Getting Out the Garbage

I headed out for my usual early morning exercise–a brisk walk to the lake, around the neighborhood loop, and back again. As I passed by, a neighbor emerged from her garage. We waved to greet one another before she grabbed a large plastic container to haul to the end of her driveway.

Yikes, garbage day!

I made a mental note to  put our garbage out as soon as I finished my walk. We sure didn’t need health hazards, clutter, and all things stinky hanging around for another week. How good it always felt to get rid of garbage.

Rid of … hmm. Didn’t God’s Word have a lot to say about “getting rid of”? When I returned, I’d check that out, too.

Ah, hah! Just as I thought. The Bible listed all sorts of garbage that Peter and Paul urged Christian to “get rid of.” I studied those lists for any garbage I needed to get rid of.

Curious? Would you like to know what I found on those lists? Here are just a few items I considered, in case I was carrying them around:

  • “Get rid of all malicious behavior and deceit. Don’t just pretend to be good. Be done with hypocrisy and jealousy and backstabbing” (1 Peter 2:1, New Living Translation).
  • “Get rid of … slander and dirty language” (Colossians 3:8, New Living Translation).
  • “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words … be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (Ephesians 4:31, New Living Translation).
  • “Get rid of all filth and evil in your lives … humbly accept the message God has planted in your hearts, for it is strong enough to save your souls” (James 1:21, New Living Translation).

Paul also pointed to a major source of garbage–pride. He could claim lofty heights in his family bloodlines, education, and social status. Though all those things seem important to us, what is their end result? They encourage us to look down on others and count them of less value.

Yet God calls us to love one another regardless of these things. Awakened to this truth and compelled by his love for God, Paul led the way for us. He chose to change his attitude.

Focus: “I once thought all these things were very important, but now I count them as worthless … when compared the with priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage” ~ Philippians 3:7-8, (New Living Translation).

How about you?  How would your life change if you took seriously God’s Word and Paul’s example?

 

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Who’s in Control?

I woke in the middle of the night and starred into the darkness. Would I be all right while traveling half way across the country and navigating huge, unfamiliar airports on my way to a writers’ conference? Would our son and daughter-in-law snag a low-interest mortgage to purchase their first home? Had I measured and ordered accurately so that my husband would have little trouble installing our new kitchen cabinets? Had I …?

Worries whirled in my head, tumbling over one another and gaining speed. At this rate, I would win the Olympic God Medal for worry and finish well ahead of any competitor. Not good!

In his Word, God repeatedly urges us not to worry, not to be afraid.

By worrying, can we change anything?

  • Would worry turn my cross country trip into a trouble-free journey? No, but trusting the details to God and thanking him for his goodness would ensure a trip filled with his good will.
  • Would worry about my son’s first house mortgage make a difference? No. For Pete’s sake, it wasn’t even my business! But I could ask God  to give him and his wife wisdom and the right opportunity. I could give the situation to God and thank him that he loved them and would see them safely through their newest family adventure.
  • Would worry about the kitchen remodeling project make any problems go away? No, but asking God to guide us and thanking him for his gift of wisdom to overcome each challenge would take us safely through to completion.

The bottom line: If we want success and peace, God says we can have it. First, by remembering who’s in control–not us but our God Almighty who loves us. Second, by following his instructions (see below).

Focus: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” ~ Philippians 4:67, New Living Translation.

How about you? In what situations have you overcome worry and experienced God’s peace by turning to God in prayer?

A Changed Life

Imagine a twelve-year-old becoming absolute ruler of a nation. His every command would be law–a situation that might cause a few problems. And it did. Here’s the story.

After ruling Judah for twenty-nine years, King Hezekiah died, and his twelve-year-old son became king. But unlike his father, Manasseh had no intention of serving God. He took up sorcery, divination, and witchcraft. He consulted mediums and psychics. He quickly set up pagan altars and encouraged idol worship all over the country–even within the Lord God’s Temple in Jerusalem. Ignoring God’s patient warnings, he led the people into more evil than all the nations around them.

Finally, God sent the cruel Assyrians to invade Judah. They captured Manasseh and led him away to prison in Babylon.

Did Manasseh cry out for his pagan idols to save him? No. He turned to the Lord God Almighty whom his good father had served. “And when he prayed, the Lord listened to him and was moved by his request for help” (2 Chronicles 33:13, New Living Translation). God then restored Manasseh to his throne in Judah.

This amazing experience brought Manasseh to his senses. Now realizing that the Lord alone is God, he changed. He destroyed every foreign idol and restored the Lord’s altar in the Temple at Jerusalem. There he worshiped the Lord God and encouraged his people to do the same.

Can a bad boy or girl turn good? Yes! God promises that no matter how bad our past, we can humbly turn to God, be forgiven and live a changed life.

Focus: “If a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed … none of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him.” ~Ezekiel 18:21-22, New Living Translation.

What about you? Do you know someone who, with the Lord’s help, left a bad past to live a changed life? Please share.

 

Satisfied with Life?

What if God invited you to ask him for whatever you want and he would give it to you? What would you say?

Young King Solomon of Israel knew what to say. He asked for wisdom to govern. This pleased God so much that he also gave the young man riches and honor (1 Kings 3:1-14, New Living Translation).

Sure enough, Solomon’s wisdom brought him fame. As a powerful politician, he lived at peace with the nations around him. As a master builder, he erected beautiful palaces for himself and his wives and a magnificent Temple to God. A hard worker, he pursued his every interest with a passion. A wealthy man, he denied himself nothing.

Yet when his life was nearly over, he looked back and wrote, “Everything is meaningless … utterly meaningless” Ecclesiates 1:1).

How sad! He had spent his life on everything the world had to offer, and in the end, felt all that he had achieved and acquired meant nothing.

How different life was for Paul, who lived centuries later. Called to spread the Good News about Jesus Christ, Paul never wavered. Leaving everything behind, he traveled the known world and pursued his life’s work of  knowing, loving, and serving God with a passion. He knew times of joy and suffering, poverty and plenty, but he never abandoned God’s purpose for his life.

When the time of his death drew near, he wrote, “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God … I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me” (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Paul was satisfied. From the moment of his calling, he had spent his life well. He had made a meaningful difference in this world and looked forward to receiving his eternal reward.

  • Is a life of knowing, loving, and serving God and others worthwhile? Yes!
  • Can we do this in the midst of our everyday circumstances? Yes!
  • If we do, will we come to the end of life satisfied with how we spent our time on earth? Yes!
  • And it’s never too late to begin.

Even Solomon–though he lived for pleasure–was wise enough in the end to realize the truth and leave the following advice.

Focus: “Fear (hold in high esteem) God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of every person” ~ Ecclesiastes 12:13, New Living Translation.

What about you? If God invited you to ask him for anything you wanted, what would you say? How might that affect the rest of your life?

A Great investment Opportunity

I admit it. I have no idea what  it means to be rich, but–bless his heart–a rich young man came running up to Jesus and knelt down to ask, “What should I do to get eternal life?”

When Jesus pointed him to the Ten Commandments, the young man assured him that he had obeyed them since he was a child.

“There is still one thing you lack,” Jesus said (Luke 18:22, New Living Translation). He invited the young man  to sell all he had, give to the poor, and follow him.

You could almost hear the young man gasp. Jesus had put his finger on the one barrier between this young man and whole-hearted devotion to God. He went away sad because he was very rich.

This  makes me wonder what Jesus might point to in our lives as barriers between him and us. Where do we invest too much time and devotion? In beautifying our homes? In challenging work? In our investment portfolios? A hobby or sport? A relationship that draws us away from him? Maybe it is none of these. Maybe it’s something entirely different.

One thing is certain. Putting love for God first in our lives is a great investment for both the present and future. To the rich young man, Jesus had promised “treasures in heaven.” To his disciples who had given up everything to follow him, he promised they would receive “many times over in this life” and eternal life.

Removing the barrier–giving it up entirely, or reducing its place in our lives–may be costly. We may be reluctant and wonder as Peter did, “What will we get out of it?” (Matthew 19:27, New Living Translation).

But we have nothing to fear. God will make it up to us with great blessings and joy. Our lives will not be less. They will be greatly improved! What Jesus told his disciples long ago is true for us today.

Focus: “I assure you, everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, as well as receiving eternal life in the world to come.”(Luke 18:29, New Living Translation).

How about you? What might Jesus point out as a barrier between you and him? Are you ready to remove it–with God’s help, of course?

Working Toward Freedom

I watched wide-eyed as our nation raged. Our rulers prepared for battle, plotted and cried out, “Let’s free ourselves from this slavery!”

Who did they cry out against? What was the slavery? According to Psalm 2, none other than the Lord God because they didn’t want him telling them what  to do. Neither did their citizens.

If a situation called for a little lying or stealing or cheating, why not? If they felt like using God’s name like a swear word, so what? If keeping their businesses open on Sunday meant turning a bigger profit, that was their call. If they ignored their parents or any other authority–who, by the way, weren’t all that wise or great anyway–that was their call. If they found someone attractive and wanted to sleep with that person without benefit of marriage, hey, whose  business was it but theirs?

Who did God think he was anyway? And what about the many world religions with plenty of gods to chose from? Worship only the Lord God? Obey only him? Forget that!

So they raged on and plotted, filling willing ears with their own version of right and wrong. Inviting others to join their enlightenment, they truly believed they were working toward freedom.

But the Lord God shook his head sadly. He never meant his rules to enslave! He set those boundaries to protect his people, to free them to live in peace and safety and love with one another and with him. Yet each had to choose this peace and safety and love for themselves. Free choice was his gift to each.

Yet to keep us from being destroyed by our freedom, he daily urges us to choose wisely.

Focus: “Be warned … Serve the Lord with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling. Submit to God’s royal son … what joy for all who find protection in him!” ~ Psalm 2:10-12, New Living Translation.

How about you? How do you choose to use your God-given freedom?

(This blog post is adapted from a July 2001 piece published by Together In Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)

 

Happy Father’s Day, Dad

In the late 1800’s, the life of a young Civil War veteran’s wife faded as she gave birth to their sixth child. Widower William Smart raised his daughter and five sons on the family farm in the state of Washington with such devotion that, as an adult, his daughter began a campaign to honor all fathers.

In 1906, Sonora Louise Smart Dodd, then living in Spokane, discussed the idea with her pastor. She envisioned a day of special church services and children offering their fathers words of appreciation and small gifts. The city’s YMCA joined the sponsorship, and on the third Sunday of June 1910–the month of William Smart’s birthday–Father’s Day was first observed.

In 1916, President Woodrow Calvin Coolidge recommended its observance, but decades followed while others slowly joined in the effort to establish Father’s Day. During those years, wearing a red rose honored a living father, a white rose for one not living. Today we celebrate Father’s Day with backyard barbecues and gifts for our birth fathers, stepfathers, fathers-in-law, and grandfathers.

This is all as it should be! However, this year as we honor the fathers in our lives, let’s remember the most wonderful Father of all–our heavenly Father. The One whose abundant love is always the same.The One who never tires of watching over us and providing for our needs. He who, when we stray, never stops wooing us back to him. More than all that, he is the Father who made the way at great personal price–the willing death of his Son on the cross–that we might be his children.

Focus: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God!” ~ 1 John 3:1, New International Version.

How About You? How many fathers do you honor on Father’s Day, and how do you choose to do it?

(This blog post is adapted from a June 1999 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)