This morning at church, we had an amazing time of worship. I then did a little teaching on the restoration God wants to bring to each of our lives. Jesus did it for Peter when he provided an opportunity for the remorseful coward to proclaim his love for Jesus…three times–the same number of times Peter denied Jesus during His mock trial.
One person spoke to me before I taught this morning and told me about the radical transformation that has happened in his life. He is the perfect example of a person who was Christian, but living in bondage. As he stated to me — he had no idea “what it meant to foll0w Jesus.” He was living a form of Christianity, but lacking the real substance of it.
The turning point for this person was a previous testimony by a well-known Christian who came to our church and shared about his conversion long after the rest of the world, including him, thought he was already re-born. The visiting friend planted a seed two years ago that bore fruit still today in as her this morning’s testimonial. Pretty cool.
Your testimony can make a difference too. Plant the seeds. My newly transformed brother is doing just that…and God is using Him in marvelous ways already.
Our family recently devoured a luscious spiral ham. Of course, the bone and it’s savory accessories provided just what we needed for a wonderful ham and bean soup. That was made yesterday. So this morning, I gave our dog, Bella, one half of the ham bone.
Here’s what happened — she scurried to our family room with her new-found treasure and went to work. About ten minutes later, I went to see how things were going. When I got close to her, she started growling at me! It was like, “Don’t you dare touch my bone! This is mine!!!”
Did she forget where the bone came from? Does she realize that I didn’t even want her bone, but simply wanted to give her some puppy love?
What a picture this is of our relations with God. He gives us our bones–those things we think we need and really want. What happens, though, is Bella-like. We “growl” at God because He’s getting in the way of our enjoyment, we’re afraid He might want a piece of it back, we’re so into our bone that we would just soon have God stay away. Usually, God just wants to give us some love, but we distance ourselves from the giver of wonderful gifts. We turn into monsters.
Our bones? Jobs, salaries, relationships, homes, ministries, positions, stuff. We so easily forget where it all comes from and we turn into monsters that hoard, growl, and keep.
Oh God…please extend extra grace to us selfish people. Most of all, help us to experience the joy of extending your generosity back to you and others. Help us to let go of our bones.
Ron Walters, in his book, Letters to Pastors, writes about spiritual heart disease. With his treatise, he also provides a five-point heart check:
1. Don’t let the heart be snared by attractive evils.
2. Don’t let the heart be vindictive in another’s misfortune.
3. Don’t let the heart be troubled when God’s plans supersede our own.
4. Don’t let the heart be bought by the highest bidder.
5. Don’t let the heart wander into complacency.
“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” 2Chronicles 16:19a
Had a BIG revelation last night. My cup is far from full.
You know how David proclaims, with undying gratitude and enduring trust, “My cup overflows!” It gives us the sense that God fills us up so we can overflow. I have experienced this too — being so filled with God that my life, my relationships, my ministry are simply products of overflow. That is actually God’s best plan for each of us.
My latest humbling experience all began at Caribou. I purchased a set of four artsy cups for 75% off — one of those great after-Christmas sales I couldn’t pass up. They are perfect for double shot of espressos. When I brought them home, I decided to arrange ALL of our cups in the cupboard because we were running out of room. We have collected cups and mugs from all over the world (literally) and have way more than any family ever needs. They do enable us to haves brief fantasy vacations while we sip our hot beverages, however.
When Susan arrived home, I decided to excitedly share my organizational efforts (since that’s HER specialty). Her response, which isn’t important for my blog, took me by surprise and hurt my pride. My reaction was — well, surprising even to me. I berated my wife in front of our sons, made a fool of myself, and had a big mess to clean up.
I realized my cup was far from full.
I faced my wrong, killed my pride, apologized to Susan (who deserved none of my venom), and made things right with my sons, too. I can’t say I like humble pie at all. I ate lots of it last night.
All because my cup is fairly empty.
So here’s the crazy thing–I’ve been reading my Bible, preparing lessons and messages, spending time in prayer, and have stayed connected in meaningful fellowship. Why is my cup empty?
Well–that’s a topic for tomorrow. I’ll give you a hint, though. It has everything to do with the condition of my heart.
For now, I need to wash down the bad taste of humble pie with some great espresso from one of those new fancy cups.
Snow is everywhere! And some ice too. The beauty outside is obvious. And my whole body aches today as well. That was the heaviest snow I’ve shoveled in–well, 51 years! Thankfully Shane was there to help with the man-sized task.
That’s not all. After clearing our entire driveway yesterday, we moved the vehicles back into their designated spots. All was well…we thought. A couple of hours later, Susan asks this crazy question–“Did you park the van at the bottom of the driveway?”
My first thought was, “Why would you even ask a question like that?” until it registered that the van actually was at the bottom of the driveway! That’s not where we parked it! With all of the icy snow, and even a little rain mixed in later in the day, our van actually took a little journey all on its own! There is was at the bottom of our driveway propped against a large bank of chunky snow we had manufactured. Nothing hurt. But certainly a surprise.
Yes–it is so beautiful out there, but beauty has a price. My body is speaking to me about that today. It’s a reminder that beauty always has a price. True beauty in our lives, too, never comes for free. It takes intentionality, determination, effort, and work.
1 Peter 3 addresses women of the first century: “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.“
The principle here applies to the male gender as well. External beauty (or handsomeness) is very natural to focus on, but the inner stuff is what really matters. And that takes some attention everyday, just like personal hygiene does.
Beauty has a price, whether it is the snow that adorns our yards or the character that inhabits our inner lives. But it’s always worth the price.
Although my body is questioning that truth at the moment…
Yesterday evening I was home alone for a couple of hours and dozed off on the couch. When I awoke, I realized the two pooches in our house had found a decorative pillow and destructed it all over our family room! It was a ridiculous mess! Which got me to thinking, “Why do we have dogs anyway?”
So here is my top five list of why we have puppies in the house:
5. We’re gluttons for chaos…because we almost always have some with these two little terrorizers. They’ve actually been eating our furniture in our family room too!
4. They’re cute…oh so cute. Bella is so homely that she IS cute!
3. They make us laugh all the time. And to be scriptural, “Laughter is good medicine.” So we’re actually being really spiritual by having these two little beasts in the house.
2. They build our character. You would think we would be spiritual giants by now!
1. We love to see at least one really happy little face every time we come home! And besides, Susan still doesn’t have a tail she can wag…
Now–to reflect briefly on #1, dogs are one of the greatest givers of grace we can see on a consistent basis. No matter what mood you’re in, they love you. They’re always happy to see you, they are quick to forgive, they’re ready to give you some love all the time, and you never need to earn their loyalty.
We must be pretty desperate for grace to need it from a dog! But I love it anyway.