A Life Free of Clutter

Grace for the moment max Lucado

Today’s reading is drawn fromLuke 12:34.

The most powerful life is the most simple life. The most powerful life is the life that knows where it’s going, that knows where the source of strength is, and the life that stays free of clutter and happenstance and hurriedness.

Being busy is not a sin. Jesus was busy. Paul was busy. Peter was busy. Nothing of significance is achieved without effort and hard work and weariness. Being busy, in and of itself, is not a sin. But being busy in an endless pursuit of things that leave us empty and hollow and broken inside—that cannot be pleasing to God.

One source of man’s weariness is the pursuit of things that can never satisfy; but which one of us has not been caught up in that pursuit at some time in our life? Our passions, possessions, and pride—these are all dead things. When we try to get life out of dead things, the result is only weariness and dissatisfaction.

from Walking with the Savior

FOR FATHERS

Don’t step right up

Today’s reading is drawn from Proverbs 22:1-6.

For the most part, my years of undergraduate education were truly enjoyable. I enjoyed the freedom and the autonomy. I loved the camaraderie of new friends.

The only truly significant frustration of college was trying to decide what I was going to be “when I grew up.” I had some classmates who, the day they hit the campus, knew beyond a shadow of a doubt. Jim Hall was going to be a doctor. Steve Oldham was going to be a coach. Herb Shaw was going to be a CPA. Dan Alley was going to eat pepperoni and extra-cheese pizza.

But I had no idea.

Suspecting this career ambivalence, my college professors were like carnival hawkers . . . “Step right up! . . . Be this. Be that.” Dr. Heath thought I should research ancient languages. Dr. Harrison thought I’d make a decent doctor. Dr. Wilson thought parish ministry would be perfect for me.

As a dad, you sometimes find yourself tempted to encourage your children to “step right up” — to sell them on your dreams for them. Sometimes they feel the pressure to become what you want them to become. Because you want the best for your kids, it’s tough to avoid this temptation, but it’s even tougher to grow up under it.

Today’s verse speaks directly to this problem. It’s one you should plant deeply into your conscious mind. . . .

Being an effective dad has nothing to do with creating a clone of yourself. This is not an exercise in aiming your child at your target. Being successful as a father means helping your children to go in the direction they should go. To follow their own calling. To listen to God’s voice in their own lives. To shape and encourage them to identify their own gifts and strengths, then to give them the courage to aggressively pursue those gifts.

Several years ago, I was having lunch with one of my closest friends. Often when we get together we joke and laugh, making a public nuisance of ourselves. But this time the conversation was gravely serious. At one point in the conversation my friend said something I’ll never forget: “I’m a grown man. I have two children, two cars, a career and a mortgage of my own. And I’ve just discovered that I have become exactly what my parents wanted me to become. I have no idea who I am.”

You are not selling anything to your kids. You’re not trying to get them to follow your agenda. Your job is to help them discover their God-given gifts and passions, and to encourage them to seek the Lord’s guidance. What you really want is for them to pursue their own dreams — then you do whatever you can to help them be successful.

Train your children in the way they should go. Someday they’ll thank you for this.

MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST

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The “Go” of Preparation

If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  Matthew 5:23-24

It is easy for us to imagine that we will suddenly come to a point in our lives where we are fully prepared, but preparation is not suddenly accomplished. In fact, it is a process that must be steadily maintained. It is dangerous to become settled and complacent in our present level of experience. The Christian life requires preparation and more preparation.

The sense of sacrifice in the Christian life is readily appealing to a new Christian. From a human standpoint, the one thing that attracts us to Jesus Christ is our sense of the heroic, and a close examination of us by our Lord’s words suddenly puts this tide of enthusiasm to the test. “…go your way. First be reconciled to your brother….” The “go” of preparation is to allow the Word of God to examine you closely. Your sense of heroic sacrifice is not good enough. The thing the Holy Spirit will detect in you is your nature that can never work in His service. And no one but God can detect that nature in you. Do you have anything to hide from God? If you do, then let God search you with His light. If there is sin in your life, don’t just admit it— confess it. Are you willing to obey your Lord and Master, whatever the humiliation to your right to yourself may be?

Never disregard a conviction that the Holy Spirit brings to you. If it is important enough for the Spirit of God to bring it to your mind, it is the very thing He is detecting in you. You were looking for some big thing to give up, while God is telling you of some tiny thing that must go. But behind that tiny thing lies the stronghold of obstinacy, and you say, “I will not give up my right to myself”— the very thing that God intends you to give up if you are to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. From My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition

Bible in One Year: Song of Solomon 4-5; Galatians 3

DEVOTIONAL DAILY

 Waiting is the hardest work of hope. – Lewis Smedes
Learning To Wait

by John Ortberg, from If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat

When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. — Matthew 14:32

Waiting is the hardest work of hope. ~ Lewis Smedes
Waiting patiently is not a strong suit in American society.

A woman’s car stalls in traffic. She looks in vain under the hood to identify the cause, while the driver behind her leans relentlessly on his horn. Finally she has had enough. She walks back to his car and offers sweetly, “I don’t know what the matter is with my car. But if you want to go look under the hood, I’ll be glad to stay here and honk for you.”

We are not a patient people. We tend to be in a horn-honking, microwaving, Fed-Ex mailing, fast-food eating, express-lane shopping hurry. People don’t like to wait in traffic, on the phone, in the store, or at the post office.

Robert Levine, in a wonderful book called A Geography of Time, suggests the creation of a new unit of time called the honko-second — “the time between when the light changes and the person behind you honks his horn.” He claims it is the smallest measure of time known to science.

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Most of us do not like waiting very much, so we like the fact that Matthew shows Jesus to be the Lord of urgent action. Three times in just a few sentences Matthew uses the word immediately — always of Jesus: Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and go on ahead of Him “immediately.” When the disciples thought they were seeing a ghost and cried out in fear, Jesus answered them “immediately.” When Peter began to sink and cried out for help, Jesus “immediately” reached out his hand and caught him.

Jesus’ actions are swift, discerning, and decisive. He doesn’t waste a honko-second. And yet, this is also a story about waiting.

Matthew tells us that Jesus comes to the disciples “during the fourth watch of the night.” The Romans divided the night into four shifts: 6:00–9:00; 9:00-midnight; midnight–3:00; and 3:00–6:00. So Jesus came to the disciples sometime after 3 o’clock. But they had been in the boat since before sundown the previous day. Why the long delay? If I were one of the disciples, I think I would prefer Jesus to show up at the same time or even slightly ahead of the storm. I’d like Him there in a honko-second.

But Matthew has good reasons for noting the time. A. E. J. Rawlinson notes that early Christians suffering their own storm of persecution may have taken great comfort in this delay:

Faint hearts may even have begun to wonder whether the Lord Himself had not abandoned them to their fate, or to doubt the reality of Christ. They are to learn from this story that they are not forsaken, that the Lord watches over them unseen… [that] the Living One, Master of wind and waves, will surely come quickly for their salvation, even though it be in the “fourth watch of the night.”

Matthew wanted his readers to learn to wait.

Another moment of waiting involves Peter’s decision to leave the boat. He cannot do this on the strength of his own impulse; he must ask Jesus’ permission first, then wait for an answer — for the light to turn green. I wonder if another type of waiting was involved for Peter. What do you suppose his very first steps on the water looked like? I expect that Jesus was an accomplished water-walker. But for Peter, I wonder if there wasn’t a learning curve involved.

Learning to walk always requires patience.

It was not until the whole episode was over that the disciples got what they wanted — “the wind died down.” Why couldn’t Jesus have made the wind die down “immediately” — as soon as He saw the disciples’ fear? It would have made Peter’s walk easier. But apparently Jesus felt they would gain something by waiting.

Consider the activity that Peter and the other disciples had to engage in right up to the very end: waiting.

Let’s say you decide to get out of the boat. You trust God. You take a step of faith — you courageously choose to leave a comfortable job to devote yourself to God’s calling; you will use a gift you believe God has given you even though you are scared to death; you will take relational risks even though you hate rejection; you will go back to school even though people tell you it makes no sense financially; you decide to trust God and get out of the boat. What happens next?

Well, maybe you will experience a tremendous, nonstop rush of excitement. Maybe there will be an immediate confirmation of your decision — circumstances will click, every risk will pay off, your efforts will be crowned with success, your spiritual life will thrive, your faith will double, and your friends will marvel, all in the space of a honko-second. Maybe. But not always. For good reasons, God does not always move at our frantic pace. We are too often double espresso followers of a decaf Sovereign.

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Every one of us, at some junctures of our lives, will have to learn to wait.

Lewis Smedes writes,

Waiting is our destiny as creatures who cannot by themselves bring about what they hope for.

We wait in the darkness for a flame we cannot light,

We wait in fear for a happy ending we cannot write.

We wait for a not yet that feels like a not ever.

Waiting is the hardest work of hope.

Waiting may be the hardest single thing we are called to do. So it is frustrating when we turn to the Bible and find that God Himself, who is all-powerful and all-wise, keeps saying to his people, Wait.
Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for Him… Wait for the LORD, and keep to His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land.
God comes to Abraham when he is seventy-five and tells him he is going to be a father, the ancestor of a great nation. How long was it before that promise was fulfilled? Twenty-four years. Abraham had to wait.

God told the Israelites that they would leave their slavery in Egypt and become a nation. But the people had to wait four hundred years.

God told Moses he would lead the people to the Promised Land. But they had to wait forty years in the wilderness.

In the Bible, waiting is so closely associated with faith that sometimes the two words are used interchangeably. The great promise of the Old Testament was that a Messiah would come. But Israel had to wait — generation after generation, century after century. And when the Messiah came, He was recognized only by those who had their eyes fixed on his coming — like Simeon. He was an old man who “was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”

But even the arrival of Jesus did not mean that the waiting was over. Jesus lived, taught, was crucified, was resurrected, and was about to ascend when His friends asked Him, “Lord, will you restore the kingdom now?” That is, “Can we stop waiting?”

And Jesus had one more command:
Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised.
And the Holy Spirit came — but that still did not mean that the time of waiting was over.

Paul wrote,

We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Forty-three times in the Old Testament alone, the people are commanded,
Wait. Wait on the LORD.
The last words in the Bible are about waiting:
The one who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’
It may not seem like it, but in light of eternity, it is soon. Hang on. “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” All right, we’ll hang on. But come! We’re waiting for You.

Why? Why does God make us wait? If He can do anything, why doesn’t He bring us relief and help and answers now?

At least in part, to paraphrase Ben Patterson,

“What God does in us while we wait is as important as what it is we are waiting for.”

Excerpted with permission from If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg, copyright Zondervan.

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Your Turn

Who wants to wait? Who’s excited about a good, long wait… to be accepted into college, to meet your spouse, to find a job? Who is eager to wait in prayer such a long, long time for a positive pregnancy test? Or for a child who has wandered far from Jesus to return to faith in Him? Waiting can seem interminable. Waiting stretches our hearts until we may feel there’s no elasticity left! Yet, God tells us to wait, and to wait, and to wait. What are you waiting for today? Let’s join in prayer that we may wait well and not lose heart! Come join the conversation on our blog! We want to hear from you!

 

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