Thinking in terms of eternity

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 12:22-35

Ten years from now today’s problems won’t matter. Last year’s troubles are a faint memory – a painful memory, but not as lasting as we believe they to be. Have you experienced pain so deep that you couldn’t feel anything? Have you felt numbness in your soul? Have you tasted the bitter gall of fear and wished for death?

And how many hours did that add to your life? Exactly.

Shouldn’t we try to keep everything in perspective. Tomorrow is related to today in its proximity like ripples from a stone thrown into a pond. The farther from the epicenter of impact the smaller the ability to identify its actual source. So yeah. One day at a time and trust that in the end it’s all falling into the plan of a much bigger story.

Read one book this year

And that book is Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Do it. You won’t be disappointed.

an extra serving of grace, please?

But the fruit of the Spirit  is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law…Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

None of these things comes naturally. Hard work, and training in the specific disciplines will yield results, but none of it comes without a great deal of grace.

Conscious decisions come first. Patterns become habit. Habit becomes nature. But none of it comes without a great deal of grace.

Living in step with the Spirit isn’t difficult if we keep our focus on the end of the marathon. But none of it comes without a great deal of grace.

Believing in what is unseen

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.  — Lamentations 3:19-26

Our culture is not wired for patience. As a man, it is even more difficult to be patient as ‘societal norms’ place a great deal of stress on his ability to adapt and solve problems with immediacy and accuracy. But to be patient and wait for God? To do that quietly? It would appear less painful to slap oneself in the face with a tack hammer than to sit alone in a room hoping for God.

Finding fulfillment in God is certainly not an easy task in today’s culture; we are the age of distraction and experience. It’s impossible to hear God’s whisper in the cacophony of gadgets, toys, business, play, relaxation, and action item lists. To find God is hard work indeed, and to attempt that while weighed down with distraction makes for a long and difficult road.

Every day, however, is a new chance. Every day God’s compassions are new. So what would it hurt to sit in silent thought for 15 minutes? What is lost by turning off the radio, television, Wii, or laptop? Take a walk and leave the ipod behind. If nothing else is certain, this is: God promises a return of investment greater than anything imagined if we will wait and trust in him.

Suffering produces what now?

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:4

It’s difficult to experience disappointment when things hoped for fall through. It’s downright painful to believe in that moment that the God of creation, who has numbered the hairs on our heads, has any concern for our problems.

Becoming angry at him is certainly not going to do anything but cause more frustration. For one, it’s downright evil to think God loves and cares about someone else more. Second, we aren’t capable of knowing how God is using his kindness to court his creation.

While it seems more difficult, embrace his kindness and celebrate what he gives freely. Maybe he’s closer in those moments than it seems. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen?

The power of “I don’t know…”

“He made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.

When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth.

He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

Jeremiah 51:15-16

How foolish is it to have an answer for everything? Knowing and trusting that God’s wisdom, foresight, and preparedness should be enough to cover the multitude of questions that float through the ether. Unfortunately, we tend to expect God to show up in large, humanly significant ways, i.e. saving a marriage, preventing an automobile accident, people walking out of a floating airplane, etc.

To blindly dismiss God’s presence in the seemingly mundane is not only dangerous, but a blatant disrespect for the Creator of the Universe. There is nothing wrong with praying for a fast line at the grocery, gas to be a nickle cheaper today than yesterday, or the spouse to bring home a box of oreo cookies. The problem lies with the human response to those prayers should they be answered counter to our (usually selfish) hopes.

So why did God answer yes to the prayer of the lady who wanted a really cheap set of pillows to match her couch and no to the guy who wanted to save both his wife and child during a complicated birth? It seems unfair. But it’s His world. God knows more, sees more, and has more power than any of us do. I don’t know.

To find comfort in that is difficult. The heart behind it seems cruel and cold. Rather, to say, ‘I don’t know,’ permits the heart to search for the deeper understanding of God and His mercy.

Friendship

Do not be misled: bad company corrupts good character. Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God — I say this to your shame.                                                                                              1 Corinthians 15:33-34

Friends mutually encourage each other, support each other, and celebrate each other. During difficult seasons, do your friends push you toward Jesus or do they justify sin? Do they persevere with you, or just check in from time to time?

Do they ask tough questions or do they permit self indulgences? Do they pray for you when you aren’t sure what to pray for?

Do you feel safe enough with them to ask the most simple and basic of questions? Do you feel comfortable enough to make mistakes and know you won’t be mocked? Are they patient?

Do your friends permit you to know what is happening in their life? Do your friends ask you for encouragement, strength, and prayer? Or do they hide themselves? When you push into their lives, do they deflect, close down, or push away? Do they practice  and model humility and encourage the same?

Real friends rebuke and honestly speak into each others’ lives, allowing for reproach and rebuke. Real friends not only accept it, they expect it.

Finding the right teachers, the right mentors, and the right environment are paramount for growth. Finding the right friends does more than foster growth. Real friendship endures.