Monthly Archives: February 2013
Last Friday morning, I had a chance to talk to a room full of men about a topic that’s been all over my heart and my life. Clutter. We talked about why it’s so sneaky, so dangerous, and what’s at the core of it. I guess I was surprised how many detail oriented, organized guys also struggle with keeping a clean, undivided heart.
By the feedback I got, it turns out just about every table of men agreed that when life, schedule, work, and commitments get cluttered up, the one thing that suffers most is family. Yet, even there, a few of the wisest put their fingers on the fact that when they’re clean with God, have an undivided heart with Him, and stay deep in the word, the clutter seems to fall away. From that base line, organization goes from a “just try harder” behavior modification tactic to a natural outpouring of God’s work in their lives.
It’s easy to walk away from a teaching/preaching/leading opportunity like that and spot the things you could have done better in your rear view. But, the Lord has assured me that the perfect “preach” doesn’t exist this side of heaven – when we abide in Him, He’ll handle what needs to be said, not said, and most importantly, what gets heard. That saved me from a lot of “I wish I’d have remembered to say x.”
Then, I got this email, from Dan Diaddigo. We’ve featured him here before. One of my favorite local writers. And, it sounds like “clean” has been on his mind, too. I’ve said what I need to say for a time and I’m sure we’ll come back to it again. For now, here’s a sympathetic thread that’s been on Dan’s mind, too…
2 Peter 2:11
If “sterile” has a taste it is found in the plastic contrast bottles I drink before they put me in the machine. I prefer the “chocolate”, if it can be called that.
The machine sounds more clean than sterile. It whirs and hums as it travels up and down my mid-section, occasionally pausing to the instructions of a mechanical voice. Never mind that it’s pumping me with radiation.
This is what you do if you want to stay healthy. You go where it’s clean and you look inside, and you take come risks.
The same is true of our souls.
Too often, we avoid the scans. We miss appointments with God’s Word and opportunities to obey the Spirit’s prompts. I know I do. I suspect you do as well.
And I wonder why.
Sin is a cancer more deadly than the chromophillic renal cell carcinoma that claimed a couple of my organs. Sin pollutes the decisions of our leaders and it poisons our relationships with others and with ourselves.
Most of all, sin corrodes our faith. It gets between us and God and it makes us forget that He is good and that His love endures forever.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that this world is not our home, that we are forgiven and “clean” before God because Jesus took our cancer into Himself.
We need to remember that sin is deadly and sin is dealt with. Let us also remember who we are. We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that [we] may declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9).
Behind me to my right an elderly man listens intently as his daughter speaks loudly into his ear. He’s a black man in a grey warm up suit. I’d place him in his eighties. His speech is slurred and he’s waiting, as I am, to meet the machine.
I notice this then I busy myself on something else. Several minutes later I hear a loud voice bellowing from the hall. It belongs to the man. His daughter is trying to move him past the nurse’s station, but the man has something to say. I can make out three words clearly.
“God is good” he says.
My spirit yields. My soul remembers. I am clean.
Four months into a nice promotion I had a tangled ball of loose ends in a sky-high inbox and onscreen, over 1,100 unread emails!
That’s when I came across David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done.” I read it until 2AM and immediately implemented everything I could. 1,100 emails went to 0 in 72 hours and I was committed to stay on top of the pile. I now had power and perspective. It lasted… or so I thought.
Smelling the Same, Old Smolder?
Our young family was gasping for air and the mirror clearly pointed to one of the prime sources of suffocation. While I had learned some great practices and helpful principles, but applications were limited to a few compartments of my life. The cause of the fire couldn’t have been my desk… but with so much smoke, how could we track down the source? We needed clarity.
David Allen says this:
“Most peoples’ to-do lists are just incomplete collections of unclear things. Most peoples’ organization is just rearranging piles of still unclear stuff.”
So what can be done to bring clarity and abolish clutter?
Let’s flip the pages of an even better book and see what God has to say. You see, clutter isn’t just about things… it usually starts with our thoughts. As I read the word, God showed me my thinking had been very, very sloppy and sloppy thoughts come from a sloppy heart. Taming the clutter meant subduing the disobedient parts of my heart… a heart divided against the Lord.
Ultimate Fire Emergency Plan:
God provides clarity like this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 He also teaches us that serving rival gods leads us to a place of confusion, contamination… clutter. “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Sounds like conflict, right? But, a heart divided between building two kingdoms is the primary fuel for the fire. And, a mind “controlled by the Spirit [which brings] life and peace (Rom. 8:6)” is the elite fire team designed to tame the rebellious heart’s spreading flames.
Clutter isn’t just a fire starter, though -it’s also a mirror. It provides clues and important evidence. The challenge for us who seek to follow Christ is in accepting that the mirror is accurate without downplaying our idolatry and service to the rival god of “[our] stuff”. Walking away from that mirror without forgetting what you’ve seen will require a plan, an act of God, and a band of brothers to watch your back.
If you ever feel like you are working harder yet falling farther behind; if your email inbox is over 100; if you feel like you own some nice stuff, but your stuff also owns you; if you smell the fresh air of freedom, but the smoke is still in your lungs; then join us at a table this Friday morning at ONE TH1NG (The Cabernet Steakhouse, Windward Pkwy & 400 from 7AM to 7:55AM) where we’ll look into the only Word that brings eternal life and can set us free from sloppy thinking, a divided heart and the luring lie of multi-tasking.
Come hungry for the truth and fasten your seat belt.
NOTE (02.11.2013): The Seasons of Life Ministries website will be down for a few more days this week while we transfer everything over to WordPress. The blog will stay live, hopefully without any interruption, throughout the process. If you need anything that typically comes from our site – resources, pdfs, giving, “contact us”,”That Day” inquiry, etc., reach out via Facebook at on.fb.me/SEASONS.
Same Old Problem
Hate me if you want, but I’ve already bought my wife’s Valentine’s gift this year. Figuring out what to get is often the hardest part, isn’t it? Sourcing it can be a lot easier once the “big” decision has been made. Shopping on Amazon meant I didn’t pay shipping – I mean, who wants to pay shipping? Who wants to pay for anything, right? Can’t we just have the perfect inspiration weeks in advance and get what she wants for free?
Not a chance. Everything has a price – either now or in eternity. True? So, when I say “under $5”, I don’t mean these gifts won’t cost you anything, I mean there’s no money involved.
Just crack open your bible to 1 Corinthians 13.4. I know, you’re mad at me, because you think I’m pulling a fast one on you. Read on. Trust me for a moment, here. “Love is patient.” Stop. How’s that going for you right now? Now, I’m aware there are 15 more qualities of love that follow, but let’s just start with this one.
I’m not always patient. How about you? Why is it that we’re most impatient with the people closest to us? The easy answer is this: “they should know better not to get in the way of our agenda”. The harder answer is this: we’re never going to get over this hump (or whichever other of these 16 qualities) on our own. In fact, everything Paul talks about up to that point, even in the previous chapter, is an act of God via the Holy Spirit.
What the Self-Help Books Won’t Tell You:
“Try harder” is practically the mantra of the secular humanist movement. “Try different” is the second commandment of the same. But, what God has given us is something far more powerful, far more helpful, and far more lasting than mere “man up, get up, do it again”. The Holy Spirit has been given to us not only as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (Eph. 1:14), but as a helper to walk with us (Greek: paraclete).
This Year, Give God a Try
Love is the first mentioned “fruit of the Spirit”. Implication – love can’t be “mustered”. It’s an act of the will, but it’s only present in its true, 1 Corinthians 13 form by… the… Spirit. So, what if everyday, we paused with our bible, played “tap the bible app”, or just got really silent and recited that verse, but with a hook – “Lord, grow me patient, grow me kinder, kill my boasting…” What if we did that with a long, silent pause in between each of the 16 qualities?
Do you know the voice of God? Do you know the convicting, yet not condemning sound of the Holy Spirit answering your question – “Where have I been impatient, unkind, boastful, etc.?” God doesn’t provide the Holy Spirit to crush us, but to come alongside us and lock arms with us as we walk through every challenging season of life.
What would the fruit of this labor look like? What do you think your love for your spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, co-workers, overbearing supervisor, or enemy look like if you spent just ten minutes bringing that question before the Lord and waited in silence for the answer? “Lord, where have I been ___?”
Give the gift of honesty before the Lord and repentance to those around you this year. It’ll cost you some time, deep introspection, reliance on the Lord, and less than $5 every time.
A Stern, Prophetic Warning to America
by Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn
From the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast
January 21, 2013
In his keynote speech, Jonathan Cahn brought to light biblical passages concerning the fall of nations (as characterized by the fall of Israel) and connected the dots between those harbingers and the potential judgment of America, as a nation that has made itself a stranger to God.
Rabbi Cahn presides over Beth Israel Worship Center in Wayne, NJ and Hope of the World Ministries, also in Wayne, NJ. His book “The Harbinger” has been a best seller, but we will not be featuring it here because, in my opinion, it is a bit more reiterated fluff and filler than concise and theologically sound content. For purposes of intellectual honesty and full disclosure, this assessment is not from my actual reading of the book, but a conclusion based on first watching this video, transcribing it, and reading sound reviews of the book online.
Chew the Watermelon,
Spit Out the Seeds
Warning: We believe that parallels of America and Israel can be quite dangerous. The church is God’s chosen means to reach the world, not America, nor any other geo-political entity. So, any attempt to consider it a “chosen” nation is in error. America is not the hope of the world, unless we begin spelling America “J-e-s-u-s”. A once shining city on a hill, as Cahn reminds us, but not the hope of the world, nor a nation without hope.
That aside, we cannot argue that we have much to learn from the fall of Israel as a world power both on a macro and micro level. America‘s foundation is firmly rooted in Judeo-Christian values and has strayed greatly as a culture from this for many decades now. The signs and symbols present in the front page events he describes bear incredibly eery parallels to past biblical events. Disobedience still brings death. Perhaps not actual, biological death, but death in some form. God still punishes sin, if only with temporal consequence and a removal of the veil of protection from such consequences. We are by no means suggesting any form of salvation by works and I don’t believe Rabbi Cahn is, either.
If Rabbi Cahn is correct about these harbingers, which I currently hold he is, we must begin praying fervently and frequently for great, national revival and surrender more soundly to the call of Christ to “go forth and make disciples”.
Meet Jonah, Meet You
Last month, I had an opportunity to think out loud with some men about Jonah and his journey. Short book, but poignant. Jonah had an assignment, given directly to him by the mouth of God. But, he tried the impossible – he ran from God. Now, as a father of three toddlers and a teen, a husband of one wife, and a personal pastor to more than a dozen men, I feel the pull of trying to be in more than one place at a time. Imagine the futility of trying to run from a God who is everywhere at once?
And, yet, he ran.
Whether Jonah was trying to run from an omnipresent God or just the mission before him, he ran.
And, so do you. And, so do I.
Spotting the Lies
As I listened to the men around the room it became clear that we’ve all pulled a Jonah from time to time. The question was before us – “what line of thinking have you followed to talk yourself into doing what you want rather than obeying God?” Pride took many colorful shapes and sizes. Here are a few:
- “This is too small.” Either God had called a man to do something so simple, it seemed insignificant (“regular or unleaded?”). So, why would I obey that? God wanted me to pat someone on the back, let someone off the hook, skip a meal, take the neighbor’s teenager out for breakfast, whatever. And, now there’s a void in my soul because I know I left something undone… it feels like there’s… space… between you and God.
- “But, I’d rather do X.” How many times have you wanted to just veg out in front of some mindless TV before bed, when you know God was calling you to read the word to know something new about Him, read the word to your kids, read them a bedtime story, or just pray with your spouse? As you look back on what you spent that time on, you feel… estranged from God.
- “I was just following orders.” One guy shared the tension he felt over having shot men to death in Vietnam, all the while knowing God commanded us not to murder. Decades later, he still carries the guilt and shame. How often have we feared man rather than the God who created all men? It’s as if God’s voice were strained and far off while the voices of men were painfully close.
- “God will forgive me.” Many argue to this day that we are under grace, not law. They are correct when this is applied to salvation. However, does obedience play any part in our lives? I have two words for you: “Ananias” and “Sapphira”.
Or course, this is not an exhaustive list. But, the pattern the Lord revealed to me as I listened to the men around the room is this: we disobey God for one of two reasons: either we minimize the call He has given us or the consequences of disobedience. Minimizing the consequences says “I am more able than God to control/withstand outcomes.” Minimizing the call says “I know better than God/God clearly doesn’t see this with clear enough eyes.”
Jesus taught in the parable of the talents that when we are faithful with little, we prove our eligibility for greater responsibility. “This is too small” is not only a lie, but a barrier to moving forward in our assignment from God.
At any given moment, I can think of a dozen things I’d rather be doing… in the flesh. But, we are called to live by the Spirit (read Romans 8 exhaustively). So, there’s another lie to cast down – what I want to do and what I ought to do must be parsed, constantly.
Fear of man will prove to be a snare… (Proverbs 29:25) … but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Understanding “safe” is important – it doesn’t mean we might not get fired by someone who commands us to do evil – they may be bent on evil and not to be turned around. Consider Pharaoh or Potipher’s wife or even Eli’s sons.
The most important word in the Gospel is this: repent. Turn around in your mind and head back to God. Repent. Repent. Repent. Yes, we are under grace. But, we are called to obedience nonetheless. Prohibitions against premarital sex, lying, murder, envy, and all other forms of disobedience are not nullified because of the cross. They are merely “covered”. There is an eternal price to be paid for disobedience, of which we’ve talked before – forfeiture of eternal rewards, in part or in whole. See 2 Cor. 5:10.
Here is our call – fear God and obey His commands. When we sin, repent – let’s be sure to quickly and sincerely change our minds and agree with God that what we did was wrong. And, then, experience His grace, forgiveness, and mercy. More importantly, restore ourselves to fellowship with the God of the universe, who invites us to call Him, “Father”.
The death of Ananias and Sapphira was the exception, not apparently the rule – otherwise the church at Corinth would have all been dead after Paul’s first letter, for example. Grace is available, but it doesn’t shield us from the consequences of sin, only the judgment against it. God offers great freedom, love, and forgiveness, but also a massive eternal 401K to those who overcome, obey, and repent. May you retire a bizillionaire to your Father’s house to hear the words “well done, good and faithful servant”!