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…
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.
2 Peter 2:11
If “sterile” has a smell
it originates on the 8th
Floor Lobby of the Northside Cancer Center
and then wafts to the 12th
floor where it gathers and lingers. The 8th
floor is where you have to exchange elevators. The 12th
Floor is where I go every six months for my CT scan. Here, they look inside me for signs my body is turning on itself and plotting its own demise.
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.
Inbox on Fire?
Ever feel like a blind fireman on a high speed treadmill, putting out flames because they were “there” but working with no strategy or forethought? Ever think “If I ever do put out this fire, there’ll only be two more to take its place!”
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?
Shortly after our marriage, Cristine made it really clear that I’d brought too much stuff into our small apartment when we merged lives. Inbox was on fire again. Silly me thought she was just referring to stuff that could be seen. There was plenty of that, but I also had too many commitments and unfinished business on my calendar and in my head. There was smoke on the brain and it was making life stink.
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.
Conflict and clutter can show up in a lot of different places… our schedule, our priorities, our check book, junk drawer, our trunks, our closet, our plans, our hearts, our minds.
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.
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It’s Not What You Think… Or, Is It?
Is God “seeker friendly”? Depends on what the seeker seeks, right? “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all of your heart. (Jer. 29:13)” In that case, sure. Those who seek Him will clearly find Him. Rock on. Seeker friendly God.
That in mind, one of the hardest things to see in the mirror is the face of the false seeker – that is, self seeking behavior. The hardest to be honest with ourselves about is that which we think we’ve done selfishly but have really done out of service to self.
For example – I try to be a thoughtful gift giver. I like to give people things that are useful and that they want. Maybe you can relate? Who wants to give someone a shirt that’s two sizes too big, not the receiver’s favorite color, and give it two days late? No, most of us want to be thoughtful givers, too. Nobody wants to be “that guy“. We want to do something for someone, but we really have our own gain on the same dashboard!
Isn’t that the sneakiest bait-and-switch?! Isn’t self deception the most annoying form of deception?! “What a wretch am I?!”
Somewhere in the well of motivations from which impulses take root and grow into actions is a pure desire. But, the bait and switch happens when the pure desire is contaminated by the selfish desire, e.g., the desire to be perceived as thoughtful, to avoid being perceived as unthoughtful, or both. Being alert to the scam is crucial in escaping its sticky reach.
Try this: next holiday or birthday, measure your internal response when the receiver reacts to the revealed gift. How do you feel when they’re not 100% overjoyed at what you’ve given them? How do you feel when they’re utterly thrilled, surprised, and compliment your choice and timing? God will make you keenly aware of what bait and switch has gone on in your heart. So, what do you do with that? Who can cure the heart, which is wicked and beyond cure?! Glad you asked.
We live in a world that is broken and refuses to be healed, in imperfect, flawed bodies, with new hearts that know our old, familiar behaviors, yet are being renewed constantly against eternal opposition from an enemy who hates us and our Creator. That same creator will judge and reward everything we do that was done with a God seeking motive. But, then, have we simply traded one selfish motive for another? Am I giving to someone because I want something from God rather than from them? Only by the Spirit can our true motivation be revealed freeing us to give out of worship to God rather than out of selfish motive.
Twenty Seconds of Pain and Stretching
So, today, and everyday moving forward, will you join me in a potentially painful exercise of faith? Will you sit face to face with the mirror – God’s word – and stare into it around 1 Cor. 13.4-8? Will you read each line and pause in silence for 15 seconds after asking the Lord – “where am I falling short in this verse?” – especially at v. 5: “self-seeking”? I can promise you, if you have never heard from the Lord, this is a place where God (who is already omnipresent) “shows up”. The first time you do it, you will hear truth that is potentially painful to hear. You will be stretched in your faith and trust. But, the payoff of the exercise is somewhat self-serving: you will be grown in the area of dependence on the Lord for His motive. This is God seeking behavior. Pray that it springs out of a God seeking heart.
Picture This: We, He, and Thee
If you are a “we” who has placed your full faith solely in the atoning sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, then “we” serve a God who has a will for us. Obedience to and abiding dependence on Him. We believe He communicates His will through His word and His indwelling Spirit, given to us when we place our faith in Christ. We also believe we are both simultaneously free from condemnation by Him and subject to conviction of our wrongdoing so that we may repent and be transformed by the renewing of our minds and to be conformed to His Son’s servant-like image. Can you imagine what it would be like if we were in unity of that spirit?
Will you join us? Be a we, serving He instead of “thee”.
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”.