Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Modest Lifestyle

“We as believers cannot be so focused on the things of this world that we lose our focus on things of God.  When we do, we become entrapped in the snare of the world that we do not reach our destination of helping those who cannot help themselves.”

Recently, I have joined in the craze of going to auctions.  It has become something I really enjoy.  I don’t go to them to buy anything for myself, I usually go to buy something at a low price and try to resell it and make a profit in the hopes of using that money to help those who cannot help themselves.  I must admit, I bought my first item for myself…it was a $22 sander.  

I enjoy the people I come into contact with, getting to know some of them enough to have conversations with and work towards building some sort of friendship.  As much as I enjoy these auctions, and the rush you get when in attendance and bidding on something, it also troubles me.  

Let me explain.  I believe the United States to be one of the few, and maybe the only (maybe Canada?) countries to have storage units.  Most of the rest of the world finds itself in little need of a storage unit, because they do not have excess…rather, they find themselves in need.  It is an eye opening experience to go to storage facilities with hundreds upon hundreds of storage units that are jammed full of excess.  Recently, I went to an auction and the owner had two 10x30 storage units since 1994…

…seventeen years…

…thousands upon thousands of dollars…

…spent to store excess…

…before the auction, she ran frantically into the storage facility office and pulled out seven one-hundred dollar bills and her treasure was saved.
I am not innocent in this.  My eyes are opening more and more to the magnitude of the issue though.  I am all about having nice things, having a nice meal, and even spending some money on things that are not absolutely necessary at times. 

However, when I look at all I have…what is this temporal “stuff” saying about me and where my heart is?

Where is my treasure?  (Matt. 6:21)

Am I so enamored with the thought of having a temporal item that I am willing to make a commitment to pay for it (often with interest) for several years, with the understanding that the money I am spending in this commitment binds me from committing that money to someone that has no ability to help themselves?  We who follow Christ and His teachings must remember the teaching that God will provide (Matthew 6:25-34).  I am such a pro at this lesson, let me tell you.

Another lesson, found in Luke 9:1-6, shows Christ sending out His disciples and telling them not to even take extra clothes, a staff, bag, bread, or extra money…wow.  Now, let’s throw out there the argument that it was a different culture.  I can see that, but even then, there is certainly a message on lifestyle.

While these seem extreme (and it was a different time period and culture), we cannot deny that there is a lesson to be learned and applied here.  How hard are we working for things that do not matter in eternity?  How long are we working to keep them, or get new temporary things?  What are we sacrificing for them?  

Is it really worth it?

Is He really worth it?

Are they really worth it?

Do we look different than the world in this matter?  This matter in particular, our finances and time, impact so much…but I fear that we easily get swept away in it and get lost in the chaos.  Then we find ourselves in the rat race wishing (hopefully) that we could help out those in need but are so bound up that we can’t see the light of day.  

I don’t have any definitive answers, because I don’t know everyone’s situations.  I do know that we must work and sacrifice to get to the place where we cannot be so enamored with unnecessary “stuff” and focus on the priority of sharing His love at any cost.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Innocent Inaccuracies

(What you are about to read is a selection from a retreat I spoke at this past weekend.  It is based on the discussion of our calling and comes from I Samuel 3.)

"In the midst of our shortcomings, God still calls us & desires our willingness to obey His calling."

Have you ever made a mistake?

Dumb question, right?

We all do.  Sometimes I get so worried about making a mistake that I am too cautious about even moving.  After all, it would be better to stay and not make a mistake than to move and mess up, right?

That really is not true.

This is one of my toughest battles.

I don’t like to fail…mess up…or miss the goal.

Samuel was young and innocent.  The kingdom around him had become corrupt & scandalous.  Eli, the current prophet, knew of the corruption & did little to nothing about it.  These situations cause very little communication from God.  

That says a lot about how God feels in the matter of knowing about sin & not doing anything to rectify the situation.  

Eli was a religious leader, & yet had gotten stuck in the rut of complacency.  We all end up there sometime, but we can’t stay there as he did.  In the midst of all of this, Eli was in charge of making sure Samuel was progressing along the path of becoming a prophet.  Samuel was being raised in this mess & he did not know God because God hadn’t revealed Himself to him

Imagine sleeping & you hear an audible voice that wakes you from sleep.  I mean, that happens occasionally, & Samuel thought it was something along the normal lines and when he heard this voice he went to see what Eli wanted.

Only it wasn’t Eli.

The same thing happened again…

…still not Eli.

Three times…

…three strikes.

Finally, Eli (the guy who was supposed to be God’s man) figured it out and told Samuel that it was God calling him.  Eli told Samuel to go back to bed and answer God and, “tell God to speak” because he (Samuel) was ready to listen.

Tell God to speak?  Say something, I am ready.  It reminds me of the Centurion (Matthew 8) that asked Christ to just “say the word” and his servant would be healed.  When God speaks, powerful things happen.  So our request is…”God, please say something!”  When God calls, He wants to say something…but are we listening?

Do you ever wonder if you are hearing from God or not?

I do…

…all …the…time.

Is it possible that God’s calling is persistent even when we mess up?

Is it possible that if I mess up, He won’t give up on me?

Is it possible that He is that patient…faithful…and loving?

I am not suggesting that God is ok with sin, I am suggesting that He is patient with those who seek Him and innocently make errors in the way they pursue Him.

Is this true?

Did God still speak to Samuel, even after three strikes?


…and it was a powerful and hard message…

…a message against Eli, against God’s messenger, against Samuel’s mentor, against the country, against the people (Eli’s sons) who were supposed to take over and be in charge.

That isn’t a message I would want to deliver.  Why didn’t God tell all of this to Eli?

Even though the message was tough, it was what God said.  It was what Samuel was called to.  This was the beginning of Samuel becoming the man the nation looked to.  God speaking to a person and empowering a person, and that person’s obedience does that.  It changes things.  It puts you where God wants you to be, be a tough place, a place of power, or a place of humility.  

God will put you right where He wants you, if we listen.  Samuel made some mistakes, but his heart was truly open to God’s calling and he was obedient to share it when God spoke.  

So, what does this look like for you?

Here and now, what is God saying to you?  We can so easily hear what the world and everything around us is saying because it is screaming in our face…but what is God’s still…small…voice saying?

It is ok to not know, but it is not ok to not search and listen.

Monday, November 21, 2011


(What you are about to read is a selection from a retreat I spoke at this past weekend.  It is based on the discussion of our calling and comes from Exodus 3 & 4.)

"When you are called, God will do the work through you.  God’s calling will never lead you to a place where His grace won’t provide."

Have you ever felt like you weren’t good enough?  Maybe you thought you could do something, but there were others that were better at it so you didn’t try because you knew someone else would be better than you?  Maybe they were more talented, or were a better speaker, or were more organized, or whatever.  Maybe you felt like you were a complete screw up and if you tried you would just mess everything up.  So, you just sat back, watched it all unfold with a longing heart…

…wishing you were someone else…

…or something else…

…or had just tried.

You may say to yourself, “I wish I was like someone else.”  Or, “I am not good at anything.”  Maybe it isn’t quite that severe, but you just don’t feel like you are anything special.  

I beg to differ.

I think Moses (yes THAT Moses) felt pretty lousy for a large portion of his life.  He was once the guy who lived in the palace with the Pharaoh and was considered royalty.  Many of us saw the movie “The Prince of Egypt” and actually, his life was a lot like that in the early days.  He was pampered, loved, well taken care of.  

He wanted for nothing.

Yet he felt a pull in his heart because he knew he wasn’t an Egyptian.  He started searching and found out that he was an Israelite, the very people that were enslaved in Egypt.  I imagine this weighed quite heavily on his mind and eventually…long story short, he stood up for an Israelite that was being beaten and he ended up leaving the palace and all the pampering.  He ran away and we find him in Exodus 3-4 tending sheep for his father-in-law.  

There may be a few exceptions to the rule, but not many guys want to grow up and work for their father-in-law.  

Moses went from the palace to the field watching sheep.

Can you imagine what went through his mind every day as he sat there, watching the stinky sheep eat grass for hours on end?  I can’t speak for him, but I would have often thought of the life that I had lived and what would have happened if I had made different choices.  I imagine he probably grew comfortable in this life though, realizing it also could have turned out much worse.  

So he sat…in a field…watching stinking sheep…for his father-in-law…forever.

Thinking, “This is it.”

  “THIS is IT?”

That is, until he saw something.

I like fire, I like to watch it, and something about it can be entrancing.  However, this fire was much different.   It burned brightly enough to get Moses’ attention, yet the fire didn’t consume or burn the bush.  It was kind of just…there.  

Then it spoke.

Well, the bush didn’t really, but God spoke from the bush.
God called out to Moses, and Moses said, “Here I am.”

Then (short version) God told him, “I want you to save my people.”  Moses stammers and stumbles and comes up with every excuse as to why he isn’t good enough to be that guy.  

Ever been there?

God does not relent, but continues to tell Moses that he is the one who has been chosen and called to do this great work.  How does God assure Moses?  He promises that He (God) will be with him (Moses), and promises that He (God) will bring Israel out of Egypt.  

Moses continues to try to get out of this.  Why?  Sometimes when God calls you to do something you have to face your fears, you have to face the decisions you have made in the past, you have to face the matters that seem bigger than you, you will not be comfortable, you will have to move, and it… scary…BUT…

…God is with you.

God finally tells Moses (short version), “You will go!”

Moses realizes there is no talking God out of this, which is interesting, I mean you are trying to change God’s mind while talking to a burning bush.  Odd.

Moses came to the realization that here and now, at this burning bush in the middle of nowhere, God has called me and I must go.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


What is your concept of God?  

What do you know of Him?

It is often presumed that I have some fantastic grasp on who God is.  I find the facts to be quite the contrary, especially as I read the sacred Scripture. 

I read verses that tell me to “…be holy for I (God) am holy.”  

Then I read about Isaiah that was absolutely undone in the presence of God because of the magnitude of His (God’s) holiness.

The concept of being so holy that it makes a man come undone…honestly, I don’t get it.  I want to, but I think I would be lying if I tried to describe it as though I understood it fully.

I mean, I do understand, but it may be better said that I do not understand it in an experiential way.

And I am supposed to be holy…

…I don’t think I have been taking this seriously enough.

It sounds so simple doesn’t it?  A sort of “Just do it!” 

We are called to be holy, and yet, we have no ability to do it ourselves.  He must do it through us.  So when we are called to be holy as He is, we are called to be set apart for His work, His leading, His…well…whatever He wants.  It involves believing not only that He is who He says He is, but also that He can do with us what He wishes and we should be ok with that…

…not only that…

…but we should be looking forward to it, longing for it, and hoping patiently for Him to do what He wants with us.


My humanness does not like that, my humanness fights against that.  I want to get things done and work hard to get to the place that I want to be and God can have what is left when I am done with that goal.

What if that isn’t what He wants?

What if my being holy is based on my availability to Him?

How available I am in my time, my consciousness, my focus, my desires, my hopes and dreams?

What if that amazing TV show isn’t nearly as amazing as hearing from Him?

I am growing more and more bored with the things I used to find so enamoring, I find that there is no satisfaction in them.  I find that when the day is over and I look back to see what I accomplished, I wish that I had spent more time with Him.

Is this the beginning?

Maybe this life is about more than just what we experience in the flesh…maybe it really is more about spiritual matters…

…I mean I know that…

…but I don’t act like it.

Maybe it is true; when my core longings line up with God’s calling I will experience remarkable demonstration.

My holiness or being set apart for His work is reliant on Him, it is desperate for His Spirit’s working in and through me, it is me trusting that He is worth it…all the time, in every capacity, and is the only fulfilling source in my life.

I might get an iota of this, but I want to “get it” in a deeper way.  What a wonderful journey…what a lot to think about…what a God.