Musings from a 50 year old

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I turned 50 a few days ago.  I am a half a century old.  I am over half way through with life.  The odds are not in my favor to make it to 100.  This is another year full of change for me.  It seems to be a common thing in my life right now, so I guess I better get used to it.

As I consider the years to come, I want to make sure they have the most meaning.  I want to enjoy the journey and not get lost on the details. I want to be sure that the people that need me to touch their lives, I do. I want to make sure that I notice each friend that needs a smile.  I want to be so sensitive to the Holy Spirit that when a person comes to my mind, I pray or reach out with a quick phone call.  Maybe they need a note of encouragement. I want to be in tuned to God’s Word, the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and aware of the needs around me.

God has blessed me so abundantly that I want to be sure that I share this wealth of blessings with others.  I want to be so focused on being thankful there is no room for complaining.  I want to be so aware of those around me, I forget to be self-absorbed.  I want to be so busy recognizing the accomplishments of others there is no room for pride. I want to be so in tuned to others and asking the right questions, I forget my own personal struggles or realize that mine are not really that bad.

Jesus took His “me time” by getting alone with His Father.  Is that the way I view “me time?”

Jesus didn’t worry about impressing the masses, He wanted to make sure the individual felt loved and cared for.  The women at the well was at the bottom of the social ladder, yet Jesus made her feel like the most important woman in the world.

Jesus reminded us that if “you have done it to the least of these my brothers (and sisters) you have done it unto me.”  Do I order my day around the least or try to be seated next to the most?

Do I walk away from a conversation regretting what I said or did not say?  Does the person walk away from me feeling like their day was brightened and their load made a little lighter? Or did I say something that made them feel hurt and despondent?

Do I focus on people or problems?  Do I focus on people or paychecks?  Do I focus on people or personal gain?

I am reading about the life of Elijah right now in my devotions.  I have been praying that my walk with the Lord would be like Elijah’s.  He was fervent for the Lord.  Ready to be bold. Ready to care for the needs of others.  May the next 50 years of my life be filled with the faithfulness of Joseph and Daniel and the fervency of Elijah.

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Stop! Ask! Perceive! Notice!

 

 

 

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Do you have a favorite Bible story related to different events?  If we want to read a good hero story, we read the story of David and Goliath.  If we want a story that reminds us how important and valuable living life on purpose is, we read about Daniel.  There are many stories while Jesus was on earth that provide inspiration to various areas of our lives.  The one I want to look at today is the woman with the issue of blood in Luke 8:40-48.

This woman had a bleeding problem for the last twelve years.  We do not know anything about what this bleeding issue was, but we can only imagine the inconvenience of it.  The conveniences of today like a washing machine were not available.  Jesus happened to be on His way to heal a twelve year old who was on the brink of death, when this woman touches Jesus.  With this touch, the woman was healed.

Jesus stops.  He asks, “Who touched Me?”  As He was walking toward the young twelve year old’s house, there were many people pressing against Him. Wherever Jesus went there were crowds following Him. By this time in His ministry, everyone wanted something from Him.

Jesus knew the pressing nature of the task before Him.  Jarius’s twelve year old daughter was dying.  The request was urgent.  The need was urgent.

Jesus stopped.

He did not need to stop.  The woman touched His robe and was healed.  That is all she wanted.  She wanted to be healed.  She did not even feel valuable enough to approach Jesus with her request for healing.  In the midst of the crowd, she had the faith it took to be healed, but not the pride to approach Jesus with her request.

Jesus asked a question. “Who touched Me?”

When the woman was healed, Jesus perceived that power had left Him.

Jesus perceived.

The woman came forward and fell down before Jesus trembling. She did not assume herself worthy of face-to-face interaction with Jesus, rather she showed her humility by bowing before Him.

Jesus noticed her faith. “Your faith has healed you.”

After this short interaction, the pressing matter of Jairus’s daughter returned and Jesus moved on.

What principles can we draw from this story and apply to our lives?

 

  1. Stop
  2. Ask a question
  3. Be perceptive
  4. Notice the positives in another

 

I feel like I am always in a rush to complete whatever task is before me.  This story reminds me that it is not always about the destination, but rather about the journey.  In order to help others, it is important to stop the activity and notice the person.

“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” (Proverbs 20:5).  A person of understanding knows what good questions to ask.  Most of us do not like to be told what to do.  A man of understanding will not tell us what to do, but will ask good questions in order to help us figure out what to do.

In order to ask good questions, we must be perceptive.  Perception takes spending time studying others and seeking to understand them.  As we spend time actively listening to others, we will be able to perceive the needs they have.  As we perceive these needs, we can then help them with what they need.  They may need a friend to listen.  They may need a word of encouragement.

Lastly, notice the positives in others.  Most people appreciate when we notice their positives.  We live in a society that is consumed with itself and so unsure of itself.  The woman that is forever known as the woman with the issue of blood had faith.  This is the quality Jesus noticed about her.  People want to be noticed, so notice them.  Notice the positives in them and point them out.  The superficial is nice, but what they really need noticed is the positives in their character.

Relationships take time.  Being like Jesus takes time.  In order to be like Jesus, we must spend time with Jesus.

Stop! Ask! Perceive! Notice!

Fear God and Keep His Commandments

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I had a conversation the other day with a lady who said she did not believe in the Bible, but believed the 10 commandments.  She also said she did not believe in God.  She went on to tell me about the good points of the 10 commandments: “Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not murder.  Thou shall not take thy neighbor’s wife (commit adultery).”  I agreed with her that these were good.  When I asked her about the first few commandments, “Thou shall have no other gods before Me. Thou shall not make a graven image,” she did not have a response for this.  She also wanted to tell me that Moses wrote the 10 commandments, not God.  When I asked her how she could believe something written by fallible man rather than an infallible God, again no answer.  Since this conversation took place at Best Buy while we waited for our turn to have our broken computers repaired, we did not get to finish our conversation.  I wish I would have thought about getting her number so we could continue our conversation.

I just finished reading Ecclesiastes.   The book written by Solomon that contains his musings about life and what is of value.  At the end of this book after recanting all the things that are worthless, he writes his conclusion to his musings.

“The end of the matter, all has been heard.  Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgement, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14).

Solomon had everything.

  • All the money he could possibly want.
  • All the wives he could possibly want.
  • All the power he could possibly want.
  • All the prestige he could possibly want.

Yet, with all of this he concluded that what mattered was to:

  • Fear God.
  • Keep His commandments.

The lady I spoke with the other day understood part of this, yet she missed the foundational point: fear God. 

All of the money, power, and prestige is empty.  Solomon says 10 times in the book of Ecclesiastes “I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chasing after the wind.” (1:14).  We cannot catch the wind.  Have you ever tried?  It always slips through our fingers heading in a direction directed by God. Solomon tried to find fulfillment in all of this and found every time he got to where he thought would bring fulfillment; it kept slipping through his fingers-just like the wind.

The only true fulfillment in our lives is to fear the Lord and keep His commandments.  Without fearing God, keeping God’s commandments will also be futile.  The foundation for keeping God’s commandments is to fear God. Without a relationship with the one true God, keeping God’s commandments will also not bring the fulfillment for which we strive.  This fulfillment only comes through a relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.

As we near Christmas and enjoy the festivities of the season, we must remember that Jesus came to earth as a baby to bring us hope through His sacrifice on the cross for our sins.  No matter how hard we try to find fulfillment in “chasing after the wind” it will always be out of our grasp.

Stop striving after the wind.  Rather run to the Savior and find fulfillment in the peace that comes through a relationship with Him.  Relationship brings peace and fulfillment, not the empty promises of this world.

“Fear God and keep His commandments.”

Complaining

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Complaining…we all do it at one time or another.  As I have studied this attitude, I am reminded that an attitude of complaining stems from something deeper, an attitude of ungratefulness.  Why is it we are ungrateful?  We think we deserve more; we have ourselves on a pedestal.  We are ungrateful for what we have and think we deserve more.

 

There are various verses and stories about complaining in the Bible that I ponder when the Lord convicts me of this sin.  The one I go to frequently is the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42.  Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were friends of Jesus.  Martha invited Jesus along with His disciples into their home. She showed hospitality, but then things went downhill.  With guests in her home, a meal to be prepared, and no Pizza Hut on speed dial, she had much work to do to prepare the meal.  Rather than listen to Jesus as Mary did, Martha scurried around preparing the meal probably muttering under her breath how much work needed to be done and she had to do it all by herself.  Eventually, she had enough and she told Jesus she had had enough.  Jesus chastised her right there for her wrong priorities.  Yet, I often think, “Someone had to prepare the meal.”  Martha was complaining because Mary was not living up to Martha’s expectations.  We all have multiple people in our lives that do not live up to our expectations, so what do we do about it?

 

We must ask ourselves a few questions:

  1. Is the person sinning? Mary was not sinning, far from it she was sitting at the feet of Jesus.  Could she be accused of not having a servant’s attitude and being lazy?  This is our only story about this, so it does not seem to be a pattern of behavior for Mary.  If a pattern is seen, then we ask ourselves the next question.
  2. Did we talk with the person about the behavior? If this is a onetime occurrence, maybe we need to evaluate our own priorities.  If this is a pattern of behavior, then we begin the principles outlined in Matthew 18.  Talk with the person.  If that does not resolve the issue, take a friend or two.  It is not recorded here that Martha even went to Mary.  If she had, Mary may have told Martha she would be happy to help, but she wanted to listen for a while.
  3. What are we assuming about the person? What are our expectations about the person?  Have we walked in the other person’s shoes to understand them?  Rather than talk about all the injustice, we must let the other person know our thoughts.  It may be uncomfortable, but we may see their perspective on the matter.  If we continue to complain without talking things over with the other person, are we enabling wrong behavior in them and hurting ourselves with the frequent sin of complaining?

 

When we complain about the traffic, we show how ungrateful we are for our cars and paved roads.  We could have to walk on dirty paths with sandals to get where we are going.  When we complain about our house, we show an ungrateful attitude for the house God has given us.  I think you get the picture here.  When we had multiple showings for our house and I complained, I showed my lack of gratefulness for the traffic we had to look at the house.  The overwhelming responsibilities I have right now are many, but when I complain I forget how God brought us here to this place and how He is taking care of me and my family.

 

We are part of such a selfish society today, and yet when sacrifice is noticed it is highly valued though often times taken advantage of.   Rather than complain, be grateful.  If a situation arises, do not complain, do something about it.  Do we complain because we are lazy ourselves and are afraid to deal with the situation?  Above all, we must pray about these situations and let God be our guide.

 

 

Serve

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Serve-to assist or to help. I have always struggled with the Martha and Mary story in Luke 10:38-42.  As the story goes, Jesus entered Bethany (the hometown of Lazarus who was also the brother of Martha and Mary), and immediately the characters in this short story are introduced, “Martha welcomed Him into her house, and she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching.”  (Luke 10:38, 39).  I am sure Martha had noble intentions.  She wanted to host Jesus in her home.  After all, as woman we are to be hospitable. “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (I Peter 4:9, 10).  However, her noble intentions felt like shackles when she saw her sister sitting at Jesus’ feet apparently doing nothing.  “But Martha was distracted with much serving…” (Luke 10:40). At that moment in Martha’s mind, listening to the teaching of Jesus was not a noble endeavor.  After all, there were guests in their home and these guests would need food to eat and possibly a place to stay for the night.  There was no Pizza Hut to order delivery and the beds did not get freshened and ready by themselves. So Martha began to feel bitter over her eagerness to serve Jesus and the disciples that were accompanying Him with food and lodging.  Her priorities were misaligned.

 

Whenever I read this story, I so clearly identify with Martha.  I am a task person.  I also enjoy entertaining, but of course, when I have people for dinner, I want it to be just perfect for them.  If Jesus and His disciples came to my house, I would want the experience to be perfect.  The perfect meal with the perfect dessert.  Then when they are ready to retire for the night, I would want a fresh bed with a nice soft pillow for them to lay their head.

 

Serving is not about the perfect meal with the most delicious dessert.  There are not too many times I have visited someone’s home that I remember the meal.  However, what I do remember is the attitude in the service.  When someone comes to my home, I never want them to feel like an inconvenience but rather I want them to feel like a treasure.  Whenever I serve whether at church, home, or in the community, my service needs to be from a heart of love not a heart filled with guilt.  I have considered this carefully and realize that in essence, when I serve out of guilt, I am trying to earn my salvation or more favor with God or man.  I am already saved and need to do nothing to earn any more favor with God.  A heart that serves out of guilt or out of a desire to gain more favor with God or man is a sin.  However, when my heart is right before the Lord and I am His vessel, then my life will be a channel for His love lived out through acts of service.

 

The key to being a Mary (sitting at the feet of Jesus) in our busy world (Martha) is to begin each day filling our hearts with love from God. Martha was anxious about the wrong things according to Jesus’ chastisement of her, but “one this is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42).  “One thing is necessary” according to Jesus.  What is it? Sitting at Jesus’ feet listening and learning. Mary did this first.  Before we become encumbered with too much serving, we must sit at the feet of Jesus and listen and learn.  Then when it is time to serve, there will be joy in our hearts.  It is so much more fun to serve with others than to do it by ourselves.  Instead of being the hero and serving on our own we must elicit some help and serve in the joy of the Lord.  The blessing will be multiplied.

Sacrifice

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Sacrifice-the act of giving something up for the good of someone else.  What is given up usually costs the giver…up to their life.  There are not enough words to write all of the stories of people who have sacrificed for the betterment of their fellow mankind.  Millions have died in battle saving their fellow soldier, a city full of women and children, or their country.  People sacrifice their time, treasure, and talent to accomplish great things for the betterment of their fellow mankind.  With the thousands upon millions of stories of sacrifice that we find on the printed page, it still is difficult for many to sacrifice any of these things.

 

We are raising a Leader Dog Puppy for the Blind.  When she is about a year we turn her in and she receives more training and will hopefully do well enough to be a guide dog for a blind person.  I am amazed by all of the comments I receive from people when I take her out and work with her in public.  So many say, “I could never give them back.”  It is a very difficult thing to turn them in since we have done it once all ready, but the person we will help is definitely worth the sacrifice.

 

We find the ultimate sacrifice in Scripture when Christ willingly submitted to the torture and pain of death on a Roman cross for my sins.  “Have the same mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…but emptied Himself, by taking on the form of a servant…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8).  He willingly sacrificed His life to pay the penalty for my sins, yet so many times I do not appreciate His sacrifice for me.  So many times I elevate my needs above another.  I am selfish and want my way.  I live in fear of the “what ifs.” I think I deserve to be happy at the expense of another person’s happiness.  I do not appreciate what others have done for me.

 

Sacrifice in a relationship with anyone whether a spouse, a child, a friend, etc. is much sweeter when both willingly sacrifice for each other and appreciate the sacrifice that is made.  If we all lived with the mind of Christ as we are challenged to do in Philippians, there would be less divorce, less angry words spoken, less tears of hurt, less children abandoned, less violence, and less fear.  “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1).  When we willingly sacrifice, we are worshipping God.  Let’s worship God together by willingly sacrificing for our Lord, and in the process those around us will receive a blessing too.

PATIENCE

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PATIENCE-cheerful endurance or tolerating difficulties or delay without getting angry.  As a society, and even in our Christian society we tolerate impatience.  I believe it is one of the foremost acceptable sins that is tolerated as part of an individual’s character.  We enjoy being in the presence of a patient person, yet if someone is impatient we tolerate it.  I have spent the last 24 hours considering patience, reading Scripture about patience, and being convicted about my impatience.  I had to ask myself, “What causes me to be impatient?”  After studying Scripture and spending time in contemplative thought with the Lord, I realized that my pride is what causes me to be impatient.  My needs or schedule causes me to be impatient because I think that what I am doing is more important than what anyone else is doing. I get behind a car that is dawdling or wait at an excessively long red light, I begin to get impatient.  Someone does not perform a task or take care of something the way I think they should, I get impatient.  So the secret for acquiring patience is not by asking God to give us patience and give it to us right now.  Rather, it is dying to ourselves.

 

Humility is the key to patience.  It is putting the needs of someone else ahead of our own.  It is walking in another’s shoes and realizing that the trials they have are just as difficult as our own.  As Jesus walked the earth, He knew what was coming-His death on a cross.  Yet, this did not overshadow His earthly ministry with His followers.  When His disciples wanted the seats of pre-eminence in the kingdom, He did not lash out at them.  He patiently answered their question.  On Jesus’ way to raise Jairus’s daughter from the dead, He took some time to heal the woman with the issue of blood.  He did not rush past her knowing He had more important business to accomplish.  He made her feel like she was the most important person at that moment.  Patience, not our favorite quality, yet Jesus time and time again emulated for us what patience looks like lived out on a daily basis.  Patience does not come from being good at waiting, rather patience comes from being good at denying ourselves.  Remember, we do not truly understand another person’s life unless we have walked a mile in their shoes.  So before we fly off the handle at someone for their inconvenience in our lives or their seeming ineptness, walk in their shoes.  Stop and share a word of cheer rather than a word of irritation.  That word may change the situation for everyone involved.

 

James 1:4 “But let patience have her perfect work that you may be complete, lacking nothing.”

 

Danielle gave me a lovely gift for Christmas.  It is a cutting board with the “recipe for a good Mom” written on it.  On it are various quantities of a good Mom, and of course the first one is 2 cups of patience.  I told Danielle that needs to be changed to 2 teaspoons for me.  My goal is not patience but rather humility hoping that through my humility patience will be produced.  Yet, my goal is not really humility, rather it is seeing myself for who I truly am in relation to God.  I am a sinner saved by God’s grace deserving nothing but hell, yet receiving eternal life.