In my teen years I found that I had one thing after another that I loved. Sometimes it was a new band that I thought was the best thing ever. Another it was a new sport or video game that was SO cool! Often it was a cute girl at school who caught my eye.
But often, just as quickly as I found this new thing I loved, I found that my passion for it didn't last. The songs from the band got old. The novelty of the game wore off and it turned out that cute girl wasn't very nice. It turned out that my passions often came and went quickly.
As adults we are still tempted to make too much of feelings that are fleeting or maybe even false. We want to buy a new car with all the newest tech, but we can't afford the payments. We search for a new job, just to find that the grass wasn't really greener after all. A new relationship sounds exciting, till we find our problems follow us no matter where we go.
We must be careful to follow what is true and not just what we feel. There is such a thing as right and wrong. There is such a thing as good and bad. There are lines that should not be crossed. There are things that God says are sinful. Our culture is pushing us to blur lines and reconsider societal rules...and yet we must stand firm on what we know is true so that we can do what is right and good.
Romans 1:25 says "they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator." I pray these words would never be true of us. We may feel tempted to do things, but if God's word says we should not...we should not. We may want to give in to pressure to conform, but we must stand strong and do what is right in God's eyes...not man's.
Let us not be like the sands, pushed and pulled by the changing tides. Let us stand strong on the truth of God's word both now and always.
The other day we found broken glass all over the floor of the Cafe' here at church. It turns out someone took a rock and threw it through a window. We don't know who it was or why they did it; but it clearly wasn't an accident. Someone wanted to smash that window (it looks like it took a few throws to do it) and the result was broken glass on the floor.
In truth, it's not that big of a deal. We will replace the window. We swept up the glass. We are redoubling our security efforts at the church to keep this from happening again.
But it is an opportunity for us to do a few things. First, we are going to pray for this person. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us...so we took time in our worship service this past week and in our staff meeting as well to pray for this individual and I would love it if you would as well. We don't know who it was or why they did it, but it gives us a chance to pray for them that we didn't have before. Pray that God would use this as a way to reach them with grace and forgiveness.
Second, it's a chance for us to remember that we've all broken a few windows of our own. Maybe not literally, but we've all done bad things and we've all left behind a trail of broken glass as our actions hurt others and had consequences. A lie we told might have broken another's ability to trust. A betrayal we committed may have hurt another deeply. We have all hurt others. But, we know that, for us, Jesus lovingly forgave us our sins and helped clean up the broken mess of our lives. This is a chance to admit our own sinfulness and rejoice in the grace of God.
We belong to a church full of broken people who have done evil things and who have left behind a trail of broken glass...and yet are forgiven and free because of the great mercy of our God...and for that we are forever thankful. May this truth help us show grace to others and gratitude to our Lord always!
One of the most famous stories in the Old Testament is that of Moses and the burning bush. It has been featured in movies and is a common idea we discuss as we are looking for a "sign" from God. We often joke about wishing we had a burning bush type sign. But as I was reading that story once, I noticed a phrase in the text that I hadn't seen before. In Exodus 3:3 Moses says (in the King James version), "I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt."
It occurred to me that Moses could not have turned aside. He could have kept going. He was busy after all, tending his flocks. To take his eyes off his sheep was to put them in danger, so he might have just kept going about his business without bothering to go see this bush that didn't burn.
I wonder how often we miss some great opportunity because we don't stop and turn aside. Maybe we keep going when we see a stranger in need of help. Maybe we ignore the child who is hurt on the playground. Maybe we forget to check on a loved one. Maybe we miss our burning bush moments because we are too busy, too focused, too selfish or just too distracted.
Keep your eyes open. It might not be a burning bush, but it might be an opportunity from the Lord if you just keep your eyes open and be ready to turn aside.
Thomas Jefferson once penned the words that all Americans have the rights of "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" which makes for a powerful statement as a nation...but is the pursuit of happiness always good? The answer is no. Happiness, as an emotion, isn't bad (just like any other emotion) but the pursuit of it can become an idol or lead us into sin or danger. Let me explain.
I had a friend, she was raised in a Christian home and knew right from wrong. She did all the things she was supposed to do. She did well in school, went to college, got a job and got married to a Christian man. But she was unhappy. She longed for more adventure and excitement. So, when she met a cute guy who liked her, she was tempted to give in to an affair. She turned for advice to an old friend who encouraged her to "do what made her happy." She took this advice as permission to begin an affair that eventually led to a painful divorce and years of drifting away from her faith.
In Proverbs 21:17 we read "whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man, he who loves wine and oil will not be rich."
Happiness is not bad (God made it) and pleasure isn't sinful...but seeking it above all else can lead to terrible choices and destructive consequences. We must always try to be sure that our pursuit of happiness doesn't trump our pursuit of godliness. We must seek to temper our urges for pleasure with our desire to do good and avoid sin. We must find acceptable ways to find pleasure in good things (intimacy within marriage for example instead of in an affair) that God provides for us.
So I would encourage you to consider a new phrase, not for a nation but for the people of God. May we enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of godliness...and in that, may you find true joy; not just fleeting pleasure.
For the past few weeks we have been looking at emotions, which are neither good nor evil, but just a part of the human existence. We all, except for Mr. Spock from Star Trek, have emotions. When our child hugs us, we feel happiness. When we lose our job, we feel sadness or fear. When we get rear ended, we feel anger. All of this is normal. Jesus felt emotions just like us when he lived and dwelled among us. He felt all the same emotions you feel; and yet was without sin...which means that emotions are not sinful. It is what you DO with your emotions that could lead to sin. Anger can lead us to violence. Sadness can lead us to the bottle. Loneliness can lead us to an affair. We must be careful with what we do with our strong emotions.
Today I want to discuss sorrow or sadness. Sadness, like other emotions, is a normal response to painful loss, death or discouragement. Sorrow is often felt when something we loved is gone. Sorrow, I believe, can actually be helpful as it allows us to grieve that which is gone...and grief is important for us to eventually move forward.
Even Jesus felt sorrow. In Mark 14:34, while in the Garden before his arrest and death, he said to his disciples "My soul is overwhelmed with sorry to the point of death." Jesus felt sorrow so deep here, and yet he was still faithful to do what he must and allow himself to die and be separated from his father to pay for our sins.
Sorrow can feel overwhelming, but we know it is temporary. Like all emotions it will come to an end; plus...we who know the Lord know that we have a comfort that can endure even the darkest night.
Psalm 30:5 says "weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning." And while that night may last a long time, depending on what we lost, morning does eventually come.
So take heart, you who feel sorrow or sadness. God (who understands what sorrow feels like) is with you and morning will always come again.
Last week I talked about fear, so I decided that I would take time each week to deal with an emotion that we often deal with. Emotions aren't good or bad morally. We tend to think of happiness or joy as good and fear or anger as bad; but in truth they are just part of the normal human experience. It is how we deal with them that can be good or bad. People can become so obsessed with being "happy" that they turn to drugs or an affair to find it regardless of the consequences. We also tend to think of anger as bad, but the Bible says "in your anger do not sin" (Ephesians 4:26) which means it is what we do with our anger that can be sinful...not the feeling itself.
Worry is not actually an emotion, but is what we do with our fear. We fear that something bad might happen to our child, for example, and we allow that fear to turn into worry. We are all prone to worry at times over different things. We might worry about our financial situation, about our safety or even about the state of the world when it comes to things like politics or a pandemic.
Jesus talks about worry a lot. His basic idea is this, worry doesn't help. In Matthew 6 Jesus gives a long sermon on the topic of worry and tells us that worrying can't add even a single hour to your life (some translations say a single inch to your height). Basically he tells us that worry doesn't do anything. Worry doesn't change anything...so why waste our time and energy on it?
What should we do instead? Well, a few things
1. Pray: I know this is the cliche answer; but it works. When you start to worry, turn instead to God in prayer. Ask for his help for your spirit. Ask for him to watch over whatever it is you are worrying about. Put it into his hands.
2. Do something proactive: if worry doesn't help, do something that does. If you are worried about money, then spend some time working on your budget. If you are worried about your weight, go workout. Be productive.
3. Do something: I find that when worry starts to creep in, I shouldn't just sit around or else worry will overpower me. So do stuff. I clean, I make dinner, I mow the grass...I do something and it helps take my mind off my worry.
I hope that this was helpful, and will be helpful to you when worry starts to set in. Next week we will talk about anger, an emotion I know a lot about (I grew up with a bad temper) and see how we can work to overcome our anger with God's peace.
I feel like life is spinning at a breakneck pace lately. Every day has its own challenges and every night is busy with events, practices, meetings and obligations. Lots of these are fun and meaningful...but the day in and day out nature of life is exhausting. And as I talk, to other young families from church I find that they all feel the same way. We can barely find two minutes to eat dinner in the car as we drive from one kid's sports practice to another. Parents feel like tag team partners who only stop long enough to tag the other one in as they head off to work. And as all this crazy life stuff keeps going the dishes in the sink and laundry pile up, leaving many of us feeling overwhelmed and guilty about our poor time management skills.
I am not going to spend time today talking about the solutions to this problem which include prioritizing things that have long term impact and cutting those that don't...but I do want to take a second and talk about Sabbath.
Sabbath is the idea that we take a day and set it aside for rest. We all need rest (as much as we seem bent on denying this fact). We need physical rest for our bodies. We need spiritual rest for our souls. We need emotional rest for our minds and hearts. God gave us the Sabbath not as some rule that we would feel guilty about breaking; but because He loves us and wants us to have the rest we need.
Jesus said "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).
I STRONLY encourage you to find a time to rest. Take a long weekend away. Take a date night. Take a day off of work. Skip a sports practice (your kid won't die) and have a family dinner. Go to church. Read your Bible at a leisurely pace. Pray. Take a nap. Take another nap. Sabbath is good and as much as people may think it weird for your commitment to rest...it was God's idea.
I pray you will rest and find a pace that you can live with in joy.
n some ways it's easy to love God. He isn't like our friends and neighbors who might do annoying things (mow their yards early in the morning, chew loudly, interrupt us when we are talking or root for the Patriots...) and since He is invisible and doesn't speak audibly very often, we are kind of free to ignore Him until we choose to seek Him. We might say we love God; but it's easy just to keep God in your back pocket until you need Him.
People on the other hand are hard to love. Sometimes they disagree with us. Sometimes they annoy us. Sometimes they pester us. Sometimes they say the wrong things or do the wrong things. And yet, if we can't learn to love our neighbors; how can we claim to love God.
1 John 4:20 gives a particularly hard teaching when it says "Whoever claims to love God and yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen."
This verse hits like a Mike Tyson punch. If you claim to love God (most of us I bet) and yet aren't able to love your fellow man...then you don't really love God; you are a liar and only pretending to love God. Ouch. That stings, right? And yet, it's true.
So, you wanna learn to love God more? Start by loving your neighbor. Start by loving your cousin. Start by loving that guy who voted different than you. Start by loving that lady who disagrees with you. Start by loving that annoying person. Learn to love them. This won't happen overnight; but it can happen. How?
1. Listen to them. We spend too much time talking and not enough listening.
2. Pray for them. Nothing softens your heart faster than praying for someone.
3. Be kind to them. Do something nice for them and expect nothing in return.
The goal is to love God more; and one step is to start by loving your neighbor better.