God is Much Smarter than I am

This is a good thing to say, to admit, and to do it often.

The link above is to a recording of the song the FBCBradenton choir did this morning in church. And here’s why I say God is smarter than I am.

This song, Mercy Tree, was slated to be done before or on Easter. We weren’t ready at that point, so we rescheduled it for today. In my head, it seemed like it could come across as a little too late, repetitive, whatever. And even at rehearsal Wednesday night, I still wasn’t sure we should do it. But God showed up this morning. 

Not only did He get the glory through this song, but unbeknownst to me, it spoke to our guest speaker and went right along with his message.

So thank you, God. You are more than amazing. Always on time. Infinitely smarter.

Finishing Well

In his conclusion of It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over, R.T. Kendall listed the following ten principles to follow in order to finish well:

  1. Put yourself totally under Holy Scripture
  2. Be accountable to reliable people
  3. Be squeaky clean regarding finances 
  4. Maintain sexual purity
  5. Come to terms with jealousy you feel by another person’s gifts or popularity
  6. Be willing to not get the credit for what you do
  7. Always keep your word
  8. Live in total forgiveness
  9. Be a thankful person
  10. Maintain a strong personal prayer life; spend much time alone with God

  

The Power of the Truth

I’m nearing the end of R.T. Kendall’s It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over.

Section three of the book focuses on God’s faithfulness. Chapter 13 is entitled “Vindication.”

Vindication means to have your name cleared. It means to be exonerated from a false accusation, to be absolved from blame. It can mean that your reputation is restored, that your integrity and judgment are extolled by the same people who sincerely thought you had been unwise or untruthful.

Kendall points out scripture that declares we don’t need to seek our own vindication; God will do it for us. The challenge is to wait for it, for Him.

Kendall asked this question that grabbed my attention:

Has it ever crossed your mind that God is the most unvindicated person in the universe? Have you ever wondered why God does not vindicate himself when he could surely do so? Why does God not clear his name now-if He wants me to believe he exists?

Kendall then referenced the lives of Jesus and Job. Jesus did not seek vindication after He resurrected. He certainly could have found those who mocked him and eventually carried out His death and demand vindication; instead, He only visited with those who sought the truth, to show them the power of the truth. Job eventually did seek vindication after his friends drove him there; God’s questions brought him face to face with the reality and power of the truth also.

Truth is, God isn’t after vindication; He will eventually clear His name, but He is more after us knowing and seeking truth. Therein lies all vindication.

Entertainment or Service?

I heard a global ministry leader say this on a podcast (#5leadershipquestions) today:

A spiritual gift is not given for entertainment but for service.

When believers get that understanding of why God gave them what they have, then they are able to know better what to do with the gifts they have.

If you think your musical talent was given to you for applause, you will never fully achieve the service God intended.

If you pursue a teaching platform in order to draw bigger crowds to hear your great vocabulary or wit, the shallow foundation of your teaching ministry will eventually crumble.

If you use your hospitality gift to the max just for the pat on the back, your tank will run empty when the pats end.

Knowing your gifts is one thing. Knowing why you have them is quite another. Get there and the what question is much more easily answered.

How do you make sure your gifts are used for service and not entertainment? Leave a comment.

“She’s a black hole”

I asked my massage therapist today this question: “If you worked all day on the same body type, would it make you more or less tired?” Here’s his reply:

It’s not about the body type that determines how tired I am at the end of the day. When people get on my table, they bring a certain energy with them. Some people just drain you. Others give back, and more, what you are giving to them. I have one client that makes me tired. It has nothing to do with her body type. She’s just a black hole.

He has a point. Which begs this question: how does one work to be more of a giver than a taker?

10 suggestions:

  • Listen more
  • Ask questions
  • Give less opinions, particularly unsought ones
  • Show appreciation
  • Pause more
  • Refuse to complain about anything
  • Offer solutions 
  • Admit weakness
  • Confess wrongdoing
  • Compliment

These are things I work on. How do you work to be a giver not a taker-not a black hole? Leave a comment about your giving.

Today, I Witnessed Love

I witnessed love today in a hospital room.

I witnessed love today as a dad pulled his son around in a red wagon on the hospital fifth floor distracting him from his hunger before his surgery.

I witnessed love today as that dad tried to find a chart to show his son’s flat line that finally got the doctor’s attention.

I witnessed love today as the mom who birthed this son one year ago tomorrow stood holding him until he fell asleep.

I witnessed love today as another mom and dad offered to carry the burden of their scared friends.

I witnessed love today as both mom and dad said, “This just got real,” after the doctor left the room before surgery.

I witnessed love today as this toddler was placed in the arms of His creator through prayer.

I witnessed love today when what was projected to take around two hours only took 30 minutes with a perfect outcome.

Today, I witnessed love.

Souls in the Washing Machine

Unintentionally, I managed to declutter a tiny portion of my life. My wallet.

I left a load of clothes in the washer overnight; dried them the following morning. The first item to fall out of the dryer when I opened the door, to my surprise, was my wallet. Never did that before.

So, I removed all the plastic cards and then paper items like car insurance information, put what I needed for the day in my shirt pocket and took off, leaving the rest to dry on the kitchen counter.

The leather wallet took more than 24 hours to fully air out, so I had a new norm for 2 days. Well, now it’s turn into a new norm period.

What I’ve discovered is I was carrying cards in my wallet that I simply don’t need on a daily basis-some, not really at all. After the washing and drying of the wallet and removing of cards I don’t really need, it’s as if I don’t even feel my wallet in my pocket anymore. I’m lighter, you might say.

When I pulled it out this morning at the gas pump, an analogy struck me. This is very similar to what happens in other areas of our lives. Things pile up, clutter, burden, weigh us down, and we don’t even realize it. We pick the load up every day as if we don’t have a choice, clueless we are desperately in need of decluttering, finding rest in our soul, space in our heart, margin in our spirit.

Recently I heard someone quote these verses from Matthew 11 where Jesus said,

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

We are in need of putting our souls intentionally in the washing machine. We need to surrender to the cleansing that only comes through God’s work. He gives rest. He offers freedom. He makes you lighter.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Tonight I was reminded of the importance of repeating fundamentals in any discipline to maintain the opportunity to be great, or at least to improve.

Most great accomplishments are the result of doing little things faithfully over a long time.

  • For a pianist, the little things include scales and arpeggios.
  • For a runner, the little things include hydrating and stretching.
  • For a journalist, the little things include listening and questioning.

You have disciplines, whether you see them as that or not. You may have the discipline of being a student, or being a mother, or being an employee, or being a dancer. When we stop to think about all areas of our lives, we maintain many disciplines. Sounds tiring. Hard to maintain.

So what keeps us honed, sharp, improving, growing? Not ignoring the fundamentals. Practice, practice, practice.

You want to be a faithful employee? Show up on time. Meet the deadline. Say thank you.

You want to be a faithful husband? Take your wife out on a date. Ask her what needs to be done around the house. Give her a kiss right now.

You want to be a faithful follower of Christ? Talk with God about other things besides your plate of food. Read His letter to you as often as you can. Talk with others about your faith in God.

We all desire to be great or at least moving in a forward direction. Remember the fundamentals of your discipline. Practice, practice, practice.

13 years of wrong

it ain't over

I’m reading “It Ain’t Over till It’s Over” by R.T. Kendall. In chapter 1, he references the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar.

At Sarah’s suggestion, Abraham slept with her handmaid, Hagar, in an effort to make things happen-to make good God’s promise to him. All that was needed, they reasoned, was that the baby be male.

This wording made me think about something for the first time. What was the nine months before Hagar gave birth like for all three of these people? And then, when it was a boy, what was their reaction toward God?

  • During the nine months, “Did we do the right thing?” After the birth, “I guess so. Thank you, God!”
  • During the nine months, “What if it’s a girl?” After the birth, “God, I shouldn’t have doubted you.”
  • During the nine months, “Was this God’s direction or our manipulation?” After the birth, “I guess it doesn’t really matter.”

It wasn’t until 13 years later that they knew they had been wrong. How could this have been avoided? How can we avoid the same path, years of wrong? Suggestions:

  1. Major decisions must be rooted in peace from time spent with God.
  2. Be honest with yourself and God. If you’ve come up with the decision out of weariness or impatience, confess that to God before moving in that direction.
  3. Admit often to God that you trust in His ways and His thoughts, even though you don’t always see or understand them.
  4. “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” – check this decision in where it ranks in God’s priorities for your life.
  5. Be ready and “quick to the draw” to own any wrong steps you take. Get back on the path ASAP.

Redeeming Suffering

For those in my circles, they are probably about tired of my latest references to podcasts. It’s much like hearing from someone who’s back from a conference or a vacation. It’s better for you if you experience it yourself.

Sorry for those people, but here’s yet another reference. I heard this quote from Donald Miller talking about what makes a good hero and villain in a story plot. “A hero redeems his suffering while a villain becomes bitter about suffering and seeks vengeance.” The word that grabbed me was “redeemed.” The concept of redeeming suffering is a new one to me.

But think about it. That’s pretty much what heroes do. They make their suffering useful. Batman redeemed his suffering of losing his parents. From other movies, William Wallace (Braveheart) and Maximus Meridius (Gladiator) both redeemed their suffering of losing their wives. One of the most familiar biblical and historical heroes is David. What did he redeem? He redeemed his people from their longtime enemies, the Philistines. These four men made a choice. They chose to redeem their suffering.

Redeem means to make something that is bad or unpleasant better or more acceptable, to buy back something. Suffering is often the result of something bad or unpleasant. Suffering certainly is attached to loss. 

We suffer in our workplace when business slows. We suffer in our families when our parents age. We suffer in our sense of security when bombs explode. We suffer because we live in a broken world. And in our suffering we have a choice. Make the unpleasant better or become bitter, making ourselves unpleasant. Redeem what was lost or cause more loss through our lack of redemption. Be a hero or be a villain.

Truth is, we all know what the right choice is. Truth is, being a villain is easier. Being heroic is hard. Ask Jesus. By the way, when you ask Him, stop to thank Him for your redemption that He gave you through His suffering.