Monthly Archives: September 2012

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God without Rivals

“You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:3)

     What if we could just get this first commandment right all the time? Read that again… Would we work 80 hours a week? Would we abuse our bodies with junk food? Would we abuse people around us with harsh words? Would we neglect the people who need us most? Would we steal from our “neighbor”? Would we even covet our neighbor’s stuff?

     Tim Keller says “Sin isn’t only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God.” When we elevate something lesser than god to a rival position above God, we are sinning… Ouch.

     So, how’s that going for ya?

     Me, too.

     The beauty of the Christian life, though, is that we’re all in the same boat – we “kill and covet” because we don’t have/get what we want, because what we want can never be fulfilled finally and fully by the 7,000,000 page menu of this world’s offerings. Yet, despite this brutal fact of our reality, God loves us enough to sacrifice Himself for us in Christ. God went “all in” for us at the poker table of redemption (awkward metaphor?).

Be Encouraged
     Today, you and I as followers of Christ can take comfort in the fact that God is a jealous God. Really? Yes! Perfect, holy, awesome, great, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God is better for you and I than all the stuff we could work for, covet, steal, or attain in this world and He’s so committed to that, that He made it the first command, sent Christ to suffer and die for our sins, and sent the Holy Spirit to help us do all He designed for us to do.

     By the Spirit, by the Spirit, by the Spirit… The first command is clearly a hurdle too high for any of us, yet God sent the Spirit to empower us to “do all things”. In a Genesis 3 world, none of us can truly expect to do this perfectly for any extended period of time. However, this is one of many voids the Spirit was sent to fill.

     Bigger than that is the fact that our God is bigger than all of this. We were not created by and are not pursued, loved, and empowered by a bumbling wannabe superhero. It is not a wee, man made, gold statue that’s offering you a good grain harvest who sent his little brother to help you plow the fields and do a few odds and ends on your honey-do list. It is the King of Kings, the ha olam – Master of the Universe – who sent the Spirit of Truth to walk along side you through everything from the valley of the shadow of death to loving God without rivals.

Wow. Amen.

AP

No Joke…

Prov. 26.18-19
Like a madman shooting
    firebrands or deadly arrows 
is a man who deceives his neighbor
    and says, “I was only joking!”

Free to be Constrained

Ever Feel Threatened?
     There’s a guy in my life who’s avoiding a conversation with me right now because he thinks I’m expecting something for nothing. Actually, I owe him something, but it’s something I can’t give him until it first comes back to me. Long story short, he’s already written me off as lawless and fears I only want to talk my way out of it. Big communication shutdown. I’m in the wrong and need to make amends. But, when I’ve asked for mercy (“…press your plea with your neighbor… (Prov. 6:3b)), only suspicion has been returned.

     What he doesn’t know is that as a believer in Christ, I’m not only subject to the law (Romans 13:1), but I’m also subject to the law giver. Anyone who’s ever paid a speeding ticket knows that it’s no fun to be on the wrong side of the law. But, imagine coming face to face with the God who created the universe and hearing Him request an accounting of everything you did while on His planet in the time He gave you… Does that sound a bit more intimidating than traffic court?

     For me, it does.

Renewed by the Word
     Yet, the great news that God popped off the page is this – while there are men and women out there who would love to entice us into argument, character assassination, word wars, and even litigation, God is sovereign even over them. As I’m reading Proverbs, Chapter 1, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. (Prov. 1:10)”

     Am I calling this guy a sinner? No, categorically, not. I don’t have access to God’s Facebook friends list and I won’t be so arrogant as to sit in judgment over the guy from my mere human vantage point. Furthermore, I’m the guy in the wrong on this one, right? So, let’s focus on the point here and experience the freedom we have in God, shall we?

     Our freedom in Christ seems oxymoronic. To be free to say “no” seems a bit of a dichotomy. Yet, you and I, as Christ followers are compelled by Christ (see 2 Cor 5:14) to only one option – “do not be enticed into doing wrong”. Yes, the example given in this proverb is about being invited to join people who want to go inflict evil upon others, but it also extends to the broader category of “wrongdoing”.

Be Encouraged
    Sometimes, freedom is saying “no” when you have all the room in the world to say “yes”. Could I engage this guy in a verbal war? Could I bite back with character assassination of my own? Sure could. I might even be right at the end of the argument. But, I’d be wrong in Christ and would be abusing my freedom and would miss out on one of the greatest fruits of the Spirit: self control. My freedom actually constrains [Greek: ‘sunexei‘ to control or hold together with constraint] me to one option: love someone who is acting as if I’m any enemy and pray for him while he’s persecuting me. While it sounds painful now, I’d rather do that than lose both the fruit of the Spirit and eternal reward. How about you?

    Until Christ returns, there will always be those who want to wrangle with words and accusations, stir up dissension, even cause us physical or legal harm – they may also try to entice us into sinning against God with them. But, we serve the God who will, in the end, see their knee bowed to Him just as our knee will bend; they, too will be called to account for their actions. May our hope not be in our words or our temporal vindication, rather in the God who searches hearts and minds and will repay us all according to our deeds. (Rev 2:23)

in Christ,

AP

Slay the Beast, Unclutter Your Life

Just Do It!
     “Call. Ask. Read. Pick up. Reply. Go to.” Action words, right?

     I choose these words everyday because David Allen told me I had too many “non-action words” on my action list and passive words like these don’t help your brain, they just make you scratch your head in wonder. Words like “Mom” and “Bicknell Project” can’t really be “done” because they’re not discrete actions that can be completed. They’re just categories that need to be broken down into a list of “doable” steps. Bookmark that thought. We’ll come back to it.

Ever have 1,100+ emails in
your inbox?  Beastly.

Meet the Beast
     A few years ago, I looked at my inbox and it had over 1,100 items in it and I would nearly get a headache just looking at the computer screen because… well, where do you start with 1,100 emails? My inbox extended probably 50 screen lengths and had become a woeful Beast that would stare me down from the moment I fired up my computer.

     Since I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD), I’ve been able to get my inbox to empty two to three times a week. Caveat: “been able to” and “have done” are definitely two different matters. But, I can recall uttering the words “free at last” more than once over these years, simply because I knew the impossible could be done, and I’d seen it happen at least once myself.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
GTD, by David Allen, a field manual
for slaying the beast at work, not for
abiding in Christ.

    Today, I have Microsoft Outlook’s rules automatically re-route 80% of my incoming mail into reliable, categorized folders, keeping my inbox nearly clutter-free and with less than 40 items in my inbox at all times. Can you imagine the freedom I feel every time I sit down at my inbox to see that it’s less than one screen long? The Beast is, at long last, dead!

Same Beast, Different Face
     When I first grasped the concept of what sin really is and the fact that I could sin in my mind without taking any external {Call. Ask. Read. Pick up. Reply. Go to.} action, I could hear the familiar snarl of the email beast echo through my head. Suddenly, I realized that my average day was filled with far more sin than I’d ever considered. It was as if I was being brutally Spammed in my inbox… my “sinbox” was well over 1,100… million.

Word Problems, Again?
     Over the years, I’ve also realized there’s an enemy of God out there –  a deceiver, liar, and accuser – who knows that when I recognize my sin my natural propensity is to become overwhelmed by the massive clutter in my inbox. It’s usually spam in the form of guilt, shame, and condemnation. Sometimes, it’s even accompanied by a self written email like “Idiot! You know better!” Yet, Jesus is there, always, telling me to abide, to remain in Him. Now, “abide” and “remain” don’t really fit well on my “action words” list. It’s one of those words that makes you scratch your head in wonder. So, how does that work?

     Jesus gives us a key to reconciling this problem in John 14:16-17, Jesus reminds us that abiding is such an impossible task that He’s going to send the Holy Spirit to help us do it. In other words, it can’t be “done” because it’s not an item that can be completed. Instead, I want to encourage you today with a word that doesn’t appear in this passage – “reconnect”. It’s a simple word that in my GTD world means “get back on the wagon”. In Jesus’ terms it means – “get back into the vine”.

Refresh/reconnect – The key
to “abiding in Christ”.

    Sin is the natural result of disconnecting from the “vine” (read John 15). If we ever spent a day fully connected to Christ, truly abiding, two things are certain: 1) we’d never want to disconnect again and 2) we’d be so filled with pride that we’d immediately disconnect (1 John 1:8). Truly, it can’t be done… apart from the Spirit. Because of the cross, the beast is already slain. If we can, by the Spirit rather than by our own effort, wrap our heads around that concept, there is a freedom greater than any empty inbox can bring waiting in the next heartbeat.

Be Encouraged
     Jesus is the original “Getting Things Done” master: the beast is, indeed, dead – sin has been conquered and so have the enemy and the world. With our debt paid in full, our sinbox is clean. The clutter of guilt, condemnation, and shame can be deleted in an instant by simply refreshing our browser. In Christ, by the Spirit, to the glory of the Father, you and I can be clutter free in one keystroke: realign… refresh… reconnect.

Abiding with you,

AP

For a quick assessment (45 seconds or so), go to www.gtdiq.com. For one-on-one coaching in either GTD or in abiding in Christ, email aarron@seasonsoflifeministries.org.

Unclutter and Slay the Beast!

Call. Ask. Read. Pick up. Reply. Go to.

Action words, right?

     I use these words everyday because David Allen told me I had too many “non action words” on my “action list” and “non action words” don’t help your brain, they just make you scratch your head in wonder. Bookmark that thought. We’ll come back to it.

Ever have 1,100+ emails in
your inbox?  Beastly.

     A few years ago, I looked at my inbox and it had over 1,100 items in it and I would nearly get a headache just looking at the computer screen because… well, where do you start with 1,100 emails? My inbox extended probably 50 screen lengths and had become a woeful Beast that would stare me down from the moment I fired up my computer.
     Since I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done, I’ve been able to get my inbox to empty two to three times a week. Caveat: “been able to” and “have done” are definitely two different matters, but I can recall uttering the words “free at last” more than once over these years, simply because I knew the impossible could be done, and I’d seen it happen at least once myself.
    Today, I exclusively run Microsoft Outlook because it has rules that automatically re-route 80% of my incoming mail into simple, categorized folders and keeps my inbox nearly clutter-free. Can you imagine the freedom I feel every time I sit down at my inbox to see that it’s less than one screen long? No longer did I worry about getting pulled away from my desk by an “important” telemarketer’s phone call or a dirty diaper (hey, when you work from home 50% of the time or more that’s a clear & present danger…)

     When I first grasped the concept of what sin really is and the fact that I could sin in my mind without taking any external {Call. Ask. Read. Pick up. Reply. Go to.} action, it was as if I had suddenly sat down in front of that computer again to face

Death to Interruptions! – Monday Morning Momentum

Windy, Bendy Roads
     If you’re not a mom, stick with me for a moment. We’re driving down a road that’s required us to make 50 course corrections an hour and you’ll appreciate it about halfway through this post.

     My wife is in the middle of an amazing transition where God is forging in her heart a fresh desire to lead and train up our youngest three children for a season. They’re 2-1/2, 2-1/2, and 4 (next week). It’s amazing to watch her grapple with scripture in her very Berean way – searching the Word to see if what the Spirit has told her is true: “You’re called to care for and train these kids.” Amid her research in this lifestyle shift, she often encounters blogs, columns, and talks where weary and harried mothers of multiple toddlers and school age kids vent their frustration over how their kids are a “drain”, an “inconvenience”, etc. They’re frazzled: emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted, with no immediate hope of relief.

     Cristine responds: “I can relate to them. But, I’m choosing joy.” We discussed what this meant and I’ll share my synopsis of it below. But, right now, you’re wondering:

What Does this Have to Do with Me?

     You and I share something very simple in common. Even with my ADD tendencies, I can’t stand interruptions. As Cristine shares some of the “frazzled Mom” comments with me from her research, I can’t help but notice a common thread that all of the moms share: they see their kids as an “interruption”.

     But, if I were focusing on my kids all day long (which I occasionally do), how can the point of my focus interrupt me from the point of my focus? Exactly. What we’ve observed with so many moms (and how this relates to you, even if you’re not a mom) is that most of them have been focused on themselves all day long, hoping their kids would give them a break. So, when their kids make noise, screams, damage, diapers, etc., those things weren’t their focus, therefore they’re interrupted.

     My phone is often the worst. Texts, tweets, updates, reminders, and [God forbid] actual phone calls,  come with no warning. Unless the point of my focus is “watch your phone all day for signs of life”, these things are, by nature, an interruption. It’s really a matter of my agenda being interrupted. I planned to do my stuff in my time in my order the way I like to get things done and anything that gets in the way becomes an enemy to my agenda.

So, What’s Your Agenda?

     Here’s the tough part. I think you might be expecting me to give you some simple solution for stress free living. And, I might. But, it might be at a much higher cost than you had planned. As I’m reading the gospels, Jesus tells me in three of them that I’m ignoring the cost of discipleship: a bad mindset.

“Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s. (Matt 16:23)”

     “Peter, I love you, but Satan has fooled you into believing your agenda is more important than mine. Bad mindset, my friend. You’re an interruption to God’s agenda.”

     Bottom line: God is sovereign over phone calls, text messages, messy diapers, sibling arguments, senior management initiatives, conference calls, emergency meetings, etc. When I have my mind set on God’s interests, not man’s [read: mine], God is the point of my focus and His “interruptions” aren’t really interruptions… rather, they’re the point of my focus.

     As we take a day off of labor for Labor Day, let’s keep ourselves aligned with His mindset, die daily to ourselves, and carry our crosses. This is the true cost of discipleship, the cost of following the Master, the basic blocking and tackling of the Christian life – abide.

in Christ,

AP