Wisdom

Good Things, God Things, and GO Things

You’ve probably heard that there is a difference between “good things” and “God things.” That is, we may find ourselves very busy with sports, clubs, volunteer activities, civic duties, Bible studies, church services, and so on and so forth. But not all of these activities turn out to be God-honoring or God-glorifying, at least not for all of us. On the other hand, there are activities and commitments that do honor and glorify God, when situated within the context of our lives and our responsibilities.

But it seems to me that there is another distinction that bears mentioning—namely, there are some things that I would call GO things. For each of us, there are likely some hopes, dreams, and inclinations that we have considered. There may be some that we are deeply drawn to and feel called toward. That list looks different for each of us, and may include everything from becoming a mentor to becoming a missionary. My list has changed a bit over time, but has included things like adoption, foster to adopt, and living kidney donation.

I think that we tend to have one of two reactions to these leanings: 1) We put them on a bucket list and figure that maybe someday, we’ll have the opportunity to pursue them; or 2) We rush off to pursue them now, figuring that “if God didn’t want this for me, he wouldn’t have placed the desire in my heart.” But God may be telling us something different. You may be making someday plans when God wants you to act today. Maybe he’s trying to tell you that you’ve thought about it long enough, prayed about it long enough, put it off long enough. And he’s telling you to GO and to GO now. On the flipside, you may be anxious to get on with what you’ve determined to be God’s call on your life, and God is actually telling you something else. He may be saying, “Not now, not you, or not at all.” He may say that through Scripture, trusted sources of wise counsel, or the closed and open doors of opportunity that you come to.

Our job is to truly listen to what God is saying to us. When he says to go, GO. When he says to wait, WAIT. And when he says, “No,” accept that with all of the grace that God has given you through Christ Jesus. These responses are easier said than done, but we can find rest in the knowledge and promise that we can do and endure all things through Christ, in whom we find our strength (Philippians 4:13).

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The Greater Blessing

Hebrews 12:1-2a

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run
 with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

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If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you may recall how I feel about blessings and what it means to be blessed. Awhile back, our pastor described blessings in terms of a nearness to God. So it isn’t the material things (money, houses, cars) or even the nonmaterial things (health, longevity, family) that we so often ask God for that offer the greatest blessings. Rather, it is those things that draw us closer to Him, that force us to place our trust more firmly in Him, and that help us to fall ever more in love with Him.

I recently posed an argument that opportunities to become more like Christ would also fall under this definition of blessing, and I still believe that’s true. However, over the last week or so, God has begun to change my heart about what that Christ-like transformation might look like—namely, it will look different for each one of us.

Of course, we are seeking a likeness to the same Jesus, who is as unchanging as God the Father Himself. But that Jesus is made up of many more characteristics than one. And we each excel at Christ-likeness in some areas, and struggle in others. And God wants us to grow closer to Him along all of those dimensions. And that growth may look different for you than it does for me—in fact, it almost assuredly will!

So, perhaps God will grow my patience, while He grows your joy. Or my gentleness and your love. Or my self-control and your peace. These exercises will require different actions from each of us. God has convicted me to recognize that my way is not the only way, or the right way, or the only right way. It isn’t even necessarily the better way. Instead, each of us will find the greater blessing when we openly accept God’s invitation to draw most near to Him. It will come when we allow God to stretch us beyond our current strengths, and to grow us in our areas of weakness.

I pray that we would each be open to God’s leading and instruction: that we would read the Word with intention and conviction, taking from it the hard as well as the easy truths; that we would seek and discern wise counsel from among the many voices swirling around us; and that we would trust and follow the Holy Spirit. Godspeed as you seek the greater blessing!

Littler Minutes

Last night, just before a had fallen asleep—and only seconds after Chris had drifted off—came the familiar sound of one Laredo Jade, whimpering from her bedroom, “Mommy…Mommy.” I went to her and asked her what she needed. “I just need you to hold me,” she answered as she wrapped her arms tightly around my neck and rested her head on my shoulder. Usually she demands that I hold her while I’m standing up, but last night, she agreed that we could lay on the couch together. After shifting around a bit, she got comfortable laying on my chest (and tummy and legs, because let’s face it, at her age she takes up quite a bit more space). Then she fell asleep, and then I fell asleep. But before I did, I thought back to a post I’d written in June of 2014, entitled, “Little Minutes.”

——

Psalm 39:4-5

“LORD, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days;
Let me know how transient I am. Behold, you have made my days as handbreadths,
And my lifetime as nothing in your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah.”

As I was lying in the hotel bed with Tijge, he took my hand and held it as he drifted off to sleep. I was reminded of a habit that we had briefly gotten into a few weeks before. He would lay down and go to sleep, only to wake up at around midnight—at which point, he would sweetly ask, “You want to lay by me a little minutes?” Of course I do. Well, invariably, I would fall asleep and end up spending the rest of the night with him.

At one point, Chris expressed concern that this might get to be too much of a habit. Probably, I reasoned inwardly, but then I thought about the day that would no doubt come—sooner rather than later—when I would no longer be able to comfort him; when I wouldn’t be “cool” enough to be seen with, let alone to lay or snuggle with. And then I will miss these nights, and I won’t remember the midnight wake-up call, or his tossing and turning, or my stiff back and neck. I will only, and very fondly, remember those few extra minutes with him each night.

Little minutes, indeed.

——

Yep, that’s still about right. Different day. Different kid. Same stiff neck. Same little minutes…except they keep getting littler every day.

 

Our Unreasonable King

Joshua 10:12-13

“On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel….
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down
about a full day.”

Have you ever read the book, The Little Prince? I first read it in graduate school, and I have finally decided that Tijge is old enough to read it as well. So I’ve been reading it out loud to him over last month or so. There is a point in the book where the little prince is travelling among planets near his own, very small planets, each inhabited by only one person. On the first planet, he meets a benevolent king…

“…the king insisted that his authority be universally respected. He would tolerate no disobedience, being an absolute monarch. But since he was a kindly man, all his commands were reasonable.” And then a bit later, the little prince “ventured to ask a favor of the king: ‘I’d like to see a sunset… Do me a favor, your majesty… Command the sun to set…’” The king replied, “…One must command from each what each can perform….Authority is based first of all upon reason….I am entitled to command obedience because my orders are reasonable….You shall have your sunset. I shall command it. But I shall wait, according to my science of government, until conditions are favorable….around seven-forty!”

When I read this section of the book, I couldn’t help but think about how different this king is from ours. Of course, God is benevolent and kindly, but I realize with great joy and peace that He is far from ‘reasonable,’ at least by this king’s definition. You see, God needn’t wait for conditions to be favorable to make a command and have it obeyed. All throughout the Bible, we see accounts that assure us that God’s commands defy the laws of nature, the laws of science, the laws of man, the laws of the universe….and as unreasonable as they may be, they are OBEYED.

God parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-22) and made the sun stand still (Joshua 10:12-13); Jesus was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18-25), walked on water (Matthew 14:25), calmed the storm (Mark 4:35-41), brought the dead to life (John 11:43), was crucified under the cover of darkness at midday (Luke 23:44-45), and rose again on the third day (Luke 24:6).

This is how I know that God is with my friend, Russell, who is fighting for his life after a heart attack at age 39. It’s how I know that if there is even one kidney on the face of this earth that is a match for Emily, God knows exactly where it is, whose it is, and how to get it to her. It’s how I know that if God wants us to adopt a child, He is perfectly capable of providing divine intervention, divine revelation, divine wisdom, or divine peace. And whatever you’re facing today, our God—our King—can be trusted to command the absolutely unreasonable on your behalf. And to Him be the glory!

Dear Prospective Birth Mother

Dear Prospective Birth Mother,

For years, I’ve dreamed of one day adopting a baby. I’ve spent time praying for him or her—and that God would bring us just the right child and that we would be uniquely qualified, gifted, and equipped to care for him or her. I’ve prayed that we might be instrumental in helping them become everything that God has created them to be.

But for a while now, I’ve been thinking of and praying for you. No doubt you are in the midst of making some of the most difficult decisions that you’ve ever had to make—that you ever will have to make. The decision to entrust the life and care of your baby—your own flesh and blood—to a couple of virtual strangers must be both terrifying and heart-wrenching. At the same time as you experience those fears, questions, and uncertainties, though, you are probably overwhelmed with hope, dreaming of the many wonderful opportunities that your child may have as a result of this bravest of choices.

Of course, the other burden that falls on you, a responsibility that no mother should have to bear, is CHOOSING which couple of strangers will be the best fit for your child. That is a choice that I can’t even fathom—and again, you show immeasurable courage by undertaking that responsibility. A couple of women come to mind whose stories you may find encouraging. In Exodus 2:1-10, we find the story of Moses’ mother—who placed her baby boy in a basket in a river, in hopes that he would be adopted by one of Pharaoh’s daughters. As a result of this act, Moses was used mightily by God—as an instrument of His emancipation. In another story, in 1 Samuel 2, Hannah—a woman who had long struggled with infertility, pleaded with God for a child, vowing to in turn return that child to the service of the Lord. And that is just what she did; she entrusted him to Eli the priest. Again, her son became a powerful instrument for God’s purposes.

Neither mother knew their children’s adoptive parents well. But they did know God—and they trusted in His faithfulness to care for their beloved children. And through challenges and trials that those mothers would never have wished upon their sons, God carried them safely home and into eternal rest.

Still, your decision weighs heavily upon you. It’s unsettling, to be sure. So let me leave you with a couple of verses that I believe God has given me to share with you:

  • “If anyone lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5; NIV)
  • “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3; NLT)
  • “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11)

I hope these verses bring you hope and peace. Know that you remain in my thoughts and prayers, and that you have my deepest respect and admiration. Be strong in spirit, but humble before the Lord—and He will surely guide you, now and for all of your days.

With Love,

Brooklynn

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A Companion of Fools

Proverbs 13:20

 “Walk with the wise and become wise,
for a companion of fools suffers harm.”

One of the most powerful scriptures I’ve ever encountered is Proverbs 13:20. I was first confronted by its profound power in a well-timed message delivered by Andy Stanley (to give credit where it is due, of course), in which he went into much greater detail than I will here. But I will say that I haven’t been the same since that day.

Of course, when most of us read this passage, we see it as an admonition not to be a companion of fools, lest we suffer harm. But there is another way to look at it. If we instead consider our own actions and decisions with discernment regarding whether they are wise or foolish, we can see how those actions and decisions might affect our loved ones—our companions.

You see, the thing about fools is that they often lack a keen sense of self-preservation. That means that they will disregard the potential negative consequences that they may face as a result of their behavior. I remember Andy Stanley saying that many times, fools will not change until they have suffered the full extent of the consequences of their sin. And worse yet, many of them wear that fact like a badge of honor or simply laugh it off: “Yeah, I guess I’ll change once I’ve hit rock bottom and lost everything.”

But wait. The verse above doesn’t say that a FOOL suffers harm. It says that a COMPANION of fools suffers harm. So who are those companions? Our spouses, children, parents, siblings, friends, neighbors, coworkers—even our pets—can all be our companions. And even fools will usually claim to love at least some of these. So all of a sudden, when the consequences of our decisions affect not only us, but our loved ones as well, maybe that offers a deeper motivation to choose the right path, the godly way.

I know that, for myself, when I’m tempted to do something foolish, and I first imagine the full extent of the consequences of that choice—the fallout that could await those I care about—it gives me immense power to resist that temptation and to turn away from sin. I hope all who read this will find that same power from this awesome proverb.

Many blessings to you all.

Just As…

Joshua 1:16-18

They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do,
and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things,
so we will obey you; only may the LORD your God be with you as He was with Moses.
Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words
in all that you command him, shall be put to death;
only be strong and courageous.”

We’ve been studying Joshua lately, and I’ve been trying to focus on new angles that I may not have noticed before. In the passage above, that angle came as I read “Just as we obeyed Moses…” I quickly flipped back to the preceding verses to make sure that I was properly attributing the quote. And I was—it was the Israelites that made this claim, without batting an eye. I wanted to yell, “Blasphemy!” Seriously?! Just as you obeyed Moses?

And how was that, exactly? By building and worshipping a golden calf? By whining and moaning all through the desert? By questioning Moses and God at every turn? By threatening to have Moses replaced as your leader? By refusing to enter the Promised Land for fear of its inhabitants? By failing to put your trust in God, no matter how many times He proved himself faithful?

Just like that, huh? I can only imagine Joshua’s response to that.

I could sit in judgment of the Israelites all day long, but you know what? God chose them as an illustration of humanity. And that means that many times, the way that I obey God turns out to be just as the Israelites obeyed Moses, which is not very well. So, to me, this passage was a reminder of grace—the grace God had for the Israelites and the grace that He continues to show me. Grace is often described as unmerited favor. And it is just as unmerited for me, and for you, as it is for anyone else. When we forget that is when we begin to place ourselves in a judgment seat that belongs to God alone.

May we view ourselves rightly, that we may also rightly view those around us.

Draughts

1 Corinthians 10:16 (MSG)

When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life,
of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat?
Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ?

 Ephesians 5:19-20 (MSG)

Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to
God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.

This past Sunday, as I approached the communion table, I did what I always do. I pulled a piece of bread from the loaf and moved to dip it in the bowl of grape juice. But like always, I hesitated momentarily. Was it to reflect on the gravity of the moment? Or to thank God for his gift of salvation? No. Instead, I was calculating my ‘dipping depth’ in such a way that I would avoid a soggy, dripping piece of bread. Pure sacrilege, I know.

And in that moment, with songs of praise and worship playing around me, it hit me. This was a metaphor for the Christian life—at least the way many of us are prone to live it. Think about it. We want a taste of what God has to offer us, but we always seem to want just enough.

  • We sing along with the songs during worship, but we don’t let the lyrics really permeate our hearts.
  • We talk about God at church and at home—but not at work, not at the gym, not out with friends.
  • We wave to our neighbors in passing, but we don’t truly get to know them or let them get to know us (or our God).
  • We serve dinner at a homeless shelter once a year (or once EVER), but we don’t reach out to build relationships with the people there.
  • We pray for healing, but don’t accept the form of healing that God sometimes gives.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. And I think you could probably add a few more examples to this list yourself. We want to dip our toes into the waters of salvation, but we don’t want to dive in. But God doesn’t want us to dabble in our faith. He wants us to live it fully, proclaim it, and let it change us. Ephesians 5:19 instructs us to “drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him.” Do you know what that means? It means to drink of the Spirit in huge doses, gulps, or swallows.

How appropriate that this observation occurred to me on Baptism Sunday, when Christians of all ages and walks of life were making this declaration: “I’m all in for Jesus!” And I thought, What about me? Am I really living all in for Him?

Are you?

Bring Your Friends

Mark 2:2-5 

“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man,
“Son, your sins are forgiven.”

 Tijge’s Sunday school lesson last week focused on Mark 2:2-5, and the paralytic whose friends brought him to see Jesus. For days afterward, Tijge asked us questions about the story. Why couldn’t they use the door? Why did he have bad muscles? Why was the house crowded? Why did he need a mat? Over and over he would ask, trying to understand the story. He even built a diorama of the scene using various toys around the house. It was interesting to see how, even for a three and a half-year old, this story is compelling.

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When teachers speak on this passage, they typically speak of Jesus; or of the crowds; or of the paralytic. But once I heard a message that focused on the four friends that brought the paralytic to Jesus, and the teacher challenged audience members to be the kinds of friends that would do the same.

Awhile back, I considered this passage in light of Ecclesiastes 3:11. You see, sometimes I get so caught up in MY journey that I forget about those around me. But we should live not just with a focus on ourselves and our eternal destiny, but also on others. If God has set eternity in the hearts of ALL men, then we should seek to help others recognize and follow that longing in their own hearts; and in so doing, bring as many others with us as possible—to the cross, to Jesus, and to heaven.

And so I ask: Am I that kind of friend? Are you?

 

Honor

1 Peter 5:5
“Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.”

It’s New Year’s Day. Florida State has just suffered a humiliating loss to Oregon. Then the announcer comes on the air stating that 70% of the FSU players headed straight for the locker room without congratulating their opponents. I was appalled. I was glad to see that Jameis Winston was one of those who remained and accepted defeat with dignity. That is what I would expect from a team leader and Heisman Award winner.

In the aftermath of this disappointing scene, I’ve read several excuses for the players’ swift departure from the field. I read somewhere, for instance, that the players on both teams were asked prior to the game to exit the field quickly after the game, in order to allow for the trophy presentation. But as a coach or a player, I personally would have refused the request. And since 30% of the team chose to stay, it seems that would have been an option for the other 70%.

I read an interesting perspective by Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel (January 2), wherein he wrote: “Good grief, this isn’t Little League Baseball where it’s traditional for teams to form a line and shake hands.” But I have to disagree. Is there typically a physical line-up? Maybe not. But in my experience watching college football, there’s usually kind of a mosh-pit style gathering at midfield, where players from both sides do shake hands and congratulate one another. And you know what? Even if Mike’s right and this practice isn’t as common as the rest of us think, maybe it SHOULD be.

Sportsmanship should be the hallmark of college athletics—along with any other athletics, for that matter. It demonstrates honor and humility, both of which are great character traits that should be instilled in athletes through their participation in sports. So how do we instill those traits when things like this happen? Here are a couple of ideas that come to mind for me, in relation to this particular instance:

  • If I’m in a leadership position with the Seminoles (a coach, a team captain), I’m standing at the tunnel directing players back on to the field to congratulate the victors on a game well played.
  • If I miss the players there, I’m going into the locker room and sending them back out.
  • If I’m a coach, and players refuse to demonstrate sportsmanship, I’m going to bench them. They won’t play again until they write a sincere letter of apology to the opposing team.
  • As a coach, I’m writing a public letter apologizing to the other team and to the fans on behalf of my players and promising to do whatever it takes to rectify the problem.

But I think we should be starting earlier, when kids are playing at a “little league” level. So I have some plans for how I will encourage sportsmanship for my own kids when they start to get involved in sports or other competitive pursuits:

  • I’ll be a positive role model to my kids by not making sports out to be more important than they are. I will foster a “winning isn’t everything” attitude. I won’t fight with the referees or the coaches or the other parents in the stands.
  • If my kids refuse to shake an opponent’s hand or congratulate them, if they act like “sore losers,” they’ll be grounded. And they won’t play again until they write a letter of apology to each and every member of the opposing team.

So who’s with me? Let’s make sure that our athletes are known for their sportsmanship, and the level of honor they display while playing the game.Lj Baseball Helmet 1