Restriction vs. Gratitude – Monday Morning Momentum


     Thanks to $30 and an ad on Craigslist, there are over 250 Lego blocks in our playroom. Thanks to the kindness of dozens of people who love our family, there are DOZENS of stuffed animals in our home. There are also many puzzles, VeggieTales movies, and books. My three toddlers (4, 2-1/2, & 2-1/2) are welcome to play with any of the many – all if they so choose. But, they are not to play with the Clorox bottle. 

     Does that make me a mean, restrictive father? Am I a controlling bully? Am I a hulking, omnipresent killjoy who doesn’t want them to have any fun? Or, am I concerned Dad that knows there is a purpose and a place for Clorox and they could poison or badly chem-burn themselves? 

Call it Like it Is:
     Don’t we all sort of suffer from the tendency to look at what we don’t have rather than what we do? If I can inflict some honesty on us early on in the post – it’s called “ingratitude”, but God just calls it “sin”. I know, you were hoping for a feel-good post to kick off the week, right?

     So here’s the scene where it all went awry: God makes everything good, gives Adam and Eve the keys to the kingdom and gives them some time to be “alone together” – if you have small children or aging parents living in your home, this is called “us time”, and it’s a rare commodity. I can’t imagine wanting time away from God, but there they had it. While the bible doesn’t tell us exactly how many trees God left them there with, judging from the incredible biodiversity of the rest of the planet, it’s probably more than the number of Legos and toys in my house, fair enough?

     Satan shows up, all hater-like, probably ticked off that there are new neighbors in the best part of “his” town, and starts spinning the instructions God gave them:

“Level with me, lady, did God really say ‘you shall not eat from any tree of the garden?’” (see Gen. 3:1-3)

     Not only does he use a different name for God (YHWH) than God had just used for himself over 20 times in the previous two chapters (Elohim), but he completely spins the conversation backward… God did say they could eat of every tree… freely even! (see Gen. 2.16-17 – ” ‘akal – devour, eat freely”) Trouble is, Eve falls for it and Adam lets the ship go right over the falls. Disaster.

     Because both Adam and Eve failed to recognize (and quote back to him) what they did have, they allowed their focus to be shifted to what they didn’t have. It’s not like God left the kids alone in the kitchen with candy on the table and said “don’t touch any of this while I’m gone”. On the contrary, He gave them everything with only one prohibition for their safety. 
Be Encouraged
     Imagine how Genesis 3 would have looked had Eve corrected the snake by saying “No, actually, God’s not holding out on us, at all. In fact, He gave us 738 species of trees with more to come, each with a different kind of fruit and flavor. Adam and I have tasted all 738 and were blown away by their flavors, but then God told us to try combinations of flavors and totally blew our minds. Oh, that one in the middle of the garden? It’s poisonous, so He told us to stay away from it. Isn’t that great?

     When it appears choices are limited and options are poor, you can be sure the enemy is trying to put blinders on you or spin the truth into a lie of God’s restriction and holding out on you. A wide and deep perspective of who God is, what He has done, and the riches of His grace provide a perspective that can only lead to gratitude. Be grateful for the many Legos and remember, Clorox has its purpose and place.

Context is King – Care for a Crown?


Want one of these in your 401K?

Context is King.
     But, Jesus is the King of Kings and He offers not only salvation for those who believe, but also some desperately needed context for our worldview.

     Trials and troubles and annoyances and tragedies exist. No getting around that in a Genesis 3 world. So, Jesus gave us a heads-up – “In this life, you will have troubles.” But, what is the context in which we are to interpret these troubles? In chapter 15 of John’s gospel, Jesus has just spent a bunch of time telling his disciples some bad news: the world is going to hate them “for no reason (John 15:25)”. Then He moves forward into the “you will have trouble” part of the speech. As if the “they’re going to hate you” part wasn’t bad enough, He explains two things:

  1. “I’m telling you this so you won’t get freaked out when it happens. I’m giving you a heads-up now that I’m on my way out.” (John 16:1 – paraphrased)
  2. “It’s going to be so bad, people are going to try to kill you because of me, thinking by killing you they’re serving Me.” (John 16:2-4 – paraphrased) “So, what do you guys want for dessert?”

    Can we skip to the end of the story? For some context?

The End That Satisfies the Means
    Here’s why “the end of a matter is better than its beginning… (Ecc 7:8)”: At the “end of the story” – Revelation 2 & 3, where God dictates seven letters for John to address to the seven churches in Asia Minor, Jesus reminds them who He is. “I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (v. 23)… To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations (v. 26)” At the Bema seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5.10), believers in Christ will receive their eternal rewards, including many crowns promised throughout scripture.

    Bottom line – in a world where trouble is the everyday landscape of our walk, everything you and I do [within God’s will for us and that’s not done with selfish motive (Mt. 6:2, Mt. 6:5, Mt. 6:16)] will be repaid with eternal reward.

     So, here’s the compensation structure when it comes to persevering under trial:

  1. Get paid now – “Atta boy!!!” (remarkably temporary)
  2. Get paid in eternity – “I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” or
  3. Both – “do everything without arguing or complaining. (Phil. 2:14)” and “I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Rev. 2:23b)”

     We’ve been warned. We’ve been told it won’t be easy, but given the Holy Spirit to guide, empower, and protect us. We’ve been given the context of our trials, persecution, and our eternal rewards. We can take the recognition from men now or we can take a rain check in our eternal 401K. What would you prefer, a compliment that lasts a little while or a portfolio that lasts forever?

    If you’re a man within 30 minutes of California Dreaming in Duluth, GA – do whatever you have to do to get there tomorrow morning (Friday, 05.11.2012) at 6:30 for Men Step Up. There, we’ll be thinking out loud about the lies of the enemy and the truth that sets men free, specifically this stuff. Hope to see you there!


If Only…

     When I’m consistent with “quiet time”, I’m not very consistent with which devotionals I read. I have a couple in hard copy and then a few others that come via email to my “@newsletters” folder in Outlook. Other times, I just skip back and forth between Psalms, Proverbs, Prophets, and the New Testament. When you talk to people for a living, you notice a handful of people who do the same thing every day, consistently. These guys are the low-spiritual-fat-percentage/chiseled character guys with 18-inch spiritual biceps that we all often idolize. Oops, did I say the “i” word? The i word often leads to the “c” word – comparison.

     Today, as I’m reading through Neil Anderson’s final devotional for February, his questions jumped off the page. The scripture selection was from Colossians 2.6-7:

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith 

     I have a tendency to notice the “who” part of passages as I’m reading them and this morning, I thought “How often do I muff up the “so walk in Him” part? How often do I compare my self to Matt or Jeff or Jim when I should be comparing myself to “who I am in Him?” Doesn’t the passage say “so walk in Jim?” Nope. The comparison game can get messy when we’re not playing by God’s rules – when it comes to man, “comparison is the enemy of contentment”.
     Anderson goes on this morning to ask the following litmus test questions about our faith (and, as he’s famous for doing, our identity):

I would be more successful if . . .
I would be more significant if . . .
I would be more fulfilled if . . .
I would be more satisfied if . . .
I would be happier if . . .
I would have more fun if . . .
I would be more secure if . . .
I would have more peace if . . .

     The completion of these statements give us a great picture of the completion of the work of Christ in our lives. See – Ephesians 4.12-16.The biggest troubles we get ourselves into can be traced back to a lie that we once bought, which can easily be detected by holding it up to the plumb-line of God’s truth: Would you be more successful if circumstances changed or if you stayed out of God’s way and let Him work through and lead you? Would you be more significant if you made your mark on a situation or if you trusted in who God has gifted you to be and ran on the steam of His grace instead of your own effort? Would you be more secure if you had $25K in the bank or if you were breaking even every week, but clinging to Christ for every dime?

     The worst form of idolatry is self-worship – my agenda, my plan, my energy, my competence. The greatest gains have been made in my life when I stepped aside and got God out of the co-pilot seat so He could fly the plane. Conversely, the biggest trouble and darkest times I’ve experienced in business, ministry, marriage, etc., have been the places where I “leaned on my own understanding” and trusted in my ability to walk, talk, work, or manipulate my way out of a jam. Grace is God’s way of empowering us to do His work. Misformed and misunderstood identity in Christ is the surest path to lost confidence in God’s sovereignty and diminishing Christ’s finished work on the cross.

     If only we all would walk in that. If only we would encourage each other in that (like, discipleship). If only we would reassure each other there is no condemnation, God’s grace is big enough (though not to be abused), and that His mercies are new every morning. If only we would all slow down the hustle, quiet down the noise, and listen to the Holy Spirit’s lead – what would a lost and dying world think of our God if we all grew up into maturity in the faith, attaining to the full measure of Christ?

in it with you,