Sunday, August 19, 2012

Obedience IS attractive.

Obedience is just not an exciting word. No one will get much press writing on or expounding on or hosting a talk show where the subject is obedience. How many books have you seen with the title having "obey" in it? How many magazine covers feature articles on "new ways to learn obedience"? It's only something that you associate with dog training or little children (and only for their safety, at that).  How in the world do you live a life of obedience when obedience is seen as a weakness?

When I was watching preseason football yesterday, the word obedience was illustrated quite often.  Most specifically, I thought of a player that is trying to make the team.  They want to be in there for as many plays as possible, yet they don't beg the coach to keep them in the game when they're taken out.  They know they only have so much time to make an impression, but they submit to the coach's plan regarding how many plays they're in.

Maybe obedience is simply the smartest way to live a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle.  The question is . . . to whom (or to what) are you obedient to?  Our answer to this question will determine how healthy, joy-filled, and successful we really end up being.  For example, some of the most obedience people in the world end up living crime-filled lives (gang members, etc.).

If you choose to submit yourself to another person's plan for your life (or another philosophy), it better be a proven, 100% reliable authority.  In my brief time on earth, the only authority that falls in this category is our Creator, God Almighty.  Obedience to God and to His Son, Jesus Christ, brings life, joy, peace, and the ultimate in a successful life.  That's right, you will be doing exactly what you were created to do - bringing attention to Him while benefitting greatly from His care for you.

Obedience CAN be attractive, though it'll never be fashionable.  Would you rather live a successful life while others mock your choice to follow Jesus or would you rather look good pursuing something that leads to an empty life or even death?  Hmmmmm . . . it's often a daily choice, isn't it?  Choose Jesus, He never fades.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Receiving is harder than giving

Drought is being experienced by most of the U.S. as we speak. There's been some relief lately in the form of lower temperatures and some rain, but by the looks of the crops and the feel of the ground, the word "drought" still very much pertains. Up here in Minnesota we have not really experienced the extreme lack of rain. Though we've gone weeks without, our temperatures have not stayed high and we have had some good downpours recently. One such downpour was this past Wednesday morning. I was just finishing a little morning jog when it started coming - what an incredible feeling it was! I was in need of a quick cooling down, so I stretched out on my driveway while the rain was pouring down all over me. Rain certainly is thorough, isn't it? I was covered and was completely washed over. And you know what I had to do in order to have all that done - RECEIVE. Why is it so hard to receive? Whether it's a gift or a favor or a simple kind gesture of someone opening the door for you, receiving can be hard to do. Our natural tendencies, for the most part, are to fend for ourselves and not inconvenience others. The irony of this is that, by maintaining this stance (either practically or just theoretically), we are becoming more and more selfish. We are communicating to others, "I don't need you, it's really all about me." The way we are made is that we need to be able to give of ourselves to others (see Ephesians 2:10 and Mark 10:43,44). In order for all this giving and serving to take place, there must be people who receive all of this goodwill. Just like our midwest fields, this country needs to learn to RECEIVE. Just like the crops and fields cannot try any harder to receive the rain, we must stop "trying harder" to earn our own way or to come up with a better way to live life. The first step to becoming better receivers is to receive the grace gift of eternal life from our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to humble ourselves before our Creator, trust His way to live life (obedience to His Word), and receive is unmerited, unconditional, 100%-from-God-0%-from-us, GRACE. In many ways, receiving IS harder than giving, for we're dependent on His way, trusting His timing, and admitting that we can't do it on our own. It's a great and freeing life, actually, for everything is on Him and my job is simply to trust and obey . . . for there's no other way . . . right? Before we can give with the right heart, we need to be able to receive with a grateful and humble heart.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Vacation is over

It's been a month since I've posted, but not a day has gone by that God is not clearly pushing me forward. Some days He is literally pushing against a force (me) that doesn't want to be moved. Other days His loving, gentle nudge is enough to send me over the edge (in a good way) and into His plan for me. Always, though, I am a willing participant in His methods and tools to make me a better person for Him. It's always difficult to return from vacation. Though I need it, my family needs it, and I have been blessed with two incredible weeks of getting away this past month, I find myself in a funk. That's right, though I'm back at work writing sermons, planning meetings, and being with people, my mind is still on the dock with a fishing pole, or sitting by the campfire, or longing for a few straight days of NO SCHEDULE. Rather them heaping guilt on myself for feeling this way (which I'm very good at doing), there are two truths that come to mind that help me through this transition time: 1. It's a good thing to long for time with family, both on vacations and during a regular week. These relationships are my most important in this world, so don't take them for granted or neglect them. 2. Work is normal and life is supposed to be work. God created in us the capacity to do work and the satisfaction of doing a good job. The most important things of this life will be the most difficult (see John 16:33 and Matthew 10:22) and anything worth having will be hard to maintain (for example, U.S.A. ideals and mistakes that each of us has made). With school starting around the corner (OK, I know, for us Minnesotans, that's still four weeks away), what is important? In the midst of a Fall season that's filled with new things, I don't want to neglect the ONE who has given me the biggest NEW thing - A brand new life through Jesus Christ (read John 3:16-21)