Thank you for your constant encouragement and readership. This blog has (joyously) matured past its current state. I've been convicted about making some organizational changes to it as well.
So, beginning now, please find further writings over at: firstandsecondblog.wordpress.com
If you're interested in what the change is all about, read on here: https://firstandsecondblog.wordpress.com/about-the-author/
Monday, September 21, 2015
From where you are standing, there is much ahead. It might be a ton of busy, crazy, chaotic, and rewarding. Maybe the future is daunting. On the other hand, when you look ahead, you might see a whole bunch of nothing or vast space that could be filled with –who knows?
You want to be where He wants you to be. If you’re anything like me -and most everyone I know- getting where you should be is a priority.
It’s not always about “getting ahead” or “getting more,” but simply growing or following well. You know God has plans for you and sometimes it seems like a lot to keep up with. You don’t want to avoid the step He asks for next, so you prepare yourself as best you can for it.
The decisions you make at work are made with intentions for the future in mind. You choose to take classes, read books, and meet people now so that later you will be equipped for what you think (or dream) will happen. We want to be where God wants us to be, when He calls, without hesitation. It gets stressful, doesn’t it?
Worry is all about tomorrow. Fear is most powerful in the future tense. God is in the present. And when the present turns into the future, He’ll be there too.
God is not 3 steps ahead of you, waiting for you to catch up. He is with you now.
Though it is wise to open your eyes to bigger picture or your life and to prepare yourself appropriately, the decisions you make now –including those about your future- should be made as He asks.
That future that you think you know too little about or too much about cannot separate you from the love of Christ. Neither can the present (Romans 8:38.) When the Psalmist said that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble,” He did mean that God is even present in our present life, concerns, and matters (Psalm 46:1.)
Paul testified to this truth in Acts 26:22, saying “To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great.” Imagine speaking those words when you question what your future holds –or when others ask and you don’t know.
Monday, September 14, 2015
You wake up and hear your spouse’s voice. Then your pets. Probably your kids. As you head out the door, you hear people in the neighborhood. People on the radio talk and sing. Your co-workers and boss speak, play music, and send you signals of the verbal and nonverbal variety. Friends text you. You read announcements, billboards, and emails. The phone rings.
By the end of the day, you’ve heard the voices of a hundred or so people, programs, papers, and media outlets. That’s a lot to sift through.
Even if you try to listen to Christian music, watch decent television, and keep solid company close by, you’re bound to absorb information that distracts from the one thing you need to hear: the voice of truth.
John 10:4-5 tells us that “he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
That’s a lot of running away, isn’t it?
So much of what we hear does not possess the voice of the Lord. Unfortunately, to sort out the good from the bad, we rarely listen to the voice speaking in order to make a decision. Rather, we decide based on the content.
Often the words and messages that bombard us are full of worldly content and urge us, ultimately, to focus more on ourselves. We take to heart messages with content that is practical or that gets our emotions surging. Words that comment on the things dear to us are used to steer us.
But that’s not what Scripture says.
To discern the voice of truth, we must listen to know who is speaking.
Consider how firmly and clearly Jesus rebuked Peter when he spoke, not of the Spirit, but as one approaching from the concerns of the world (Matthew 16:23.) His words were “get behind me, Satan!” In another example, we see how Bartimaeus chose not to listen to the crowds telling him to hush because he knew that the voice he needed to hear was Christ’s, regardless of what might be said (Mark 10.)
Here’s what we know about the one who speaks:
· His voice is one of stillness (see Job or Elijah)
· His tone bears the fruit of the Spirit, like gentleness and kindness
· His words are clear because He is not an author of confusion
· All that is wrong trembles at the sound
· He speaks through unifying voices, like loved ones who agree
· His perspective does not change and does not conflict with the Bible
· He calls us by name
· His purpose is life-giving
Listen for that voice –His voice- among all the others. It’s simpler than we tend to let it be. We don’t need to weigh the words to decide which way to go. Like sheep, we should simply listen for the one we know and follow, ever listening to the sweet sound of the one who knows THE WAY.
Monday, September 7, 2015
The words are familiar:
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus”
These awesome, inspiring words impact how we live our everyday lives. As a result of these words, as ask ourselves what Jesus would do. We stop before making decisions and consider first if it is right or wrong in the sight of God.
And we try to live in a way that pleases God.
What comes next, though?
The rest of the verse reads:
“giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
That’s not what we generally expect when we’ve done something well. After living in the image of Christ, sharing the gifts He’s given us, and even in the small things always choosing righteously, we would expect to receive thanks.
However, Scriptures tells us that as we do everything (Everything!) in the name of the Lord, we’re to give Him thanks. In our upside-down world, that sounds backwards:
-Thanks, Jesus, that I’m doing all this work and denying myself sinful desires to please you?
-Thank you Jesus that I’ve made my whole life about you and serving you?
-Thanks Jesus for encouraging me to sacrifice everything and give a ton up so that you can be glorified?
Indeed, these seemingly backwards “thanks” are correct. It seems crazy to give thanks for something that you do and that is a cost to you at times. However, giving thanks to God is actually what’s best for us. Praising Him is what we are made for.
Our joy is so closely connected to our gratitude because the two work together to bring life into perspective. Like the lens in our eyes, we use gratitude to bring all that we see into focus. For example, if we do all to the glory of God but do so with giving thanks to Him for that blessed opportunity, we see our glory-giving as way of building up our worth or of improving our own fortunes.
To do all to the glory of God and give thanks at the same time, we recognize that it is only by the grace of God that we get to do what we were designed to in the first place: glorify Him.
Too often we twist our glorifying God into a way of receiving glory for ourselves. Remember that the words we long to hear in eternity from the Lord (with our sinful right to self cast aside) are not "thanks for that" but "In you I am well-pleased."