Monthly Archives: January 2013

Cross Training

cross-trainingSin: How Bad is It?

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3: 5-6 (NIV)

Like preparing items for a garage sale, I go through life assigning value. Nickels and dimes here. Big bucks there. How do I establish value? I determine it in several ways. One is cost; another is whether or not I have a stake. For example, the way my children value items varies greatly. When their money is on the counter, they spend carefully. With my cash, anything goes.

Could the same hold true for sin? As a reference point, let’s take a quick look at the Big Ten from Exodus 20: 1-17. I’ll paraphrase:

1)      Serve no other gods but the real one, God with a big G.

2)      Have no idols, especially not the American kind.

3)      Use God’s name with respect.

4)      Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy. Rest, worship, and don’t work.

5)      Honor one’s parents.

6)      Don’t murder.

7)      Don’t commit adultery.

8)      Don’t steal.

9)      Don’t lie.

10)  Don’t envy other people’s stuff.

When it comes to sin, my “own understanding” misses the mark. I justify sin. I rank it. I pass the buck or hide its evidence. I sugarcoat it. I dilute it. I judge sin in others while ignoring the dirt under my own fingernails. If sin and its consequences often seem cheap, it’s because sin costs me so little. God, however, said the violation of even one of the above commands was enough to put Jesus on the cross. Of course, the other option is to pay the price myself. One sin, one death. Uh-oh–the value just went up.

As I grow in my relationship with God, I gain a better understanding of His holiness—and of my need for it. I begin to grasp the magnitude and the absurdity of the sacrifice: God Himself leaving heaven for earth, to bleed and die on man’s behalf. I get real about sin, not only because I value the cost, but also because it wounds my growing relationship with the Father. That’s a place I don’t want to go. Sin becomes serious. Little white lies, costly.

It’s a matter of perspective, His vs. mine.

Questions for the Week:

Where are you on the spectrum of your own understanding vs. what God says?

Does your relationship with God hold enough value for you to stop long and hard to consider a sin before you hurt the relationship?

Do you apply this principle to other relationships? Faithfulness to a spouse? Obedience to a parent? Loyalty to a friend?

When does the value of the relationship trump a sin?

What does the cost or penalty of sin tell you about God’s holiness and righteousness?

Are there any relationships for which you would willingly give your life in order to reconcile and restore the two parties?

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Closet Clutter: Walking Through Relationships

It’s been a while since family dysfunction reared its ugly head. I guess we were due because we got a triple whammy this Christmas. I confess–part of it was my fault. I opened my mouth when I should have kept it shut. Turkey and pie weren’t enough. I put my foot in my mouth too.

Paul helps us get started on the right foot in Colossians 3: 12-14 NIV:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Check out the new clothes: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience. These clothes are easy to wear around my girlfriends, but they are not my first choice for a family gathering. Pride, harsh tones, and impatience whistled from their spots in my emotional closet and begged to be worn. Forbearance and forgiveness clashed with pride like stripes and plaids. Love and unity fell to the closet floor and the fretting and frustration lasted for days.

Where do I go from here? How do I walk with God in my relationships? Especially the next time I see_____________.

To avoid a future wardrobe malfunction, I must allow Him to wrap me in His compassion, His gentleness, His humility. My strength is insufficient. In and of myself, I cannot love others as Christ loves me. Yet, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. I permit Him to choose the outfit for the day and I wear it because it pleases Him and keeps me out of trouble. As I deal with relationships, I’ll raid His closet. Come raid it with me.

Questions for the Week:
1) Is God your first choice or a last option in dealing with difficult relationships?
2) What is the second greatest commandment? (Google if necessary.)
3) How has God loved us?
4) How can we move our focus from the person to God?
5) How do you prepare to see that person when you are in the midst of relational difficulties?

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9 to 5: Walking in the Workplace

My dog Zuno loves to go for a run in the morning. The rest of the day, however, he is disengaged. He has met his exercise quota and is done. It’s easy to do the same with God. We have time in prayer or in His word, check—now off to the rest of our day. Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth century monk, set the bar on walking with God through the day. In the little book, The Practice of the Presence of God, he details the working out of a commitment to spend every moment of every day with God. Here is a quote:

“Think often of God; do so by day and by night, in your business and even during diversions. The Lord is always near you. He is with you. For your part, never leave him alone. It would be rude, don’t you think, to leave a friend all alone who had come to visit? Why is it then, that God is so often neglected?”

Frank Laubach, a minister and missionary in the 1930’s, picked up where Brother Lawrence left off:

“One question now to be put to the test is this: Can we have that contact with God all the time? All the time awake, fall asleep in his arms, and awaken in His presence? Can we attain that? Can we do His will all the time? Can we think His thoughts all the time? . . . Is this obtainable? Any hour of any day may be made perfect by merely choosing. It is perfect if one looks toward God that entire hour, waiting for His leadership all through the hour and trying hard to do every tiny thing exactly as God wishes it done, as perfectly as possible. No emotions are necessary.” (Excerpt from Letters by a Modern Mystic and Gone with Minutes.)

Paul puts it this way:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,.  . .” (Colossians 3: 23 NIV)

God does not change. He is with us in all things. Will we take Him into the board room, teleconference, classroom, or preschool? Our walk with God doesn’t stop when we enter the office or when we head to school in the morning. Stay together.

Questions for the Week:

1)      Create a playlist of worship songs that you can easily access. Get your kids to help. They will know some great songs or bands you may not be familiar with like Gungor, Addison Road, and Rapture Ruckus. What are five favorites?

2)      Add a Bible app, a daily devotional, or verse for the day to your phone or e-mail. What verse stood out this week?

3)      During what break in your day can you focus on God through worship, prayer, or time in the Bible? (Quick is ok.)

4)      Where are other times you can grab time with God? Drive time? Wait time?

5)      Compare notes as a family. Where did you grab time with God? How did you spend that time? What were the results?

 

 

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Pace Yourself

As we pulled up to the retirement center, the kids made room for Granny. She sat down heavily, swinging one arthritic leg, then the other into the car. She placed her purse on the floor, adjusted her windbreaker, and began looking for the seatbelt. Grunting and mumbling, she pulled the belt around and plunged it into empty air as the latch evaded her. One of the kids reached for the belt and clicked it in place. Upon reaching our house, the kids were out of the car and in front of the TV before Granny had made it through the door. “Faster is better,” says the AT&T commercial.

Is it?

We talk about our walk with God, but my life is more of a run. I want God in my life. It’s the walking part that gets me. Jesus understood our dilemma:

“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 you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6: 31-33 NIV, italics mine)

Time constraints force me to pick and choose. Will I choose Him?

Choosing Him means I slow down and walk. Just as I change my pace for Granny, God asks me to adjust my pace to His. This means taking a deep breath and trusting Him for the work of the day as the minutes I spend with Him tick by. Isn’t this the rub? Steps of faith chafe like a new pair of shoes, but I have never regretted spending too much time with God. My day may not live up to my to-do list, yet I’ve discovered the important things will get done.

Pace yourself and walk with Him today.

Questions for the Week:

1)      What keeps you from walking with God?

2)      Is it a time issue or a trust issue?

3)      Look at Matthew 6: 33. What is the difference between the pagan and the believer concerning the things we need in life?

4)      How do you set your priorities?

5)      Start small. How much time will you give Him today?

 

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