How Long, O Lord?

Oh I will never complain about being stuck at home again!!!

This pandemic reminds me a little of when I first moved to Kentucky.  It was January of 2011.  I moved before my wife and daughters did in order to get the youth ministry started at Tunnel Hill Baptist Church.  Since I came in winter, I knew that there was going to be the occasional snow day, but I was not prepared for what actually happened.

From the end of January all the way until the beginning of March, it snowed every single Wednesday…

Every. 

Single. 

One. 

We had a policy at the church that if the schools canceled, then we would not have services.  I learned very quickly that very little snow would shut down the county schools and therefore, our church as well.

I found myself in a new place, very far away from my family, and I was unable to do what I was called to do…  or was I?

It did not take very long for me to figure out that I could still do ministry, even if it wasn’t on Wednesday nights.  I could still connect with the youth through social media like Facebook.  I could still call and check in on them.  I could still be where they were like sporting events and band concerts.  Just because I could not do what I wanted to do (or had always done), did not mean that I could not further the Kingdom of God.

Today is no different.  We are very used to gathering on Sundays & Wednesdays.  We see our people on those days and we invite people to these gatherings in hopes that they will follow Christ like we do.  However, these gatherings have been put on hold, but the Great Commission has not!

How can you still serve the Lord while you are social distancing?  Can you call another member or your “One” to check in on them?  Can you set up a computer chat to get people together for Bible Study?  Can you lead your family (especially the kids learning from home) in a daily devotional?  Can you deliver food or other needs to those who need assistance?

Many Psalms have the phrase that is the title of this post, but I want to leave you with the words from Psalm 56:3

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.”

Let us as the Church put our trust in God and continue to serve Him in new & exciting ways!

Who knows?  Maybe when we gather again one day soon, we will see new faces joining in our worship!!!


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Take my Heart, Lord. Take & Seal It.

I was talking with a group of people recently about New Year’s resolutions and the increase of people at the local gym.

One thing that they noted was that most gyms see all those News Year’s resolutions start to waver by the third week of January.  I have to admit, I was a bit surprised that so many give up so quickly.  I also understand.  The first week you are really excited.  You exercise, break a sweat, and you start to feel better.  By the second week, I have no doubt that the soreness begins to kick in.  If you are doing it in the morning, the bed starts to feel so comfortable.  If you do it in the evening, your calendar starts to get busy. 

I just doesn’t take much to create a good excuse.  “I’ll go tomorrow.”  “It’s too cold.”  “I need a day to rest and recuperate.”  They are all good excuses, but they also begin to take you down the road to a broken resolution and no real change in the New Year.

Over the past couple days we have been studying Jeremiah as a church in our January Bible Study.  During our study, we focused on the events of Jeremiah 34.  In Jeremiah 34, the people living in Jerusalem find themselves in immediate danger.  King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has come to Jerusalem to overthrow the city and crush a rebellion.  In their fear, they make a covenant with God, which included the liberation of all Hebrew slaves in the city.

The King declares this covenant and all the wealthy of Jerusalem resolve to free their slaves.  There is a big public ceremony to show their intention and shortly after doing so the armies of Babylon leave to address an army from Egypt that is marching to aid Jerusalem.

Here’s the problem.  Once the armies began to move out, the people celebrated and almost immediately took back the promises they made in the covenant.  The wealthy found excuses to justify enslaving their countrymen again. 

This results in the following prophecy:

“You have not obeyed Me in proclaiming release each man to his brother and each man to his neighbor. Behold, I am proclaiming a release to you… to the sword, to the pestilence and to the famine; and I will make you a terror to all the kingdoms of the earth.” (v. 17)

God was not fooled by their false promises, nor their good intentions.  The truth was that their motivation for making this covenant was never about love for God.  On the contrary, they only wanted to avoid the punishment for their disobedience.  Soon the armies would return and leave Jerusalem in waste with many taken away into captivity,

We do the same thing today.  We beg, plead, and try to make a deal with God in hopes that He will grant our wishes or allow us to escape certain doom.  However, once the threat has passed; we often go right back to sin as usual.

In 2020, we need to break the cycle.

We do this by putting fear in its proper place.  We need to stop fearing punishment and start fearing God. 

Fear of God is more than terror that He might make our lives unpleasant.  Instead, it is the realization that He is our Creator, and He is sovereign over all things.  This realization ought to move us to reverence of Him and obedience to Him. 

It also shows us that even though He is so high and lofty, He loves us; showing us grace and mercy over and over.

So let us be motivated by our love and fear of God in 2020.  If we do, we may just see the changes we really want to see this year.  “For nothing is impossible with God!”  (Luke 1:37)


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Looking to 2020

2019 was a year of amazing ups & sorrowful downs.  We have seen many come to know Christ & be baptized, while we have also had to say good-bye to many of our dear members. After a year such as this, we have to ask the question, “Where do we go from here?” A quote by C.S. Lewis has been making the rounds that seems fitting here.  He has been credited as saying, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”  So what can we do as we walk into 2020?  I’d like to offer a few suggestions.

  1. Take prayer seriously

One thing we can know through Scripture is that prayer is a powerful tool for the believer.  James 5:16 says, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”  We should take that to heart as we go into the new year.
Pray.  Pray without ceasing. (1 Thess 5:17) Pray in your time alone with God.  Pray with the church gathered.  You cannot imagine how much God can do when we just surrender ourselves to Him.

  1. Pursue your “One” (Or get one & get started!)
Let 2020 be the year where we see our friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances surrender their lives to Christ.  It begins with prayer, but then has to come obedience to the Great Commission.  You have been called to be Christ’s witness to your circle. (John 20:21) This means you are the one that God wants to reach the people around you.I understand that can be both intimidating and overwhelming.  This is why we want you to pick just one.  Reach one.  Pursue one.  Witness to one person and stick with that person until they can experience Christ through your friendship, hear about Him through your Gospel presentation, and be saved.  You can do this; don’t wait all year!  Start as soon as you can!
 
  1. Gather with the church

Finally, COME TO CHURCH!!!  Do you know how you spell priority?  T-I-M-E.  The things that fill your day and your calendar are the things that you prioritize.  One of the ways that we show our faith to be a priority is showing up.  We show up to worship.   We show up to learn.  We show up to be trained.  We show up to serve.
There are lots of things calling to us to change our priorities, but they all have one thing in common:  they want us to pursue worldly things.  However, we have been called to pursue Christ.  There is a lot of power in saying “no”; just make sure that you say “no” to the right things.  Say “yes” to gathering with the saints, building up the body of Christ, and working together to see the nations reached for Christ!

Let 2020 be about loving God, loving others, and seeing as many as we can come to faith in Christ Jesus!  Happy New Year & God bless!


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Seeking the Crown of Glory

A gray head is a crown of glory;
It is found in the way of righteousness. 
(Proverbs 16:31)
 
I began the process of writing this blog post at the beginning of the week.
 
I had just seen a news article about a local church that was opening a new campus to minister exclusively to their senior members.  That’s right, for the first time that I can remember a church is opening an “old folks” church, like a nursing home.
 
As I read the article, I could not help but laugh at their rationale and their attempts to make it sound like it would be anything but a place to cater to the preferences of older adults in regards to time, music, and style; merely a place to keep them happy so they will continue to give their tithe to the church
 
. But as I pondered it more, I realized that the people that are really going to suffer in this decision are the members who will miss out on a relationship with these wonderful people and the wisdom that they offer.
 
And then my world went upside down for a moment…
 
Yesterday morning I received word that one of these men, a senior member of my church, had passed away.
 
Mr. Bird was the kind of man you wanted to be around.  He was a Deacon Emeritus.  He had served in our church and a few others throughout the years, so he knew a thing or two.  He was always quick to encourage, always positive, always smiling.  When I was down, he would lift me up.  When things did not look good at the church, (low attendance, conflict, etc.) he would have an encouraging word or he would remind me how important family is.
 
Just recently our church decided to go into the community and invite people to church and VBS.  He came up to me after services on the first day we went out and said, “You never know.  Sometimes when we are faithful in one area; God will open up a door in a completely different place for you to minister.”  We went out, we met people, and then a few days later a different community asked us to come and share with them!  I will never forget that.
 
Now imagine…
 
Imagine if I had just shipped this man and his wonderful wife to another campus because I think they would like the music better there and they would be with their own kind!
 
He would have missed out on the chance to encourage me, my wife, and my family.  He would have not been able to bring his wisdom, leadership, and positivity to our congregation.  He would not have changed the lives that he has changed.
 
And we would have missed out also.  I am a better man today because he was in my life. 
 
That is why it is so important that we don’t divide people; not by age, not by race, not by wealth.  We have so much to offer one another.
 
We are one body.  We need each other.  I am reminded of that today.
 
Thank you, Arvil Bird.  I will see you one day again in glory along with the many other godly men & woman that I have had the privilege of knowing as pastor.

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Like Arrows in the hand…

The school year is already upon us and many of us have spent the morning getting our kids ready for school, taking pictures on the front step, and dropping them off for their first day in a new grade. Many of us also worry through the entire day.  We ask ourselves, “Will they be okay?”  “Will they make friends?” “Will they make the right choices?”  It really doesn’t matter if they are going into kindergarten or walking into their last year as a senior; we always worry. As we set our kids loose in their schools, let us remember the words of God,

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them. (Psalm 127:3-5a)

God compares children to arrows in the hands of a warrior, and there are few things about children that this comparison should teach us:

  1. Children are important
    1. It may seem silly to say this, but our children matter. To a warrior, arrows represent their ability to fend off attackers and win the battle.  They are important, even crucial, to the success of a warrior.  We must never look at our children as an inconvenience or a hassle.  It is very easy for children to misunderstand our words and attitudes, so we must be clear.  They are important to us.  They are loved.  They are valued.  We have to tell them that and tell them often, and we need to show them with our time and attention.

  2. Children need preparation
    1. Okay, think about this for a second… what has to happen to an arrow before it is shot? It has to be drawn back!!!  Our children need to be prepared!!!  No, I am not talking just about school, nor am I talking about sports practice.  Our children need to be prepared to live for Jesus in a world that it is still hostile towards God.  When they are young, we teach them right and wrong, we teach them to be generous, and we teach them to be kind to others.  As they grow older, we teach them how to navigate peer pressure, we teach them how to apply the Bible to any situation, and we teach them how to share their faith with others.  These are things they will not learn magically on their own.  Arrows must be drawn back to be effective and our kids must be trained by us!

  3. Children must be launched
    1. The hardest thing for any parent is to let their kid go. But arrows are not weapons unless they are launched!  Parents, we have to keep the end in mind.  Ultimately, our end is to see our kids grow up, and live for the glory of God!!!  We have to remember that our kids will not and cannot stay with us forever.  We must let them go, launch them, into the world to make a difference for Jesus.  They may do that by serving faithfully in the church.  They may do it by answering the call to missions; foreign or domestic.  They may do it by having a career; working as unto the Lord.  They may even do it by faithfully raising their children (your grandchildren) to fear the Lord.  Every job is important and we send them on their way!

 

Our children are a blessing to us, but they are a blessing we were never meant to keep for ourselves.  God has a purpose and a plan for them, just like you!!!  So trust in God, and be ready to send them where ever He would have them go!!!

I’m praying for you!!!!


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Why Do You Stand Looking into the Sky?

And just like that Easter is over… The decorations are being put up, the candy is slowing (or not so slowly) being consumed, and our work schedules have returned to normal. Like most churches, Tunnel Hill Baptist Church filled her calendar with special events to bring people to our church in hopes that they might hear the Gospel and be saved.  We have experienced some success and we hope that we will see even more success in the weeks to come from those efforts.  However, I think we all have a temptation to stop and relax for a little bit now that the Easter Season is over. As I pondered this, I was drawn to the events that happened in the first chapter of Acts.

Jesus said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:7-11)

There is a ton to unpack from this passage but I want to draw your attention to two things.

  1. Before Jesus ascended, He gave us a task.
Despite the disciples having loads of questions, Jesus only tells them two things:  You will receive power from the Holy Spirit & you will be My witnesses.
 
This was what we need to know in order to continue on in this life after Easter.  First, we would receive power from God.  One of the most fantastic and yet overlooked realities of the Christian life is our relationship with the Holy Spirit.  I find it both frustrating and annoying to hear how people constantly try to do the things of God relying on their own knowledge or abilities.  We have been empowered by God to do fantastic and wonderful things through his Spirit.  We need to set out to do the work of God, but not through the carnal means of the world.  Churches and individuals should not and cannot rely on personality, marketing, or entertainment to reach a lost world.  The world is already using these things and they will always do a far better job than we can.  We might see short-term success, but we will make very few disciples.
 
Instead, we need to allow the Spirit to work through us and draw people to God.  We need to be shining examples of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  We need to come alongside people and stay with them for the long haul.  We need to constantly point people toward Jesus, his grace, and his example.  At first, people will not understand what we are doing; sometimes we will not really understand either.  But eventually, Lord willing, they will begin to see the truth and the truth will set them free (John 8:32)

 

  1. The Angels had to give the Disciples a push
Once we understand the first part, we are allowed to give a little laugh at the second part.  Jesus has commissioned his followers to go and be his witnesses.  He then ascends to Heaven and the clouds obstruct their view of Jesus.
Then, his followers just… stand there.We should all understand why.  I am sure that every reader would do the same thing.  I have never seen a man fly up into the sky and I am sure I would stare for a while to see if He came back down!!
 
So the angels gave them a little push.  It is one of the questions in the Bible that make us stop and think, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky?”  The angels confirm their hopes that Jesus would indeed return, but it would not be today.  Their statement serves and a gentle reminder.  They are being reminded that they have work to do.  They were called to go and be His witnesses, but they could not do that if they continued to stand there and stare at the sky.
 
The same is true for us today.  Since we have the same task, we also need the same reminder from time to time.  We have not been called to sit and relax.  We are not here merely to be a check-mark on an attendance sheet or to fill a space in the pew.  We are His witnesses, and as witnesses we have to tell people about Jesus.  We have to tell them who He is, what He has done, and how we have experienced Him in our own lives!!!

Did you know that there is not one time in Scripture that a pulpit is mentioned?  Yet there are several times where Paul, Peter or another disciple was in the market or walking along the road, and they share the Gospel with people who believed and were saved. You are crucial to the fulfillment of the Great Commission and it won’t happen just in the church building.  It will happen where you work, play, and live. So what are you waiting for?  Quit look up at the clouds and let’s do something TOGETHER!!!!


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What about my wife?

There was a service organization in a small town that wanted to honor their greatest member.
 
They set out to host one of the nicest banquets they could put together.  They chose the most beautiful place settings.  They spent days choosing the perfect menu.  Every decoration was hung meticulously and with great care.  The whole day was planned and ready to go!
 
The night had arrived and the people began to fill the room.  Soon the food was served and the presentation was about to begin.  Suddenly, one of the planners of the event noticed something:  the guest of honor was not there!!!
 
The planner slipped from the room and called the man’s cell phone.
 
“Hello.”
 
“Hey, the banquet has already started.  Where are you?  Are you on your way?”
 
“What Banquet?”
 
“The banquet that we are hosting in your honor!!!  The food has already been served and the speakers are ready to start!!!  Hurry down to the Hall so we can get started!!!!”
 
“No one ever told me about a banquet.”
 
“What?”
 
“You all have planned this whole affair, and you did not think to even include me?  You did not talk to the organizations that I am passionate about.  You did not allow me to be part of the process in any way.”
 
“Um….”
 
“What about my bride?  Did you even talk to my wife once?  Did you invite her to the event?  Did you allow her to be a part of all your preparation or your planning?”
 
“No.”
 
“We will not be attending your banquet tonight.  You set out to honor somebody, but it certainly wasn’t me.”
 
This Sunday is Easter Sunday.  We all have our traditions.  Some of us visit family, others make this special day all about our kids.  We will put in countless hours preparing meals, decorating eggs or our homes, and putting together Easter baskets.  I would challenge you today to not forget the guest of honor.
 
We celebrate Easter because of Jesus.  It is his resurrection that we are celebrating and therefore He should remain the center of all that we do on this day.  When we do this, let us not forget his bride as well.  She is the church.
 
I hope that you will make the church part of whatever you do this Sunday.  Let your kids learn the true meaning of Easter and be reminded yourself of the great love and freedom that Christ gave you through the cross and resurrection.  If we do not, we may find the very person we gather to celebrate will be absent from all that we do.
 
God bless and have a happy Easter!!!  HE IS RISEN!!!!

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You gotta fight…

Recently, something unfortunate happened to my family… Thankfully, it was not something life altering, but it certainly altered our routine for the week.  My two youngest kids came down with strep and had to stay home for a couple days. Now I know that does not sound like a big deal, but when you are a busy family of five with clubs, meetings, and practices to attend; it came seem like the whole week just goes crashing down around you. However, something beautiful happened in the middle of all that chaos.  Suddenly, we all had to just stay home one evening.  A night that would usually be filled with practice, meetings, and appointments was suddenly cleared and all five of us found ourselves home at the same time.  So what did we do?  We had dinner, around the table, as a family. And it was magical…. As I reflected on the evening after my kids had gone to bed, I began to realize that I had been giving up too much ground to the world.  I had allowed the world to dictate what we did, where we went, and even what my kids were exposed to.  I had good intentions to be sure, but I was neglecting the things that really matter. Because of this, here are a couple suggestions I came up with as we fight for our family against a busy world.

  1. KNOW YOUR ENEMY

While we can point to lots of enemies, I want to focus on one and that is busyness.  Busyness tries to convince you that you have to do everything.  Busyness tries to tell you that if you don’t say, “yes” then you are missing out.  Busyness tries to tell you that this is a “once in a lifetime” opportunity.

But guess what?  Busyness is lying. You don’t have to do everything.  Most of what you are doing now will not matter in 5 years.  There will be plenty of opportunities for your family in the future, but they will only be kids once.  Please don’t rob them of your time, love, and companionship as you usher them off to the next event.

Colossians 3:21 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they do not lose heart.”  Paul knew that parents are tempted to push their kids too hard, so fight back!   Let them live and learn what really matters!

 

  1. KNOW YOUR MISSION

Jesus said it very plainly, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

If these commandments are the two most important things that we can do as human beings, then does it not follow that these are the two most important things that we can teach our kids?  I think so.

We have to remember this in light of all that the world is telling us to do.  If an activity, or a club, or a show, or a piece of technology leads us down a path were we love that thing more than God or people created in the image of God; then it has become a dangerous and it needs to be put in check.

While many things may not be inherently bad, everything can become an idol if we let our hearts go unchecked.

  1. START SMALL

What do I do?  How do I get started?  We are so committed now; I don’t know how to pull back!

Often when we notice that our lives have gotten a little too hectic, we want to just quit everything and start over. (Or move far away and start a new life!)

Also, we tend to start trimming the things that seem to demand less of us when we get busy.  This usually means church involvement gets cut as well as family time.  DON’T DO THIS!!

Instead, I would suggest that you start small in other ways.  Is there an evening that you as a couple or a family can block off to be together?  Can you set aside one weekend a month that will remain free of other obligations?  When you figure out when that is, stick to it!  People will want to get you to compromise.  They will say things like, “just this once” but don’t give in.  Show the world that your home and your family are important!  “No” is a very powerful word that you are allowed to use.

Now that you have said “no” to the world; say “yes” to God.  Do a little devotion as a family.  Ask your kids how something they learned at church affected their life that day.  Listen to worship music as a family and even sing along!

  Once you take that first step, you will probably notice that the world will keep spinning.  Your kids will continue to have opportunities and no one’s life will be over because you missed that “one thing”.  But you will probably also notice that your family will be healthier, your relationships will be stronger, and your love for God will deepen as you trust Him even more!   “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”  (1 John 5:21)


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Loving Absalom

“If I were his/her parent…” Have you ever heard someone say this?  You may have heard it from seasoned grandparent or a couple that doesn’t have kids.  Often this is a phrase that comes out in the midst of a tough parenting moment.  It comes out in the grocery store, over coffee with friends, even in the church building. There is an idea behind this phrase that the person saying it would do better; or at least do differently, and often it is complete bologna. Last week, as I was doing my personal Bible reading I came across the story of Absalom.  Absalom was the son of King David and his story is found in 2 Samuel 13 and carries all the way to chapter 19.  By the end of the story, I found myself uttering that same phrase, “If Absalom had been my child, I would have…”  Needless to say, I would not have been very gracious.  See, Absalom’s story began with the assault of his sister by his half-brother.  When his father refused to administer justice, he took matters into his own hands.  He killed his brother and for that he was banished.  Eventually, David began to miss Absalom and he was convinced to bring him back to Jerusalem, but Absalom returned a different man.  He returned arrogant, unrepentant, entitled, and feeling justified.  It did not take long for him to begin to think that he would be a better king than his father.  After some time, he chose to act on that thought and began a coup. David was forced to flee Jerusalem and only by the grace of God was he able to escape, regroup, and reclaim his throne. 2 Samuel 18:5 says, “The king charged Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king charged all the commanders concerning Absalom.”  Wait… what?  Did I miss something?  This spoiled little punk committed a crime.  David showed him mercy, and he repaid him with an insurrection.  Now David wants his commanders to show him more mercy?  As we continue to read, we learn that Joab did not follow David’s orders and kills him despite the fact that he did not have to. Picking up in verse 33 after David hears the news, “The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, ‘O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!’”  Why is David acting this way?  Why if he were my son, I would have…. Oh… My problem is that I put myself in the shoes of the wrong person.  In this story, I am NOT David…  I am ABSALOM. Think about it for a moment….

  • Absalom was unwilling to wait on justice, so he took matters into his own hands.
  • Absalom was unrepentant in every way; even when he knew he was wrong.
  • Absalom was a flatterer who loved to gather people who only affirmed him.
  • Absalom thought he could do a better job than the king
  • Absalom removed the true king in order to make his own kingdom.

I could say the same thing about myself as it relates to my Heavenly Father as well.  All too often I am unwilling to wait on God’s timing.  I am unrepentant even when I know I am wrong.  I would rather be around people that support my sinful actions than godly people who might confront me.  I often think I know what is best over God’s Word. Ultimately, my sin proves that I am a rebel, hostile towards God, deserving judgment. But David’s heart reflects that of our God.  He loves us despite our rebellion. And What David could not do (taking the place of Absalom), God did when he sent his only Son to die in our place. Every.  Single.  One of us is a rebel deserving the same fate of Absalom, but God in his tremendous love for us took that punishment on himself in order to restore us as His Sons & Daughters. So praise the Lord that I am not David, because I would have done it wrong.  May I never forget that I am a sinner saved by grace, and may I share that grace with all who might receive it!


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Counting Sprinkles

Recently my wife brought home a new saying to our family…
 
“Don’t let your ice cream melt while you are counting someone else’s sprinkles.”
 
As we tried to parent two little girls through the Christmas season, it is not hard to believe that we have used this saying A LOT!!!!
 
This little saying speaks of envy, which is wanting what someone else has.  All too often we hear about what is going on in someone else’s life and we begin to wish we had what they had.  This is also accompanied with a growing  bitterness towards our current situation.
 
We hear about someone else getting a promotion or a raise, and we get angry because our own career does not feel as fruitful.  We see beautiful pictures of happy families during the holidays, and we wonder why our own kids are so difficult and our own lives are so complicated.  We even hear about how God is doing wonderful things in the church just down the street and we begin to wonder if maybe our own spiritual well-being would be better if we visited them.
 
Recently, I had the chance to sit down with some close friends and talk about life.  These gentlemen were involved in churches and ministries of which I was particularly envious.  Based on our previous conversations, their churches seemed to be in the midst of revival.  They were excited about what God was doing and their churches were enjoying a wonderful harvest.  As my church has struggled in recent months, I often wondered what it would be like if I was serving where they are.
 
However this week our meetings were much different.  In the short time that we were together they related stories of struggle and conflict.  They were still excited to be serving and the Lord is still working in their respective ministries, but the “church on the mountaintop” image I had in my head was shattered.  I had wrongly assumed that just because good things were happening that they did not have struggles.  In my own life and ministry, I had become so focused on the negative that I had failed to see all the wonderful things God was doing. Envy had robbed me of the joy of serving the Lord where I was.
 
I had sinned and I was wrong.  I am also willing to bet that I am not alone.  So how can we recognize envy as it starts to creep into our hearts and deal with it?  Here are some things to look out for:
 
  1. We are focused on other people’s successes, but we do not rejoice.

When Paul was imprisoned, there were many who took up his charge and were telling others about Jesus.  Paul knew that some did it to honor Paul’s mission, while others did it to compete with him.  Paul’s response to both was this, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.” (Phil 1:18) He did not care what their reasons were; only that people were receiving Christ.  He rejoiced in what he was hearing!!! Do you hear how God is blessing other people, but don’t rejoice with them?  Does it make you just work harder?  Do you begin to ask God why He isn’t doing the same for you?  These types of response mean that we are responding in envy instead of contentment.  The Christian should rejoice that God is moving and pray that he continue to work in the lives of everyone!

  1. We make excuses for why we are not serving; things are not “ideal”

Something I always say is that everyone has an excuse and they are all good.  I say this, not because all excuses are actually good, but because everyone is convinced that their excuse is a good one. One such excuse is that we cannot further the Kingdom of God because “we do not have what other churches have”.  We think that if we had more people, better people, better music, or a better facility, then we could really have an impact for Christ.  We claim that our situation is not “ideal” for ministry and so we do not do ministry. The problem is that there will always be an excuse.  There will always be a reason to not share the Gospel or serve the Kingdom.  We have to embrace the reality that we do not live in an ideal world and get serving anyway.  Our excuses are not leading anyone to Christ.  Put them away and do what you can!!!

  1. We think that other people do not have problems.

This is the one that got me. All too often we talk to people on the phone, see what they post of social media, and we think that they live these care-free lives where nothing bad ever happens.  We begin to think that all of our problems are unique to us and no one could possibly understand what we are going through.  These thoughts lead us to bury our problems and pretend like they are not there.  We will wallow in our own self-pity and ultimately destroy ourselves.

This is a lie straight from Satan!!!  You are not alone!!!  The Bible clear says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man.” (1 Corinthians 10:13a) This statement should remind us that we are all going through life in the same fallen world, dealing with the same problems.  You are not perfect, I am not perfect, and we don’t have to pretend that we are.  If you begin to think that someone has the perfect situation somewhere else, rest assured that they are dealing with their own set of hardships.  Trust that God is working in your life just like He is working in theirs. Ultimately, God is calling us to trust Him, trust His provision, and be content.  Yes, your life may not look like your neighbors, but God never intended it to do so.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.(Proverbs 3:5) And enjoy some ice cream along the way!


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