“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”

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I am reading a book called “The One Thing” by Gary Keller.  The premise of the book is what is the one thing each of us wants to accomplish in our lives and how do we go about accomplishing that.  There are no Scripture references in the book and yet the principles are Scriptural.  If we were to write down what the one thing is that we want to accomplish in life and then work backwards to accomplish it, we would have daily purpose.  Oftentimes, we start each day off without a particular purpose and end up “flying by the seat of our pants.”  Think about this thought, “what is the one thing we want to have accomplished in our lives.”  These are the big dreams.  Michael Jordan did not one day wake and say he was going to be a great basketball star and then try out for the Chicago Bulls.  Neither did Thomas Edison decide to make a light bulb, then it happened.  These men had a goal and then worked backwards and dedicated much time to the neglect of other things in order to accomplish this goal.  They had one thing.

As Christians we should want to hear at the end of our earthly journey, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23).

How each of us get to this “one thing” is going to look different, but the verses in I Samuel 12:20-24 help us to have a direction in order to work towards that one thing.  The old saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” fits perfectly into this idea.  “Flying by the seat of our pants” may be easier but it is hard to accomplish anything this way.

 

…but serve the Lord with all your heart.  And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty.  For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make a name for Himself.  Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and right way.  Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you. (I Samuel 12:20-24).

These instructions given to the Israelites can help us to set a course towards being good and faithful servants.  Here is a condensed list of these things.

  1. Serve the Lord with all your heart
  2. Empty things are empty for they do not profit or deliver
  3. Pray
  4. Instruct what is good and right
  5. Fear the Lord
  6. Serve Him faithfully with your whole heart

Let’s look at each of them seeking to apply them to our lives today.

“Serve the Lord faithfully with your whole heart.”  This is included twice in this list so it must be important.  Serving comes from an attitude of humility.  An attitude of humility comes from a proper view of ourselves.  God does not ask us to do something that He Himself was not willing to do.  This is seen as Jesus walked the earth: washing the disciples’ feet, eating with the down and out people, caring for the poor and destitute.  Jesus did not seek positions of leadership but rather positions of service.  In serving others, we can serve the Lord.  This is not something that is done inconsistently but rather it is to be done “faithfully with our whole heart.”

Ask yourself a few questions:

Do you serve with joy or grumbling?

Do you look for ways to serve or do you have to be told what to do?

Which jobs of service do you seek: the ones that will get noticed or the ones that go unnoticed?

As you are serving is your attitude one of serving for self-gratification/self-pleasure/self-recognition or to please the Lord?

When you perform an act of service are you sure to draw attention to yourself and what you did or do you seek to give others credit for what they did?

Some of these answers are seen by others and others are known only by you and the Lord.  Examine your heart.  Focus on serving faithfully with your whole heart.

We can all “fly by the seat of our pants” or we can have a purpose and determination in our days.  Think about the end of your life and work backwards.  As you do plan the course, be sure to keep the end in mind.

“Serve the Lord faithfully with your whole heart.”

(We will finish looking at these principles in future blogs.)

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)

Cover-up

Cover-up.  When the truth is not told a cover-up always ensues.  When wrong is done a cover-up is close behind. Why do we cover-up the wrong we have committed?  Pure and simple-because it is wrong.  People that do the right thing by telling the truth, serving others, loving others unselfishly, being faithful in all things have no need to cover-up what they have done or said.  These individuals are humble in their actions and responses and may not want their good dead publicized, but they also do not need to hide what they have done.

Cover-up.  The scene in the garden between the woman and the serpent was not one of these positive situations.  The woman walked slowly down a path of destruction that ultimately ended in her eating the fruit.  It didn’t start by her eating the fruit, it ended with her eating the fruit.  The wrong that was committed started in her heart as the serpent led her down a path of destruction.  It did not seem destructive, but rather it was a time of searching for what she thought was truth.  Five minutes before the serpent approached the woman she thought she knew the truth.  She thought she lived in utopia, but then the serpent approached her and asked her a simple question, “Did God really say?” in that question what the woman had thought five minutes before was now put under scrutiny and the perfect environment became disrupted.

Cover-up.  As the woman slowly moved down this path, she ignored the truth that she knew for the appeal of what she thought she did not know.  Once the fruit was consumed, the cover-up began.  The first thing the couple covered-up was their bodies.  The next cover-up was when the couple heard the sound of God, they hid “among the trees of the garden.”

Cover-up.  As we move through the verses in Genesis 3, the man begins to answer God’s questions honestly.  “But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’” (Genesis 3:9-11).  Theses verses show the honesty of the man.  God asked him a question and he answered the question honestly, but next the cover-up begins again.

Cover-up.  “The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’   Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” (Genesis 3:12-13).  The cover-up continues again.  The man does not want to be blamed for the wrong so he covers what he did and blames the woman.  The woman covers up what she does and blames the serpent.  Not too many people like to admit their wrong.  As it was in the beginning, it is today.  The cover-up of sin happens all too often whether on a grand scale or on a minute scale.  No one wants to found guilty of their sin so they hide behind the blame game, or someone else, or lying.  One sin seems to compound till there is so much sin the truth is hard to find.  Truth does not take any cover-up, rather it requires straightforward living without any need for a cover-up.

Cover-up.  Do you cover up the little things thinking it is only a small lie, a small error, or a small sin?  However small the cover-up a larger one usually ensues.  “Be sure your sins will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23).