Moan and Groan

There has been much to moan and groan about in recent days.  We continue to face a world in which evil and inexplicable acts of hatred are carried out against the innocent.  I will not pretend in this blog to have all the answers.  What I hope to do is simply bring a Biblical word of wisdom that helps you move through the questions, doubts, fears, and struggles that acts of evil and hatred cause for us all.
Romans 8:22-25 sheds some light on what living in the midst of an evil world is like.
 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
All creation groans in the realities of the “pains of childbirth” is a reminder of the price of sin.  (Sin means to not do what is right.  Often it is defined as doing what is wrong, but that falls short.  God’s standard is not the absence of wrong but the existence of right.)  Sin entered into the world a long time ago and the world, itself, has never been the same since.  And that world groans under and in the burden of that sin.  Creation itself groans and moans out against and in the pain sin causes.
We have the common thought that the consequences of sin should be felt by those who commit the wrong and no one else…a direct result.  Sin does have direct result, but it is also has many indirect results.  The indirect results to sin are so widespread we live in a world that is often oblivious to the moaning and groaning around them.  Unfortunately the majority of people only hear the moans and groans at times when the volume of such pain is to high to ignore.
Often we pretend that faith means there is no place for moaning and groaning.  Faith, however, is the best place to express such pain.  The moans and groans of those without faith are without hope.  The groaning of the faithful is the expression of hope in the midst of real pain.
Without faith, we moan and groan inwardly against the evil we see. And it is empty, hollow, and painful.  People try to prevent further evil as if laws will make people love people and as if legislation will somehow rid the world of the exercise of evil.  And we groan and moan more desperately and more loudly the further we go along life’s road.
We, who have faith in Christ, we should moan and groan along with and in the midst of this world.  We should, however, moan differently.  We do not moan and groan against the evil we cannot change but in and for the hope we cannot lose.
Yes, such evil will one day end, but that day might not be today.  I do not know why it is not today, and thus, I join in the moaning and groaning.  Yet I choose to moan with hope that there is a new morning coming…a morning without mourning.  A day when the sun will not split the skies…but the Son of God will.  And redemption will be moaned for no longer.
So, everyone, moan.  All of you, groan, for it is right.  Yet know we have a choice in life.  We can moan against what ails us or we can groan in anticipation of what saves us.

Our house in the middle of the street…our house

Anybody remember that song? The song is a story of the chaos of family and life.  Dad is late for work…mom has to iron his shirt…dad is in his Sunday best…Mom has to take a rest…brother has a date to keep.
Is your house in the middle of the street?
If there is one thing in life that is confusing and disillusioning for a child it is growing up in a lukewarm household.  This reality applies to everything.  Lukewarm discipline…I get in trouble some days when I do this and other days I do not.  Lukewarm parental love…mom and dad act like they love each other every once in awhile but not very often.  Lukewarm faith…we go to church some and are taught about true Christ-following, but we do not do it.
Is your house in the middle of the street?
Matthew 6 teaches us the life-guiding principle “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be given to you as well.”  I want to apply this principle in a practical way.
We seek the Kingdom of God when we serve in the Kingdom of God.
     So when making a time or money or life decision ask these questions…
     Will this help me seek the Kingdom of God?
     Will this prevent me from seeking the Kingdom of God?
We seek the righteousness of Christ when we submit to Christ.
     So when making a time or money or life decision ask these questions…
     Will this help me seek the righteousness of Christ?
     Will this prevent me from seeking the righteousness of Christ?
So the application is pretty straightforward and some decisions are easily made because of those two questions…but many are not.
We must go back to another chaos preventing principle.  Live intentionally instead of reactively
Here is the question for the middle…why?  Why am I making this decision?
And here is the principle…motive makes the middle.
When asking whether you should ask why you would.

Relational Material

Matthew 6 will be the focus for a couple of upcoming blogs.  There is a life principle found in this passage that can literally change your home.  It is one of those principles that can be life-altering if you will apply it correctly and consistently.
The principle comes from the reality that we can only have one master…we can only serve God or money…but not both.  The reality that we must choose first to serve the Kingdom of God and that choosing second to do that is choosing not to do it at all.  The fact that we must choose first the righteousness of Christ because putting it second means not having it at all.
Life is not all grey like we like to say.  In reality some of it is very black and white.  At least the priorities and principles behind it, but the applications can get a little smudged…a little grey.  So let’s start with the principle.
This is a principle for dealing with money.  It is the principle to guide us into serving God and not money.
Choose the relational over the material.
This is a dangerous principle in that it can be easily misapplied.  It is a principle you can only apply to yourself.  You cannot apply this to others.  You cannot tell your spouse, get me what I want, choose the relational over the material.  Your children cannot say, get me what I want, choose the relational over the material.
The first relationship is always God.  Serve God…not money.  Seek his kingdom FIRST.  Seek his righteousness FIRST.  (I will publish a different blog asking some pointed questions about what that looks like this week.)
If the first relationship is not right the second one will not be right…nor the third…the fourth…the 100th.
I am learning how to apply this principle in family life and want to give you some practical pointers…
1.  Do not break the budget.
You must first make a budget to break a budget.  When you break the budget you choose the material over the relational.  Your spouse and you have made a loving agreement to handle finances in a certain manner.  When you choose to not follow it you put that purchase above that person. 
2.  Do not blow up or blow out of proportion.
You must not blow up over money or blow financial decisions out of proportion.  That is choosing the material over the relational.  When you do this you say to your spouse, “I would rather be right about the money than right with you.” 

Honesty, Time, and Me

Look honestly not deceptively at your life and choices.  Remember the heart is deceptive.  Just because something feels right does not make it right.
Are you a higher capacity or lower capacity person?
Capacity has nothing to do with capability.  Lower and higher capacity people are capable of great success in life, but they must go about achieving it differently.
The higher capacity person thrives with a full calendar and busy schedule.  The lower capacity person thrives when they have some breaks in their schedule.  A person with a full schedule does not always get more done.  Are you being effective and efficient?
Which type of person are you? When you get busy, do you talk and complain about how busy you are and how you feel like you have no time for yourself and your family?  If yes, you are lower capacity.  This is honest not harsh.  (Understand means know thyself.)
Make the decision that makes the decisions.
Lower capacity face this danger.  You say yes to less important things.  You get worn down.  Then you live by reaction instead of intention and you bail on the wrong thing.  This is a mistake leaders and their families cannot make very often before they lose credibility.
When you say yes to the wrong things you say no to the right things.
Higher capacity people make the same mistake but usually are completely unaware they bailed on something or someone.  They are so busy doing one thing they fail to even see the other thing.
The dark side for the leader is that the lower capacity leader (and family) end up saying no to the people they lead when they should have said yes while the higher capacity leader (and family) end up saying no to their family when they should have said no to the people they lead.
Which are you?
Live by intention or you will live by reaction.

The Decision Decision

Ephesians 5:15-18 continues to give us great truths for time management and life choices.
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead by filled with the Spirit.
We must make the decision that makes the decisions.
Drunkenness is not the sin in this verse.  Debauchery is.  Debauchery is extreme indulgence that leads to a loss of control.  Drunkenness causes debauchery.  Debauchery should be avoided, therefore, drunkenness should be avoided.  That is the principle.
We can choose choices but we cannot choose our consequences.  So in life we must make a decision that makes our decisions.  We must choose convictions so choices are made before they are made.
Per this Biblical example…I do not drink alcohol because if I drink alcohol I get drunk, always.  When I get drunk, I debauch.  I do not want to debauch so I do not get drunk, therefore, I do not drink.  My conviction…my decision that makes the decisions.
Making calendar choices is no different.
An example…my family participates in the life of the church I pastor through serving and participating.  When life gets busy, we do not bail on church.  We look elsewhere first.  Not because it is my job, but because it is my joy. 
The decision makes the decisions…not just on the calendar…but in the heart. 
Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.
So what do you treasure?
1.  What do you always make time for?
2.  Where and what do you most often bail on in busy times?
3.  Do those choices honestly honor your convictions?

Chaos and Calendars

Christmas is chaotic for most of us.  As I discussed in the last blog chaos is the result of confusing “get to” and “got to.”  Chaos is an emotion as often as it is a reality. 
In Ephesians 5:15-17 we are taught some great Biblical principles for life when it comes to time.
1.     Live intentionallynot reactively
Be very careful then how you live (or another translation is walk.)  Not as unwise but as wise.  Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
A person who is careful about how they live is intentional about how they live.  When we live reactively we make poor choices.  Living intentionally means thinking about what is ahead and not just what is now. 
2.     Look honestly not deceptively.
Therefore do not be foolish.
A fool is person who knows better and acts anyway.  We must come to grips with the fact that the heart is deceptive above all things.  Your heart and your emotions will get you into a world of chaos in a heartbeat.  Living by our heart feels right though.  We must learn to see ourselves honestly and not deceptively.  I will have another blog in the series to address the honest view of oneself in relationship to time management.  Do not deceive yourself into thinking you are making the best choice because it feels good, often the best choices feel difficult.
3.     Understanding prevents underestimating.
understand what the Lord’s will is.
This is an odd wording in Greek.  It is the command, “Understand!”  Understanding is not something you can really command of someone.  Telling my child “understand!” does not make them understand…communication and time makes them understand.  We understand because we intend to…because we purpose to.  Choose to understand. When we understand we do not underestimate.  In relationship to time we stop underestimating the time something takes and we stop underestimating the value of our time.  This last truth is a big one for leaders, parents, and others in places of responsibility.  Sometimes your time is valuable to others not because they need you there but because your being there says what they are doing is valuable.  Show up!
The last principle I draw from this passage is the principle that really pulls it all together.  That will be the next blog.

Are you living by intention or by reaction?
Are you looking at yourself honestly or deceptively?
Are you striving to understand or are you okay with underestimating?

Chaos and Christmas

Chaos is the life that ensues when we confuse “get to” and “got to.”

This is a season of the year when we get to do some wonderful things. The problem is that we live in a culture where the things we get to do are often treated with disdain because we have got to do them.

Don’t let yourself fall into this mental and emotional trap. It is a joy killer.

The majority of your chaos is of your own choosing.

We choose to have kids in extra curricular activities, to shop for Christmas, to have the job we have, etc. it’s our chooses that cause our chaos.

Chaos cannot be controlled but it can be prevented.

The issue in making wise decisions is not simply what you decide but when you decide it. Are you making the right choices at the right times.

Read Ephesians 5:15-18. Great passage on time and how we use it. I will blog some more this month to dive further into choices and chaos in relation to time, money, relationships, and decisions.