Empty or Full

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During my high school and college days I feel like I had a singular focus:  Get through college without any debt.  I worked as much as I could while still finding time to study and get good grades.  I spent as little money as I could on things that did not last.  I saved my money for books and tuition.  I worked as a waitress throughout my college days.  I saved all my tips, but one thing I did that I did not have to do was claim all my tips on my taxes and tithe on all my money.  Who would ever know?  The government did not know how much I made in tips.  My church or my parents did not know.  Yet, I remember thinking I needed to do the honest thing.  I claimed every penny I made on my taxes and tithed on the money I made to my church.  I also spent one summer on a missions trip (no income) and another summer as a camp counselor (minimal income).  I was careful, even frugal, in how I spent my money.  I never went out to eat or bought a treat for myself.  I was careful to only spend money on necessities.

I had a goal and that was to complete college.  As I look back on that time in life and evaluate my time, my talents, and my treasure, I see that the Lord blessed me.  I used my time to work, study, and serve the Lord.  I used my talents to work and serve the Lord on a mission trip and at a camp.  I used my treasure to pay for college and carefully only spend money on necessities.

The Lord blessed me immensely, but I have only seen this as I looked back.  I payed for my entire way through college except for $2000 my parents gave me as a result of some money willed to them.  I had taken out a loan at the beginning of my college career for $5,000.  That money sat in my bank account and collected interest and at the end of my college days I payed that loan back without any penalties all the while it sat in the bank for four years earning interest.  I needed a new car so I bought myself a “new to me” car.  I graduated from Cedarville University without any debt.

I spent my time, talents, and treasure on the things that honored God and God blessed me.  I did not strive for empty things because in the end they would have left me empty.  Rather I strove for things that were pleasing to God.  I did not graduate empty, I graduated full.  I sacrificed much, but the blessings are immense.

What is empty will take our focus off God.  Is our focus on what pleases God or pleases ourselves?  God knows and we know.

“And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty.”                                                                                                                                                                                 (I Samuel 12:21).

Empty things leave us feeling empty and searching for more, full things leave us satisfied and content.

We each must evaluate our motives to determine what is empty.  God sees our hearts.  He knows what is in our hearts.

If we look at the three “T’s” and evaluate our lives based on them, we might get at the heart of what is empty.

TIME

TALENTS

TREASURE

How do you spend your time?  Do you plan your day or “fly by the seat of your pants?”  Do you spend your time on things that you would not want the Lord finding you doing when He returns?  How much time do you spend watching TV, looking at digital media, selfish endeavors?  If you took an accurate account of your day and wrote down everything that you did, what would you find filled your time?  Could you pinpoint the empty endeavors?

How do you spend the talents God has given you?  God gave us talents to be used for His glory?  Do we use our talents whatever they may be for His Glory?  Or for our own glory and recognition?

What about your treasure?  Your bank account does not lie.  It is easy to see what you spend your money on.

Empty things leave us feeling empty and searching for more, full things leave us satisfied and content.

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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.

Time with God

Every morning when I get up one of the first things I do is make myself a cup of tea. If you know anything about me you know that I am rather particular about how my tea is made. I only use water that has been boiled on the stove top. I don’t think microwaved water produces a very good cup of tea. Once the water is boiling, my cup is prepared with a smidgen of sugar and a Lipton tea bag, and I pour that piping hot water into my cup so the tea can steep. The steeping process is just as important as the hot water. The longer the tea bag steeps the better the flavor of the tea. For me, a good cup of tea is made with care, precision, and most importantly time.

The importance of this perfectly steeped cup of tea is that it is my companion as I sit with my Bible or kneel by my desk and spend time in prayer. Just as a good cup of tea takes time to produce quality results, so a quality relationship with God takes time spent with Him.

We cannot work at this relationship with God if we skip through church and fulfill our one hour per week obligation. We cannot build a relationship with God if we spend an hour at the food pantry or performing any other act of kindness that shows how kind and loving we are. God delights in us serving Him, but not if it is at the expense of spending time with Him.

I John 1:3  says, “..Indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” God created us to have and enjoy fellowship with Him. We are here on this earth for that reason first. Once we have focused on this relationship and continue to make it a priority, it will be easy to know when God is directing us be involved in other areas of kind service. These acts, like church attendance and kind deeds for others, will flow out of our love for God.

There is a requirement for this relationship with God. Just like my perfectly steeped cup of tea needs a few things to be pleasing to me, so my relationship with God needs to have a few things to be pleasing to Him. First, I must admit that I am a sinner. (Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”) Second, I must believe that Jesus died on the cross and took the penalty for my sin. (Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”) Third, I must confess with my mouth that I am a sinner and that Jesus Paid the price for my sin. (Romans 10:9 “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”)

Come, sit with me and let’s have a cup of tea together and enjoy what God has for us today in His word and through a time of prayer. If you have never admitted to God that you are a sinner or believed that Jesus died for your sins, you can do so today. Just pray to God and admit that you are a sinner, believe that Jesus paid the price for your sins, and confess to God that you want to have a relationship with Him.