Faithfulness; The Choices We Make Today Determine Our Lives Tomorrow

I feel like the subject of faithfulness has come up time and time again lately. This is no small topic or theme though. The choices we make today determine what our lives will look like tomorrow.

“Evidence, evidence, evidence, will be the one thing wanted when the great white throne is set, when the books are opened, when the graves give up their tenants, when the dead are arraigned before the bar of God.” J.C. Ryle—Holiness

How can we be so narrow-minded to think that our decisions affect only ourselves? Today’s actions determine the effect we will have on our lives years from now as well as the effect we have on others’ lives. All of our decisions, actions, faithfulness, faithlessness, generosity, greed, successes, failures, plans, dreams all work together in unison to shape the people we become. Kinda scary, huh? How are we cool with doing anything we’re unsure about now that we know our every move affects our future? This is where it becomes important to trust and rely on the scriptures. One of my new favorite verses is Jeremiah 10:23 “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his step.” So who ultimately establishes the way a man should go? Psalm 37:23-24 tells us:

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.

Knowing that God is sovereign, the question becomes, “But will God really work things out for me? What if this idea I have doesn’t pan out? What if I lose my job? What if God calls me onto the mission field? How am I supposed to be faithful if God Himself won’t even show me what to do?”

What was once an exciting graduation commencement speech of “The future is an ocean and you are the captain of your soul! Set sail and claim your destiny. You deserve it!” goes from anxiously unsettling to downright scary.

We pose the real question, “Is the future really not in my hands?”

According to scripture, no.

Yet we have confidence.

God is not going take us where we’re not supposed to be. We are in the palm of his hand it is HIS plan that is being worked out in our lives.

 Philippians 1:6 says: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” When God begins a work of salvation in a person, he finishes and perfects that work. Thus the verb “bring it to completion” points to the eternal security of the Christian.

That, my friends, is faithfulness.

God will never start anything that He won’t finish. You may be going through a tough time at work, at home or in your life somehow, God is not finished with you. There’s this internal shaping, this molding that God is working on your heart to turn more like His.

The choices we make today determine our lives tomorrow. That is true and it is Christ who works in our lives to orchestrate what tomorrow actually looks like.

So how do we stay faithful to God?

By remembering His faithfulness we are spurred on by the hope of the gospel, that confidence. Christ is our confidence. Christ is faithful, so we are to be faithful.

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Garbage In, Garbage Out; The Root

Yesterday I wrote about the thrill of dumpster diving for donuts. Those days are over (probably) but today I wanted to address a similar topic that hits at the root of a huge issue.

We’ve all heard the term “Garbage in, garbage out”, most likely coming from the lips of a parent or a well-meaning relative. It’s not just some old idiom thrown out to shame children into making better decisions and choosing better companions; Jesus himself spoke on this very issue.

In Matthew 12:33-34 Jesus declares, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree it known by its fruit.” That verse always stuck out to me because it begs for a standard. Jesus was addressing the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, and calling out their hypocrisy. “How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” 

There is no compromise here.

Since boyhood, growing up around my brother’s friends and those older than me, I’ve always remembered verse 34 and sought to keep a narrow yet thorough opinion of people by their words. If we could hear people’s thoughts I bet we’d choose our friends with a bit more scrutiny. You become like the 5 people you spend the most time around. Who wants to hang out with someone who’s not like-minded and seeking to benefit from each other’s company? Even to benefit one another.

If garbage in, garbage out is true, then as believers what should our next course of action be? We must examine our lives and ask, “What kind of fruit am I producing? Am I benefitting those around me by what I say?”

Jesus, in a similar passage in Matthew 7 tells us that “you will recognize them by their fruits.” Though the context here is discussing false teachers, the message remains the same. “Every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” He then reaches the climax by saying, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”(Matthew 7:17-19).

I believed it as a kid and I still exercise the same practice of measuring people by their words. We all say foolish stuff we wish we could take back. I do it constantly. But thank the Lord for grace in our moments of stupid.

“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil”(Matthew 12:35). 

To avoid beating a dead horse I’ll end with this: we talk about what’s important to us. The lives we live are evidence of what that is. There’s only room for one throne in our lives. Who will we allow to occupy it? Do we confess Christ and live accordingly or do our words convince otherwise?

The root of the issue is this: garbage in will always result in garbage out. So choose your words carefully.

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Dumpster Diving For Donuts—One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

My friends think I’m weird because I like to eat out of the trash. Dumpsters to be exact. “The bigger the better,” I say.

How is this okay?

Because I’m dumpster diving for donuts. The saying hold’s true, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Or next meal in this case.

Okay, okay, I haven’t done this in almost 2 years(19 months actually) but desperate times called for desperate measures. Let me set the scene: I was on tour with my band a few years back and we began to hear fables of the glorious place they called Dunkin Donuts. Now, we have those in Oklahoma, don’t get me wrong, but these stories we heard always had one thing in common: closing time. And closing time meant “time to clean out the day’s supply of leftover donuts, separated them into clean trash bags (don’t tell me unused trash bags aren’t clean) and toss them in the dumpster out back.”

When hunger strikes a touring musician and there’s a Dunkin Donuts close by it sounds a lot like open season. So obviously I’ve got stories which I won’t withhold should you choose to ask me about it some time. Keywords are “dumpster diving, raccoon, cops, and get-away car.” It’ll be a good time.

xx man donuts

I won’t try to justify dumpster diving for donuts as a healthy meal plan but it does feel good to know you’ve scored something of value (to some) for free. Sometimes we had to drive around and hit 5 other shops before we hit a gold mine. And when we did…let me tell you: there’s nothing like waking up in the crisp morning air to smell of dozens of free breakfast goodies.

Here you are all snug and cozy in your sleeping bag, sprawled out across random band equipment, inside your trailer, in a Wal-Mart parking lot, in south Chicago, in February. You reach down and dig through the mess of jelly, glazed, long johns, cake, Bavarian cream even bear claws all in search of—where is it? Ahhh…the last apple fritter. Where else would you rather be?

Now any other red-blooded american might be ashamed to admit they dug through piles of napkins, coffee cups and other garbage to snack on day-old junk food but I believe there’s a silver lining here.

When an opportunity presents itself that you just can’t pass up you’ll do anything it takes to make it happen right? Even if you have try it 5 or 6 times, sifting through “garbage” to get what you need, it ultimately comes down to how bad you want it. There came a time in my life when I realized I needed to make a change and I did everything I could to achieve it. Today I’m able to walk forward with a clear conscience because of it.

All this to say, when life gives you something you can’t pass up, especially if you’re dumpster diving for donuts, take advantage of the opportunity and do what you must to reach your goals.

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2 False Assumptions About Sharing Our Faith

Anybody who grew up in church hearing about the great commission has had to deal with two false assumptions surrounding the issue of sharing our faith:

  1. I have to achieve a certain level of competence and have my life together before God can use me.

and

  1. If I were transparent and let people see my weaknesses and struggles, it would invalidate what I had to say about Christ.

Both are reasonable thoughts. I mean think about it, it’s way too easy to compare ourselves to the champions of the faith. We can say “Paul got knocked off a horse by God and was blinded for three days. Of course his faith will be greater than mine.” Or how about “Moses spoke openly with God, He doesn’t do that with just anybody.” This one we’re all guilty of: “I don’t have a crazy testimony; just wouldn’t know what to say.”

All that’s a load of bull.

As with everyone, we all try to and funnel our circumstances into something we think we can control. But as Hebrews 11:1 points out, “Faith is being…certain of what we do not see.” In other words, it isn’t really faith until we get beyond what we can control.

And when we can’t control something everything goes out of whack. We are afraid that if we follow God where leads us, our incompetence will expose us and we’ll look like failures.

Let’s all remember that Paul had to go through years of prison, torture, name-calling, slanderous speech and even hot pursuit. In the early days of his ministry he was continuously kicked out of towns and synagogues for his fearless teaching and bold speech. He even narrowly escaped death in Damascus by being lowered over the wall in a waste basket (Acts 9:23-25).

Talk about humbling.

Years later he shared that out of all his rich years of experience, he singles out that failure in Damascus as being among the very most important of his life (2 Cor 11:32-33). It was important because it taught him that out of he cannot rely on himself. He is not in control of his life.

So what did Paul do that we must also do? “Boast of the things that show my weakness”(11:30). Paul chose to live under submission to the Holy Spirit. In doing so he could reap the rewards of God’s work and not his own.

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Trusting in the Holy Spirit can be unsettling. On occasion, He might even decide to let us look like failures just to get the message across. That’s why we need our inadequacies. Without them we will never understand our need for true strength.

Realizing and tapping into that true strength can only come through understanding and awakening to our weakness.

In a sense God is saying “You’re better the way you are—weak. That way you aren’t even tempted to trust in your own abilities. I get the glory and you have to fumble around the way you do, “for my power is made perfect in your weakness”(2 Cor 12:9).

It is not the hardship in itself that helps us know God better. It is when we embrace the hardship by faith, seeing it as an opportunity to experience God’s power, that we grow towards maturity.

So, to answer those two false assumptions: no, we don’t have to have it all together to share our faith. Also, that we must embrace our weaknesses and boast in them so that in our humility we can let the light of Christ shine forth into the darkness.

We reveal the reality of the transforming power of the gospel best when we are authentic, honest, and open about our weaknesses.

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“We Need More People!” Obamacare and Discipleship

I’ve got a friend who’s gearing up for med school here in the next year or so. As we drove home from a wedding last weekend he was talking about the future of medicine and what that field will look like in the next 15+ years. A point was made that even though law schools are pumping out recording numbers of applicants, those job opportunities are drying up.

When the question of was posed of whether or not it’s similar with the medical field my friend immediately jumped in saying, “no way, we need more people!”

With all the new healthcare laws and legislation being passed we’re only just beginning to see and understand the lasting effects of what all this means for the future of medicine. Apparently doctors are now having to squeeze in 5-6 patients in an hour instead of the normal 3, allowing less time for checks ups and diagnosis. Thus our doctors are getting overworked and burned out from the sudden influx in their workload due to the new healthcare reform.

Hearing my buddy say “we need more people!” with that much gusto really got me thinking about the urgent importance of discipleship and evangelism. As Obamacare ushers in a new generation of healthcare reform we can see that we are facing issues and culture changes that we have never seen before. With the rise of the internet, social media and everything else we use to “stay connected” with our world, there are even more opportunities to shine a light in dark places that have ever been available to us.

Everything is changing around us. There is nothing new about sin, however, we’ve just found new ways to do it.

As humanism continues to take root in the heart of man we turn inward to answer our questions and solve our long-trevailed problems.

And therein lies the core issue: we turn inward.

To what?

To whom?

We cannot rely upon our own inward wisdom or tendencies to lead us in the right direction. Jeremiah 17 reminds us that:

9. The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?

 But praise God for His promise that:

10. “I the Lord search the heart
    and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
    according to what their deeds deserve.”

Since we cannot trust ourselves to fix our problems we continue to fall upon Christ at the foot of His cross daily in reverent prayer that He would lead us and push us on towards a pro-active, sanctified life.

Again we are reminded of the urgency of our mission as believers. According to americanvision.org:

“The statistics are staggering, 80% to 85% of young people leave the Church, never to return. As evolution, humanism and atheism continue to infiltrate our schools, theaters, magazines and television, our young people are faced with hard questions. If we send our children out into the world, unequipped to answer the hard questions and lacking a solid foundation in God’s Word, we should not be surprised if they fall away.”

See more about this article here.

In Matthew 9:37-38 Jesus “said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.'”

Those words “we need more people” are also true about the future of the church. Though the above statement is true about much of our young people in the church I look at the church and see a new generation of believers who are pushing forward, seeking Christ and hell-bent (ironically) on making a change for the kingdom.

To fix those staggering statistics and keep our young people in the church we don’t need more programs, more youth events, more culturally relevant topical lectures. The answer is not more of what is driving them away.

We need the gospel. We need it to be lived out through our lives and to pursue and disciple those young people.

We have our work cut out for us. Whether we be doctors, lawyers, legislators, pastors, or landscapers, we are to be disciplers of Christ.

The harvest is plentiful but “we need more people!”

Will you answer the call?

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Time For God—The Consumer

With everything on our plates these days how do we even have time for God? As the information revolution takes over, time has become our most valued commodity. It is scarcer than money.

Compared to 40 years ago when not everything revolved around the office, the social clubs, and the coffee shop, now even our meals, stop lights and bed times are consumed with cells phones, TV screens and other forms of entertainment.

The median husband-wife unit are now working a combined 90 hours a week on the job all to feed our growing desire to have more.

More money.

More things.

More freedom.

But does that sound like freedom?

Somehow the thought of slaving away, working our whole lives in pursuit of this “American Dream” doesn’t sound like freedom at all. We’ve become married to this idea that since it’s available we MUST have it. We have become consumers hell-bent on swallowing up every piece of selfish real estate we can get our hands on.

As GM founder Charles Kettering one said, “The key to economic prosperity is the organized creation of dissatisfaction.”

Thus, we created the consumer.

This consumer mentality shouldn’t define how we live our lives. There is truly only one thing that we need and that is the blood of Christ. We need it daily. We need it more daily to combat the rising, suffocating consumer culture where we call our “home.”

Our value should not be found in what we place on our walls, in our wallets or park in our garage but how we spend our time.

In his book “The Air I Breathe”, Louie Giglio defines worship as “our response to what we value most. As a result, worship determines our actions, becoming the driving force for all we do. But everybody has an altar. And every altar has a throne.”

Whatever is worth the most to us is how we will spend our time.

How do you spend your time?

What is on the throne of your life?

If we are to be consumers let us be consumers of the word of God, daily putting him on the throne of our lives and giving Him value with our worship.

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