playing On The Jukebox Of Your Life?