Hope for Hump Day, May 7

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

So begins the Heidelberg Catechism. The answer tells me that my only comfort is that I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

Is that true? I mean, do I live my life as if that is true? Do you live every day, every week, as though the one thing that makes life worth living and death worth facing is that you belong to Jesus Christ the Son of God and Savior of sinners?

Jesus says in John 11.25:

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even though he die, yet shall he live.

But do we really believe this? Actually that was Jesus’ follow up question (John 11.26). Do we believe that everything this world tells us will give us life and satisfaction actually overwhelms our lives and eventually amounts to nothing?

I was in a meeting recently with some other community leaders. We were discussing ways to serve our greater community with opportunities to come together and enjoy family and friends. We were discussing parades, arts festivals for children, historical celebrations for our community, and other similar events and venues. The discussion turned to the most effective day of the week to hold these activities. One man pointed out that Saturdays were hard because of baseball and softball and soccer and other children sports events. Someone else pointed out that Sundays would eliminate or at least greatly inhibit the involvement of local churches in promoting, supporting, and taking part in these community events. One of the attendees quipped, “People are more willing to skip church than their kid’s sporting events.” Everyone laughed.

And there it is.

What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That my children have been given all the opportunities that their friends have been given to shine like the superstars they are.

What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I make enough money to fill my two-car garage and my basement with more stuff than I my kids can use in a year.

What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I am my own. My kids are my own. And I am in control. No one is going to hurt my children or control my children or tell my children what to do except me. I am the captain of my own ship and of my children’s destination.

What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That My kids are smarter than yours, richer than yours, prettier than yours, better than yours.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” -Mark 8.34-36

Are we teaching our children this truth? Do we even believe it ourselves? Do we believe that the God who breathed his own breath into us, shed his own blood for us, poured his own Spirit into us has every right to our devotion and love?

What are we teaching our children about the value of worship? I fear that mostly we are teaching them that worshiping God is mostly a “if there’s nothing better to do” activity. If we don’t have a game or there isn’t a game on tv or we aren’t on vacation or we aren’t getting ready for vacation or we haven’t just returned from vacation or we haven’t had a hard week or we don’t need to mow the lawn or drywall the basement or go to brunch or just have some ‘me’ time THEN we will worship God because we love Jesus and want to show him.

Are we helping our children learn to deny themselves and take up their crosses and follow Jesus, or are we giving them a false god who would never change or even deny their dreams?

Are we teaching our children that there is nothing in their lives that gives them more comfort, more value, more hope than belonging to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, or are we teaching our children that there is nothing in their lives that gives them more value, more comfort, more hope than their performance, their abilities, their sports activities, their recreation?

What would the impact be on our homes, our hearts, even our relationships in our communities if we began teaching and living out with our children that there is nothing more important in the week than gathering with God’s people to worship God and enjoy a rest together? What would have to change in our calendars, in our homes, in our hearts for that to become a reality?

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” -Augustine of Hippo, 354-430.

Enjoy the Journey

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Closet Space and Room in the Garage

The other day I was meeting with a fellow pastor and church planter.  At the end of our time together he asked me to pray for him – that he find time for quiet reflection and meditation; that he find time to be still before the Lord.

Sounds like a pretty reasonable request.  Sounds like something I might ask someone to pray for.  Sounds like something that will… never happen.

Finding time to sit still and do–let’s face it–nothing is impossible.  How would you go about finding this time?  Where would you look?  It’s harder than that even, because this ‘nothing’ is an intentional ‘nothing.’  Quietness before the Lord.  Stillness in the[did my email just chime.  I’ll just check that, it could be important. Oh, someone commented on my last FB post.  How many is that?  wow people really liked that post[[Oh someone posted an article.  I should read that.  It is from the Gospel Coalition, after all[[[did my phone vibrate? I should return that text.  It’s about tomorrow’s meeting[[[[That reminds me, I should call that other person too and make sure he’s doing okay.  He sounded discouraged yesterday[[[[[Isn’t my sermon on discouragement?  Where is that book I was looking for?]]]]] where was I?  Oh, the phone call.]]]] where was I?  Oh yeah, the text.  about the meeting.]]] now, where was I?  Oh right, the article from the Gospel Coalition.  How did NFL.com get pulled up?]] Now where was I?  Oh right, Facebook.  Gosh my cleverness amazes even me sometimes] midst of a very distracting culture.  

Imagine coming home one day and you walk past a door you’ve never noticed before right next to the kitchen.  You open it and there before you is an empty closet.  “Honey, what’s this?”  “Looks like a closet dear.” “Yes, I realize it’s a closet.  Has it always been here?” “Um.” “I think just found another closet!”

There are exactly three times you find empty closets in your house.  The day you move in, the day you move out, and the day you clean out your stupid closet and MAKE some room in it.

You will NEVER find time to sit quietly, waiting on God, meditating on His kindnesses, praying, reading, listening.  You must MAKE the time.

This sounds like work.  Yes.  It sounds like you are saying the Christian life takes effort.  Yes.  The Christian Life takes effort.  If someone told you it doesn’t, demand your money back.

The irony in this case is how much effort it takes to take a moment and stop putting in the effort.

But it’s easier to say I want to find the time.  When I say I want to find the time, I can now sit back and wait for God to make some quiet time available.  If He wants me to spend time in quiet meditation, He will have to do something about my days and schedule.  Nothing has changed.  Obviously it’s just not as important to God as it is to me.

When I moved my family to Northern VA it was the first home we owned with a garage and a basement.  We were very excited.  The first morning we woke up, my wife asked me what my plans were.  “I’m going to get both cars into the garage by the end of the day” (my wife and I grew up in Cleveland where, if you had a garage, you used your garage for–this sounds crazy– your cars).  So I spent the entire day rearranging my garage – moving things out that didn’t need to be there, rearranging other things that needed to be in the garage but didn’t need to take up as much space as they were.

You have 168 hours this week.  God gave them to you.  It’s the same number of hours you had last week.  It’s the same number of hours you had the week before.  It’s the same number of hours you will have next week and the week after.  Maybe there are some things in your week that could be rearranged or removed entirely.  Maybe it’s time to throw out some of that moth-eaten stuff and MAKE room in your closet for the stuff of eternal quality.

“Be still, and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 46:10

To find time, you need to begin to make time.  And this like all worthy endeavors will take effort and sacrifice and change and you will do great sometimes and you fail sometimes and you will love it and be amazed by the time with God sometimes and you will hate it and feel like a hypocrite, and a lazy one at that, sometimes.

I suggest starting with a pretty specifically small time limit.  start with ten minutes.  Ten small minutes when you close your computer and turn off your phone or put it in another room and you close the door and you open your Bible.  It might help you to take out a piece of paper and write on it.  It might also help you to throw the paper away when you are done so that you aren’t writing your next blog or sermon or… oh, maybe I’m the only one that does that.  Anyway, you get the picture.  Start at ten minutes.  Meditate on God’s goodness.  Write down five people in your life you are thankful for and pray for them.  Read a portion of Scripture that has nothing to do with a lesson or sermon or book you are preparing.  Ask the Lord to create in you a clean heart and to renew His steadfast Spirit in you.  Ask Him to restore to your heart the joy of His salvation. (Psalm 51.10,12)

In a week make it fifteen minutes.  A week after that make it twenty.  By the time January rolls around you’ll be up to thirty and by the end of January over forty-five minutes of quietness before the Lord.

I do not claim this is going to be easy.  It will require sacrifices.  It will require rearranging some things and getting rid of some things.  Easy is leaving the cars outside and having a ginormous, there’s-no-where-else-to-put-it-let’s-throw-it-out-there space.

It won’t be easy.  It will be worth it.  Stop looking for the time as if it’s a misplaced set of car keys.  Start making the time.

Enjoy the journey.