“Stayer” or “Walker”

This is one of those books that you could read many times and grow each time. This being my first read, I’m already seeing growth.

Here’s a quote that stuck out to me today:

If you stay free from offense, you will stay in the will of God.

Offense is easy to create and to receive. Bevere declares it’s a trap, the bait of Satan. When we take the bait, we are in for some rough going. Been there, done that.

This quote makes something clear-where we stay has much to do with our freedom and peace, our relationship with God and others. Where we stay is entirely up to us. If we choose to stay close to God, we will choose to stay free from offense. If we choose to stay offended, we choose to not stay, to distance ourself, to walk away from God and what he’s working in and for us.

Simply put, here’s a new mantra based on this quote: I’d rather be a “stayer” with God than a “walker” from God. In allowing God to search my heart, it’s clear I have an offense that requires a better choice. Time to give up the bait.

You taken the bait? Ready to give it up?

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The Wise’s Time

A couple of posts ago I mentioned Ben Sasse’s book Them. I’ll finish it before the sun goes down, but I’m taking a break to ask a question.

The question comes after reading chapter seven entitled “Buy a Cemetary Plot” (you should get your own copy to find out what that title’s about). That chapter contains thoughtful words from a 2017 commencement address by Josh Gibbs, a teacher and author in Richmond, Virginia. Address paraphrase: life is full of seasons in which we are tempted to look forward to the next season in order to find contentment. Sasse includes this quote by Gibbs:

Contentment is a condition of the soul, and it does not come with getting what you want, but in giving thanks to God for what you have been given.

Both writers lead their reader to the third chapter of Ecclesiastes where Solomon describes how everything has its time:

Birth, death; love, hate; gain, lose; weeping, laughing; breaking down, building up; silence, speaking; war, peace; gathering, discarding; mourning, dancing; planting, gleaning; embracing, distancing; tearing, sewing.

Then Sasse wrote this:

The wise man learns how to grow where he is planted. He chooses joy. He embraces the time and season.

And that’s what forms my question: What time is it?

  • What time is it in your season of life?
  • What time is it in your family?
  • What time is it in your community?
  • What time is it in your church?
  • What time is it in your country?

Solomon said every time has a purpose. To wring every ounce of purpose out of their time, the wise make these choices:

  • Choose to embrace this time and season
  • Choose joy
  • Choose to learn and grow
  • Choose to thank God for what He’s already given 

There Will Be Pain

I came home two nights ago facing a choice. The choice was how to check off the 10-mile run on the training schedule. To make the choice, I chose to lay down on the bed to ponder (a hindsight look at the choice I ended up making).

As I saw it, I had three choices:

  1. Don’t
  2. Do it now while it’s 80 degrees
  3. Wait until morning, which meant the alarm would go off in time for me to hit the pavement by 4:30

Choice #1 quickly went away to avoid regret somewhere along the race route a week from Sunday. That left choosing between heat and sleep. Choosing heat meant getting it done but with much more strain. Choosing sleep meant getting less and running unfully rested. As usual, my mind ran away from heat strain choosing the dreaded early alarm. Neither sounded fun; both had pain levels more bearable than regret.

Achieving a goal, developing a discipline, and pursuing growth require sacrifice; and with sacrifice there will be pain. Committing to the pain may be half the battle of achieving, developing, and pursuing. Your commitment raises your chances of avoiding regret, knowing your sensible strain level, and rising to the challenge when doubts invade your mind.

When facing choices, maybe these questions can help:

  • How important is avoiding regret?
  • How much is too much?
  • What am I willing to sacrifice?

Make It Count

Then Mary took a pound of perfume, pure and expensive nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped his feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
John 12:3

Mary’s family had much to thank Jesus for. He had made it clear that he was the giver of life. She decided to do something extraordinary to show her love and worship.

  • Her choice was to anoint him.
  • Her choice was to give up something she’d being saving for herself.
  • Her choice was extravagant.
  • Her choice was a declaration.
  • Her choice was sacrificial.
  • Her choice was to have a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
  • Her choice was to make it count.

What do you have to thank Jesus for?
What choice would make it count?

If Only

13 years. That’s a long time to walk in the wrong direction. Ask Abraham.

Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram. When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before me and be blameless.”

These two verses from Genesis are only separated by chapter delineation (16:16-17:1). It appears for thirteen years, at least, Abram did not hear from God directly like he had previously. This time period followed he and his wife’s decision to do things their way, a way not given to them by God. This decision was a deliberate choice that could be concluded with two words: “if only.”

So Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael were acceptable to you!”

He said this in 17:18 (Read the rest of the conversation between verses 1-18 to see why his name changed, among other things). Abraham said this in response to just being told, in so many words, quite graciously, “My plan hasn’t changed. Even though you tried your way, I’m still offering you a better way.” Thankfully, we all can say Abraham followed the plan.

This scene offers us hope when we’ve followed Abram’s and Sarai’s path. At some point we all seem to face the choice to wait, or to devise our own way, or to heed questionable counsel. It’s almost as if a salesperson shows us a pair of blinders, and we knowingly reply, “Yes. I’ll have a pair.” For whatever reason, we complete the transaction, say thank you, put them on, and walk out the door…until God shows up, however long that takes.

Fortunately for us, God is gracious. And if we receive that grace and give him our blinders, we reap the benefits of faith. As he was told, Abraham received tremendous blessings that have been passed on to many generations for placing his faith in God’s way despite “if only.”

Do you have an unresolved “if only”? Are you wearing blinders? How long before you follow Abraham’s lead?

Live How You Want to Die

Since Saturday I’ve had quite a few interactions with people giving me reason to ponder this question: How is it some people die happy and others don’t?

I say since Saturday because that’s the day some of our church family gathered to remember the life of Buna Brannon. She lived a full life. And I’m not just referring to her age of 84. Buna lived a full life because she chose to live it to its fullest.

By the time I met Mrs. Buna, she was already retired, 76 years of age. Nothing kept her down. Not illness. Not emotions. Not people. She made a choice to live life how she wanted, not how others wanted. And the foundation of that choice was her faith, how she understood God wanted her to live. And because of that faith, she lived happily, joyfully, actively, and extremely generously. And that’s also how she died. Until days before her living was done, she gave to others and thought of others which brought her joy, peace, and purpose. She had lived life in such a way that she was more than ready to leave it as she lived it.

However you live is probably how you’re going to die. It’s sad to watch people live unlike how they probably want to die. Angry. Depressed. Judging. Discontent. Proud. Buna made the choice to live with joy, with hard work, with purpose, and with love. And that’s what everyone will remember about her. She died how she lived.

If you want to die happily, live happily.

If you want to die sacrificially, live sacrificially.

If you want to die peacefully, live peacefully.

If you want to die regretless, live regretless.

The choice is clearly all yours.

Perhaps 

“Now you, son of man, get your bags ready for exile and go into exile in their sight during the day. You will go into exile from your place to another place while they watch; perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious house.” Ezekiel 12:3

Perhaps is a descriptive word. It usually paints a negative picture, like there isn’t much of a chance. So when Ezekiel is given this task with this clarification, he has an interesting choice ahead of him. The choice is, what is his mindset going to be as he follows through.

From my experience, I’m not sure most, if not all, of God’s directives involving ministering to others shouldn’t be entered into with this mentality. Why? There are no guarantees. Just because you come in the name of the Lord doesn’t guarantee you or your message will be received at all, let alone as a message from the Lord. And how they respond, if your message is delivered as directed, has nothing to do with you.

Perhaps will keep you.

Perhaps will protect you.

Perhaps will direct you.

Perhaps will humble you.

Perhaps will focus you.

Perhaps leaves it all up to your director.

Whether You Want That Hat or Not

Hats. We all have them. Some of them we like and chose, and some we wish we didn’t have and didn’t choose. Of the latter, we may even go so far as to try to not let anyone know we have them or try to walk away from them.

To be clear, I’m not talking about hats you wear; I’m talking about skills and abilities you were born with or have learned; you could also look at the various positions you have in life (parent, child, worker, volunteer) in this light.

Whatever these skills or positions are, there is one truth that should keep us on the right path of what to do with them: these were directly given or allowed by God. 

  • That talent with numbers. Given by God.
  • That choice to marry. Allowed by God.
  • That ability to teach. Given by God.
  • That choice to join the military. Allowed by God.

Sometimes we get off the right path with these skills and positions. We may get off the right path because we don’t know what to do with them, decide to run from them, or choose to ignore or hide them. We may get to the place where we just wish we didn’t have them.

The reality is we should stand in them whether we want them or not. We should find God’s purpose in them, whether we want that hat or not. Over the last few decades, there’s one thing I’ve learned about hats: the best thing to do with a hat you don’t want is to share it. Let God show you the purpose of that hat. You might be surprised, maybe even decide you want it after all.

Faithful Love

This week my Bible reading plan took me through Hosea. This read is always a good one.

One could label the message of Hosea to be “beware of spiritual adultery-drifting little by little into disaster.” 

I highlighted verse 6 from chapter 6, and when I highlighted verse 12 from chapter 10 I noticed they share a term, faithful love. Read these two verses here:

For I desire faithful love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings…Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your unplowed ground. It is time to seek the Lord until he comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain. (‭Hosea‬ 6:6; ‭10‬:‭12‬ CSB)

  • Drifting from love belittles faithfulness; adultery betrays love’s commitment.

The beauty of faithful love in our relationship with God is shown by the agricultural images in chapter 10. Yes, we reap what we sow. If we choose to sow unrighteousness, that is what we will reap. But that’s not an everlasting sentence. What we reap can be changed. God’s faithful and loyal love for those who choose rather to sow righteousness never ends; it is everlasting. He longs to pour this love on us so abundantly that it would be like rain.

How’s your love? Is it drifting? How can you correct your sowing choices, keep faithful love, in order to allow God to bring you rain?

31 Proverbs Highlights: #10-Family Conflicts

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭10‬:‭12‬ CSB)

Our natural response to an offense is defense. And how we choose to respond shows whether we have chosen love or hate.

This probably shows up most often in family relationships. You’ve witnessed it, maybe even been caught up in it. The families who get offenses right, and we all go through them, practice love. 

To check how your family is doing in the “love covering offenses” category, give 1 Corinthians 13 a read. Then choose love.