A Small Investment

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We all are drawn to things that please us.  The beauty of a sunrise.  The aroma of a bouquet of beautiful roses.  The taste of an exquisite meal. The joy of a treasured friendship/relationship.  If we only spend our time focusing on things that please us, we would live a very self-centered world.  In the quest for pleasing ourselves, there usually lays the carnage of people behind us that were in the way of or had to be used so we could get what we thought would please us.

I recently watched a secular video about how to improve your life.  As I listened to the video, I was amazed by how many Biblical principles were included in the talk without using the Bible as a reference.  God’s Word has been with us for thousands of years and the principles that God wants us to live by have been around for even longer.  So why do so many want change in their lives, yet they do not want to put into practice the things that will bring about that change.  As a general rule, we are seeking immediate gratification without thought of the long term effects.

If we choose to eat dessert or overindulge in a particular item at dinner, there may be no immediate results but over time those additional calories add up to extra pounds that were much easier to put on than they are to take off.  So why not exercise the pain of discipline now rather than having to deal with the pain of regret later?   We generally do not choose this route of avoiding dessert because we want to please ourselves right now.

God has given us many verses in the Bible that direct our attention towards how we are to live.  These directives are not given by God so He can laugh at us and watch us suffer.  Rather He wants us to live lives that are not just pleasing to Him, but also will produce for us good fruit.

We could use the analogy of a farmer who gets what he sows.  What about the principle of investing or saving now while denying ourselves a short term pleasure for a greater long term dividend.  The principle of pruning a rose bush of all the dead growth produces more beautiful roses in the end.

It is the little investment now that reaps huge benefits later in life. When faced with a choice, no matter how small there will be a consequence to that choice.  When we say yes to one thing we are saying no to something else.

“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.”  (Proverbs 12:22)

If what we say is not truthful or partially truthful, we set ourselves up for mistrust in our relationships.  Trust is easy to lose, but very hard to regain.  The lies may be “small white lies” but something so small can generate large levels of mistrust in our relationships.

“But He gives more grace.  Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (James 4:6)

What kind of person do we want to be around? One who is proud or one who is humble?  Yet, we make choices each day that support our pride or our humility.  They may seem like small choices, but they do add up.  As they add up, our reputation will precede us as a proud or humble person.

“Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)

I am always up for a little bit of competition.  Have we ever thought about loving and honoring others so much it becomes a bit of a competition?  It changes who we think about.  It changes our focus from what we get to what we can give.  We all appreciate when we are shown honor and respect.  Yet, why do we not do the same thing for others.  Do we look for ways to show honor to every person we meet.  Jesus did not order the disciples to wash His feet, rather He outdid the disciples by showing them honor and washing their feet.  Those that are looking to compete in the honor category do not demand to be served, rather they look for ways to serve.

The list could go on, but I think we get the point.  What we invest will in the end not just benefit those that are around us, it will also benefit us.  God gives grace to the humble not the proud.

If we say yes to something we say no to something else.  If we embrace the pain of discipline now we will enjoy being free of the pain of regret later.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

Tears of Joy

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This summer two of our daughters join the ranks of many who will spend their summer working at camp.  They were home from college for a month, but will be gone for the remainder of the summer with enough time to come home, go on a family vacation, and get packed back up to head back to Cedarville University.

Our oldest daughter is spending the summer working at Lake Ann as a counselor-where Dave went went to camp when he was growing up, and our middle daughter is working at Scioto Hills-the same camp I went to and worked at when I was growing up, and where my parents are currently volunteering.  What treasured memories I have from camp.  God works in great ways at camp all while making wonderful memories and making great friends.

As excited for them as I am that they are so willingly serving the Lord this way, I still hate to say good-bye.  I know they will be back and I know I will see them both during the time they are gone, but I still hate to say good-bye.

I tell them and remind myself at the same time, “They are growing up and becoming the young ladies I raised them to be.”  Growth brings change and tears.  Growth and maturity also come with a price tag.

I am reminded of a tearful good-bye in Acts 20:36, 37 “And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.  And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him.”  The Apostle Paul was moved with emotion to the point of tears when he said good-bye to those he ministered to in Ephesus.  Paul spent hours pouring his life into many people during his life after his conversion.  After that much time investing and loving, there is a sense of loss during the good-bye.  This feeling of loss over the separation of distance shows that a true heart connection is made.  A valuable relationship is formed.  A treasured bond that is inseparable despite the miles was established.  Despite the heartache and the sadness with the good-bye, the beauty of the relationship is seen with those tears.

As I miss my girls this summer and cry over our separation of distance, I also have a sense of pride over what they are doing with their lives.  I see them carrying on the things that are important in life: loving Jesus and loving people. No matter the sacrifice, no matter the loneliness, no matter the challenges in the end this is what matters.

Right before Paul said his tearful good-by to the people of Ephesus in Acts 20, he reminded the people, “…It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35).  Paul willingly gave all that He had to serve our Lord: to love Jesus and love people.  He lived out this verse.

As I miss my girls this summer, I know that they are right where God wants them, doing the work of the ministry.  There is much joy in my sadness and to be honest the sadness shows the beauty of the relationship.  So as we shed tears on behalf of those we miss, don’t be embarrassed by the tears, rather relish them and treasure them for they show how valuable that relationship really is.

Abiding

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Life lessons come in all shapes and sizes if we choose to see them as life lessons and learn from them.  “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you.  If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.” (I John 2:24).  The word abide in the ancient Greek means to stay, to dwell, to remain.  It is knowing the truth and remaining in the truth.

A few months ago I was using the chain saw to cut down a tree that was in the middle of where my garden is going to go.  It was the first time I had used the chain saw in a few months so my technique was a bit rusty.  Needless to say rusty technique and a chain saw do not go very well hand-in-hand or as my case goes chain saw-in-leg.  After using the chain saw for a short time, I pulled it out of the tree I was cutting to check my progress without realizing that my leg was a bit too close.  I held the wound closed and limped to the house.  I took a picture and was going to send it to my friend who is a nurse and ask her if she thought I needed stitches.  I took the picture and then thought, “As a nurse, Danna, if someone sent you that picture what would you tell them…Of course, I would have told them to go get stitches.”  I knew the truth, but questioned my ability in making that decision.  Six stitches later and now with an unattractive scar on my leg, I learned a lesson about abiding.

Abiding is staying, dwelling, or remaining in the truth.  It’s one thing though to know the truth and quite another to act on that truth.  I knew the truth “go get stitches,” but did the truth actually abide in me?  As I drove myself to the urgent care to get stitches my knowledge turned into action.  “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (I John 3: 17, 18).

True abiding is not talking about good deeds.  True abiding is performing good works out of love.  As I anticipate my future garden, I think about the poles I will need so I can have some pole beans.  These beans grow best as they cling to the pole.  They will be the most productive as they cling to the pole.  Isn’t that the same thought as abiding in God?  The closer I abide, the more I cling, the more productive living out God’s love I will be.  The bean does not lose itself because it clung to the pole, rather it became a more productive bean because of the pole.

I could have hoped my leg would heal without going to get stitches, but the reality is that it healed much better with the stitches. The Bible gives us instructions on how to live, but the key is do we listen to those instructions while abiding in Christ and becoming more productive because we were abiding?  God does not force us to abide; He simply asks us to abide.  The bean can choose to grow on the ground, but the productivity will be diminished.

Abiding produces fruit.  Not abiding produces a different kind of fruit.  We all chose which fruit we want to produce.

Abiding is a choice.

Praise the Rules?

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Spring has come and gone in many parts of the United States, but those of us that are in the cooler climates are still enjoying the beautiful spring colors.  The lilacs, tulips, crocus, daffodils, and hyacinths are showing their beautiful colors ushering in summer.  Then those beautiful colors will die away and wait for a whole year before they will show off their beauty once again for such a short time.  It takes all that time for them to rejuvenate and restore their energy supplies so their vibrant colors will be on display for the next spring season.

Time.

For those beautiful colors to be ready for display it takes time to refresh and rejuvenate.  During that time, they will store up energy from the sun, moisture from the rain, nutrients from the dirt, and a good hard sleep during the winter.  But, it all takes time.

Psalm 119:164 reminds us, “Seven times a day I praise you, for your righteous rules.”    It takes time to praise God seven times a day.  Do I take that time to praise Him that often?  Do I see the beauty of the flowers and praise Him?  Do I praise Him when the crack of thunder wakes me in the night?  Do I praise Him when my plans do not turn out like I thought they should?  Do I praise Him for all the conveniences and the inconveniences of life?

We as Christians know we are supposed to have an attitude of gratitude, but do we keep a conscious awareness of praising God for all that happens in our lives to the point that we can say we praise God seven times?  Yet, it is not seven times for just anything; it is seven times for His righteous rules.  I wonder if I spent more time praising God for His righteous rules, if I would spend less time struggling with obeying those rules.

So what are some of these challenging rules for which I need to praise the Lord:

“A soft answer turns away wrath…” (Proverbs 15:1)

“The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer…” (Provers 15:28)

“The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil” (II Timothy 2:24)

“Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is before us.” (Hebrews 12:1).

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7)

What happens when I take the time to praise the Lord for His righteous rules?  I change my focus.  With a changed focus comes a patience for God’s timing not my timing.  As these righteous rules begin to dwell in me they begin to be what is stored in my heart rather than worry, anxiety, impatience, wrath, quarreling, evil, or “whatever sin clings so closely.”

Over time these positives will show forth just like the beautiful spring colors that show their beauty each year.

Time.  Take time to praise God for His righteous rules.

A Story to Tell

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Psalm 78:4 “We will not hide them from their children but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done.” We all have a story to tell and it is commanded by the Lord that we share what He has done in our lives.

One of the stories in my life goes like this.  Many years ago in the small town of Cedarville, Ohio a young couple who were students at the then Cedarville College felt led by the Lord to start an AWANA program at Grace Baptist Church.  Not far down the street from Grace Baptist was a little girl who was about to enter 3rd grade.  People from the church came around knocking on doors and inviting the children to come to their AWANA program.  I went to a different church, but my parents sent me to that AWANA program.  After three years I earned my Timothy Award and three years later I earned my Meritorious Award.  I heard the program went on through high school, but Grace Baptist did not have AWANA into high school.  I did the next best thing, I worked in AWANA for as long as I could.  Move forward a few years and I grew up, got married, and had three daughters.  We moved to Rochester, MI.  We heard about First Baptist Church of Rochester (FBCR) from our friend Vicki and also found out they had an AWANA program.  Since AWANA had such an impact on my life, I wanted our daughters to be able to attend AWANA.  What a bonus for us.  AWANA started at Cubbies (3 years old) and went all the way through high school.  I had always wanted to earn my Citation.  It was one of those things on my bucket list.  I asked about being able to get my Citation and found out I could do the work needed and earn my award.  Finally, a few years ago I started learning my verses and doing the other work needed so I could earn my Citation.  It was a joy to do the work my daughters were doing and also to say verses each week to the T and T girls (3rd -6th grade) that I was working with.  They were not easy ones to say verses to either.  They never gave me any slack and if I had one word wrong they were sure to make sure I knew it.  They held me to a very high standard.   Even though we moved to Grand Rapids last June, I still so desperately wanted to earn this award so our youngest daughter and I continued the work.

A few years ago, God led a couple to attend FBCR that had a love for AWANA and now Chad is the Director of the AWANA program at FBCR.  Remember that couple I mentioned who started the AWANA program in Cedarville, Ohio so many years ago.  That couple happened to be present as I received this award.  Chad’s in-laws started that AWANA program so many years ago.  Who would have ever thought that a dream that I have had for so many years would result in me finally receiving the Citation award with the couple present who started the AWANA program that started my love for AWANA and for God’s Word so many years ago.  Only God could orchestrate such a thing.

The moral of this story is to be faithful to the work of the ministry and watch God work.  That AWANA program produced a love for AWANA in my heart.  I now have my Citation along with my three daughters.  Thank-you, Mr. and Mrs. Pycraft for your love for the Lord and His Word.  After the Israelites crossed the Jordon River, they picked up stones from the middle of the Jordan River.  The purpose of the stones was so the children would ask “What do these stones mean to you?”  Again I want to remind us all, we all have a story of God in our lives.  We are commanded by God to share it.  It seems fitting that a picture frame from Cedarville University would be that “stone” of reminder.  To God be the glory!

The Yoke

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My Grandpa was a farmer.  The manual labor involved in preparing for the end product of a harvest is a monumental task.  When I was little, I went to stay with my grandparents for a few weeks in the summer.  One of the things I remember about that time was Grandma going out to the field and telling Grandpa how homesick I was and it was time to take me home.  That meant leaving the field with all the work that needed to be done and driving me from Minnesota to Vermont in order to take me home.  For a farmer, that was a huge sacrifice.  That is a very vivid memory for me that I have always cherished.

In the Bible, many different illustrations are used to assist us in understanding the principles that God wants us to live out in our daily lives.  One such illustration is the visual of a yoke.

 

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

 

The yoke here does not refer to a yoke used for oxen (as I had originally thought) rather it refers to a person coming under another person’s leadership and following in their footsteps.  Jesus was speaking here and telling those that would listen and those of us that read these words to “come.”  Jesus will not hog tie us and make us follow Him, rather we must come on our own accord.  The reason we are to come to Him is because the yoke we are carrying is heavy and causes us much labor.  The reference here is to the religious leaders who were making the people of the day carry the heavy burden of the law.  Following laws out of fear is a heavy burden. These religious leaders seemed perfect on the outside, but on the inside their hearts were dark with the deceitfulness of sin.

When we take on the yoke of Jesus we can learn from Him.  What do we learn from Him?  We learn “gentleness and humility.”  Living a life filled with gentleness and humility is a much easier and the yoke is much lighter to carry.

During the time that Jesus walked the earth, the religious leaders had added extra rules to the laws that were already given to make sure that the previously recorded rules were not inadvertently disobeyed.    To illustrate how extreme it had gotten the religious leaders had 39 sub categories under “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.”  Thirty-nine sub categories that helped define what work was and what work was not.  They were deceived into thinking that external perfection equaled holiness.

Jesus’ teaching was different.  He taught that it was not the externals that made the person holy rather it was what came from the heart.  What was in Jesus’ heart?  “Gentleness and lowliness.”

My grandpa was hard working.  My aunt calls it the legacy of the Lichtys.  Yet, when the rubber met the road, my grandpa was gentle and lowly.  As I started writing this, I was thinking about farming and these verses thinking that a yoke was a piece of farm equipment.  I remembered this story about my grandpa and wrote it down.  Then I went to study the meaning and history behind the yoke.  I never realized that the yoke here was not intended for oxen but rather a metaphor for discipleship.  A metaphor for following in the footsteps of a leader.  So Grandpa Lichty what you have taught me is to work hard, but do it with gentleness and humility remembering that what is important in the end is not the work, but the people.  This yoke is “easy, and this burden is light.”

Contradictions

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Contradiction…we all know and understand the meaning behind this word.  Two things that oppose each other.  In English class we call them antonyms.  The two words that mean the opposite of each other.  The usual purpose behind a debate is caused by two or more people that have different usually opposing ideas that they not only feel very strongly about but also think is the only correct way to think.  We see this in our government on a pretty consistent basis these days.  Contradictions are not usually our favorite thing to discuss at a party, and yet the Bible has some contradictions that when looked at on the surface make no sense but when put into practice make perfect sense.

 

Here are a few:

  1. Matthew 10:39 “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

How can we find our life if we lose it?  Usually when I lose something, like a sock in the wash, it is lost.  We do not try to lose things on purpose so that we can then find them.  What was Jesus’ original intent when He spoke these words?  If we deny Christ in hopes of saving our lives, we lose the hope of eternal life.  When we surrender our lives to Christ, we gain the hope of eternal life.  Living a life surrendered to the will of God the Father will find the true purpose and the true meaning of life.  True purpose in life is not found in doing my will, but rather surrendering my will to the Father and doing His will.  Yes, a contradiction.

  1. Proverbs 11:24 “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give and only suffers want.”

This one is certainly an enigma.  When we give we grow richer and when we withhold we are in want.  So many in our culture strive to have the best house, the best car, the best clothes…Three generations from now or even at our funerals will our house and our car be the things that are remembered?  Rather, when we attend funerals no one usually talks about another’s possessions but their character.  When we are generous with our love, compassion, gentleness, kindness, encouragement, friendship, hospitality, joy, peace…we grow richer.  When we are stingy with our kindness being so focused on meeting our own needs, we suffer.  It seems when I notice the needs of another and freely give of my time and talents, my heart grows richer.  When I fail to notice the needs of others and am so focused on my own needs, I feel even needier.  Loving those that do not deserve it or encouraging those that may not reciprocate fills my heart with more joy than keeping that love for myself.  Notice the pain in someone’s eyes and love them.  Notice the loneliness in someone’s life and be their friend.  We should be giving so freely that when it seems the cup is empty, God has refilled it with more than we had to start with.

  1. Proverbs 11:25 “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched and one who waters will himself be watered.”
  2. Acts 20:35 “…It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

What is the conclusion of the whole matter?  Live a life of contradiction.  Give when it seems there is nothing left to give, and God will reward you.  “Moreover, it is required of stewards that a man be found faithful.” (I Corinthians 4:2).  Will we be found as a faithful giver or a faithful withholder?  God has so richly given to us, should we not follow His example and be faithful givers.  Generosity (giving freely) is not always money.  We all have an endless supply of love, compassion, gentleness, kindness, encouragement, friendship, hospitality, joy, peace…why not give it all away.  Live a life of contradiction.  Jesus did!