While I Was Reading

I am currently re-reading one of my favorite books, The Lord Of The Rings. Although it was broken up into, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Tolkien himself always intended for it to be a single book. If you have never read this literary masterpiece I highly recommend it!

Anyway, while I have been reading I have, again, realized just how quotable Tolkien is and how deeply relatable his characters are. As I read for fun I don’t want to read to just simply escape reality. (Read my thoughts on that topic here.) Instead, I want to read everything, even fiction, with purpose. I want my stories to teach me something and remind me of my own reality. (The good stories will always do just that.) Today, I wanted to share a couple of quotes with you that recently impacted me.

The first quote is the ever-wise Gandalf in response to Frodo’s questioning why he was chosen for such a great task.

“‘Why was I chosen?’ ‘Such questions cannot be answered,’ said Gandalf. ‘You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must, therefore, use such strength and heart and wits as you have.’”

These words greatly remind me of God’s interaction with Abraham in Genesis 12-17. God chose Abraham, not because he was a great man of great strength with great faith or great stature. God just simply chose him. After God chose Abraham He blessed him and, in turn, used him to bless the entire world. Similarly, God chose and used Moses, imperfections and all, to lead His people out of captivity and right up to the doorstep of the Promised Land.

In the New Testament, in Romans 8:30 and Ephesians 2:8-9 we find that God is consistent. People are not saved because of personal merit or works, but rather by the grace of God alone. And Ephesians 2:10 encourages those that have been chosen and saved by grace to produce “good works” as a result.

Frodo was very weak; however, he was still “chosen” for a great purpose -to destroy the evil ring. We are very weak; however, we have still been chosen for a great purpose -to glorify God and to tell the world about Jesus and His love.

The second quote I want to bring up is spoken by Aragorn when he is trying to ignite courage in the face of almost certain doom.

“Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.”

As I read this I can’t help but ask myself the question, “Do I do what I do to get recognition and pats on the back? Or do I do it because God has called me to faithfully serve Him?”

Galatians 1:10 makes it clear that if our intentions are to please people then we cannot truly be servants of Christ. And Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

We need to do the right thing even if no one is watching and waiting to sing our praises.

The reality is that God is always watching, and His opinion of us is all that really matters anyway. Everything that we think, say, and do should be for God’s glory even when its not popular and especially when we do not receive recognition for it.

The purpose of sharing these quotes is to first, show how they remind me of great truth found in God’s Word. The second reason is to remind all of us how we can take everyday life and situations and think of them with a biblical mindset. That’s why I created this blog in the first place. Everyday life from a biblical perspective.

What is something that you have read, or seen, or heard lately that reminds you of our awesome God?

Too Young For Chruch?

Recently, someone (who doesn’t go to my church and I don’t know well) asked me what my thoughts were concerning the roles of “youth and children” in churches. They even went as far as to imply that young people should “just sit on the sidelines until their time came.” As someone who has worked with youth for a just shy of a decade now…wait, what? Did I just type that? Wow. Time flies. Anyway, back on track.

I believe that it is so important that we understand and recognize that the young people in our churches are an important and vital part of the Body of Christ. (Just as any true believer is a vital and important part of the whole.)

We can be certain that children and teens can truly be a part of the family of God (have a personal faith in Jesus as savior) because of passages like Acts 11:14, 16:31-32, and 1 Corinthians 7:14. Additionally, Jesus values, loves, and accepts children in Matthew 19:14 when He says, “let the children come to me.”

It can also be surmised that a majority, or at least some, of the disciples, were in their teen years. We find evidence of this in Matthew 17:24-27 where both Jesus and Peter pay a temple tax, but the others are exempt from this tax because of their age. Many Jewish teenagers and young men would follow a Rabbi, learning from him and studying at his feet. This tradition is consistent with what we know about the disciples.

Another example of a young person having an active role in the church would be Timothy. Paul writes to Timothy, who was a young pastor, in the books of 1&2 Timothy. We know that Timothy was fairly young because in 1 Timothy 4:12 Paul writes, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” This tells us that although Timothy was still fairly young, many presume in his late teens, he still had an important role in the leadership of the church.

With all of these examples in mind, we need to remember that the church is made up of people of all ages, including children and teens. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 tells us that there is, “one body, but many parts.”

The focus of this passage is that each and every member of the Body of Christ is important and has a role to fulfill.

This, of course, includes children and teens. Since young people are a part of the Body of Christ part of their role, just like the rest of the Body, would be to encourage, pray for, and love one another.

Ephesians 4:1-3 urges us all to, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Additionally, Ephesians gives special instruction to people in particular ages and roles. Chapter 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

And, Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:1 is a good and helpful reminder for anyone as well, particularly teens and young adults. “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.”

From all of these passages, I think we can safely produce a few principles regarding the roles of young people in the church.

  1. To be a fully-functioning disciple of Christ.
  2. To learn from those older than them.
  3. To respect those older than them.
  4. To encourage others regardless of age.
  5. To pray for others regardless of age.
  6. To share the Good News of the Gospel with others regardless of age.

Notice anything about those roles?

They seem to be applicable to any believer of any age.

Encourage one another, love one another, serve one another.

 

I Make The Pancakes

One bright Sunday morning in October of 2018 I woke up and was feeling much more awake than I normally do on any given morning. I bounced out to the kitchen, started the coffee, and decided to do something I had only done a handful of times in my life.

I made pancakes.

They were only just alright. (But when are pancakes actually “bad” anyway?)

The next Sunday morning rolled around, and my wife came out to the kitchen and laughed, “you’re making pancakes again? OK!”

It was on the third Sunday in a row at the breakfast table that I boldly proclaimed, “I have decided that I will make pancakes each and every Sunday henceforth.” (Yes, I really did say “henceforth.”)

My wife and friends gave me an exaggerated “oookkk” and called me goofy.

But you know what? I have faithfully made pancakes each and every Sunday since.

You may be wondering why I am writing about making pancakes and my silly Sunday morning routines. The reason is that in this situation, as with every other situation in life, I am learning a lesson.

The lesson is, growth takes time, but it is very rewarding.

You see, when I first started out I couldn’t quite get the right consistency in the batter. The hotcakes were either too thin and floppy or too thick and dry. I also was a novice in the flipping department. And, worst of all, I was impatient and either turned the heat too high or flipped prematurely before the first side was even fully cooked.

Thanks to my wife and friends for eating those inferior pancakes without complaining.

This last Sunday I was able to make the best batch of pancakes that I have ever made…and I hope that next week will only be better.

You see, growth is a process. There are bumps and bruises along the way. You don’t start off perfect (or even close to it) but eventually, with time, you are able to grow. The goal is to be better than you were yesterday. And when it comes to our relationship with Jesus, our goal should always be to be closer to Him tomorrow than we were today.

My love for Jesus is stronger today than it was five years ago, and I pray that five years from now I will love Him even more.

2 Peter 3:18 says to “…grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

Hebrews 6 encourages us to leave the “elementary” things and move on towards maturity in Christ. And Hebrews 5 warns against staying in the childish immature stage of spiritual development.

We need to grow spiritually.

While it does take time to grow and it certainly is a process, (it’s called Sanctification) we need to realize that we do have a part in the process. In Luke 17 the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith. And I suggest that we do the same.

We cannot expect to grow spiritually if the only time that we talk about Jesus is on a Sunday morning. We cannot expect to increase our prayer life if the only time we pray is before a meal. And we cannot expect to know God better if our exposure to the Bible is only from the “verse of the day.”

I have heard the following statement before from many sources, so I will simply repeat it here…

We must have three daily conversations:

  • We must talk to God (prayer)
  • We must let God talk to us (read our Bible)
  • We must talk about God (sharing the Gospel)

We cannot expect to grow deeper in our faith if we fail to practice it. Just like I could not expect to make good pancakes if I didn’t practice,  17 weeks in a row might I add. (And counting!)

So, friends, I encourage you, just as I am encouraging myself. To make an extra effort this year to be more consistent in your walk with Jesus.

Say no to spiritual immaturity.

Grow closer to Him.

Well Done.

It is hard to express in words alone the torrent of emotions that accompany laying a loved one to rest.

Even for those who were not particularly close to the person being grieved for, the whole experience can still be incredibly emotional.

Thankfully, joy can be found in the midst of the mourning if the loved one knew Jesus as savior.

As Billy Graham said when speaking of his own passing, “I will be more alive on that day than ever before.” And he was right. For believers, when we pass from this temporary life into the eternal we will, in fact, be more alive than ever before because we will be with our Lord, the giver of life itself.

But the process is still, understandably, painful. I think that one of many reasons why funerals are so difficult for us humans is because death causes us to reflect. Death causes us to think about life. How did they live their life? How has my own life been lived thus far? How will I now choose to live?

Recently, I attended a funeral service of a faithful and incredible man of God. And it may sound weird to say, but I was truly and deeply blessed. (You know that someone lived their life well when their funeral service is a blessing to people, and a true celebration of life.) I was encouraged to hear about his love and devotion to his God and to his family. I was awed by his steadfast and upstanding character. And I was grateful for the legacy that he left behind.

There is no doubt in my mind that the moment when this man stepped into eternity he heard the words “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Those words actually come from a parable that Jesus told in Matthew 25. You should read the passage for yourself, I promise it will be worth it. But one of the main takeaways is that what you do today matters for tomorrow.

Jesus tells of a master who entrusts a few of his servants with various amounts of money and then he leaves to go on a journey. He returns and discovers what each of his servants has done with the money. The master is very pleased with the servants who have done something with what was entrusted to them and have doubled it.

He tells them “well done.”

But one of the servants was lazy and did nothing with what was entrusted to him, and the master was very displeased with him.

I want to live my life in such a way that at the end of the road I will hear “well done.”

But “well done” starts today. The choices that we make today are literally forming our character. Each and every day needs to be a “well done” kind of day.

There are no shortcuts in a life well done. We cannot just simply hide what has been entrusted to us away and wait till the end and expect a pat on the back.

The only way to hear “well done, good and faithful one” at the end of your life is to do well during your life.

I am thankful for godly men and women who set examples for us to follow and be encouraged by. I am thankful for a God who doesn’t just leave us in the dark, but actually gives us answers to our problems and frustrations in the Bible. I am thankful for Jesus and the promise of eternal life.

And I am motivated to live my life in a way that will please my Lord