“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.)

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.

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.