Archive for the ‘Devotional’ Category

Anxiety Related to Expectations

Friday, October 7th, 2011

I’ve noticed the less I try to accomplish, the lower my anxiety becomes.

However, it’s usually not enough for me to have just one goal.  I often have about ten.  Maybe you can’t relate to this, but I don’t usually feel good about myself unless I’m accomplishing things.

This trip has been a good example.  My goals were many:

  1. to see as much as possible of cultures outside the US
  2. to pack as much as possible into six weeks
  3. to work on learning both Creole and Spanish during my time here
  4. to figure out the local infrastructures (for instance, I’ve acquired Haiti & Dominican SIM cards for my cell phone)
  5. try to encourage everyone I meet
  6. continue reading books
  7. interview every missionary I run into on their entire life story
  8. donate Bibles and other stuff
  9. visit as many different local churches as possible (so far I’ve visited four)
  10. figure out what I want to do when I grow up
  11. never miss a day of personal devotions
  12. test the various gear I brought along
  13. keep my clothes clean (even if this means doing laundry by hand at 10pm using water from a rain barrel)
  14. continue blogging (and journaling and e-mail correspondence)
  15. get at least eight hours of sleep every night

The list goes on and on. 

Anxiety begins cropping up when my goals interfere with each other.  Which happens continually.  (Even in real life back in the US)

I’ve noticed other people have a different approach. 

The friend I went to Haiti with seemed to have only one goal: to help improve the lives of the orphans we were visiting.

That goal streamlined all his actions and decisions.  I noticed he never seemed to get stressed out, and I think his trick was that he simply kept the main thing the main thing. 

Whenever opportunities arose to do something non-orphanage related or other responsibilities encroached on his time he quickly filtered them out as “non-essential” because they didn’t align with his primary goal of spending time with the kids and doing everything he could for them.

So today I’m trying to follow that philosophy.  My single purposed goal for today is to simply give my body a good rest and chance to heal from the infection I’ve had in my leg/foot. 

To that end I’ve stayed in bed all day.  Though I have written a few e-mails, got my auto insurance renewed, finished a book, put together this blog post…

Speaking of goals, I wonder what a good life goal would be?

For starters, I think it would be healthy to have a goal of always enjoying and appreciating the “here and now.”  To not always be looking for a more rosy tomorrow, but to savor life in the present.  I could use a lot of help on this one!

The Apostle Paul said he made it his goal to please Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9).  That seems like a good one.

Perhaps Jesus laid out the best goal when he said,

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt 6)

But I wonder… what does seeking first the kingdom and righteousness of Christ look like practically?

Joseph As A Figure of Christ

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

The message last night was on Joseph.  In particular, the message was on self-control and the life of Joseph was used as an example.

Some people would debate whether Joseph is a “type” of Christ so we will use the term “figure” instead because there are definitely shadows and allusions to Christ in Joseph’s life, I believe.

Joseph was rejected by his brothers, similar to Jesus.  He was repeatedly humbled, but in the end went from lowest in the kingdom (sent to prison after being falsely accused as a criminal) to the 2nd highest in the kingdom, second only to Pharaoh. 

Jesus too was repeatedly humbled and went from the lowest in the kingdom (crucified after being falsely accused as a criminal) to the 2nd highest in the kingdom, second only to God the Father.

Remember when Joseph was in prison and interpreted the dreams of the baker and cupbearer?  Joseph gave interpretations of their dreams: after 3 days the cupbearer would be reinstated to his royal position while the baker would be hung.  Joseph requested they “remember him” after these things came to pass. 

Now this isn’t prophecy by any means, but I believe there is a distinct “shadow” or “allusion” in the story of the cupbearer and baker to the future ordinance of communion given by Jesus.  At the last supper Jesus took the bread and cup and similar to how Jesus body was broken (and how he broke the bread), the baker was the one who was hung.  Even the hanging is interesting because Jesus too was hung on a tree.

Also similar is how during the meal of the Last Supper Jesus requested that in the future they do this in remembrance of Him.  Remember how Joseph asked the cupbearer to remember him when he was reinstated to the palace? There is an obvious correlation to the three days as well. Oh, here’s another thing: both Jesus and Joseph were given a gentile bride.

Joseph’s attitude of forgiveness and compassion towards his brothers who betrayed him was similar to Jesus attitude.  Hanging on the cross Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34)

At the end of the story of Joseph, Joseph reassures his brothers of his goodwill:

“’You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” Genesis 50:20)

God used the crucible of Joseph’s life for the eventual “saving of many lives.”  This purpose in Joseph’s life is quite similar to the mission of Jesus’s life: 

"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many…(Mark 14:24)

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:43-45)

I take from all these observations that a common model for being used by God includes being humbled extremely low, falsely accused, and having to undergo much pain.  This is followed by a lifting up of to a position of power for the purpose and benefit of the saving of many lives.

What do you think?

Changing Lanes

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

lane

Do you hate change?  Most people do.

No doubt about it, change is uncomfortable.  I’ve noticed most people change things occasionally, some people change things up ALL the time…… then still others rarely make any changes.

Case in point: I drove up to Newton this evening and performed a test.  I set my cruise control at 60mph.  Now realize that on most the route the speed limit was 70mph, so I really caused a stir and disrupted traffic by my grandma-ish driving.

You may wonder why I would do such a crazy thing as drive 10mph under the speed limit when everyone knows you’re supposed to drive 5mph over?

Simple reason:  I’m trying to see how many miles per gallon I can get on this current tank of gasoline.  On the last two tanks I got 22 MPG but on this one I’m hoping to get at least 30.  All I’m doing different is modifying my driving habits.

Continuing with my story…  People were whizzing by me left and right on the highway and giving me hard stares of derision.  I began noticing something interesting though: some cars would pass quickly while others would hesitate for awhile before passing while still others would simply flat out NOT pass. 

One car in particular slowed way down to my speed.  Then it slowed down further so it was far behind me.  Then it sped up until it was right on my bumper, invading my personal space in a way that increased my pulse as I cringed awaiting impact.  The two of us then moseyed down the road quite awhile like that.  Nobody around, just us two.  Me going slower than a seven day itch, and the car behind me RIGHT on my bumper.  But they were the type of person who hates change so much they couldn’t bring themselves to change lanes and just pass me. 

I talked to an older guy recently who told me he and his wife had been going to the same church for the last 30 years.  Then he told me they have been thinking of leaving for the last 10, and in fact realizes now he should have done so 10 years ago.  But he didn’t then because they were so comfortable and didn’t want to change. 

This man told me he felt it was finally time to change.  The complaints he had about his current church I found interesting: He said the curriculum the Seniors were going through in their Sunday School class was pathetically elementary.  At their age he felt they should be going through stuff far more advanced.  What he also felt was quite sad was how his peers didn’t talk about God or their Christian walk before or after services at church, but rather gabbed about sports and weather and other mundane topics.  This man wanted more.

As you look at your own life, think about things that may be holding you back. What cars are you driving behind you should just pass?  What things have you put off changing for a long time?  If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you regret not having done today?

Maybe today is a day we simply need to get our hearts right with the Lord.  Paul said,

I tell you, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Now is the day to change lanes methinks.

Onward and Upward

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

SaladSpinach greens, red peppers, green peppers – for a salad.  That’s what my friend Keith brought last night when he came by for supper.  I added cheese and pulled out several dressings from the fridge.

Sitting down to eat, Keith was about to pour some Italian dressing on his salad when I stopped him, "Hey!  You might want to check the expiration date on that."  He did, and it was September 2009.  So I checked the date on the Ranch: it said best by February 2010.  But they both smelled ok so we went ahead and used them.  It didn’t say they were expired, just best if used by the dates listed.

The moral of the story is some things last longer than one might think.  At least I’m not sick yet.  The other moral is I don’t eat salad often.

When I was a little kid, all us brothers used to go to a barber shop run by two older guy barbers.  We called them "The Old Geezers."  Not to their face of course, but the name stuck behind their back.  A couple weeks ago I needed a haircut and decided to return; it had been years since I’d last seen them.  One of the men was ominously missing, but the other barber remembered me right away.  As he was cutting my hair he began reminiscing:  had been barbering in that same shop for forty-three years, remembered giving me my first haircut, and was my brother the one who went to West Point? 

Sadly, his hair cutting partner had died recently of cancer.  From my perspective as an adult the surviving barber didn’t look that old, maybe 65.  And he was a “geezer” when I was a kid? Bet he will be barbering many years to come. 

Our society tells us we need to kick back and relax after a certain age.  But in my mind, similar to the out of date salad dressings, I hope to be good long after my expiration date.  I don’t ever plan on retiring.

My Grandpa sets a good example: he retired, but then went to Jamaica as a full-time missionary for five years.  Then he retired again, only to accept a full-time church pastorate for several more years.  Then he retired again, but soon was driving for a rental car agency while filling in as a substitute pastor.  He has a hard time sitting still.  So do I.

"You can’t teach an old dog new tricks," we oft hear.  But is it true?  I believe in life-long learning and can confidently attest to having learned more in the last five years since graduating college than in the four years previous at college.  At least more worthwhile things.  Just goes to show a college diploma isn’t the panacea it’s cracked up to be. 

We can’t sit on our laurels.  I remember watching a young pianist on TV being lauded as fantastic.  She was, for her elementary school age, but not by any other standard.  In order to be fantastic as an adult or even a teen she would need to improve dramatically.

What are we doing to keep ourselves sharp?  Flowing water remains fresh, but a calm pool turns stagnant.  A musical instrument stays in tune better when played. 

Here’s how the apostle Paul put it:

"I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man shadow boxing. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."  (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)

"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."  (Phil 3:12-13)

Prepare Yourself

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

I have a co-worker who ran into a curb this morning with his car. It slid on ice and bent his rim. He didn’t have a car jack or tire iron, incredibly. He also was only wearing a cotton hoodie though it was 5 degrees out (yes, that would be Fahrenheit).

The Boy Scout motto is, “Be Prepared.” Anyone who knows us Middleton guys is aware we oft take this overboard. For instance, right now I’m carrying in my pockets a flashlight, knife, jump drive, and band-aid, among other paraphernalia. I use it all regularly. For instance, was exploring an underground culvert recently and the flashlight came in handy. As it did when I was searching under my car seat the other night for a lost item but instead only found oldish French Fries. Left them there for later, never know when I’ll get stuck in a blizzard and need extra carbs. All part of being prepared.

Failing to plan is planning to fail, they say.

In our Christian lives, preparing involves prep work in the Word and time alone with God. Was listening to a message titled Read Great Books by Chip Ingram where he said one of the most common questions he’s asked by young people is, "How can I know God’s will for my life?" Chip said he counters with, "How much time have you been spending in the Word?" to which he usually gets the response, "What does that have to do with anything?" Everything, really.

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27)

Chip’s message was emphasizing the value of reading in general, which I wholeheartedly agree with. Right now I’m in the middle of two books, while continuing to digest contents from several previous. See Chip’s message notes, which includes his recommended reading list.

Along the lines of "cultivating the garden of our minds," Donald Miller had a short and witty write-up on the value of filling our minds with high octane fuel rather than spastic junk food.  Here’s an excerpt:

If you are wondering why there are no more C.S. Lewis’ in the world, no more stories as good as Tolkien’s, no cathedrals as great as the gothic’s, no music as moving as Pachelbel’s, it may be because the writers of these books, the tellers of these stories, the architects of these buildings and the composers of these symphonies are sitting on their couches watching television. I wonder what’s on tonight. (Miller)

I’m wondering, what am I doing now to prepare myself for the future?