Stuff

How much is enough?

And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. Luke‬ ‭9:3-4‬

My family has lived in our new house for 15 months. We’ve finally placed pictures on the walls and figured out what furniture goes in which room. It feels like our “home” now.

Hollianne and I had a revelation over the weekend. While we downsized our possessions when we moved across the state, we’ve somehow- in just over fifteen months- started accumulating more “stuff.” Our attic is filling up. The closet in our basement is crowded. Our pantry is packed…and we are thinking about doubling its size.

Some of the happiest people I know are those with very little in terms of worldly possessions. Missionaries who have dedicated their lives to living with (and serving) the poor. People who have committed to living in rural, impoverished areas to improve conditions there….or social workers who are fighting poverty and crime in urban areas.

Its time to refocus. Our purpose has nothing to do with finding comfort through worldly possessions.

We are not called to be comfortable.

We need to invest in relationships. Good, nurturing relationships that spread the love of Jesus.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” 1 Timothy 6:6-9‬

My prayer for this weekend is to focus on what I truly need- rather than what I want. I need a renewed attitude toward sharing the hope of Jesus and His message of forgiveness and love. This is what will bring contentment.

Please let me know how I can pray for you.

God bless.

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Listening

My job requires that I work with college students. And I love it.

I find that the best way to connect with our students is to go where they gather. I see many students in meetings around campus, but to really understand them…to really hear them…I need to interact with them outside my office.

I often eat lunch in the campus cafeteria. I attend their athletic events and intramural games. My wife and I invite them into our home for dinner.

I even ride horses with them (talk about getting out of your comfort zone…).

When you go to students in informal settings, they tend to talk more. They share more. You just have to be there.

If you abide in me, and my words in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7

How often do we think about this in our relationship with our Heavenly Father? We have complete access. He’s always there…exactly where we are…willing to listen.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24

God desires a close relationship with us. He longs to hear our fears and our hopes.

Call to me and I will answer you, and tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3

He is our comfort and our hope.

My prayer this week is to become more diligent in my prayer life. I need to be more intentional in accessing God through prayer. I know he longs to listen.

I know He’s always there for me.

Please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

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Brackets

Last night I spent an hour filling out my NCAA tournament brackets. An hour.

I love this time of year. Colleges, their teams, their campuses, their alumni and their fans all dream about deep runs through the games. Upsets occur. Buzzer-beating shots decide outcomes. And Cinderella teams make unpredictable runs through the tourney.

I’m as guilty as anyone about getting excited about the games in the tournament. I’ll watch as many live games as I can, and listen to others on the radio and computer.

I get consumed. And last night- I jumped over the edge into full-fledged March Madness.

What if I put that much daily effort into my walk with Jesus?

Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the Lord your God. Leviticus‬ ‭26:1‬ ‭

I get distracted too easily. I let daily challenges and fun diversions (like NCAA basketball) take my attention away from my pursuit of Christ.

I create idols. And I tend to focus on the temporary and fun rather than seeking the joy and fulfillment that comes from a close relationship with Jesus.

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23

My prayer this week is to identify those things that keep me from focusing on Jesus. I want to eliminate the idols in my life that keep me from fully pursuing Christ.

The tournament will end later this month. God’s love for us is eternal.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Complainers

I was ambushed by a frustrated person this week, who was angry about a situation at work.

I listened for about ten minutes. At the end of their tirade, I was asked to “fix it.”

Fix it.

My response was to ask this person what solutions they had developed. What were the possible scenarios they had thought about to address their frustration?

“I thought that was your job…” was their response. “That’s why I came to you…so you can fix this.”

I suggested a couple of ways to address the issue, but neither option was acceptable to the person.

I asked them to take some time to reflect on possible solutions to their problem. If they couldn’t develop alternatives, I would need to move ahead with my own ideas on resolution.

I guess it’s a pet peeve of mine. If someone comes to me with a problem- they should at least bring a potential solution.

I’m such a hypocrite in my spiritual relationship with God, however. I realized this yesterday when I looked at my prayer journal.

I’m a complainer.

Oh….I realize that we are told to bring our concerns to God.

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. I Peter 5:7

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

But my prayer notes looked like a laundry list of situations that I wanted God to “fix.” Instead if asking for wisdom and discernment on how to deal with each problem- I just laid it at His feet.

I had also done a great job of casting my cares, but very little to reflect on the great things that God was creating in my life.

I was complaining, but not submitting.

I was pointing out the problems, but not focusing on the blessings.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalms 106:1

My prayer this week is to spend less time complaining to God. I want to first focus on all the blessings He has granted me and acknowledge all of the good that God is stirring in my life.

I also want to ask for wisdom when dealing with life’s problems.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Sleep-deprived and fighting a three-headed monster

I had a sleepless night last week.

There were three tough scenarios playing out in my head. There was a work problem, a family concern and a situation that a friend was facing. I couldn’t clear my thoughts.

I was facing this three-headed monster and felt powerless to fight.

After much tossing and turning I got out of bed and tried to analyze these situations on paper.

But the problems looked even more daunting when written down- and I had no idea how to begin unpacking these complex thoughts.

I recalled some great words from the book of Romans that gave some comfort.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26

We have a clear promise. God hears prayer. This verse lets us know that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Even when we don’t know how begin or focus our prayers, God knows our pain….our concern…our hurts.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

Prayer is a mighty sword. It’s a protector. It’s a source of comfort. It’s available to us for defense against the concerns of the world.

And we don’t even have to know exactly what to say when we use it.

My prayer this week is to be more mindful of the care that God has for us…and to take my concerns to him immediately.

And please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

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Who lost the Super Bowl

Tonight’s Super Bowl was a game for the ages. It contained multiple lead changes, record setting offensive numbers and trick plays. Best of all, the outcome came down to the last play of the game.

Ultimately, the Philadelphia Eagles made one more play than the New England Patriots.

For many of these players and coaches, this will be their last opportunity to ever play in Super Bowl. Most players never have the chance to come back.

Dan Marino is perhaps one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, yet he only played in one Super Bowl…a loss.

Fortunately for us, we serve a God that believes in second chances.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

We fall short every day. We struggle with relationships. We lose our temper. We ignore opportunities to serve and help others. We let worldly pursuits cloud our focus on Jesus.

But He loves us anyway.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:17

My prayer this week is to pursue every opportunity to serve Jesus and others. I want to be grateful for second chances- and pass along that grace to others.

God bless you.

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Chased by my past in Nashville

I went for run in Nashville today. It was just before daybreak- and it was really dark.

My hotel was near the Tennessee Titans stadium, so I thought I’d enjoy a run through downtown and across the bridge to the football complex.

I love that bridge. We’ve walked it dozens of times over the years to attend Titans games. It gives you a beautiful views of downtown Nashville and the Cumberland River.

And the view from the bridge this morning didn’t disappoint. Although it was pitch black, I could still see the lights of the downtown buildings and the channel lights outlining the river.

But I wasn’t alone.

Soon after entering the bridge I heard footsteps behind me. I turned to look and saw a dark, shadowy figure about 20 feet behind to my left.

I picked up my pace. I thought that I might be able to put some distance between the stranger and me.

But I couldn’t. The footsteps seemed to get closer and the figure appeared to be gaining ground.

My heart was racing. Was I being stalked? Was I being chased? I didn’t have my phone with me. My mind was racing with bad thoughts. I had to get away.

I finally reached the other end of the bridge and ran down the ramp to the stadium exit as fast as I could. I looked over my shoulder to see that nothing was behind me. Whatever was chasing me had stopped.

I ran for another 20 minutes to allow the sun to come up. Daybreak would give me the courage to again cross the bridge.

But in the daylight, everything became clear.

As I crossed the bridge I determined that the footsteps I had heard earlier were my own. The echo of my own steps bouncing off the bridge walls gave the impression of a second set of footsteps.

And the dark, shadowy figure? Trash cans. Large, slim industrial trash cans neatly spaced alongside my running route.

It was all in my head. The darkness veiled my view of reality.

Guilt from my past can do the same thing. It can distort my thoughts.

Sometimes my past haunts me. Even though I repent and change course, my sin follows me.

Past sin can make me feel as if I’m not worthy. Imperfect. Unforgiven.

But that’s not what God says.

I, I am the one who wipes out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43:25

Our sins are wiped away. With repentance, God will “not remember your sins.”

We need to accept God’s forgiveness. We need to quit looking back.

And we need to move forward with confidence.

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1

Let’s run like the lions.

My prayer this week is to forgive myself of guilt and sin from the past- and look forward with hope and resolve to be better.

And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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