obedienceismine

Insights from the joy of having peace with God

Taking Time to Put Time in Perspective

Early this morning our family of five was sitting at our breakfast table and my wife and I were explaining something to our kids that caused me to think deeper. We have recently returned from a road trip and some of the souvenirs that we brought back for the kids  were cups with the printed logo of the park that we stayed in. The fun part about the cups was that they change color when you pour cold liquid into them. To explain further how it worked, I told them to put the cups in the fridge for a while and see what happens. My youngest put hers in and impatiently opened the door after a few short seconds. I recommended that she wait a few minutes, five to be exact, and in return she proclaimed “FIVE WHOLE MINUTES? THAT IS FOREVER!” At first I laughed and then it made me think.

It is interesting in life how there are moments where time seems to take “FOREVER!” (off topic, but I said this as I typed it in remembrance of the movie The Sandlot when the story of the legend of the beast was told), and other times it seems like time is flying by. What causes this phenomenon? Certainly time is moving at a constant pace, but there are circumstances that lead to our experience of the passing of time that make it feel shorter or longer.

At a basic level (knowing that there are other factors) I can think in my own life that when time seems to be taking forever it is usually because I am looking forward to something. Christmas, vacations, mission trips, and my children’s births all seemed to have taken “FOREVER.” (yep, in the voice again) In most of these circumstances the time seemed to get slower the closer it approached, especially the birth of children (so I was told).

At the same time, every time I see my children walk through the house it hits me that they have grown so much and I wonder where the time has gone. Have you ever heard from those older than you that time goes faster the older you get? Why is that? I suggest that in my own experience, time seems to go faster when I am trying to hold on to something.

It would make simplistic sense then, that if I am looking forward to something MORE than I am seeking to hold on to something, then time would go slower as I get older. If I put this in spiritual terms, then I would say if my desire for Heaven is greater than my desire for earthly existence, then I would be more aware of the slowness of time rather than the fleeting of time.

According to Scripture “you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14) So no matter how much we try to slow down the hands of time they are always short. As believers, we are told that Christ’s return is imminent and that we should make the most of our time (Ephesians 5:16) and to live in preparation for His return (Luke 12:35-40).

So how do we make the most of our time and prepare for Christ’s return? Paul writes that we should “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). Paul outlines how we can do this by giving a quick orientation to our new selves (Colossians 3:1-17).  I believe that this is the hardest thing for us in this technological age.

The believer is inundated with distraction of the world that it is near impossible to think on the reality of eternity.

So, when is the last time that you enjoyed the slowness of gazing at Jesus and desiring to be with Him? Eternity is now. Don’t wait to start living in it.

Do you want to slow down the hands of time? Ask God to put the desire for Heaven in your heart and set your mind to it. The desire should burn hotly in us so that we are homesick for our home in Heaven. (2 Corinthians 5:1-10) May we live our lives with the same tension that Paul has in his heart in Philippians 1:21-24 saying that “my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better,” and also acknowledging that God has work for us to do while we are still here. The more you desire it, the longer it will seem that it arrives. Regardless, Heaven is near.

Obedience is mine. The Results are His.

JMC

4 Things to Remember When You Feel Like a Failure

Recently I have noticed that many members of our church have been under intense spiritual attack. Interestingly, I have found that much of the attack is focused on one specific issue: feeling like a failure. This isn’t just coming up in one aspect of our lives, but seems to be spread across every context of our lives. It is beyond feeling as if we have failed a specific task and goes right at the core of our identity.

I must admit that this is not uncommon and I have even felt the sting of this arrow before, even recently. I am not an expert on adequately defending against it, nor have I found the perfect way to extinguish its flame. The enemy is an accurate shot and the flame burns deep. Thankfully, God has not left us to our own devices to manufacture a makeshift defense. He not only provides our defense; He IS our defense!

Here are 4 Things to Remember When You Feel Like a Failure:

1. Remember who God is.

So often we are focused on ourselves and our iniquities. All throughout the Scriptures God has a singular purpose in His work, to have His name and His power known in all the earth. This holds true in the current circumstances that we find ourselves in. Whatever is causing you to believe that you are a failure, God is wanting to use it so that He will be exalted in all the earth. (see Psalm 46)

There is none like you, O Lordyou are great, and your name is great in might.” Jeremiah 10:6

When we remember who God is, we can begin to see His might as our focus rather than our weakness. His might is our strength and enables us to stand while under attack.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11

2. Remember who you are in Christ.

Christian, you are not alone. God is with you. He dwells within you. Take a moment and let this sink in… (John 14:23; 1 Corinthians 3:16)

God loves you. (Psalm 86:14) God is for you. (Romans 8:31) He has adopted you and called you His child. (Galatians 4:4-8) THIS is title of your identity for all of eternity. Though you may fail, you are not identified as a failure. You are the child of the One who never fails.

You are not abandoned. You are not left to despair. You are not orphaned. You are reborn. You are remade. The old you is gone and there is a new you in Christ.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Instead of focusing on the negative things you are facing, we must focus on the greatness of who God is and who we are in Him. Don’t focus your efforts on the lies told by the enemy, rather focus on allowing God’s truth to enter in.

“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” –Screwtape Letters, Lewis

3. Remember what God has promised.

God is faithful. He has NEVER gone back on His word. He has promised us a future of hope, a hope that does not disappoint! (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 5:5)

This is critically important because of the fact that we are still in a broken world and are still tempted by sin. We have moments where we are faithless. We fail God. However, we are not defined by our failure; we are defined by our Father. He never fails. He remains faithful even when we don’t. (2 Timothy 2:13) His love for us is definite and infinite.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39

4. Remember that you will fail.

This last point of remembrance is important. There are two aspects to remembering that we will fail.

  • Your failing may be a sin issue.

There may be times where you feel like the enemy is lying to you by calling out your failure. Consider that it might not be the lie of the enemy, but the conviction of the Holy Spirit. (John 16:8)

Before we assign blame to the enemy, we must ask God to reveal sin in our hearts that needs to be repented of. This conviction may be God’s way of sharpening you so that you may persevere. The reality is that this life is hard. We do fail. Whether it’s being lazy, procrastinating, forgetting, losing our temper, acting unlovingly, losing our drive, or just simply not prioritizing properly, we all slip. Here is a key that will help you discern who is speaking to you:

Holy Spirit = You have sin that is keeping you from God. Repent! You are a child of God.

The enemy = You are your sin. You will never be good enough.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Philippians 3:12

  • You are not perfect and your witness is not about showing your own perfection, but His.

We tend to view our weakness as something that shames us. Social pressures of this world tell us that weakness is ugly, even pathetic. The Word says that all mankind is dead in sin before Christ brings them to life through faith. For the Christian, we should not spend our time trying to hide our weakness to each other. This is because the more we talk about our weakness, the more we magnify the strength and glory of God!

Christian, we must stop worrying about the things that we seek to boast about. Our only boast to each other and to the world is that Christ has saved us! (Galatians 6:14)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Jesus says that His grace is sufficient. Do you believe it? I pray that you will not seek a grace that is minimally sufficient, but that you will recognize that His grace is more vast and enormous that anything you could possibly imagine. It overflows…for you!

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 1:12-14

Obedience is mine. Results are His.

Reading Together: New Book!

7 Summits

Starting Monday April 18th we will be reading through Seven Summits In Church History by Jason G. Duesing.

Here is the description from Amazon:

The history of Christianity is like that of a great mountain range, with immense length comprised of peaks and valleys, enduring both stormy and prosperous weather. Certain figures in this history have risen to high peaks and represent significant moments in theological development. These figures are the hinge for major swings in the expansion of Christian thought. Duesing offers a quick, yet insightful introduction to seven of the highest peaks worth climbing in church history. His biographical summaries include Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Hubmaier, Edwards, Carey, and Henry. By examining the peaks of Christian history in these seven figures, this book engages several key issues without overwhelming the reader. It is brief but packed with pertinent information any student of history should know.

This book is NOT an in depth look at any of the men, but gives us a high level view at their impact. I fully expect it to give me an appetite to dig deeper into each person. I expect the same for you.

You can buy the paperback -or- Kindle version HERE.

Here is how “Reading Together” works:

  • We will read one chapter a week.
  • I will post observations on this blog each Friday.
  • You will be asked to share your observations and engage with others through the “Comments” section to my Friday post.
  • Together we will allow Dr. Duesing to take us on a brief journey!

Will you join us? This is open to ANYONE that wants to join so please share this post and get others to subscribe. Please post here in the comments field of this post to say that you are “In.”

Obedience is Mine. Results are His.

JMC

 

 

Star Gazing

“Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.

The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”

Psalms 1:1-4 (ESV)

 

Living in the Hill Country outside of San Antonio I sometimes find myself sitting outside reading by a lamp post. We are far out of the city so there is actually a nice breeze that keeps it cool, a tranquil quietness that allows focus, and a lack of city lights to drown out the brilliance of the night sky. As I sat and read I took a break. The kind of break that we all need when reading something that is difficult so we can try to understand the words that we have just seen. I am reading a book written from another time and place. It was written by an English preacher and written in the 1950’s. As I took my pause to grasp on to what he was saying I noticed the night sky. Read more…

Reading Together: Don’t Waste Your Life

Lately, our church has been discussing the topic of “living in the context of eternity.” This is not a concept that we have invented or crafted in order to market a sermon series. Rather, it is something that we have seen together as we study through the books of Joshua and Acts.

To build on this it is my desire to read a book together that builds on this concept. If life on this earth is just a tiny blip on the radar of eternity then what is it meant for? How should we live today so as to somehow impact tomorrow?

Will you read with me?

DWYL

Click on the book to get to Amazon for purchase.

Don’t Waste Your Life was written by John Piper. It is a book focused on making our life on earth have eternal significance.

In it you will find great messages like this one:

“You don’t have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, perhaps just one, and then be willing to live for them and die for them. The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by one great thing.”

Here is how we can do this:

  • Each week starting this coming Wednesday (11/18/2015) we will read two chapters.
  • On this site I will post my thoughts the following Monday on the reading.
  • In the “Comments” section we can all have discussion on what we have read.

I hope that you will join me!

The problem with “Simple Faith”

“I have a simple faith.”

This past week I attended a charity luncheon. I go to many of these as well as nice gala’s for different charities. At each one there is an invocation. Usually it is not a “real” prayer and is a scripted advertisement for the charity. In this most recent invocation the prayer included two statements that made me cringe. The first was “Oh God who is father and mother to us all” and the second was “be with us as we all see the goodness within all of us revealed.” I know, I am just over analyzing the situation right? I brought up the statements to a fellow believer and they shrugged it off as “different” and they weren’t interested in picking things apart like that. They mentioned that they just have a “simple faith” and didn’t get mixed up in the complex issues. Read more…

You know what the problem is?

You know what makes me sick?  You know what makes me so mad I want to invent underpants for cattle – just so I can give a rodeo bull a wedgie? -Earl Pitts

Growing up I remember hearing the daily rant of Earl Pitts on the radio. It always started with the phrase “You know what makes me sick?” followed by a ridiculous phrase highlighting what he wanted to do due to his extreme frustration.

Our culture is amused by TV talking heads and radio personalities who vent their frustrations and give their advice on how to fix everything that is wrong. Think about it, when is the last time you heard a story on CNN or FOX that didn’t have a “problem” as it’s topic? (I’m sure there are some, but they are the exception to the rule.) Read more…

Beware the Straw Man!

Image

 

There are a lot of reasons in this life for people to disagree. We are all different. We have different convictions, tastes, attitudes, feelings, likes, dislikes, etc. For this reason we also have a lot of labels that define (roughly) us categorically. Read more…

Spiritual Orphans

Two years ago I watched a video on FB posted by a friend. He was in Asia for a year and had posted his monthly update in the form of a video. Something was different about this video update. I was struck with emotion and was given clarity on a few things that I had been restless about.

My friend had followed God’s call and had gone to Asia for a year  to live among people who have never heard the name of Christ. In his video he records students practicing English saying “Jesus loves me.” In other parts of the video he tells stories of how people in the states donated money so that their school in a village could have desks. One segment stopped me dead in my tracks as an unexpected wave of emotion came over me. Read more…

Biography Binge

A few years ago I was preparing to teach through Paul’s letter to the Roman church and stumbled onto the story of Martin Luther’s “Black Cloister” moment of salvation. (when he read Romans 1:16-17) I was fascinated that a monk could teach for years and then upon reading a relatively unknown and general verse could have his life changed forever. I read his biography and then became hooked on the conversion stories of some of history’s heroes. I read a biography on Charles Spurgeon and was blown away by how he was used by God in a critical moment in history. Then it happened. By it, I mean the publishing of Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. If I had not caught the disease yet, I had a full blown case of biographical intrigue.

I broke away from the illness so as to try and somehow contain it, but this year the symptoms returned and there was no stopping my curiosity. I have now read biographies on John Wyclif, Adoniram Judson, William Wilberforce, George W. Bush (autobiography), and now C.S. Lewis (recently written by Alister McGrath). I now have the autobiography of George Whitefield on my bookshelf staring at me. It has sensed my weakness. Can anyone else sympathize with my condition?

This binge has been very eye opening. Here are some of the things that I have learned/observed in this time:

1. Every person that is regarded with heroic status has human baggage packed away in the closet. It is easy for me to place men and women in such high places of esteem that they seem saintly. In every case though, I feel like I have met real people who have simply been blessed with moments of grace by God to accomplish great things. They all had real struggles, sins, and issues that somehow make me feel like I still stand a chance to make a monumental mark in history because my failings are in good company.

2. The moments in history that define those who I read about were not regarded as great in the time that they occurred. There were some who applauded the accomplishments, but intense struggle was encountered in almost every circumstance. What we now see as heroic was once regarded as foolish. This gives me great perspective to view the “here and now” with humility and perseverance.

3. Hindsight is usually 20/20. It is easy to look back into history and see the glaring problems with things that are believed or done. Evaluating the sum of a person’s life will reveal blind spots and stains. I find myself thinking “they were great until they did that or until they said that.The fact is that we stand today on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. One of my favorite professors has once said that we should approach history with humility because of this very fact. Instead of judging the problems we find we should be grateful for the mistakes that they have made along with the victories that they have won. We inherit both for either warning or encouragement.

4. I see my story through the lens of theirs. By seeing the providential events in the life story of others I am able to identify moments in my own life that carry much meaning and value. What I mean by this is that I become aware of how some pivotal moments in my life will affect my future. The results of my decisions are yet to be seen. The importance of my obedience to God today will affect moments throughout the rest of my life.

I don’t think that I will recover from this condition so I will make due by finding more good life stories to dive into. I feel somewhat connected to those that I read about. One day we will be connected in eternal worship and I look forward to that day. For now, I will continue to connect with them through the stories of their lives while moving forward in humility and obedience in mine.

Obedience is mine. The Results are His.

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