The tooth of the matter

Last night my daughter lost her first tooth.  It was an exciting moment.  The tooth had been loose for quite some time.  It wobbled while she talked.  She moved it back and forth with her tongue.  It had become so loose in the last week or so that I couldn’t figure out how it was staying in her mouth at all.  But as I put her to bed last night, the weeks of anticipation finally climaxed and the tooth came out.  She was so excited.  She jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom mirror so she could look at the new gap in her smile.  She ran down stairs to show her mom.

I know it is silly, but I was a bit emotional.  I was emotional because she was so excited about it, and that was touching to me in some way.  I was emotional because it seems like just yesterday my wife and I were excited that her teeth were starting to come in and it reminded me how quickly time passes.  I was emotional because it reminded me of how temporary all of this is.

Jesus warned us about how temporary things are. In Luke 21:33 he says, “Heaven and earth shall pass away.”   Jesus was not trying to simply remind us that things won’t last forever, he was trying to direct our focus to what will.  If he had left things right there it would be a bit depressing, but he went on to say, “my words shall not pass away.”

I can get pretty sentimental about the passing of time.  So much so that a child’s tooth falling out causes me to tear up.  I think it is good to be aware of how quickly time passes. But instead of allowing it to stir up sadness in my heart, I am going to allow it to be a reminder of what is permanent and of my need for His Word.

lovely

Yesterday I heard my 3 year old daughter sing “Jesus loves me.”  I love listening to her belt out a tune.  I just stood and listened to her sing the familiar song, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so…”  She was doing awesome, she had the right melody and all the right words.  The only time she had any trouble was when she got to the part that ordinarily affirms Jesus’ love and the line “yes, Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me…” is repeated.  At that point she began to sing a less confident version, “I guess Jesus loves me, I guess Jesus loves me…”  I laughed to myself over how similar the two sound and how easily the mistake could be made.

After thinking about it for a bit, though, the mistake became less cute and more sad.  My little girl’s rendition of the song is probably a more accurate portrayal of most people’s faith in God’s love for them. As Christians we talk about God’s love a great deal.  “Smile, God loves you!”  We see it on Sunday School material, t-shirts, pencils, and bumper stickers. And it’s true, God does love you! It is easy to proclaim God’s love for someone else.  But when it comes to God loving us, we aren’t so quick on the draw.

1 John 4:19 says, “We love, because He first loved us.”  I have a theory. If the enemy can place doubts in our mind about God’s love for us, then he can keep us from genuinely loving others and God.  “We love because He first loved us.”  My love for God and others flows out of the fact that God loves me.  Once I begin to doubt God’s love for me the flow is stopped.  I am left to offer God and others my own love; a shallow love that I have to muster up and is based on my will power.  The only thing needed to short cicuit this whole flow of love is a little doubt in our own “lovability.”  Comparing yourself to others, dwelling on past mistakes or even a little false humility can be enough to raise questions in one’s mind about just how lovable they are to God.  No matter how it gets in, once it is in, doubt will rob you of  enjoying the fact that God loves YOU. It will also keep you from being able to respond to His love by loving Him in return and loving others. However, we have authentic, genuine, overflowing love to share when, in faith, we confidently accept that, “yes, Jesus loves me.

Why do I love? Because He first loved ME!

lift with your knees

My family moved a good bit growing up.  Two or three years in the same home was a long stay.  As a result, I have done my fair share of hauling boxes, dressers, sofas and otherpieces of furniture in and out of moving vans.  I have carried heavy things and light things and I am well aware of the differences between the two.

When lifting up something light, well, lift however you want. But when lifting something heavy, make sure to lift with your knees!

Once, when helping a friend move a small sofa, I made the assumption that what I was going to be lifting would be light.  I took the “lift however you want” approach.  What I did not know at the time was that this smallish sofa was a sleeper sofa.  Hidden under the cushions and upholstery was a heavy steel frame.  What I thought would be an easy lift and quick move turned into quite a chore. Thanks to my  “however you want” lifting technique, it also turned into a sore back. I should have lifted with my knees.

This morning I read the first couple chapters of 1 Samuel.  In 1 Samuel 2:30 God says to Eli the priest, “I will honor those who honor me, and I will despise those who think lightly of me.” It is pretty incredible to think of God honoring me!  It is also pretty intimidating to think of him despising me.  So what is the difference between these two possible outcomes?

The Hebrew word for “honor” in this passage also carries a connotation of “being weighty.”  This same Hebrew word is actually translated as “heavy” several other places in the Bible. So God will honor (treat as “weighty” or significant) those who understand His “weight,” but those who think “lightly” of Him will be despised (considered worthless or having no value).   The key then is to have an accurate understanding of who God is and to respond accordingly.  God IS “weighty.”  Thinking something is light, when in reality it is heavy, can cause serious problems, and not just when attempting to move a sofa.

We need to properly judge who He is and who we are in relation.  James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”  Again, to be honored or lifted by God is dependant on an accurate assessment who we are and who He is.  When we recognize who He is we will “lift Him up” in our priorities, and in the “weight” we give His word in our lives, and we will lower the significance of our own desires, and our own “wisdom.” When we humble ourselves God does the lifting.  Want God to “lift you up?” Then honor Him and humble yourself. Once again, lift with your knees.

“A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.”

Proverbs 29:23

defrag

Have you ever felt fragmented?   I have.  It feels like you are divided into a hundred different roles? (parent, spouse, sibling, friend, employee, student, neighbor, co-worker, home owner…..)

Each role carrying it’s own set of obligations and responsibilities; pay the mortgage, register the car, call the insurance company, when is our anniversary again? mow the yard, get groceries, file taxes, what’s going on at my kid’s school?

This was one of those mornings for me.  I felt so overwhelmed with all that I need to get done  that I didn’t even know which direction my first step should be in.

I like simple.  Life, however, seems to trend towards the complex.  I am thankful that when life works itself up into a frenzy, my ultimate purposes are spelled out clearly and simply.  Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  When I start to feel fragmented, verses like this one offer the clarity that I need.  Whether I am taking care of things at work, spending time with my kids or mowing my lawn my purposes are the same; be just, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God.

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, 
 what God is looking for in men and women.
 It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, 
and don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously.” Micah 6:8 – The Message

king me

I have been reading through the book of Judges.  I typically read my Bible in the morning. I want to learn, I want to come away with something to apply to my life.  But, I have to admit, I have struggled with finding application in Judges.  I have been having a hard time figuring out just what it is that I am supposed to be learning as I have been working my way through this book.  There are some stories that just make me scratch my head.  Stories that leave me wondering, “why would they have done such a thing” or “what in the world is going on here.”  Well, this morning I finally finished Judges.  The last verse in the book of Judges reads, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.”

It took a bit for the significance of that verse to start to settle in.  Of course, Israel eventually did get a king.  In 1 Samuel 9, Saul is anointed as Israel’s first king.  But before the prophet Samuel anoints Saul, he takes the people’s request for a king to the Lord.  God tells Samuel to go ahead and give the people what they want and in 1 Samuel 8:7 the Lord says, “…they have rejected me as their king.”

It is interesting.  I had understood the statement “the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” to simply be the effect of having no king.  It was also the cause.  God wanted to be their king.  He desired to lead them, to instruct them, to provide for them, and to protect them.  He was supposed to be their king, but in “choosing what was right in their own eyes” they had rejected Him.  As a result, they were left to be ruled by “whatever seemed right in their own eyes.”  Sometimes the consequence of rejecting God’s “kingship” in our lives is not getting to enjoy God’s “kingship” in our lives.

When I start making decisions based on what I think is best and what I want to do, I am essentially setting myself up as king in my life.  When I operate from my own understanding, from what is right in my own eyes, I am making decisions based on selfishness and limited perspective and rejecting God as king.

So, who will be king? No more king me.

sow what?

I am about to head to the local greenhouse and select some plants and seeds for my garden.  This year’s garden will include cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, carrots, and lettuce.  The bulk of the space in my garden will be dedicated to my absolute favorite though, hot peppers!   I eat them on almost everything.  I will can some and freeze some and try to ration them out so I can eat them all year long.  Right now I am dangerously low.  I only have 1 jar left of last year’s peppers, but I have a plan.

This year I will plant more hot peppers because I want more hot peppers.  There is a direct correlation between how much I plant and how much I end up harvesting.  Pretty simple, right? It is a very obvious  relationship when discussing gardening but we sometimes lose site of this truth in other areas of our lives.  Besides holding true in my desire and quest for more peppers, it also holds true in my spiritual life.  What I sow will determine what I reap and how I sow will determine how I reap it.

Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

2 Corinthians 9:6 “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

I will invest more money, time, and energy in one area of my garden so that my harvest will be greater in that same area.

What would you like to harvest? Get sowing!

commence….

Tonight my wife and I will take a group of students who are graduating from high school out to dinner.   We will eat at a nice restaurant, then head to one of my favorite places for dessert.  After the eating is done we will reminisce and talk about our favorite memories over the last several years.  Camps, conventions, road trips, bon-fires, break-ups….. lots of memories.  At some point I will ask them what lessons they have learned as they worked their way through high school.  It is always interesting to hear what has impacted their lives and what truths they have managed to pick up along the way.  Sometimes I am thoroughly impressed with the wisdom that comes from some of these young men and women.  It seems to be evenings like the one I will enjoy tonight that remind me how quickly time passes.

They call it commencement but it’s not.  It’s really more of a continuation. Life has been underway for years now and it will continue to flow right by at a rate that, although  I know is steady, seems to always be picking up the pace.  Tonight I will tell them that.  Tonight I will also warn them, and remind myself, of the steady stream of distractions that will attempt to steal their focus from what really matters.  The longer I live, the deeper I realize the truth of what Jesus said in Luke 9.  In verse 23 Jesus tells the crowd that by attempting to cling to one’s life and seeking after temporary things, life will slip through your fingers and be lost. But if you would like to save your life, if you would like to find true life,  it’s accomplished by laying your life down for Him.