Small Things Often

Most of us want that one big thing that is going to change everything.  If we could win the lottery and have a large sum of money, it would make life better.  If my wife and I had enough resources to take an extended vacation together, it would help our marriage thrive.  If we could spend a couple of weeks at Disneyworld with the kids, we would all feel so connected.  If we could spend time in a sabbatical reading and prayer, we would be closer to Jesus than ever before. 

The truth about this type of thinking is that it usually does not work.  Life doesn’t get better for the rich; vacations make us more distant; the kids care little about whether we were in their lives at a theme park, and a nap sounds better than prayer.  

What does work to change our lives is doing small things often. Give a little money in the name of Jesus and save a little for a rainy day, and things feel better.  Talk to your wife every day for fifteen minutes, and be sure to tell her that you love her, and you start to feel closer.  Spend an hour of quality time with your kids five days a week, and they start looking forward to you coming home.  Take ten minutes daily to read the Bible and pray, and your spiritual life will deepen.  These little investments will reap a far greater reward than one big event. 

The good news in this truth is that it is available to anyone.  It is not just a solution for the rich or retired.  Each one of us has the power to change our lives simply by doing small things.  What are you doing today that will make your life better in the future?  It doesn’t have to be big, but it does have to be often.   

When the Walls Come Down

Most people are guarded emotionally. One challenge for a believer is to let their guard down and allow a few people into their souls. There must be a willingness to share our past struggles, our present issues, and some of the craziness that goes on inside of our heads. Otherwise, all relationships in your life will be surface level and lack the depth you need to grow and mature as a person and a believer.

Here is the flip side to this truth: The more you share of yourself, the more people will feel connected to you as well. Now, everyone knows that one person who shares everything immediately, and we usually avoid them because they are emotionally draining. That is not what I am writing about today. I am telling you that when you get to know someone, you must be willing to share your life with them entirely to have a healthy relationship.

Think about the people you are closest to in your life. Do they know more about your personal issues or less? Are they people who have heard your crazy stories or people who only know the happy ones? Have these people listened to you share your emotions or been kept at arm’s length? Are they the people who know you have failed miserably or those who only know your victories in life?

The people with whom we connect our lives the most are those with which we share the most. It bonds us to them and them to us. When the walls come down in our lives, there is an open opportunity to develop the kind of relationships we need and our hearts long for with each season.

Sure, there is a risk in being vulnerable whenever you drop your guard. The pain of betrayal can hurt, but it will not hurt as much as keeping the walls up and people out of your life. The challenge for today and this week is not to keep from being hurt; it is to keep from becoming cold and guarded. Following Jesus includes sharing your life and pain, not avoiding it.

Critical Thinking Without Being Critical

Recently I read a devotional written by another preacher. As I read it, the hair stood up on the back of my neck. What troubled me was that over thirty people had “liked” the post. My heart sank because people did not see all the flaws.

First, the whole thought was built on a false analogy. It was comparing two things that are not similar, although they might appear to be at a casual glance. Second, it used an unreliable Bible translation (this is a pet peeve of mine). The author must have searched all around to find a verse that was stated just the right way to fit their analogy. Third, the verse used was from the Old Testament, and we ripped entirely out of context to make a point about America, making it a violation of proper Bible interpretation. Finally, it took a concept that is about the people of God and applied it to non-believers who were represented in the false analogy.

In a few seconds, I noticed four big issues with this devotion that made me uncomfortable as a preacher and a follower of Jesus. His disciples are to be people who “correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). On top of that, we are to keep watch for “false prophets” and “false teachers” (2 Peter 2:1). Here was an attempt to use the scripture in a way that violates the meaning of the author and the will of God. Christians must be wise about such things.

One aspect of being a believer is that we need to learn critical thinking skills. We are required to listen to the words of others and then use the proper tools to analyze what was said. If we are not able to do that, then we will fall for every wind of teaching (Ephesians 4:14).

Here is the final significant step, though. There is a difference between being a critical thinker and being a critical person. When I finished reading the post that was made, I made a note of it so that I could write this blog, and then I moved along.

The temptation for many of us is to jump into the comment section and tear this person apart. Anyone who disagrees with me will feel the burn of my righteous indignation. I can post links and arguments that will put this person in their place and anyone who chose to listen to him. These are the actions of a critical person.

I hope that every person learns to be a critical thinker without becoming a critical person. I pray that you can process ideas and not be led astray. Once you have done that essential first step, then you will not feel the need to let everyone know you are right. A good brain is a gift, but a good attitude toward those with whom you disagree is a blessing to everyone.

I HATE Death

It seems like an obvious thing to say, but it needs to be said. Through the years, I have lost grandparents, friends, and my dad. In the past two weeks, the loss has continued. A dear, sweet, kind man from the Church in Alaska where I served, passed away from a heart attack. Then a few days ago, Ravi Zacharias, a national speaker who helped to strengthen my faith enormously while I was in college, died of cancer.

All these losses have created moments that took my breath away. Even though death comes as no surprise since we are bound for it, there is still the pain of letting go of those with which we have a connection. I know these reports will not be the last I will receive, and that possibility alone sends me reeling with anxiety if I think about it for too long.

While I stand in stunned silence at the loss of people I know, I also take these times to reflect on the meaning of faith. The single biggest reason I am a follower of Jesus is because of his resurrection. Jesus died, was buried, and then rose to live again on the third day. He is the only person in all recorded history to walk out of the grave under his own power. He defeated death and turned the cemetery into a place of victory. There is no other religious leader who accomplished what he was able to do.

I hate death and the emotional pain of separation that it brings. I love Jesus more. In dark moments like these, his light shines the brightest. In the place that seems hopeless, he brings hope. We grieve loss but cling to the savior who gives us life. I HATE death. Thankfully, I serve a God who hates it too. He hated it so much that he did something about it. Jesus came to bring us resurrection and life. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Do Not Miss the Point

Scrolling through social media, I see pictures of families putting together puzzles, going on hikes, playing games, and fishing together. Often, they post photos that demonstrate how proud they are of their achievements. I want to pause for a moment and ask you not to miss the point.

May the goal of our lives never be accomplishing tasks off our to-do list. Instead, I hope you use your moments to connect with other people in meaningful ways.

It is not who wins the board games, but the time you spent together.
It is not the puzzle you assembled with your kids, but the conversation while searching for pieces.
It is not the fish you catch; it is the memories made with people.
It is not the vacation and the places you have seen, but the people with which you see them.
It is not about the trophies earned at the sporting event, but the time of celebration with those who love and support you.
It is not even about your team winning the big game but connecting to people of like mind.

Every day presents you with opportunities for new experiences and achievements, what makes those precious is the joy of doing it with other people. We were created for community. We are relational beings. The point is not to spend your life alone accomplishing great things but to enjoy this life with people and find joy both with and in them.

Taking Account of the Time

Sometimes God forces us to hit the pause button on our lives. That has truly been the case over the last ten weeks of my life. All my plans went down the drain as the country went under lockdown for the Covid-19 scare. Sports were gone completely, restaurants were closed, shopping was done, meetings of all types were not held, and our lives were left with more free time than we have experienced in years.

I have kept note of the things people are doing with their time. Some people have undertaken house projects from cleaning to building decks, to landscaping. Others have played board games, assembled puzzles, and some have created art. Still, another group has gone for walks, hiked in parks, and tried to enjoy the outdoors. With more time, they have experienced things that their busy schedule was not allowing them to do.

My suggestion for everyone is to take account of this time. Before you jump back into your busy schedule with a thousand things to do every week, take time to think clearly about the last few weeks of your life. Reflect on whether this time has been good for you, your family, and your relationships to have more free time. Do you feel the freedom you have not felt for years? Do you feel healthier, both emotionally and spiritually? Has this experience been good for you?

Take the time to do an honest evaluation. Maybe the answer to your heart cries was not more, more, more, but rather less. Maybe doing less was precisely what you needed. If that is true, how long will it take before you give up and jump back into a rushed life? How long will you continue to live in a way that fills your heart and mind more than your calendar?

Let this time of shutdown be the doorway to a new start.

Wanting A Miracle

Reading the Bible reveals that there were limited times when God did miracles. Those are the moments when he broke into history and did something beyond scientific explanation. He started with them at the creation. Moses and Joshua performed miracles as well as the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Jesus brought miracles, and so did his closest followers in the book of Acts. The rest of the Bible contains little miraculous activity. Abraham, Job, King David, Solomon, and John the Immerser did not perform a single one.

In those sections of the Bible without a miracle, God relied primarily on one thing: People. He invited people to do his mighty work. Through circumstances and situations, he put people into the place where they had to act to bring about his will. He used natural means through ordinary people.

One of my favorite Biblical examples of this is the story of Esther. Nowhere in the book is the name of God mentioned, and yet we see his handiwork all over the place. No one performs a miracle, and yet the circumstances seem almost miraculous. God has people in places where they can be used for his glory if they allow him to work through them. When people are open to his leading like that, there are surprising results.

Some of you have been wanting a miracle. You have wanted God to break into your world and do something beyond explanation. You desire to see his mighty work in your life and the lives of those around you. And yet, no miracle has come to you.

Perhaps God just needs someone to act. He has the right people in the correct places, but they are resistant. For whatever reason, like their selfish pursuits, they have ignored the call of God upon their lives.

I wonder if that might be true for you as well. God may not bring a miracle into your life; instead, he may use you to be someone else’s answer to prayer. Is it possible that he has you in a place where you could be a blessing to someone else? Could you be the person who becomes God’s miracle to someone else?

You will never know the amount of good you can do for the kingdom of God, until you do something.