Camper Keys and Other Lost Things

One might be inclined to think that the “magic” to finding lost things is prayer but that’s just not true. Many a lost item has been covered in prayer yet never found and many things have been found without even a scant prayer. The focus of my story is not that lost keys were found but that, as the object of God’s affection, (Deut. 10:15) God bowed down to see me and pursued my heart.

We seek after what we value. We determine to look for what was lost until we find it. We diligently search for it. It becomes a mental preoccupation. We may go about our day as usual but our minds cannot rest until we have recovered what was lost. We keep a watchful eye out for a glimpse of it. The fear of never finding it gnaws at our peace.

Some things just wander off like children and pets, unaware they are lost. Some things are carelessly handled and get lost in the shuffle of life like a cell phone, keys and my morning cup of coffee and some things just rebel like wayward children or chained dogs who’ve broken loose and run in freedom.

Jesus, in Luke 15 told three parables; The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coins and Lost Sons. In each of these narratives, something of personal value is lost, the owner ardently searches for it, and when it is found there is much rejoicing and a calling together of people to celebrate. Peace and joy replaced troubled hearts and anxious thoughts. A thankful heart is inspired to throw a party and celebrate!

I have a personal parable of lost and found…maybe not a parable but a really sweet story. The story of the lost camper keys. The setting is a campground in northern New Hampshire. It begins as I lock the camper and tuck my keys into my bag before going out to dinner. After dinner we made a quick stop at Walmart and then headed back to the campground. Upon arrival I went to grab my keys to open the camper – gone. I searched frantically for them; in my bag, in the truck, on the ground. I prayed and searched for about 15 minutes. I called both the restaurant and Walmart but no one had turned in my keys.

My husband was not impressed. His eye-roll tone of voice revealed his annoyance. He knew where his keys were and promptly unlocked the door. I think if it hadn’t been only three days earlier that I had left my wallet at the local seafood restaurant while picking up takeout, he may have had a wee bit more grace for me. The fact that I recovered my wallet, in tact, had no bearing on the fact that I had lost it.

Now this. I was feeling a bit like an irresponsible child. I still held out hope of finding them though I was ready to resign myself to the fact that they were forever lost. Keys are, after all, replaceable.

Out to dinner again, our last night of camping, we decided to run by Walmart just to see if maybe someone had turned in my keys. In passing I made the comment that I never remembered not finding something lost that I had prayed about. There was silence in the truck.

When we entered the store everyone scattered in different directions, each in search of something different. I headed straight for Customer Service. The very nice lady held up a set of keys…not my keys. When I described the retro key ring she held up a finger signaling hold on and promptly returned with my keys. MY KEYS! I nearly sobbed!. After a somewhat awkward exchange, (I think she was taken aback by my exuberance and joy) I hurried off to find the others!

Finding the keys was remarkable! Telling my husband was more than delightful! I found my husband and his response did not disappoint. He was stunned. He couldn’t believe it! He laughed. I cried. From down the aisle our friend rushed up to us and told me he had felt badly knowing that I had prayed for keys that he was pretty sure I wouldn’t find. He laughed! We all laughed! And all the way home I wept.

There were no tears when I lost the keys. I felt badly but I wasn’t undone. I wept when I found them out of this weird combination of humility and joy. I was delighted to find them but I was undone by the grace and mercy of the Lord. On the surface, this was about keys – just keys – but underneath this was a God-seized opportunity for His glory to shine on me in my smallness but not just me. My husband and my friend saw what I saw and knew what I knew and marveled. A kind and loving God revealed himself in an ordinary place. I saw the Lord because He saw me. He is the God who sees me. (Genesis 16:13)

One might be inclined to think that the “magic” to finding lost things is prayer but that’s just not true. Many a lost item has been covered in prayer yet never found and many things have been found without even a scant prayer. The focus of my story is not that lost keys were found but that, as the object of God’s affection, (Deut. 10:15) God bowed down to see me and pursued my heart. I was confronted and humbled by His love in a small place yet in an overwhelming way to the praise of His glory!

How astounding that a Holy and Wise God reaches down to build relationship with us though a million small things over the course of a lifetime! His love reaches to the heavens and his faithfulness to the skies! And in His light we see light. (Psalm 36:5, 9)

One For All

The call to serve, grow and mature is a corporate undertaking. Growing together as the body of Christ is an others-centered pursuit of growth for the maturity of the entire body.

One for all, all for one. While this declaration and motto of The Three Musketeers is not in the Bible, it is a principle of unity found in the New Testament. The concept of this motto is that the one supports and is dedicated to and lives for the good of everyone within the group and the group supports and is dedicated to and lives for the good of the one. The deep bond of love, trust, commonality of purpose, beliefs and goals strengthens the resolve of dedication to one another, placing the good of another above and before one’s own interests and profit/gain. It’s a living out of a surrendered life that sacrifices for others. This is the way of the body of Christ. We grow together maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. This theme is woven through the New Testament.

If you are a Christian it is likely that you would agree that spiritual disciplines are essential to spiritual growth. Our growth as believers is directly related to our personal training; study of the Bible, prayer, fasting, journaling etc. As 1 Tim. 4:7 says, we are to train ourselves for godliness. The purpose of our training is not to be trained. The Pharisees were well trained in spiritual disciplines. They were trained and displayed their piety as a performance for all to see and admire. But God calls us beyond the exercise of these disciplines to a heart and mind transformation. It is through these disciplines that we become more like Jesus in desires, affections and character. It’s the process of becoming what Christ has already made us. Though we are positionally righteous through the person and work of Jesus, we grow experientially into that position which will never be fully attained this side of heaven.

In society today, personal growth and development has become a multi-million dollar industry. People from all backgrounds, professions and vocations are pursuing personal development for career and life. This focus on self improvement can be a selfish endeavor. Generally speaking, the desire to become a better me or live my best life now is for my own personal gain. This is the way of the world.

God gives us a higher reason to pursue personal growth and development. The call to serve, grow and mature is a corporate undertaking. Growing together as the body of Christ is an others-centered pursuit of growth for the maturity of the entire body.

Ephesians 4:11-15 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking truth in love, we are to grow up in every way to him who is the head into Christ, from who the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love for us made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5). We are His body; the bride of Christ. We have an obligation, born out of that great love, to grow up and mature in Christ that goes far beyond personal development. It is our duty, our act of devotion to Christ and our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. As believers and followers of Jesus, we must set our hearts on knowing Him and growing up in every way into Him. Personal growth leads to corporate growth. When we work together for the maturity of one body we take responsibility for one another and help each other grow up into Christ who is the head. When we use our God-given gifts, talents and resources to encourage one another toward Christ-likeness, we build one another up and mature as others around us are also building one another up and maturing. We grow and mature together.

When a group of naturally imperfect, self-centered people are joined together in any group, it gets complicated by personalities, passions and deceitful desires. He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Cor. 5:15) He died that we might no longer have to live for ourselves. Only by the work of the Spirit are we able to put off the old self, be renewed in the spirit of our minds and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:22-24) It is only then that we can speak the truth with our neighbors because we are members of one anther. (Eph.4:25)

If we are to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called (Eph. 4:1), we must be prepared to walk it with our brothers and sisters in Christ. This walk is marked by direction, effort, purpose and progress. It is characterized by humility, truth in love, gentleness, patience and a bearing with one another. It is made possible only by the outpouring of God’s abundant grace. It’s not a mindless, casual stroll in the park. It’s an intentional, others-centered walk toward unity and maturity in Christ.

Believers are called to live in unity together. There is one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:4). I must be devoted to growing, maturing and living for Christ because I am constrained and compelled by His love for me and my beholden, reciprocating love for him. I can only consider and commit my self to this great call of “until we all attain…” (Ephesians 4:11) because of His great love and sufficient grace.

One for all, all for one.

Who do You Really Represent?

When I remember my role as ambassador to Christ, the good name of Jesus will be showcased in all my associations; my family, my marriage, my job and my church. Before and above all else, I represent Jesus and endeavor to live in such a way that His name be made famous.

My thinking was myopic and faulty. I had fallen short. While it was true, I represented my church and the desire to represent well was a good objective, it was secondary to my ambassadorship of Christ Jesus. As a believer and follower of Christ, I am sent out as ambassador to represent the one who sent me and to demonstrate His character in the manner by which I live and speak. As Christians we are called to represent Christ in words and actions. Acts 1:8, 2 Cor. 5:20

As I was making a reservation for a women’s retreat I determined, as a representative of my local church, to be especially kind, polite and patient. I had resolved to live out Colossians 4:5-6, Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of time. Let your speech always be seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

As it turned out, there was a bit of confusion on the part of the hotel representative as to who we were and there appeared to be no block of rooms available for our group. A short phone call became long, filled with questions and long pauses of being on hold.

When the confusion was eventually cleared up, the hotel representative thanked me for my kindness. As I hung up the phone my heart swelled with gratitude for the grace to represent my church well by exercising patience and kindness. That momentary sense of victory turned to piercing conviction and joy turned to sorrow. I had fallen short of the mark.

Though I had set my mind to represent the church well, the object of my representation was wrong. My goal is not to make my church look good. It’s to showcase my Lord to the praise of His glory. How quickly and easily I forget that while we live out our lives before human-kind, we live for the good name above all names, Jesus Christ and for His glory.

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and glorify God in heaven.

Psalm 115:1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and faithfulness!

When I remember my role as ambassador to Christ, the good name of Jesus will be showcased in all my associations; my family, my marriage, my job and my church. Before and above all else, I represent Jesus and endeavor to live in such a way that His name be made famous.

Psalm 45:17 I will cause Your name to be remembered to all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.

Above and before all else, I represent Jesus.

Should not my every encounter be an opportunity of mindful representation?

Just a Little Salt, Please

As salt influences both the food and the consumer so our words affect both the conversation and the hearer.

Words have consequences and just as too much salt can ruin a good recipe, careless words can ruin a conversation, relationship, reputation or an opportunity for the gospel. As salt cannot be extracted once it has permeated food so words cannot be taken back once heard by the hearing ear or seen on the written page.

I am a huge fan of salt. I salt everything; meat, fish, eggs, cooked vegetables, salad, green apples and raw rhubarb, pizza, ketchup etc. I salt food before I taste it. There is almost nothing on my plate that escapes the shaker. Salt enhances my eating experience.

I am particularly fond of the combination of salt and sweet. My favorite breakfast is french toast with link sausage drowning in maple syrup. There is nothing quite like salty sausage and syrup. And let us not forget salted caramel in any form or recipe. Is there anything better than a big salted caramel ice cream cone or sundae? I think not!

If you are a baker you know that most sweet/dessert recipes call for a small amount of salt; a dash, a pinch, or perhaps a teaspoon. It’s not a lot. Have you ever wondered, why salt in a sweet recipe? The amount is so small. Would it really matter if you used no salt at all?

Bakers would tell you that salt is essential to color, texture, aroma and flavor. Science tells us that salt affects the consumer by suppressing the bitterness receptors making other flavors stronger and more balanced. Salt changes our food and changes the way the body perceives our food.

A little salt goes a long ways. I have on occasion over salted my food. It turned something yummy into something…else. While I ate it I didn’t really enjoy it. Too much salt ruins the pleasureable experience. And for the record, while salt can be added to anything to enhance the flavor, it cannot be removed, extracted or eliminated once it permeates the food. While salted is good salty is not.

Colossians 4:3-6 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Seasoned with salt is good. A little salt makes it better. Too much salt is the ruin of a good recipe as well as a good conversation. Salty speech is offensive and angry leaving no one wanting a second discussion. This salt Paul speaks of is salty and sweet. Our words should be gracious, clear and well thought out, opening doors for the gospel. They should be wise and winsome, leaving people wanting to hear more, in the same way a bite of a perfectly salted meal increases our desire for another bite.

As salt influences both the food and the consumer so our words affect both the conversation and the hearer.

Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat their fruit.

Just as salt impact our food, words have consequences. Careless words can ruin a conversation, relationship, reputation or an opportunity for the gospel. Precious to the hearer are life-giving words of hope that turn our hearts toward God.

In this life I have spoken many salty, careless words; words that affected people and situations that can never be taken back and some that can never be made right. Looking back I can see that God has redeemed those situations and used them as a tool of sanctification in my life. I am forever changed, not by my regret of careless words but by the power of the Holy Spirit who used those circumstances to bring me to my knees before the throne of Grace. God, who is merciful and abounding in steadfast love, uses everything for our good and His glory.

Let your speech be seasoned with salt..


While we’ve been encouraged to use reasonable care in preventing the spread of an infectious virus that is highly contagious, it seems that the virus is not the only contagion that has spread rapidly.

Infectious and contagious are words we’ve become very familiar with in the past few months. While we’ve been encouraged to use reasonable care in preventing the spread of an infectious virus that is highly contagious, it seems that the virus is not the only contagion that has spread rapidly. Fear and anxiety have overwhelmed the world as we watch the numbers of cases rise and the elderly succumb.

The rumblings of discontentment can be heard and felt across the world but especially across America where we proudly sing, “let freedom ring.” We are a country that was founded on protecting the freedom of individuals and now we are under new constraints. Discontentment rises as the people become weary of want.

Discontentment is defined as the deep dissatisfaction and overall disappointment and restlessness of spirit. It always makes itself known in words and deeds. Discontentment expresses itself outwardly in annoyance, joylessness, worry, gloom and anger. And like a virus that is spread by human contact and interaction, dissatisfaction is contagious. It infects those around us.

What’s the cure for this disposition of the heart? And how do we stop the spread of this contagious condition? Like every virus stopping it begins with finding the antidote. What we need is a solid dose of acceptance brought about by our faith and trust in God who has written a love story for his people. As believers, we can look the to the past in the Word of God to find the answer for the present and we don’t worry about the future.

In 2 Corinthians 11 & 12 Paul writes of hardship, sacrifice, dangers and suffering endured as a man proclaiming the gospel. In the middle of that he carried the weighty pressure of the responsibility of the church which caused him great anxiety. Most of us have never know this degree of suffering, hardship and anxiety.

And in the midst of this difficulty God spoke to Paul saying, “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s response? “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness so that the power of God may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak then I am strong.”

When I am weak;” when my options and resources are limited, when I am isolated, when my freedom of choice is temporarily inhibited, I will boast all the more gladly of my situation so that the power of God may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, I am content in all theses things because when I am weak then I am strong.

Paul says in Philippians 4:11, Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content.

Paul had plenty of reasons to be discontent in his circumstances and yet he was not. He learned contentment which means he didn’t already know how to be content in every situation. He was schooled by the Lord through what he experienced. Paul learned contentment through what he suffered and endured. He learned it. He was just a man who believed in Jesus as His Lord and Savior. His hardships were a vehicle for growth not an obstacle to it. His response to his difficulties was written for our benefit that we might learn to be content in our circumstances just as he learned from his. He has passed on the secret of contentment to us.

God has proven himself faithful and trustworthy throughout the pages of history. He loves us, as adopted children, with an everlasting love. He beckons us to himself and holds us fast in his arms. In that there is comfort for the weary, discontented soul. Because of this we can accept and surrender to circumstances orchestrated by God, with the assurance that it is for our sanctification and His glory. His work in us through hard things produces Christ-like character and maturity.

We are contagious to those around us. Today we can choose which we will pass on; discontentment or contentment. Both are contagious, infecting others. One is a joy and soul-killing virus and the other peace-giving, life-breathing soul reviver. We decide whether we will fight against our circumstances or be changed into the image of Christ through our circumstances.

And by our choices others are brought low or raised up because we are contagious.

…there is Liberty.

Quarantine is not about your freedoms being taken away. It’s about liberty. Liberty says that I am free as long as my actions do not infringe upon or take away the freedom of others.

We’re doing a new thing. It’s called self-quarantine. We’ve no context for what this means for our future. We’ve never experienced anything globally such as this. We have never experienced anything in our country, our state, our community such as this. The closest my family has come to self-quarantine was the Chickenpox and those quarantined were under 4 feet tall with no drivers’ license, job or responsibility other than making their own bed and picking up their toys.

The Chickenpox was a bit of an inconvenience but nothing more. My kids were itchy and have a few faded scars but other than that our life as a family returned to normal very quickly.

Today we are self-quarantined. Many people are under a mandatory quarantine; only permitted to leave their homes for the necessities of food and medical needs. It seems our state may be heading, very quickly, in that direction. Americans have never known this type of constraint of freedom on a large scale. We, Americans, pride ourselves on our freedoms. We live in a “Free country.” We are free to make our own choices and we resist the government telling us what we can and cannot do with our money, speech, bodies, time etc. We are free to choose. Our state motto is “Live Free or Die.” The idea of quarantine stirs up the perception of loss of Constitutional freedom and produces an inclination to defy the heavy hand of government and defend freedoms.

And so we live in a growing culture of fear. Fear of contracting Covid-19. Fear of spreading the virus. Fear of losing our jobs. Fear of economic crash. Fear of losing control. Fear of losing our freedom. defines Fear as an unpleasant emotion caused by a belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or threat and defines Freedom as the power or right to act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. Liberty is not exactly the same as freedom though we use the words interchangeably. Liberty is a type or a subset of freedom that carries with it responsibility and duty. It’s the responsible use of freedom; a freedom with boundaries that are considerate of the freedom of others. It does not act selfishly but for the good of others.

Let us turn our focus to Liberty.

This is true liberty:

1 Corinthians 10:23-24

All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good but the good of his neighbor.

Quarantine is not about your freedoms being taken away. It’s about liberty. Liberty says that I am free as long as my actions do not infringe upon or take away the freedom of others. Can we look at this through the eyes of Liberty and with that freedom, love and consider others before and above ourselves?

Let us willingly, fearlessly, obey the strong suggestions, requests and orders of our leaders. Romans 13 says we all must obey those who rule over us. Those in authority serve God. It’s a conscious, humble act of submission to authority. God did not offer this up as an option. It’s a command. Honor God by honoring those in authority. Romans 13 goes on to remind us to love our neighbor as ourselves and that love does no harm to his neighbor. Can our love be identified in our obedience?

As men and women, brothers and sister in Christ, I encourage you to open the hand that clutches tightly to the fears that so easily overwhelm us and grab hold of Jesus, the anchor of our soul and our hope. Jesus said in John 16:33, “I have said these things so that you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble but take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Now the Lord is Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 2 Cor. 3:17

Where the Spirit of the Lord is…

Get Dressed

While we may be attentive to clothing the outer person, God is most concerned with the dressing of the inner person. God calls us to dress according to our identity not our activity.

Everyday it’s the same routine. We get out of bed, remove whatever we slept in, jump into the shower and then get dressed. Women probably spend more time choosing their wardrobe than men. Women not only carefully choose their wardrobe but also their accessories (i.e. earrings, necklace, scarf, shoes, etc.). If we don’t spend a lot of time pondering outer adornments, at the very least, we think about what we’ll be doing for the day and dress for that. We dress appropriately for the task at hand. Since God clothed Adam and Eve in the Garden we have been putting on something to cover the body.

One can easily recognize a person’s vocation or who that person represents by the way he or she is dressed. Police officers are identified by their uniforms. Healthcare professionals are known by their scrubs. A firefighter is recognized by his/her PPE. I know the difference between the FedEx driver and the UPS man not by his face but by his uniform.

They are dressed to be known and recognized before they ever utter a word.

While we may be attentive to clothing the outer person, God is most concerned with the dressing of the inner person.

Colossians 3:12-13 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

The Word of God uses the same language for physical dressing as for spiritual dressing. Everyday we cover the body with outer garments that are determined by the activities of the day. Not so for spiritual dressing. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing for the day. The spiritual dressing is for every day, every activity, every moment. God calls us to dress according to our identity not our activity.

He reminds us the we are:

  • Salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16)
  • Image Bearers (Genesis 1:27; Colossians 3:9)
  • Individual members of the body of Christ (1 Cor .12:27)
  • Chosen (1 Peter 2:9)
  • Adopted as Sons, Children of God (Ephesians 1:6; 1 John 3:1-2)
  • New Creations (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • Debtors (Romans 8:12-13)
  • Ambassadors-One who represents the sender in character and authority. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

And in Christ we: Ephesians 1

  • Are blessed with every spiritual blessing
  • Have redemption through the Blood
  • Have forgiveness of trespasses according to the riches of His grace
  • Have wisdom and insight
  • Have obtained an inheritance
  • Have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit

Who we are in Christ determines what we put on! That identity establishes our wardrobe. It looks nothing like the self-centered garments of the old man (Ephesians 4:22). We, who are in Christ, must chose to live and dress like the One we represent. We must, with great thought and intention, put on our new garments. We are not the same. We were bought with a price and covered by the blood of Jesus. We are a new creation. Our behaviors, responses and pursuits should match our identity.

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with the beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Everyday you choose what spiritual garments you will wear. Remind yourself who you are in Christ. The new man, holy and beloved, puts on garments of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Wear them with joy, as they are a gift from the one who covered you with the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness.

Get dressed!


My personal preferences are a good servant but a lousy master.  They can serve me well but when I become a slave to my preferences I serve no one else.

While sitting in a class (which I wasn’t super excited about in the first place) I found my critical heart becoming increasingly nit-picky.  It began with the subject matter.  Before the speaker even opened his mouth, I had attitude.  As he began to teach I found him as well as his presentation to be distasteful.  Soon I found myself getting up to leave the room.  I needed a break to regroup and regain some perspective before I could head back in.  What I began to realize was, that while critical thinking is vital to true discernment, a critical heart suppresses the Holy Spirit.

My personal preferences are a good servant but a lousy master.  They can serve me well but when I become a slave to my preferences, I serve no one else.

  • My way is right
  • My point of view is right
  • My perceptions are right
  • My thoughts are right
  • My counsel is right

If I believe my methods/preferences are right then, by default, the methods/preferences of others are wrong.  I am setting myself up as the standard by which all other things should follow.  It’s a throne position.  I am exalted in the process of expressing my preferences as truth at the expense of others.

When I am controlled by the narrow view of my personal preferences, there is no room for the way of others or their viewpoints, perceptions, thoughts or counsel.  They cannot be heard in my presence.  I become the authority.  My way becomes the standard by which all things should be perceived, thought of, stated, done and counseled.  I am teaching others my way while I myself remain unteachable.  I do not hear others because I do not listen to others, therefore I cannot learn from others.

It’s a “my way” approach to even the most menial of tasks which are meaningless to the big picture.  Process, not people, is first.

Have you ever found yourself grumbly in everyday circumstances such as:

  • Folding laundry – Do you refold or instruct others how to fold laundry.  Even worse, when you are helping someone else fold their laundry, do you fold their way or your way?
  • Loading the dishwasher – Ever reorganized the dishwasher?
  • Making the Bed – Which side of the top sheet faces the bottom sheet?
  • Toilet Paper – Under or over?- Have you ever changed the roll position…at someone else’s house?
  • Bible Study – Morning, noon, night? And with what method? Inductive, Deductive, SOAP?

The answer is probably “yes” for most of us.  Are any of these things a big deal in light of eternity?  I think most of us would say an emphatic “no.”  And yet, when someone disrespects/disorders our preferences, how do we respond?  Does emotion well up inside of us?  When we believe that our ways should be everyone’s ways we have lost site and control of our preferences.  They rule us, we do not rule them.  There is  no freedom to waiver from them.  We must now adhere to them and enforce them upon others.  In a sense, we are saying, “This is the way, follow me.  If you do not adhere to my way, I will correct you.”  There is a rightness/wrongness but not a righteousness to this way of thinking.  We are in bondage and we put others in bondage to our way of thinking and doing.

So often we measure the good, sufficiency, adequacy or maybe a better word is value of something based on our own preferences.  We evaluate situations and circumstances as if everything about it revolves around us.  Food, temperature, hotels, restaurants, smells, neighborhoods, communities, schools, classes, people, teachers, conferences etc., are assessed by our own personal palate.  It seems our ability to enjoy and appreciate something is based on what we like or dislike.  How many times have you gone to a restaurant with rave reviews only to be disappointed?  Your personal preferences were not met there.  We cannot fathom how people considered it a good place to have dinner!

So, what’s the difference between a fair assessment and a biased one; an assessment that is just or one that is critical because of personal preference?  What is real and what is preferred?  How do we determine if something is good?

We must sort through our own personal preferences, as one sorts through puzzle pieces; by color or flat-edged pieces.  A good puzzle worker sorts first.  How often do our personal preferences get confused with the really important facts?  Before we assess a speaker, program or a class, we must ask ourselves, “What is my measuring stick of value?  Do I have a gospel view?”

The gospel is the picture of self-sacrificing love in action.  For God so loved the world… it was good for the world that Jesus should suffer for it’s sin but not so comfortable for Jesus.  It was greater love.

To assess fairly we must think beyond what we like to what is real, whole-group and gospel centered.  We must have a wide lens view that takes in the whole horizon.  We must see the big picture and give grace to minor details that are not important in fundamental ways.  How would it change the way we evaluate situations, tasks, people, speakers etc. if we saw them in light of the gospel rather than ourselves?  What if, instead of being critical, we look for the good?

I’m not saying we should turn a blind eye to sin.  Matthew 18:15 is very clear about what to do if we see a brother in sin, as is 2 Corinthians 10:5 as it addresses arguments and lofty opinions or anything that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.

When we align our personal preferences with the Word of God and measure them by the call to love one another, we are not only God honoring vertically but we are God honoring horizontally.

Philippians 2:3-8   Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Do nothing from selfish ambition but in humility, look around you.  People are wounded and struggling to survive one day at a time.  Can we find enjoyment in what others enjoy?  Can we give an honest evaluation of a situation based on the needs of others being met?  Can we remember to measure goodness based on what God says is good and not on our own comfort, preference or level of needs being met?

Jesus is the Son and all things revolve around Him.  It is through Him that all things are held together.  His ways are higher.  His thoughts are for all as well as the individual.  He humbled himself by taking on the form of a servant for a lost and dying world of which we are just one of many in that category.

I can have preferences, but my personal preferences are not a measuring stick I can use to determine right or good.  My unit of measure must be higher than myself.  When I measure myself against a Holy God, I am humbled and brought low.  His glory is all I see.  This is true and right perspective.

Isaiah 55:8-9   For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher that your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God’s thoughts and words for us are found between the front and back covers of the Bible.  He has established a true and better way, as His ways are perfect.  Let us choose to be wise thinkers in our assessments and use the Word of God as our system of measure.

Freedom from the bonds of our personal preferences is a gift to those around us!





The Cost of Sacrifice

You and I are going to pay for it. Somehow, in some way sacrifice, by definition, is going to cost us something.

Have you ever offered to help someone, given someone something, used your gifts and talents to bless someone, volunteered in places that you don’t love or gone completely out of your comfort zone for the sake of another?  There might be a need you’re willing to fill.   You choose it.  You have an idea of what that will look like and how much you are willing to give.  Your heart desires to be generous with whatever you give.  And then…something happens.  The need is greater than first presented which transitions into the sacrifice being greater.

Let’s say you volunteered to spend the day helping a neighbor do yard work.  You know you have a free day and while you’d rather spend it doing anything else, you offer up that day to help them.  That’s definitely a worthy sacrifice.  But what if, while they appreciate your weekend offer, they really need you in the middle of the week.  You have a job.  You CAN take a day off but do you really want to waste a vacation day on something that doesn’t even benefit you?  Of even great consequence, what if you have used all your vacation time and you would have to take the day unpaid?  Now we’re talking sacrifice!

The disciples left everything to follow Jesus.  (Mark 10:28)  They were sold out for Jesus and yet, they didn’t really understand what “everything” meant.  They knew it cost them their jobs, possibly their friends and family and even their reputations but it wasn’t until Jesus was arrested did they realize it could cost them their lives.  It was at the restoration of Peter (John 21:18) that Jesus assured him that it would cost him his life.  The price of following Jesus was ultimate.

That wasn’t what they thought they signed up for in the beginning.  They followed a man who they came to understand and believe was the Son of God who preached a gospel of Grace, who loved and cared for people, who performed miracle upon miracle for the good of the people and glory of the Father.  This was more costly than they had anticipated.

Merriam Webster defines sacrifice as the surrender of something for the sake of something else.  Sacrifice does not have a payback or reward.  When we truly sacrifice, we have no expectation of personal gain.  It’s not a barter system.  It’s a selfless act for the sake of another.

When the need is great the sacrifice is great.

2 Samuel 24:24  I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.

As the story unfolds, David commands that the people be numbered.   In that, there was sin.  He had chosen a consequence that, up to that point, cost him nothing.  Neither he nor his family paid the price for his sin.  The plague and the pestilence had been visited upon the Israelites and 70,000 were dead.  When David beheld the image of the Angel of the Lord, battle ready with sword in hand, he dropped to his face before the Lord.  The reality of his sin had penetrated his heart.  He pleaded to God to spare the Israelites and to let him and his family bear the burden of punishment.  Again, up until this point he had chosen a consequence that cost him nothing.

David did as the Lord instructed and went to the threshing floor of Araunah to build an altar to the Lord to avert the plague from his people.  When he offered to buy it, Araunah told him to take it and the oxen and wood for the fire.  That’s when David told him he needed to pay for it.  David’s statement in 2 Samuel 24:24 was clarifying.

What a powerful visual!  Do you see it?  The picture of laying it down for the good of others and the glory of God is displayed on the canvas of 2 Samuel 24.  David had to pay for it.  You and I are going to pay for it.  Somehow, in some way sacrifice, by definition, is going to cost us something.  We have example upon example of people in the Bible who  sacrificed everything for the good of others and the glory of God.  Jesus is our greatest example.

Ephesians 5:2  And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 

When we offer our time, talents and resources to aid another, we are ultimately offering it up to God as a service and sacrifice to Him.  We serve God by serving others.  When He is our audience it becomes our delight to serve.   In this there is eternal value; for the good of others and the glory of God.

Greater love demands greater sacrifice.  How great is your love?  How great are your sacrifices?

Greater love has no man…


Guilt and Shame

God uses guilt and shame as a tool to draw us back into right relationship with Him and others and delivers us from its power over us as we could not rescue ourselves.  

Guilt and shame.  Two words that go together like peanut butter and jelly or bacon and eggs.  We run…flee the weight of guilt and shame.  We try to rid ourselves of the cloak. We try to take it off, put it off, shake it off, positive self-talk it off, deny it off and yet its sticks to us like a fly sticks to fly ribbon.

Book are written to help us shed the weight of this burden; to escape the black cloud that covers our conscience.  We seek out counselors, therapists, and pastoral advice to help us feel better about ourselves.  We read books, take the guilt and shame magazine tests, fill out the “breathing worksheets” and practice physical ways (running, yoga, low carb diets) to help ease our inner conscience.  We look for any way to boost our self-esteem, forgive ourselves and just feel better and yet our efforts are temporary at best.

What if we stopped running from guilt and shame; stopped and turned to face it head on?  What if we recognized that guilt and shame were not something to avoid and remedy but something to embrace?  Maybe we’re asking the wrong question and looking for the wrong solution?   Instead of asking why we can’t shake this black cloud of guilt  and feel good about ourselves maybe we should be asking ourselves better questions.  What if the question is not, how do I escape guilt and shame but how do I identify the root cause of it?  What if guilt and shame are legitimate feelings that God uses to restore right relationship with Him?  Is it not the work of the Holy Spirit to convict?  John 16:8

We see Adam and Eve go from being naked and not ashamed in Genesis 2:25 to cover themselves with fig leaves and hiding from God because of their nakedness in Genesis 3:7-10.  Sin had brought them guilt and shame.

David’s sin with Bathsheba multiplied his sin, and guilt and shame weighed heavily upon him.    With the help of Nathan he was able to turn and confront his sin.   He states in 2 Samuel 12:13  “I have sinned against the Lord.”  He writes in Psalm 51:3-4  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;  so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. And in Psalm 32:3-4  When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.     David was suffering under the heavy weight of guilt and shame.

What was it that David needed to be free from this burden?  Did he need someone to tell him how great he was and remind him of all of his accomplishments?  Did he need to read a good book on boosting self esteem and overcoming self depreciation?  Or did he need to listen, with the help of another, to the voice of the Holy Spirit through the heavy weight of conviction that was working with his conscience?

David was guilty.  His guilt and shame were legitimate and an appropriate response to his sin.  God’s love for David would not allow him to escape.  He couldn’t move on in peace without confronting his sin and humbly confessing and repenting.  His relationship with God had been interrupted by sin upon sin.  He had sinned against Bathsheba, Uriah, Joab, the people of Israel and his own family.  He needed to face it in order to restore right relationship with God in heaven and with people on earth.  Then and only then was his heart set free.

Psalm 51 is David’s heartfelt confession and repentance.  Psalm 32 is his song of restoration and freedom.  He continues in Psalm 32:5-7  Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”  And you forgave the guilt of my sin.  Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.  You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

When God forgave David he knew he was forgiven and he no longer wore the garments of guilt and shame.  It’s the same for us.  When we stop running and making excuses and turn to face our God and confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9.  This is where real freedom from guilt and shame is found.

It is finished.  We are free.  God uses guilt and shame as a tool to draw us back into right relationship with Him and others and delivers us from its power over us as we could not rescue ourselves.

Though conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit working with our conscience, condemnation and accusations are the work of Satan.  He is called the accuser of the brother (Rev. 12:20) and comes as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).  In other words, he tells us how deeply bad we are and condemns us even after we have confessed and repented of our sin.  We come to believe these accusations because they sounds as though they come from a place of righteousness.  We find truth in these recriminations  but the real truth is that they are lies of Satan who wants to separate us from the love of God.

But God is greater than the accuser!   Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Romans 8:33.   There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death, Romans 8:1-2.  For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything, 1 John 3:20.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39.  We have been freed from condemnation by the love of Almighty God in Christ Jesus and He knows everything.

We are free.