A Lesson from Laundry

It might just be my perception as an American but I find the pace in France to be a little slower. A little more relaxed. A little more laid back. This is of course except for the drunk man on the bus last night being obnoxious to a young man. At first, and sometimes, this is a challenge. I am a go go, doer. Most things close at 7:30 or 8:30 at night and they don’t open again until after 8. I get up at 6 and am up until 11 or so. I need stimuli. I need movement. I need… to slow down. Right now we are without a washing machine at the house. We should be getting a new one next week because almost nothing in France happens on the same day. So I can either walk to the laundry mat or hand wash. I chose to handwash because I need to slow down. I need to match the pace of France and ease up off the throttle. I still have classes, chapel, language, family, and so on but I still need to breathe. I still need to rest.

I enjoy going slowly because I can talk to and listen to God in the mundane but when I am too busy I miss that. Brother Lawrence said, “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God; those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.” It is hard for me to make room for slowness and ease. It is hard for me to relax. But it is necessary. Today I will try and take it a little slower. I will try to move a little easier. I will try and remember what is important.

Just a thought,
Mike

God is on the move

I think encouragement is a big gift. When you are feeling frustrated, run-down, confused, or tired encouragement is like cool water for your soul. It comes in and brings life to what is withering and suddenly you are ready to continue. Encouragement can come in all sorts of forms too. Sometimes it is a phone call from a friend, a note from a co-worker, or maybe even a smile from a baby. Those are all good but encouragement from the Lord God of heaven and earth is by far the most encouraging thing we could ever get. When God encourages you, it sticks. Other types of encouragement help and boost us up for a time but encouragements from God get down deep and cling to your innermost parts.

Isaiah 42:10-16 is one place in Scripture that I think has incredible encouragement. This is because it is one of those sections of the Bible that talks about what God is going to do. There is a sense that God did this but there is still a part that is to come. Not only does it talk about what God is going to do in a grand worldwide way, but I think it teaches us a bit about who God is. Anytime we can read about who God is and understand His character better we are better off because we get to see Him in a deeper way.

In this section, God speaks through Isaiah and tells us that there will be a time when the people will rejoice and lift up their voice in a shout of praise. He says that every place will shout for joy and sing praises. The deserts, the coastlands, those in villages, and those on mountains will rejoice when God moves. Then as if that was not enough, and this is the kicker, He says that although it has taken a while, He will not keep Himself restrained. He will lead the blind and they will walk on flat ground.

In case you missed it all of this is encouraging because God is saying that He will do this and that sometimes the delay in life is because He has paused the movement. He is the one who is waiting for the time to be fulfilled. Habakkuk 2:3 talks about this as well and says that sometimes there is what feels like a delay, but we just have to wait because God is moving. I have said before that one of my favorite movie scenes is when Beaver says “Aslan is on the move.” In the movie, the children don’t know this is a huge deal, but it is because it means that things are about to change.

I am not going to say that God is going to change things in your life today or even tomorrow. I don’t know when it will happen, but I know this; Jesus is on the move. He is working behind the scenes to do things that will blow your mind you only need to wait for it. Keep the course and stay steady. Wait for the Lord to move and you will see great things. Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes. We don’t get to know when it will happen, and we don’t get to know the outcome, but we do get to know that Jesus is moving and that He is working things out. That is the encouragement; Jesus is on the move. He is Lord and He is God and He will redeem everything in its time. Trust the process, stay the course, know that Christ is in control. Oh, it is going to be good.

Just a thought,

Mike

Casting Burdens or Chuck the Junk

I think it is almost mandatory that if we look at 1 Peter 5:6 then we have to look at 1 Peter 5:7 because it is the natural outcome of humbling yourself before God. Maybe outcome is not the right word though. Maybe it is not an outcome, maybe it is more of a logical next step. As a reminder 1 Peter 5:6 says that we should humble ourselves before God and then He will exalt us. This means that if we place ourselves before God then He will lift us up. The next part of that is we need to cast our cares upon Him. We have to take our burdens and give them to God.

The idea of casting our cares (anxieties) is a pretty simple one. At first, I thought it was like a faith thing. Something like sitting in a chair or plopping down on a couch. You know you just trust that the chair or the couch will sustain you with no effort on your part. Yeah that would have been pretty cool and there is an element to that but it so much more. The idea behind casting is more like throwing. It is not a laying down of your burdens before God in a symbolic act of submission that looks like something from a movie about a hero who needs a little help. No, it is more like throwing. It is not making an appointment with someone who can help you, so you present your concerns or problems in a way that hopefully gets help from them. No, it is more like throwing.

The idea is taking your burdens and anxieties and throwing them before God in a way that says I cannot carry this, and I need your help. It is taking what you have and chucking it before the King of the universe, the Most High God and not even caring. There is a freedom in the throwing because you are not worried that God will look at your stuff and cast you out for bringing it to Him. We can throw it on God because He cares for us and because He can handle it. God is not weighed down by our burdens or anxieties. He does not reach a point where He needs a break or already has too many things going on. He does not need a minute. He is ready to go at any moment and we just need to cast.

I think it is interesting that the other time this same word for casting is used is when the disciples put their coats on the donkey before Jesus rides into Jerusalem. When the disciples were putting their coats on the donkey they were not worried that the donkey would buckle under the pressure of the coats. They did not even think about it, they just put their coats on the donkey because they knew it could carry the load. No, clearly God is not a donkey, but I think we can get the picture. There is not a weight God cannot take. It is like when my kids come to me with a complaint. They are not worried I cannot handle their issues. They know that daddy has dealt with other things, so they come to me and just let it all out because they know I am able to help, and I care for them.

We have to come to God with the same abandon. We must come to Him knowing that He can handle it and that He cares. If we don’t then we will never actually cast our cares on Him. We will gently hand Him little things and hope He reacts well. We will be scared of how He will respond. We do this because of our wrong image of Him. That is on us, not Him. God says come to me in faith and throw those burdens down. This can also be a test for us. If I look at my life and see that I am not really casting my cares on God, then I get the opportunity to examine my trust in God and I get the chance to make a change. That is exciting because in that I get to not only cast my burdens on Him, but I get to grow in my relationship with Him.

Just a thought,

Mike

Identity and Freedom

Paul has a very interesting way of framing the idea of freedom. He talks about it a lot but specifically in Romans 6:18-20. This is just verse 18 but you should go read the whole thingDo you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” In the Roman world where Paul lived if you were a slave, you had no personality. There was even a special phrase for this idea: Servus non habet personam. A slave had no past, no future, no property of their own, no family name, and no personhood. They were just property. It was possible to buy your freedom but that was typically not until you were old enough to not be of any value to your master. Some were treated better than others but they were still slaves. If you were a slave, you wanted freedom but generally, there was little to no hope of obtaining it. You were personless property. You did not belong to yourself. That is the idea behind the meaning of what Paul talks about when he talks about being a slave.

With that in mind, we can add in that Paul says we are either in Christ or in Adam. It’s a clear either-or scenario.  There is no in-between we are either in Christ (sometimes called Spirit) or we are in Adam (sometimes called the flesh). You cannot be in both. This is important because Paul is framing an argument throughout all of his writing that says we exist as slaves one way or the other. The question is who the master is. What is unique is that Paul says we get to choose our master. Now by default, the master is sin or flesh.

Before Christ we were slaves to sin, we were slaves to our sin nature. We belonged to it. Sin was not something that we did as much as it was part of who we were. It owned us. We had no identity outside of it. Some of us embraced that more than others but true to the reality of the situation we all belonged to sin. Our natural default position was self-focused. Being controlled by sin means you are free from the requirements of righteousness. You belong to one master and do not need to listen to the other.

After you come to Christ the whole thing changes. We move from this position of self-focused to Christ and Spirit focused. We transition from one master to another. It’s like the old Bob Dylan song Gotta Serve Somebody says “yes Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody, Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody” and yes I just quoted Bob Dylan while talking about the Bible. You don’t get a choice in whether or not you serve but you do get to choose whom you serve.

When we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, we chose to serve Him, that’s the Lord part of the equation. We now not only have the power to stop being self-focused, but we have new requirements for service. Before when we served the sin nature the requirements were to do what feels good. Do what you want. Lookout for you. Now we are bound to the requirements of righteousness. That means we are outward and upward focused. We are called to seek the kingdom of God and let Him rule and reign in our lives here and now. We are called to walk as Jesus walked. We are called to love the Lord God with all of being and love one another.

The amazing thing is that as slaves of righteousness we are also adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High. We are no longer just slaves and servants but children who are promised an inheritance. We get something we did not have before. We get a future.  We get personhood. With the change in masters comes a change in identity. This is an amazing and glorious thing. We went from slaves with nothing to servants who are adopted by God. But that is not cause for bragging. On the contrary that is a call to surrender. In Philippians 2:6, speaking of Christ, Paul writes that Jesus did not consider equality with God something to used to His own advantage. Instead Jesus, fully understanding who He was laid down His rights and served.

That is our call. We are called to now understand our rights and lay them down. We say, yes, I am a child of God, and yes, I will one day see heaven but until then I have work to do. We place ourselves under the authority of Christ and do like He did. We submit ourselves and find our identity in God just as Christ did. We do not use our freedom for our own good but seek ways to serve and love one another. When we do this, we can rejoice that we truly know who we are.

We need to understand our identity and when we do, we can go out and do the things of God and for God without fear and with less hurt because we know who we are. We can move from a position of being a child and serving as obedient slaves and servants.

Just a thought,

Mike

A Base of Love

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Working from a base of love is a funny thing. Sometimes life is stressful and confusing. Sometimes life is great and easy. Regardless of what life is like at any given moment, we are called to operate from a base of love. This means that when life is stressful and confusing we are to look past our circumstances and move from a position of being loved and loving others. This can be hard because our stress and confusion attempt to demand our attention. They should be given attention but they cannot have it all.
When life is great and easy it can be hard because we don’t have something pressing us towards the Father in prayer, there is nothing requiring us to look past our own situation. We should enjoy the many blessings we have but we should not forget to love others. Operating from a base of love means embracing the love of God and intentionally looking past our situation to see the image of God in others. It is not always easy but it is best.
Today I challenge you to work from a base of love. First, embrace the love of the Father. Bath in that love. Let it roll over you like waves. Let it drown you like the sun. Soak it up. Then go out and find ways to express that love to others. Find someone, find a few people that need that love and drown them in it. Give them the water of life that flows from within you like a mighty river.
It’s going to be awesome!
Just a thought,
Mike

God of the Wednesdays

As Easter closes, we are left with this time of resting. A lot of the rest of Christianity will celebrate the Ascension and maybe we should too but in general, we have hit our high. After a long time of preparation, we move from this high back to the ordinary. I am anything but ordinary, so I struggle here. We like the high moments. The mountain top experiences. The event. The loud and the fast-paced. But most of life is made up of the ordinary. Most of life is lived in the mundane. Most of life exist on Wednesday.

I say Wednesday because on Monday most people are getting back to work and still have some of high left over from the weekend. We can talk to our co-workers about what happened. We can talk to other students about what we did. Tuesday we are starting to come down, but we can still relive our stories. Someone might still ask how the weekend was. Our Facebook posts from the weekend might generate a few new likes. But on Wednesday there is usually a lot of silence. Maybe your Wednesday is actually Thursday but still, you have a day when nothing is going on. A time when nothing is happening, and you are just there. As a people who generally crave excitement these days can be hard but, in the Bible, we are presented with a deep and wonderful truth: God’s steadfast love endures forever. We think of forever as a time coming but in fact right now is part of forever. There are not moments that are here and gone or will be, but each moment is a moment where God’s steadfast love endures forever.

God is still God on Wednesday and He still reigns and loves us. He is still moving and active. He is still in control. We cannot be like the disciples that stood there looking up to heaven. We must move forward living out this life of love that we have. We must move forward walking each step as Jesus would walk. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31 “whether we eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all things to the glory of God.”  In context, Paul was talking about not causing your brother or sister to stumble but it is important that he is using daily things. We are in the daily movements of life more than we are high on events. We spend more time living in Wednesday than anywhere else. It is in these ordinary times that we need to fall back on spiritual disciplines to help us remember that God is God and His steadfast love endures forever, even on a Wednesday.

  • How do you feel Gods love in the daily activities of life?
  • How do you connect with God in the mundane?
  • What are some areas you could improve on during your ordinary times?
  • What spiritual disciples do you make a practice of? (silence, reflection, daily reading (office readings perhaps?), contemplation, self-examination)
  • What is your private worship like?
  • What is your private prayer life like?

These are just some examples and you will need to find ways that work in your life, but it is important that you find ways and make them solid habits.

Just a thought,

Mike

Going the Distance

I have been thinking about Johann Dober and David Nitschmann who were so determined to minister to the slaves in St Thomas and St Croix that they were willing to sell themselves as slaves. I don’t think they ended having to do this, but they were willing to go the distance. I have also been thinking about Gladys Aylward who was so determined to get to China to be part of the ministry there that she worked for years as a maid to pay her own way. She was willing to go the distance. When I think missions, I think a lot of things, and one of those things is that we must be willing to go the distance. We must be willing to do whatever it takes (biblically) to reach the people we so desire to serve. What cost is too high?

Paul says 1 Corinthians 9:22 I have become all things to all people so that some might be saved. Yes, this means we take interest in the things that interest other people and yes it means we give up things so not to as offend but it also means we are willing to go the distance and be uncomfortable. In Acts 18:3 it says Paul was a tentmaker in Italy because the people he was with were tentmakers (he was also a tentmaker). In 2 Corinthians 11:7-15 Paul says he did not take money from the Corinthians because he did not want to offend or burden. Paul was willing to go the distance.

I don’t exactly know what it means for me to go the distance and I more certainly don’t know what it means for you to go the distance in missions. But I do know we must be willing to do it. We must be willing to sacrifice and live a life that gives preference to the call of God. It can be hard, and it can be tough, but it will always be worth it.

When we serve God when we are willing to take up our cross when we are willing to go the distance people and things change. Yes, the people around us see Christ and find hope and healing but we also change. We become filled with less of us and more of Him. We pour out our lives as a drink offering and in return, God fills us with more of Him.

So as Dober and Nitschmann said as they left for the West Indies “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering”

Just a thought,

Mike.