Why look at the tree in front of you instead of looking at things through God's perspective (looking at the whole forest). I sometimes find myself wallowing in my old self habits and struggles and even moreso getting caught up in the daily jaunts of life and losing perspective of where I have come from instead of where God wants me to go. As Christians, we are called to go and make disciples unto all the earth. We are called to love the Lord our God with all our heat, mind, body, soul and strength. Secondly, to love one another as ourselves. Jesus says of these two commands all the others hang. For just a moment, imagine yourself doing your most healthy thing to enjoy life and or relax. Hold on to that feeling and ask yourself if it gets any better than that. Now for just another moment think about fast forwarding your life to meeting Jesus (we all will one day whether we know him personally or whether he doesn't know us). Ask yourself what else could have done with my time, talent and treasure that God has given me. Seriously take stock in this and, if you are like me, you will conclude that nothing in your life was earned, but it was truly given to you by our Lord. All things come from him and all things are under him. He made us, he formed us in our mothers' womb. Now that we can agree on this, then what.
For some these two words can be peeking your interest - do I read on. For others, you could be immediately turning this website off as you either get this from home (your wife and family, from church, and/or from your work), thus saying to yourself, "Self, why do I have to get this here too?" My answer, don't fret, read on, please! This post will not be me condemning or chastising myself or you, but rather to challenge each and everyone of us to reach our full potential in what God has in store for each and everyone of our lives. 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12: "(ESV) 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory."
I want to give you three stories that have personally impacted my life as a man, a father, a husband and dramatically impacted me as a husband. First, there was this family who had to deal with a violent and terminal illness is their life, the second was a husband and a wife who had to deal with multiple affairs and a divorce and a split home with their kids (shared custody) and the third was a set of parents who raised children who I can only hope and pray that our three children will model their lives after (a Christ-centered, fruit bearing relationship with their family, friends and intentions through life). All three of these stories are still a work in progress. The beautiful thing about us being followers (disciples) of Christ is that each one of us find our lives to tell, share and bring good news to others through our lives. God has a plan for each and everyone of us!
The second story is still near and dear to my heart and I still am watching and participating in this story working itself out. Even though the husband (my old friend) is divorced and living with another woman and unfortunately taking a different path then following Jesus, that doesn't mean that I have given up or stopped praying for him. Let's talk about the good things from that husband and wife, they are raising two wonderful children and they really have full lives and giving parents. As much as I want to be angry that he has walked away from God, I can see that he is being a good father, even though he walked away from his family responsibilities (Read Ephesians 5 & 1 Peter 3:7). Unfortunately they took paths that didn't turn back to God's plans for their lives. I hate divorce and I hate that children have to be pulled from one house and go to the other especially when there are not truly God-healthy influences in the other house. That being said, I want to apologize to you if I seem that I am being too judgmental - that is not my intention - I had hoped that they would come back together. I believe that I sin everyday and in the event that I don't then I will admit that on those "pretty good" days I still find myself with a divided heart (meaning I confess that my attention is not always on God's will, but rather my will). Thank God that his love never fails, never gives up and never walks out on us! I still am praying for my old friend that his life will get right with God and that he will put Jesus first and in the center of his life - that would be exciting.
The first story is painful and bitter sweet. There was a very godly men who exuded true biblical contentment. He was a co-Elder serving with me and he loved God, his wife and family and his church. This was a man that I wanted to get to know more. I wanted to learn where his strong faith welled up from. His wife has recently went home to be with the Lord and then he followed her two weeks later. His kids were wonderful at the wake. They even looked content even with the loss of two parents in two weeks. You don't find that type of humility and contentment from the world - you can only find that from God's Spirit and his Son Jesus Christ. In the short time that I served with him I learned one important lesson - Jesus is my rock and my shelter! (PERIOD!!!). I learned that no matter what ails us in this life - this flesh of ours is fleeting and that we have another home that Jesus has prepared for us and that nothing can take that away from us. I also loved this guy because I too had some health scares with my wife, and fortunately I learned this lesson: (Proverbs: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding and acknowledge him in all your ways and He will make your paths straight!).
The third story is truly a blessing in my life. This couple has been leaders in our church for quite some time. They both love serving with humility and they love children's ministry. They love their kids and they have raised three incredible children who are independent, confident and bear fruit for the love of Jesus. Translation: The parents faith was passed on to their children. The children in return have built a relationship with Jesus Christ and their fruit is clearly evident. They have blessed my wife and I with their love for our children. My wife and I want to get to know them better - to learn from them more and to understand what their good and bad moments where as parents. We all make mistakes no one is perfect except Jesus Christ our Lord. They love Him and their lives bear that fruit. This is inspiring to me in a world like this. It encourages me to think that these kids can share their faith and life experiences with the world and will be light to the world. How awesome is that!
I have to confess to you something that was shared to me by my middle child this week. My wife and I have noted this spirit of disobedience with her. Partly because she is on summer break and has strenuous activities and needs her sleep. Partly because she likes to challenge the parental system and partly because when she is like this she can really push our parental buttons. I do not want to put her in a bad light because honestly I would describe her as an "old soul". She can relate to children of any age and she is a go-getter. She loves to be around old people and she is really respectful to others around her (not always the case at home to her mom and to her sister) but that is what we are working on. Any way, to my confession, the other night when I was kissing her good night and singing to her a night night song, I asked her why she acts like that and told her the consequences that can happen from her attitude and actions from this. As we got done praying I asked her what does she think that mommy and daddy want from her life. Her answered made me reflect a lot on where and what my wife and I are trying to do. She said, "to obey and to be good all the time." I asked her again what she really thought and she said eventually that we wanted her to love Jesus and then again she said to be good and obey. (that crushed me). That is not want I want my eight year old daughter to be raised with. I want her to own our faith. I want her to have a true relationship with Jesus Christ and then I want her to educate herself and to find a godly man to be her husband. When I told her this, I also said, "listen to me my little little love, your daddy messes up all the time and even when I do, God still loves me. He sent his son to die for me and no matter what nothing can take away that love from me." I also told her that that is how her mother and I feel about her and her sister and brother - nothing can ever make us love you less.
As an Elder and a leader of men's ministry I find instances that break my heart. I once heard that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result each time. I think that is like the junk (sin) in our lives. You all know what I am talking about, the parts of our lives (our little kingdoms/idols) that we do not surrender to Jesus. Maybe it is me at times, or if you are reading this and this strikes a nerve with you, then maybe it is high time that we man-up and follow God's plan for our life and not our own. If we surrender our wants, needs and desires and give those to Him. What if we looked for his guidance and direction in everything we did before we took action - what would that look like at the Judgement seat of Christ- maybe, just maybe we would hear, "well done thou good and faithful servant."
Finish Well, do good and let go and let God. I think 1 Timothy 6 finishes this post well:
6 Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants[a] regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.
False Teachers and True Contentment
Teach and urge these things. 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound[b] words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and[c] we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Fight the Good Fight of Faith
11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before[d] Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. 17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. 20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.[e]"
Let me know your thoughts,