Love in 2022

I recently read this advice about modern love.

Today, if you love someone, plan on spending half as much money as you think you should. And then give the person twice as much time as you feel is necessary. 

Giving someone the gift of your time and undivided attention is the best way to say “I Love You.” 

Taking A Break

We are on the verge of entering the vacation season. It is the time of year when people will travel all over the country and even the world to see sights, enjoy good food, and spend time with family. 

I am all in favor of vacation. My family and I plan on taking one the first week of August. Go. Enjoy. Have fun. And we at the Church will miss you so don’t forget to return to us soon. 

This summer can be a time to rest and reconnect. But may I also suggest that it is an excellent time to refocus. 

Throughout the Old Testament, the people are told to take a sabbath. That is the practice of taking off Saturday and doing no work. It was a time to rest. On top of that, the people of God had three different festivals that required them to take a week off work to spend time celebrating all that God had done for his people. God favors us taking time away from work, but it was primarily for them to refocus. 

The people of God were not taking a week to focus on self-indulgence. Instead, they were taking it to get their head clear and to make God the center of their lives again. They needed a reminder that God could run the world without them, and they needed him above all else. 

I hope you allow your vacation this summer to move you closer to God and not further away. 

More Than Most

Nehemiah 7:2 “I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do.” (NIV – 2011)

The writer Nehemiah says that he gave a man named Hanani a leadership position for two reasons.

First, he was a man of integrity. The idea is that he was faithful to what he believed. He trusted God and his belief led him to do whatever the law required and handle situations as God desired. He would not oppress people, abuse his authority, take bribes, or do anything that would be perceived as wrongdoing. 

Second, he was a man who “feared God more than most people do.” He was religious, but his religious conviction superseded anyone else in the community of believers.   There was something that separated his behavior from other believers.

This description is never explained to us. Does it mean he spent more time in prayer? Perhaps he read the scriptures more. Maybe he was a son who cared for his parents better than most people. Could it mean he was a quality husband and father? Was it just about his worship of God, or did this include every aspect of his life?

We have no way of knowing precisely what Nehemiah meant, but through our experience, we also know what he is talking about. When you think of a deeply religious person, you immediately think of that one person. They fear God more than most people do. 

The question is, “Would anyone ever say that about you?” Is there anyone who would say of you, “They fear God more than other people,” and everyone would agree? If not, what would it take to get there?

Don’t Be Boring

A wise old preacher who had experienced dynamic growth in his Church over his tenure was once asked what advice he would give young preachers. I will never forget his response. He said simply, “Don’t be boring.” To clarify, he said that he meant preaching, as it is always a good practice not to be boring. But, he primarily meant, “Don’t be a boring person.” 

Then he told the story of a woman in his Church who collected doorknobs and was an authority on the topic. She would research them, travel to shows to learn more, visit displays, and keep a catalog of all the types that had existed for the last several hundred years. Then he explained how people would want to stop her and talk everywhere she went. She had taken something seemingly mundane and made it into something with which everyone wanted to talk to her. 

He then talked about his life. He had simply gotten dull with age. He did the same things, in the same way, every day, and when people talked to him, his life was boring. Conversations dried up, and people did not want to be around him. Then he went out and bought a Harley. He and his wife began to rediscover a passion from their early years of marriage. They joined a motorcycle club. Suddenly, he noticed that people wanted to talk to him about his “bike” and his next trip. This finally gave way to talking about Jesus and the Christian life.

Now, as he looked back on his life and ministry, he saw that boring is the enemy of Jesus. It lulls people to sleep. It makes people think that the goal of every believer is to quietly sit in Church each week and share polite conversations about the weather. Instead, God gave us this one and only life to be used to enjoy his creation and do some exciting things. The more we use it, the more it opens up conversations that lead others to Jesus. 

One way to impact this world for Jesus is to maintain an exciting life. It will give you wonderful experiences and stories to tell. Those will open the door for so much more if you let it. 

Hydrox

The Hydrox brand of cookie with two small crunchy cookies and a creamy center debuted in 1908. It was made by Sunshine Biscuits and was produced for 90 years. Eventually, Keebler bought them out, and three years later, they ended production in 1999. Then in 2015, Leaf Brands reintroduced the product back into the world. This simple product can now be found in most grocery stores across the United States. 

The story of Hydrox would be classified as a massive success if it were not for something that happened in 1912. That year a competitor entered the cookie world with what appears to be an imitation of their product. The new company was named Oreo. 

Over time, the Oreo became the favorite for several reasons, and Hydrox went from being a leader in their industry to being considered an off-brand Oreo. It is the generic Oreo with a less sweet filling and a harder cookie. The story of the Hydrox cookie is one that goes from a solid start to a joke over time.   

Several years ago, I started a new Church. We began in a dynamic fashion. A group of people who desired to do something great for God. There was prayer, sacrificial giving, selfless service, and a strong sense of community. This is the story of almost all new Churches when they share their story. A group of deeply committed believers stepping out in faith and forming a Church. 

Then over time, something happens. The people lose their drive to make an impact. The group settles into complacency. Innovation, creativity, and risky faith are lost. Soon everyone is content to just have Church as usual. The group is a sort of generic Church that drifts out of the center of the local community. 

I want an Oreo Church, not Hydrox. 

Asking for Your Support

There are two groups of people who will ask you for help.

The first group is those who always ask for assistance. They are constantly struggling. Perhaps they have never been able to live another way. Maybe it is because they like the attention it brings. There are people we know who will always have needs.

The second group is those who only ask because they are desperate. They genuinely need help, but they absolutely hate to ask for it. Perhaps they see asking for assistance as a sign of weakness. Maybe other people have failed them, and they do not want to rely on anyone again. Some people really need help but are the last people to ask.

One challenge as a Christian is to figure out what type of person you are dealing with and act accordingly.

Why I Stopped Counseling People

Last year, with the support of my Church leadership, the decision was made that I would no longer offer any counseling. I will stick strictly to my area of expertise, teaching the Bible.   If someone has questions about anything Biblical or involving the Church, I will gladly meet with them and try to help. Beyond that, I am only referring people to professionals.

There are several reasons I made this decision. 

  1. I am untrained as a counselor. My degree is in theology with a New Testament major. I have taken a counseling class and learned by experience, but this is not where I was trained.
  2. The work is getting more and more specific. Counseling is no longer dispensing advice. Instead, it is about handling a range of personality disorders, psychological backgrounds, and trauma. The more we learn about the human mind, the more we need a trained counselor to guide us. 
  3. There are more resources than ever. You can now speak with a trained psychologist online in the privacy of your own home. Covid forced people to use technology with everything, including their emotional health. The opportunities for help are many.
  4. It is often a waste of time. People value things for which they pay. My counseling as a pastor was free, and most people disregarded it by the time they left the parking lot. People need a personal investment to motivate them.
  5. Free up more time for other things. Sometimes you have to say “no” to good things to focus on the areas where God has gifted you. Counseling is not my strength.

Lately, I refer people to trained Christian professionals who can help far more than I ever dreamed. Honestly, it appears to be going well for the people and me. 

Why do I tell you all of this? Two reasons. First, I want the people in my congregation to understand the move. Second, I want Christians everywhere to develop a similar mindset. When someone comes to you for quick advice, then go ahead and offer it. When people need counseling, could you leave it to the professionals? I am afraid that we do more harm than good if we don’t. 

We Are Evolving

Not scientifically, but personally. Each one of us is ever-changing. 

Our bodies are changing with age. Our personalities change with every new experience. The things we like and dislike are new with every season. As a result, we are not the same people we were just a few short years ago. 

Most of us would agree with that wholeheartedly. We say with an element of pride, “Yes, I am growing and maturing with age.”

Have you ever thought that is true of the people you have relationships with? Your parents, spouse, and children are also evolving. They are not the same people you knew just a few years ago. 

One challenge in all relationships is to keep up with the adjustments we make as we get older. This is possibly the easiest to do with children as we see them mature. But it is most difficult to notice with our spouse. We want them to stay the same person we met and married. And that is not possible. 

It will significantly benefit our marriages to ask, “How has my spouse changed?” It is even better to sit down and ask them, “How have you changed lately? What new things are exciting you, and what is now boring you? What new things have you learned, and where did you learn them? How have your views changed with each new season?”

You might be surprised by the answers. Sometimes the person you spend the most time with is also the person you know the least.