Wednesday, November 30, 2022

What Will Your Christmas Point To?

Photo by Olena Sergienko on Unsplash
I heard someone say once that, if aliens from another world observed life on earth and saw us walking around behind our dogs outside, picking up after them with little plastic bags, the aliens would naturally assume that on Earth dogs are the masters and human beings are their slaves.

Well, what if a flying saucer came and observed our Christmas celebrations? What would they see? What would they think?

Christians believe that actions are revealing. Jesus compares people to trees and says that “each tree is known by its own fruit… The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil.” (Luke 6:44 and 45) James, arguing that you cannot separate someone’s beliefs from their deeds, says, “Show me your faith apart from works, and I by my works will show you faith.” (2:18) Our actions reveal what’s in our hearts: the beliefs that we value, the convictions that we’ll actually implement in our lives.

What will your actions reveal about your priorities and beliefs this Christmas?

How much of your holiday spending and busyness will point unambiguously to Jesus? And how much of it will point unambiguously to our society’s addictions to consumerism and eating, drinking, and being merry?

I don’t think there’s a thing in the world wrong with buying Christmas gifts for the people you love—and for people you don’t even know, through programs like Operation Christmas Child or Toys for Tots. That’s great! Do that. Enjoy yourself. Make someone’s heart glad. And I don’t think there’s a thing in the world wrong with celebrating the holidays with eating, being merry, and even (gasp!) responsible drinking. The birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem for us and our salvation is worth celebrating in a big way.

But is that what you’re celebrating? Or is Christmas just a good time with family and friends?

I don’t want to shame anybody. I want to challenge everybody. Because we’re just getting into this season, and you have plenty of time to make sure this Christmas is about Jesus! So, what are you going to do to put Jesus at the center of your Christmas? Church folk talk a lot about 'keeping Christ in Christmas'. Usually, I think, that means we want stores and statehouses to make Jesus visible in their holiday practices. But what are you doing to make Jesus visible in yours?

What gift are you getting him for his birthday?

What will you be doing on Christmas day—a Sunday!—when church doors will be open for the faithful to “come let us adore him”?

What are you teaching your children and grandchildren that this season means, through your words and your example?

Christmas time is just getting started, so I want to challenge you, before the hectic holiday schedule takes over: decide now how you want to celebrate Jesus this year. Decide now what you want your Christmas spending and busyness to reveal.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Anti-Anxiety

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” - Philippians 4:6

I’ve often thought of this verse as Paul’s strategy for fighting anxiety: the antidote to anxiety is thanksgiving.

Now, before I say anything else: I don’t mean the kind of anxiety that keeps you from functioning normally in everyday life and requires therapy and/or prescription medication. I’ve never experienced that, personally. I have seen it up close, though, and, as far as I’m concerned, professional medical help’s often necessary—and it’s a gift from God! Don’t hesitate to ask a health professional if you need help.

But for those every day worries, dreads, and hypothetical scenarios of doom, Paul seems to offer thanksgiving here as a way to fight back. Don’t be anxious: instead, pray with thanksgiving. Then peace from God will come in and guard your heart and your mind. (4:7)

Why would gratitude help us experience peace? Because thankfulness requires an awareness of God’s presence, help, and blessings in your life. When you pray with thanksgiving, naming those gifts, you are reminding yourself of God’s actual goodness and faithfulness. Remembering the very real gifts of God is a powerful counter to the baseless fears about life we often dwell on. You don’t know if any of your fears about the future will materialize, but you do know, from personal experience, that you’ll face the future alongside a loving Father.

I realized recently, though, while reading M. Robert Mulholland Jr.’s wonderful book, Invitation to a Journey, that there’s more going on in these verses. Thankfulness is not only an antidote to anxiety; it’s an inoculation against it.

What I noticed for the first time while reading Mulholland is that Paul doesn’t recommend gratitude as a response to anxiety. He envisions it as the abiding attitude of our hearts, in good times and bad. “Rejoice in the Lord always.” (4:4) “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (4:6) Paul challenges us to make acknowledging and celebrating God’s goodness in our lives our default—always, in everything.

If you do that, then thanksgiving isn’t a helpful response to anxiety. It’s the state of mind in which anxiety finds you. That’s why it’s an inoculation: when worries and dread come knocking, you are already in the habit of paying attention to the things that bring peace. That default attitude can serve as a defense against anxiety’s incursions, instead of those feelings finding you totally unprepared for their assault.

So, if you’re not kept up at night by fears and What if?s, then now is actually the perfect time to start fortifying your heart and mind with gratitude. Pay attention to the good things in your life. Name them. Give thanks for them. Taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps 34:8). If this is your regular approach to life and prayer, prior to feeling the first tinge of worry, then, when moments of anxiety do come, you’ll be more mentally and spiritually prepared for that battle.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

A Roadblock to Discernment

Occasionally I will teach about discernment and some of the obstacles that roadblock our ability to discern God’s will for different situations in life. One of those obstacles is a phenomenon that psychologists call “confirmation bias.”

Even if you’ve never heard that term, I’d bet the farm that you’ve seen confirmation bias at work. One article defines it as “the tendency of people to favor information that confirms their existing beliefs.” If you’ve ever tried to convince someone that a wild story they read on Facebook is false, but they just didn’t seem to hear your reasons or evidence, you may have been banging your head against the wall of confirmation bias. They favored information that confirmed their views—and were more likely to reject your conflicting information.

This becomes an obstacle for Christian discernment the moment God tries to tell a person something that they don’t want to hear. Confirmation bias will lead you to favor your preferred (comfortable) take on a situation and downplay any hints the Lord is dropping about a new (uncomfortable) way of seeing or doing things.

We saw an example of this in Micah at a Bible study last week at Eastlawn. Micah delivers a harsh warning concerning the idolatry, greed, and injustice in Israel and Judah, and then he records this reply:

“Don’t say such things,”
    the people respond.
“Don’t prophesy like that.
    Such disasters will never come our way!” (2:6)

The prophet laid out his case and spoke with the authority of the Lord himself, and yet God’s people simply cannot hear the message he brings. They’re like the people 2 Timothy describes, who “look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.” (4:3) They favor information that confirms their existing beliefs. They’re blinded by confirmation bias.

Of course, the real problem with confirmation bias is that is doesn’t just affect other people: it affects you and me, too. Though, naturally, we have a hard time seeing it. ‘I’m not biased! My beliefs are just correct, and yours are wrong!’ But confirmation bias is a part of the human condition. You and I have itching ears, too. We, too, are disinclined to hear what the prophets would preach to us.

There’s no easy way around this mental roadblock. I think that being aware of the phenomenon—and aware that it’s at work in my mind, too—is an important place to start, but there will still be a struggle ahead to overcome it. 

A struggle to listen more (James 1:19). 

A struggle to be open to correction (Prov 12:1). 

A struggle, perhaps, to loosen our grip on some firmly held opinions so that we can hold tighter to “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2)—maybe some of the things we argue about so vehemently shouldn’t take up so much of our time, attention, and energy in the first place.

But, Christian, do not bypass the struggle. “Taking up your cross” is not comfortable or easy, but it is how Jesus described discipleship (Luke 9:23). Doing this well will challenge us, but it will also make us more ready to hear what our neighbors are trying to tell us and to hear what our God is trying to tell us.

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Good News for Animals

Something that I didn’t expect, when I started studying the Bible years ago, was how much scripture has to say about God’s care for animals.

Christ tells us that, when someone went to the market and bought five sparrows, not one of those birds was forgotten by God. (Luke 12:6)

The Lord asks Jonah why he shouldn’t spare Nineveh—after all, the city was filled with people and animals. (Jon 4:11)

The Old Testament describes God’s careful provision for the needs of all sorts of creatures, from ravens (Job 38:41), to donkeys (Ps 104:10-11), to lions (Ps 104:21), not to mention the praise these creatures offer back to God (Ps 96:11-13, 98:7-9).

We saw this Sunday at Eastlawn that Isaiah insists even eternity has a place and a promise for animals: no longer brutal hunters or frightened prey, but simply enjoying life in God’s new world (Isa 11:6-9, 65:25).

One of the most surprising verses about all of this comes straight from the mouth of Jesus.

A professor at my seminary, Norman Wirzba, once pointed out that, while Matthew’s great commission famously sends the disciples to “all nations,” Mark says that the mission is to all created things. In Mark 16:15, Jesus commands his followers to “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” That led Dr. Wirzba to ask: Is our presence on earth “good news” for all the other creatures living alongside us?

Do you remember Watership Down, the novel about a group of rabbit refugees trying to find a new home? (Or maybe the cartoon version, that’s been traumatizing children since 1978?) In the first chapter of the book, two rabbits see a sign some humans have recently erected. They can’t read it, but it’s ominous and prompts them to flee their warren and set out for new lands. The sign, as it turns out, was advertising a subdivision that's coming soon.

Later, a rabbit who escaped that day describes the horror that unfolded when construction began: their warren pumped full of poison, rabbits that fled being shot. Reflecting on the carnage, one rabbit said that the men hated them for stealing from their gardens and fields. But another answered him, “That wasn’t why they destroyed the warren. It was just because we were in their way. They killed us to suit themselves.” 

Watership Down is fiction (if the talking bunnies didn't give that away), but the sort of disregard for and destruction of habitats and animal populations it depicts can be all too real—not to mention countless smaller, everyday acts of cruelty or neglect. If Christians are going to “proclaim the good news to the whole creation,” if our presence on earth is going to be good news for all the other creations living here, then I believe we need to be intentional about how our lives impact the animals whom we share this world with, from the dog on your couch to the rabbits in the woods behind your home. 

At very least, no creature ought to be able to say of us, “They killed us to suit themselves.”

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

A Civil War Good Samaritan

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in 1861

Lately I’ve been reading (okay, listening to) book called A Worse Place Than Hell: How the Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg Changed a Nation, by John Matteson. It follows a couple of remarkable individuals through the wartime years leading up to Fredericksburg. One of these individuals is future Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who served in the US army in the war in his 20s.

During the Battle of Antietam in 1862, Holmes was shot in the neck, though, miraculously, the bullet missed every vital part of his neck, and he would recover. As he lay on the ground bleeding that day, however, his fate wasn't at all certain. Matteson describes the scene:

As he fluttered on the edge of consciousness, a man sauntered up to him and spoke: “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?” Holmes’s eyelids flickered. “Well, then, that’s alright,” the man said with satisfaction, and wandered off. There followed a span of time whose length Holmes had no way to measure. At the end of it came a second man, who, fortunately, cared more about Holmes’s prospects in this life than in the next. William Le Duc, a regimental quartermaster, saw the prostrate captain and called for a surgeon.

Even when the surgeon saw the neck wound and dismissed Holmes as a hopeless case, Le Duc didn’t give up. He gave the injured man a sip of brandy to rouse him, helped him walk to a home nearby where he could get shelter and care, and finally sent a telegraph to Holmes’s family in Boston, letting them know what had happened.

I couldn’t hear this story without being reminded of Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. A traveler is beaten by robbers and left for dead by the road. A priest comes along and sees him there but “passed by on the other side.” Then a Levite, who also served in the Jerusalem Temple, approaches, and he, too, “passed by on the other side.” Finally, a Samaritan, universally despised by Jews, arrives, but when he sees the wounded man, “he took pity on him,” bandaged his wounds, put him on his donkey, and carried the man to an inn where someone could care for him. (10:30-35)

Preachers and teachers like to speculate about why the priest and Levite ignored the man in need. Maybe they were afraid for their own lives. Maybe they were more concerned with their own religious purity—that man looks unclean! Maybe they were too focused on their Temple duties and didn’t have time to bother with him.

This story about the good Samaritan who saved Oliver Wendell Holmes’s life (and the first man, who left him for dead) made me wonder, though: How often do we overlook the material needs around us because, “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?... Well, then, that’s alright.” How often to we prioritize spiritual needs to the extent of disregarding someone’s earthly condition, as if that’s unimportant?

Meanwhile, Jesus spent his ministry going around healing and restoring people’s earthly conditions. Jesus spent his ministry telling stories like the parable of the Good Samaritan—which, don’t forget, he ends with a question:

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (10:36-37)

Which man was a neighbor to Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. that day?

It wasn’t the man who piously inquired about his soul. It was William Le Duc.

Go and do likewise.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Place Where We Are

On Sunday I preached on the Lord’s Prayer and mentioned how, for me, the words “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” challenge us to see every interaction and every moment as an opportunity for the Kingdom to show up. They make us ask, throughout the day, ‘What could I do right here, right now, to help the people around me experience the power and wonder of God’s kingdom and God’s dreams for our lives?’

A few weeks back I read the book of Esther in the Wesley Study Bible, which is full of notes and comments about different passages of scripture from John Wesley’s preaching and writings, and I was struck by Wesley’s remark on the most famous verse in the book: Esther 4:14. The ruthless, narcissistic royal official, Haman, has convinced King Ahasuerus to sign off on a plan to annihilate the Jews living in the kingdom of Persia. Queen Esther, secretly a Jew herself, is pressed by her uncle, Mordecai, to plead for her people before the king. But Esther’s reluctant to go to Ahasuerus—and with good reason:

“All the royal officials and the people of the royal provinces know that one law applies to every man or woman who approaches the king in the inner courtyard and who has not been summonedthe death penalty. Only if the king extends the gold scepter will that person live. I have not been summoned to appear before the king for the last 30 days.” (4:11)

If Esther approaches the king to beg for the Jews to be spared, she may simply end up the first Jew to die in the coming holocaust.

But Mordecai is unmoved, and here comes to famous line:

“If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father's house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this." (4:14)

Who knows? Maybe this is the reason you were chosen as queen of Persia, out of all the beautiful young women in the running. Maybe you ascended to the throne just for this moment, “for such a time as this.”

Wesley’s comment here was simple but, I think, vital: “We should every one of us consider, for what end God has put us in the place where we are?”

Why does God have you in the place where you are? In the community you’re in, in the workplace, the congregation, the club, the class that you’re in? I don’t believe that the Lord orchestrates all of our activities and involvements in life, but I do believe the Lord has a purpose for us, wherever we are. Have you stopped to wonder what that purpose might be?

After all, in each of those circumstances, you have the chance to make God’s Kingdom come and God’s will be done, right here on earth, just like it is in heaven. So what purpose does God have for you, right where you are? What opportunity has God given you, here and now, to show someone the grace, fellowship, peace, and love of the Kingdom?

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Not Politics, But Hope

You may know the story of Naaman, the Syrian general suffering from leprosy who traveled to Israel to find Elisha and, hopefully, healing.

But do you remember the rocky start that Naaman got off to on his trip to see the prophet?

Naaman had heard, from an Israelite slave in his home, that there was a prophet in her land who could bring healing to this painful, isolating condition that had likely left his life in ruins. So, the general, who I assume had exhausted every hope of recovery in his own land, decided to give strange, foreign prophets a try.

So far, so good.

The trouble began when Naaman’s lord, the king of Syria, sent a letter to the king of Israel. It read, “With this letter I present my servant Naaman. I want you to heal him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:6 NLT) The letter didn’t have the desired effect:

When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in dismay and said, “Am I God, that I can give life and take it away? Why is this man asking me to heal someone with leprosy? I can see that he’s just trying to pick a fight with me.” (5:7)

When the king of Israel read that letter, he assumed the Syrian king was engaged in deceitful geopolitical maneuvering, trying to spark an international incident. Obviously, he thought, this was a ploy to start a war. The king’s kneejerk reaction was to label this as politics and attribute insidious motives to the king of Syria.

But he was wrong.

The reality was, the other king was simply staring at some of the world’s brokenness and asking God’s people to confront that brokenness with the goodness and power of the Lord. He’s hoping that Israel can accomplish the healing that the world’s pain cries out for, that God’s people can make his servant Naaman clean again. This wasn’t politics at all—Israel’s king was looking at the world through the wrong lens entirely. This was hope: that hurts can be healed, that ruins can be restored, that miracles from God can still be performed.

Every now and then, there’s something in the news that many preachers feel compelled to address (with fear and trembling) from the pulpit.

Moments that capture the eyes of the nation.

Movements that unite some in a common cause and unite others against them.

Let me suggest that, when you hear these things named in church on Sunday morning, maybe the preacher isn’t talking about “politics” instead of the Bible. Maybe the preacher isn’t just trying to be “relevant.” Maybe your preacher brings this up because the Bible is relevant to how Jesus’s people respond to these moments and movements.

Like the king of Israel, our kneejerk reaction may be to label this as politics and attribute insidious motives to the preacher. But maybe the reality is, he or she is simply staring at some of the world’s brokenness and asking God’s people to confront that brokenness with the goodness and power of the Lord.

Maybe this isn't politics. Maybe it's hope.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Who Is Rich?

There are a handful of really unnerving stories about rich people in the gospel of Luke.

In chapter 12, Jesus tells a parable about a rich man whose crops have an incredibly fruitful yield one season, and he decides to build bigger barns, store the surplus, and “eat, drink and be merry” (12:16-19). But that very night he dies, and the Lord asks him, “Now who will get the things you have prepared for yourself?” Then Jesus makes an ominous declaration: “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (12:20-21)

In chapter 16, we get another parable. This time, a rich man lives a life of comfort and indulgence, while a poor man named Lazarus wastes away outside the gate to his home. Both men die, and Lazarus is carried to a paradise with Abraham, while the rich man is taken to Hades, where he’s tormented. Abraham tells the rich man, “in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.” (16:25) Jesus, apparently, doesn’t think any explanation is necessary this time.

Chapter 18 recounts the story of the “very wealthy” ruler who asks Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. He has meticulously followed the law all his life, but he still lacks one thing. Jesus tells him, “Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Instead, the man walks away, prompting Jesus to say, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” (18:22-24)

I am not what most people would call “rich” or “very wealthy.” By modern American standards, I’m solidly “middle class.” And so, it’s easy for me to read these stories with some detachment: Jesus is clearly talking about someone else here, someone in higher income bracket than my own.

And yet.

And yet the average middle class American today is surrounded by luxuries and comforts beyond these rich men’s wildest dreams. I’m not talking about anything extravagant here.

Vacuum cleaners.

Mosquito repellant.

Ice makers.

Cameras.

The Weather Channel.

I read about these men and think, ‘but I’m not rich.’ Meanwhile these men would take one look at my life and say to themselves ‘I’m not rich’. Maybe I’m wealthier than I think.

When we’re reading the New Testament, we probably shouldn’t think of “rich” in terms of status, someone fit for Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Instead, think of “rich” in terms of the potential for instant gratification and unlimited purchasing possibilities. That describes the rich in Jesus’s day, but it describes middle class America in 2022 even more.

I need to realize just how much Jesus’s words apply to me.

I need to recognize how the temptations these men faced—storing up things for themselves, living in comfort while others lack life’s basic necessities, desiring my possessions more than I desire my Savior—these are all temptations that I face, too.

I need to take seriously Jesus’s call to be rich toward God, store up treasure in heaven, and give to those in need.

Because I’m wealthier than I think.

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

The Battle for Faithfulness Is Won or Lost in an Instant

photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

We’ve been studying Proverbs in Sunday school lately, and a few weeks back we were talking about all the teachings in the book that have to do with curbing our reactivity.

For instance, Proverbs 15:28:

The righteous heart reflects before answering,
    but the wicked mouth blurts out evil.

Do you know someone (maybe it's you!) with a wicked habit of just blurting things out, without pausing to consider how their words might be harsh, hurtful, or inappropriate? "Before answering" indicates that this proverbs is about how we respond to others. Righteousness means resisting that sort of unbridled reaction to the words and actions of others.

Or, think about Proverbs 14:17:

A quick-tempered person does foolish things,
    and the one who devises evil schemes is hated.

Other sayings, like Proverbs 15:18 or 22:24, describe a “hot-tempered” person, but 14:17 (and 14:29) singles out the quick-tempered, those with short fuses, who rapidly react to any provocation with anger. That kind of reactivity results in foolish acts. I’m sure we’ve all experienced that.

Proverbs like these made me realize something. The battle for faithfulness is often won or lost in the instant between someone else’s words or actions and my response. And the briefer that moment is, the more likely that my worst impulses will carry the day. If I’m quick-tempered, if I blurt something out without first pausing to reflect, foolishness and evil will inevitably result. But if I can just restrain my reactivity for a second, that creates an opportunity for my better judgment, my convictions, and the Holy Spirit to have some input. Then there’s a chance that I’ll overlook an insult (12:16) and offer a gentle answer (15:1), or even bless those who curse me (Luke 6:28).

All that to say, one of the greatest victories a Christian can win on the road to holiness and loving a neighbor is developing the ability to bite your tongue. If you can just restrain the knee-jerk reaction, a world of holy possibilities opens up. Sure, after a pause you may still offer a (now carefully considered) vicious retort. The goal is to blurt out kindness, understanding, encouragement, and forgiveness, for such things to become your knee-jerk reaction, but developing new habits like these takes time and a lot of practice. And learning a new way, retraining your tongue to respond with grace and gentleness, is only possible after reactivity is taken out of the equation.

So, practice biting your tongue today. Stretch out that instant before your response. It might not sound like much, but that’s a real victory. Reactivity breeds sinful speech: we’ve all been on the receiving end of it, and we’ve all perpetrated it. But if we focus our efforts on that instant when our reactions erupt, maybe we can open the door to a different kind of speech, that’s “gracious, seasoned with salt.” (Col 4:6) Maybe we can begin to bless the people around us with the thoughtful responses of a righteous heart. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Go to the Source

A while back, I was in a Bible study where we discussed 2 Samuel chapter 16. King David’s son Absalom has just seized the throne, and the aging king suddenly finds himself on the run. Before he escaped Jerusalem, however, David deployed a double agent: his faithful confidant Hushai will offer to serve Absalom and undermine the wise counsel of Absalom’s other advisors (15:32-37).

Chapter 16 opens with another report of treachery: Mephibosheth, the grandson of King Saul, to whom David had shown much kindness, has supposedly abandoned the king in hopes of seizing power for himself —a report Mephibosheth will later deny, in chapter 19.

We then meet Shimei, a supporter of the house of Saul, who’s hurling curses and rocks at the fugitive monarch (16:5-6). Some of his troops are ready to remove Shimei’s head for the offense, but David tells them to leave him be. Maybe, the king speculates, these curses are from the Lord.

The whole scene is clouded with uncertainty: What’s true, and what’s a lie? Who can you trust? What is God up to? Which side is the Lord really on here? The characters grope through the uncertainty by relying on messengers and counsellors, or by just making their best guesses.

One thing that no one does is consult the Lord. There are no prayers offered, no prophets called in. No one goes to the source. David is navigating uncharted waters, but he’s trying to do it without his Compass.

So often, uncertainty is the water we swim in. Your health, your finances, your relationships, your job, your plans and dreams—all of it can change in a moment. When it does, how do you navigate those uncharted waters?

Do you fall back on familiar habits and old assumptions?

Do you ask a friend or family member for advice?

Do you go with your gut, rely on instinct, and act decisively without much consideration?

Do you go to the source and consult your Compass?

No doubt David was preoccupied and flustered while he abandoned his capitol and fled for his life. That’s understandable! And the demands of the moment are often all you can see. What David didn’t realize, however, is that these moments demand prayer. They demand the guidance of God’s Spirit, inquiring of the scriptures, and searching for divine wisdom.

When you find yourself unsure of what’s ahead or where to turn, I hope you’ll remember that we have a Lord who, as David wrote, leads us beside still waters and in the paths of righteousness (Ps 23:2-3). If you’re uncertain of the right way to go or how to find peace in the midst of life’s conflicts and chaos, don’t forget, in the bustle and stress of the moment, to turn to your Shepherd. Go to the source. You may not immediately see a way through the confusion or feel like you’re relaxing in green pastures, but, then again, you might.

And if you don’t pause to seek God in those moments, how are you expecting to hear the “still small voice” over the hubbub?

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The Faith to Forgive

“Faith like a mustard seed.”

It’s a famous phrase. It’s an encouraging image: you don’t have to have faith like a boulder or a Mack truck or a redwood. A mustard seed will do—and mustard seeds are about the size of the round head on a straight pin.

You see that phrase pop up twice in the gospels, in Matthew 17 and in Luke 17. Matthew tells the story of a demon-possessed boy whom the disciples weren’t able to heal. When Jesus is told, he promptly exorcizes the fiend, leading the disciples to ask him: “Why could we not cast it out?” Jesus replies:

“Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” (17:20-21)

With just a tiny amount of faith, one can accomplish incredible things, move mountains.

That’s Matthew.

I noticed recently that the way the phrase shows up in Luke is very different. Jesus’s actual words are pretty similar, though he goes for a more modest illustration:

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (17:5-6)

The big difference in Luke is the context of the teaching. In Matthew, the disciples didn’t have enough faith to perform an exorcism, and I can’t say that I blame them. But what leads them to plead “Increase our faith” in Luke’s version?

It's Jesus’s teaching on forgiveness.

“If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (17:3-5)

If forgiving someone—especially a repeat offender—feels like a small miracle to you, almost like moving a mountain, you’re not alone. The disciples felt the same way. And according to the Great Physician, the prescription is the same for forgiving someone as for driving out demons: you need a mustard seed of faith.

If forgiveness is a struggle for you, I think Jesus, Peter, and the rest understand.

But, at the same time, if forgiveness is a struggle for you, don’t think that it’s insurmountable. You don’t need a boulder or Mack truck or redwood of faith to do this. You don’t. All you need is a mustard seed. Maybe just enough faith to say ‘Lord, help me at least want to want to forgive him’. Or the faith to pray, ‘Lord, I hate her, but bless her family today.’ 

That’s a tiny start. 

But a mustard seed’s a tiny seed. The whole point of the phrase is that God can do much when we can only do very little.

So what tiny, mustard-seed-sized step can you take towards forgiveness today? Because Jesus assures us that the Lord can make miracles out of that.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Salvation Starts Now

If I have time in the mornings before two precious little girls wake up and demand Daddy’s attention, I sometimes will pray through a morning prayer service on an app on my phone. These services always include readings from the Psalms, and so recently I found myself, in the quiet of early morning in the living room, reading Psalm 56. I was trying to listen, to let the scriptures tell me what God wanted me to hear, instead of what Nance wanted to hear. I don’t know how successful I was, though, because the verse that jumped out at me reminded me of one of my favorite gospel truths.

Unto you, O God, will I pay my vows;

   unto you will I give thanks.

For you have delivered my soul from death

   and my feet from stumbling,

that I may walk before God

   in the light of the living. (56:12-13)

The promises of the gospel are vast. Typically, however, in my experience, churches squeeze this vast good news into one, inadequate headline: forgiveness of sins means you can have eternal life. In the words of the psalm, “you have delivered my soul from death.”

What’s inadequate about that message?

It’s gloriously true, but it’s tragically incomplete.

Just look at the rest of Psalm 56:13: “you have delivered my soul from death and my feet from stumbling.” We are very familiar with the gospel truth that Jesus wants to save people from the consequences of their sins. But Jesus doesn’t only save us from sin’s consequences: he also saves us from sin’s power over our lives. He keeps our feet from stumbling.

In other words, the gospel isn’t just good news about a happy ending when this life is over. It’s also good news about a new beginning right here, right now. Jesus can give us eternal life hereafter, but he can also give us new life in the present. The Lord’s saving power doesn’t finally kick in when you die: you can walk before God in the light of the living. You can be saved from sin today.

That’s good news because it means your life doesn’t have to be this way. The hurtful routines you’ve gotten into with your family, the secret habits you can’t seem to kick, that unwise financial decision you just keep making, that grudge you can’t seem to let go of, those gaslighting denials you instinctively issue at work or at home—your life doesn’t have to be this way. Jesus can save you from sin’s grip. He can make you new.

Don’t settle for a partial gospel. Don’t wait until you’re dead to look to the grace of God to save you.

Jesus wants to deliver you from sin today. Salvation can start now.

Here’s a prayer for today:

Lord Jesus, I don’t think I can save myself from my rotten thoughts, self-serving routines, and serrated words. By the power of your Holy Spirit, rescue me from the attitudes and behaviors that I can’t get rid of on my own. Jump start some new, holier habits in my life today. Guide me into a life that’s healthier for my heart and soul and a greater blessing to the people around me. Save me, Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

The Gift of Rest

This past Sunday I preached on keeping the Sabbath, and, as I was prepping the sermon, I kept going back to a fantastic chapter in pastor Rich Villodas’s book, The Deeply Formed Life: Five Transformative Values to Root Us in the Way of Jesus.

I kept going back to that chapter… but I didn’t use any of it in the sermon. So, I thought I’d share a couple of things from the cutting room floor with y’all.

I mentioned Sunday that, for me, the key to Jesus’s understanding of the Sabbath comes in Mark 2:27, when he says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Or, like the NLT puts it, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.” One of those needs is the rest that Jesus offers in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

And Rich Villodas does a wonderful job describing Sabbath practices that are aimed at meeting the needs of people and creating opportunities for rest.

He starts with a definition: “Sabbath keeping is a weekly twenty-four hour period of unhurried delight with no have-tos or ought-tos, resulting in deep rest and renewal.” (29)

Do you know that feeling of calm that comes when you mark the last thing off your to-do list? When you realize that there are no more responsibilities or deadlines looming over you? If Sabbath time is going to be restful, renewing, a time of unhurried delight, then it must be time when the to-do list is blank or at least set aside. Jesus cannot give us rest if we aren’t willing to set down the things that have us so weary and burdened.

Now, imagine you go to lunch with an old friend, and before you know it, they’ve told the waitress to bring them the ticket. You weren’t looking for this kindness, you tell them that you’ll pay for your own meal, but they insist. At that point, you know there’s no use arguing, and you just accept their gift and say “Thank you.” I’m sure you’ve been in a situation like that before, where you finally had to give up and accept someone’s gift.

Sometimes we’re reluctant to let go of the busyness and our have-tos and ought-tos. Maybe you take pride in your busyness and like to brag about your overloaded schedule. Maybe you feel a tinge of guilt if you find yourself relaxing when there are still things that you could be working on. But there will always be more you could have done or another thing you could get a head start on. There will always be some argument against resting.

But Jesus says, “I insist.”

There’s no use arguing with him. It’s time to accept the gift of rest he has for you and just say “Thank you.”

When’s the last time you didn’t have a to-do list hanging over your head?

Do you ever spend a day resting, when you aren't trying to accomplish anything?

What can you do to make space for “unhurried delight” in your schedule this week?

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Value of a Second Opinion

A while back I was reading through 2 Chronicles, and I was struck by a scene in chapter 18.

Judah’s King Jehoshaphat (yes, as in, “jumping Jehoshaphat!”) was visiting King Ahab of Israel, who wanted to form a military alliance with his southern neighbor. Jehoshaphat immediately agrees to join forces with Israel, but he has one request: “first, let’s see what the Lord has to say.” (18:4) So the kings summon 400 prophets and ask “Should we go to war or not?” The prophets are all in agreement: Attack, and God will give you victory!

This is where things get interesting. Rather than accepting this encouraging response, Jehoshaphat asks Ahab, “Isn’t there any other prophet of the Lord around whom we could ask?” (18:6) They’ve already gotten a unanimous and enthusiastic answer from the prophets—and, considering they will eventually go to war, presumably that was the answer they wanted to hear. And yet Jehoshaphat still seeks out an alternative point of view, one that he probably won’t like.

Proverbs 15:22, attributed to Jehoshaphat’s great-great-grandfather, Solomon, says that “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” I think, in this story, Jehoshaphat recognized something that’s left unsaid in the proverb: an abundance of counsel is no help if we only listen to people who will affirm us and never challenge us. A lack of diverse counsel is a lack of counsel. These kings had already heard what they wanted to here, and yet Judah was not ready to proceed until they had considered another perspective.

This struck me because a willingness to listen to alternative points of view is sorely lacking in America today. We’re combative rather than curious. Instead of seeing different perspectives as understandable or in any way helpful, we tend to label people with different views harshly: they’re hateful, ignorant, stupid, evil. People who don’t agree with me on X, Y, or Z simply don’t have anything valuable to say.

Jehoshaphat, one of the rare good kings after David and Solomon, models a different approach to disagreement: listening to other voices is beneficial, something that can better inform our decision-making.

Eventually they consult the prophet Micaiah, who is clearly not King Ahab’s favorite adviser. Micaiah warns them, accurately, that Israel’s king will die on the battlefield. They launch their attack anyways. Jehoshaphat didn’t agree with the lone dissenter, but he still heard him out.

To me, this is part of what it means to be “quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19). When we prioritize listening, the people around us can feel seen and valued. But, as if that weren’t enough, being “quick to listen” also benefits the listener: it’s a habit that will challenge us and give us a greater “depth of insight” (Phil 1:9) as we hear ideas and perspectives that we otherwise would avoid. To me, this is a sign of maturity and wisdom that we all need to strive for.

Do you see different opinions as valuable?

Do you take time to listen to other perspectives on things or automatically dismiss people who don’t agree with you?

How do you imagine Jesus approached this?

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Come to Me

Recently I was listening to an interview with a pastor I respect, Scott Sauls, and he said something that I’ve been sitting with ever since. He pointed out that, “Long before Jesus says ‘go for me’, he says ‘come to me’.”

The classic “go for me” verses that immediately come to my mind are in the final chapter of Matthew’s gospel, the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

The first “come to me” verse that I think of is seventeen chapters earlier, Matthew 11:28:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

It’s even farther back, in Matthew chapter 4, when Jesus first calls his disciples to “come.” (4:19)

Before Jesus says ‘go for me’, he says, ‘come to me.’

Come to me.

The foundation of our discipleship and of our faith is being with Jesus. Everything else, every belief, act of service, or word of witness, has to be built on that. 

And when we skip over that foundational work of connecting with Christ, the results are disastrous.

A lot of people whom we want to “make disciples” are approached by Christians every day—in person, or on social media—in ways that are belligerent and lack the “gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15) that Jesus’s followers are called to exhibit. You know what I’m talking about. Christians presenting what’s supposed to be “good news” are often argumentative, dismissive, demeaning, and scornful.

Maybe you’ve been guilty of that before. I know I have.

Perhaps the problem is, we’re going out on mission without first taking the time to be transformed in the presence of Jesus. We’re ‘going for’ without first ‘coming to’. And we end up doing the gospel message no favors. “Jesus loves you and wants to change your life!” isn’t very appealing when the person saying it doesn’t seem to love you, and you hope your life never looks like theirs.

But there’s a simple enough fix for this: Come to him. Be with him. Prioritize that time, every single day. Resist the temptation to rush out into every battle for the faith—don’t rush into any battle for the faith!—if you aren’t first coming to Jesus for that time together.

Maybe then, by the grace of God, we could stop showing the world how bad we can be and start showing the world how good Christ is.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Drawn to Him

“I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. – John 12:32-33

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
The other day I stumbled onto an old prayer from a Christian thinker from the 1800s, Søren Kierkegaard. (That’s Danish, just don’t worry about it!) This prayer was inspired by Jesus’s words in John chapter 12: “I will draw all people to myself.”

What Kierkegaard realized was that Jesus is not the only thing trying to draw us in, and that our hearts are only too ready to take the bait hook, line, and sinker. Even though this prayer is over 150 years old, so many of the siren songs of life that he named are really no different today. (If anything, 24-hour news and social media have only added fuel to “the present moment with its deceptive importance,” and smartphones and streaming services have revolutionized “amusement’s careless squandering of time.”)

If we’re going to be drawn to Jesus, rather than spending our days and lives wandering along side streets that ultimately lead nowhere, Kierkegaard believed it will take prayer and—don’t miss this!—self-examination

That means you and I need to be in the habit of pausing, reflecting, and considering: What is directing my thoughts, my time, my desires and priorities today? Where is my focus? What am I chasing after? Christians need to practice that kind of regular, intentional self-evaluation. And if I find that I’m chasing anything other than Jesus and his Kingdom, then I know it’s time for a course correction.

Here’s Kierkegaard’s prayer. Chew on it. Pray it!

O Lord Jesus Christ, weak is our foolish heart, and only too ready to let itself be drawn in—and there are so many things that would draw it to themselves. There’s pleasure, with its seducing power, there are options and variety with their confusing distractions, the present moment with its deceptive importance, and busyness with its vain toil, and amusement’s careless squandering of time, and sadness’s gloomy brooding—all of these would draw our attention away to themselves, in order to deceive us. But you who are the truth, only you our Savior and Redeemer, can truly draw someone to you, like you promised to do, to draw all people to yourself. So God grant that, by self-examination, we may snap out of it, so that you, according to your word, can draw us to yourself. (from The Prayers of Kierkegaard, 88)

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Blame Game

I’ve had this picture saved on my computer for who knows how long. 

I kept it for two reasons. 1) The bulldogs. 2) It reminds me of Genesis chapter 3.

You know this story, even if you don’t recognize the reference. It’s the third chapter in the Bible, right after the stories about the creation of the world. The Lord visits Eden to enjoy a pretty day with Adam and Eve, but the Lord can tell something’s wrong. So God confronts Adam: did y’all eat the prohibited fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? 

This is where Zelda the bulldog comes in. “To err is human; to blame it on someone else is even more human.” Human beings learned a lot of new things from that tree of knowledge. They learned shame (3:7). They learned fear (3:10). They learned anger (4:5). And when the Lord confronts Adam about the fruit, you see that they also learned to blame

"Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” 
The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” 
Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?” 
“The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.” (Gen 3:11-13) 

The buck stops… somewhere over there. Adam blamed it all on Eve. Eve blamed it all on the serpent. Humanity had learned a new trick. 

And, I don’t know about you, but it’s a trick I still use all the time. I’m especially quick to pull it out at home. It’s plain as day if you’re paying attention. It goes something like this: “Well I wouldn’t have said that,” or “I wouldn’t have reacted that way if you hadn’t….” Fill in the blank. This trick works great with spouses, co-workers, friends, members of your church, and so many others. 

Why do I do this? There are probably lots of reasons. I may be afraid of getting myself into trouble. I may want to avoid looking bad in front of people I hope to impress. I may do it out of sheer habit. Maybe I’m proud and don’t like admitting when I’m wrong or make mistakes. But whatever the reason, it’s so easy to become defensive and pass that buck.

But you probably already know that.

Of course, Adam wasn’t entirely wrong to lay the responsibility on Eve. Eve wasn’t entirely wrong to lay the responsibility on the snake. In both cases, though, they were refusing to admit their own culpability. And shouldn’t we Christians, of all people, be willing to own our mistakes and failures? After all, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace,” right?

At home I’m trying to get better at saying, “That was my fault.” Partly because I want to be a good model for my little girls. Partly because Emily shouldn’t suffer for my pride, my bad habit, or my trying to save face. In part, though, I’m also trying to remind myself that I am human—I have flaws, and I will fail. To remind myself that I still have some growing to do. That I still need mercy, grace, and transformation.

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Why Do I Write These Devotionals?

I often think about Romans 12:2. It was the scripture I preached on my last Sunday in Sumrall. It was the focus of a Bible study I did recently with Eastlawn’s youth. For my money, it’s a verse that Christians ought to memorize and remind themselves of throughout the day, every day. 

The verse begins: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” 

Now, that outlook can quickly lead to an us-versus-them, believers and the church are good, the rest of the world is bad, sort of attitude. But when Paul says “the world,” I don’t think he means anyone and anything outside the holy huddle of the church. The world outside the walls of the church is filled to the brim with beautiful people, ideas, and undertakings. And within the walls of the church you will regularly bump into “the world” that Paul warns about. 

“The world” that we have to resist conforming to is any influence that stirs up in you “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16) or encourages the “acts of the flesh”–things like sexual immorality, hatred, quarreling, fits of rage, envy (Gal 5:19-21). You can meet the world while scrolling Facebook or Instagram, binging Netflix, watching cable news, or going to Sunday school. The truth is, everything’s infected by sin to some extent, and so anything can have a negative influence at times. 

For that reason, the surest path to resisting conformity and experiencing transformation isn’t to avoid any and every negative influence. Good luck with that! The surest path is to arrange your life—your schedule, your priorities—so that you position yourself for transformation. In other words, make plans to position yourself for encounters with God’s Holy Spirit. 

Sure, there are voices and crowds and activities and entertainment choices that you’ll want to avoid entirely. There’s plenty of good ole’ fashioned depravity out there. And there are gray areas where some Christians may be able to participate in ways that are still faithful, but others of us may need to opt out. 

But the most powerful antidote to conformity—and the real goal here!—is transformation. 

And transformation, typically, comes slowly, through regular exposure to the Holy Spirit.

That means prayer and scripture reading. That means fasting and serving. That means wise counsel, insightful teachers, and rich fellowship. Music, time in nature, time with grandkids, therapy, 12-step programs: the list could go on and on. Anywhere that you have sensed God’s presence or felt God working in your life, those are the kinds of Holy Spirit encounters that we need to position ourselves for, that we need to plan, schedule, and prioritize. Because transformation doesn’t come by accident. It comes when God’s people are intentional about encountering the Lord. 

And that’s why I write these devotionals. We may intentionally seek God for an hour or two on Sunday morning, but by Sunday night we’ve already spent more time than that in front of the TV or on our phones. We have more opportunity for conformity in our lives than for transformation. So, in the middle of the week, I try to help position you for an encounter with the Holy Spirit. 

But what are you doing on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday? 

How are you planning, scheduling, and prioritizing transformation?

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

All You Need Is Love

Recently, I was thinking about love.

When we hear messages about love, sometimes they may feel… incomplete. They’re warm and fuzzy, they’re unobjectionable and, sure, biblical—but don’t they leave out the demands of confession, repentance, and transformation?

And I had two thoughts about that.

First, if you think that love isn’t connected to confession and repentance or that love doesn’t demand transformation, then I’m not sure you’re working with the New Testament’s definition of love. It’s the humbling, self-sacrificing work of a servant—and, in a sense, all of your neighbors are the master.

Second, it’s really no exaggeration to say that love is the summary of all the teachings of scripture. It’s not a vague, feel-good message. It’s the backbone of the gospel.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:6)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)

He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8b)

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)

The Bible couldn’t make love sound more essential and more central if it stuck that old Beatles song somewhere in the middle of the psalms.

There’s only one thing more important than ‘clothing yourselves with love’ (Col 3:14), in my mind. As Christians, love must flow out of our lives. Ultimately, though, Christians are defined by the love that we allow into our lives.

In Jesus’s famous tale of the prodigal son, the boy’s predicament resolves after he decides he’ll return home to his father, confess his transgressions, and ask to become a hired hand on the family farm (Luke 15:17-20). But that’s not actually how things played out. He did return home. He did confess. But he didn’t become a farmhand. He didn’t even bring it up. Instead, as the disgraced son made his speech, his father interjected:

“Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (15:22-24)

For the rest of his days, this son’s life would be defined, not by any efforts he made to show his contrition or be worthy of such a welcome, but by the love of his father, who embraced him, forgave him, and joyously welcomed him home.

Love is the backbone of the gospel. Loving others is the business of the Christian life. And, more than that, our Father’s love for us is the source of the Christian life, the foundation on which everything else stands.

It really is all you need.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

What Are You Seeking?

A few years back, Emily and I went to see Little Women in theater. She liked the 90s version and grew up reading the book. Me, I’d never seen or read the story before. The title didn’t exactly grab me, but I was ready to give it a shot. It could okay.

I was spellbound.

I laughed.

I cried.

I read the book.

The book’s charming. It’s also a shameless attempt to instruct you in 19th century morality. Little lessons abound. Marmie’s always ready to sit one of the girls (and the reader) on her knee and deliver a tiny sermon.

Many of these sermons have to do wealth. The oldest of the four daughters, Meg, is the family beauty and has a fondness for fine clothes. She ends up (do you have to include spoiler alerts for novels from 1868?) marrying for love rather than money and embarks on a humble life with her poor tutor husband, while many of her friends live in high society.

It’s a struggle:

Poor Meg seldom complained, but a sense of injustice made her feel bitter toward everyone sometimes, for she had not yet learned to know how rich she was in the blessings which alone can make life happy.

Alcott’s lesson for Meg and us is, You don’t need money to be rich in those blessings that can actually make life happy.

I think that idea is something that most of us would immediately and enthusiastically pay lip service to. But it’s also something that many of us absolutely do not put into practice. We can’t get beyond lip service, because we like the things that money can buy too much.

Sometimes, I recognize that in myself and lay down new ground rules to curb my own buying and amassing more stuff. But eventually rules are bent and forgotten, and old habits always start creeping back in.

I was thinking about that recently when I read Colossians 3:

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (3:1-3)

When you’re daydreaming about that Add to Cart button, it’s pretty jarring to hear “seek the things that are above… set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth.”

Those of us who wrestle with that never-ending hunger for more stuff have two good reasons to make a change (or recommit to change) today.

  1. Little Women’s right: a happy life doesn’t require enough in the bank to indulge your every whim. Happiness flows from other blessings, which money can’t buy.
  2. One of the ways that Jesus wants to make us new is by recalibrating our desires, so that, more and more, our focus is on the things of God instead of earthly achievements, experiences, and possessions.

So, where have you been looking for happiness? 

What have you been setting your mind on? 

How might God be challenging you when it comes to money and belongings?