Category: Thought of the Week

Self-Awareness & the Story of David and Goliath

The story of David and Goliath has been on my mind lately. Malcolm Gladwell has published a book about the story. And he has completely changed the way I understand the story. At the same time, 2018 and goals have been on my mind as well. How do these two come together? In my view, awareness. How might you ask? Well, we’ll get to that in a minute. First, I want to highlight a part of Malcolm Gladwell’s new understanding of the David and Goliath story.

Goliath was over nine feet tall. Medical researchers have studied this. They have tried to figure out how this was possible. They’ve concluded that it is most likely a condition called agromeglia. The same condition that Abraham Lincoln most likely had. Agromeglia can cause vision problems. When we look closer at the David and Goliath battle, it becomes evident that Goliath most likely had vision problems. For example, when David approaches. Goliath responds in verse 43, “Am I a dog? That you come to me with sticks?” But David didn’t have sticks. He had one sling in his hand. Goliath most likely was either near sighted or double visioned due to agromeglia. Also, his armor bearer, had to guide him on the battlefield. This is mentioned in verse Why is this? Why is this fearsome soldier, this giant of a man, being brought by the hand toward David and the Israelite army? Again, it’s most likely because he couldn’t see well. We can picture how this affected the fight. Did Goliath see David’s stone fly at him? The point is, the battle was not going to end well because of Goliath’s agromeglia.

Awareness. Goliath lacked awareness of the situation. He lacked awareness that David could easily kill him. Around New Years, we look back at the previous year. We look forward to this year. This makes me wonder, what are places in my life where I lack awareness? Granted, I’m not on a battlefield like Goliath was. I don’t have an Israelite slinger, David, in front of me. But each of us need awareness in life. Awareness of our strengths and weaknesses. Awareness of the people around us. Awareness of how God is at work. So as you look to 2018, take a moment to pray. Ask God how you are doing with awareness. Are you blind like Goliath? Or, do you have situational blindness where you can see most things but lack awareness of details or specific people? If you are brave, you can even ask friends, family, even your spouse, how are you doing when it comes to awareness?

One Day There, the Next Day Gone

This past week I lost someone who I highly respected. His name is Paul Heidebrecht. He is what Presbyterians called a Stated Clerk. Since most reading this won’t know what that means, think of him as the our district administrator. But he took it further. He had a love for the Lord and his people that I respected. He had a desire to see new, young leaders lifted up and involved. As I sat down to think of a few weekly words for those who read here, I thought a simple, short encouragement would be best. Love those in your life well because you never know when they might not be there longer. And for those who have lost someone dear, we shall see them again when we all are in glory. Check back next week for more!

What Will be New for You in 2018?

How many New Year’s resolutions have you made? How many have you kept? Each year, many people try to set aside bad habits when they start the New Year and turn a new leaf. Generally, these last about a week, maybe two. Did you know that the first quarter of the year is the busiest time for gym memberships. We resolve to get ready for summer, to lose a few extra pounds, or to simply get in better shape…until we don’t. In a recent Washington Post article entitled, What Your Gym Doesn’t Want You to Know, one gym reported a 40% increase in attendance (people using their memberships) in December and January. One report, from Planet Money, says that half of the members at one gym never use their membership. So where is the disconnect? Why do people pay for memberships they don’t use? Why do we start out the year with good intentions, then fall back into our old routine? More importantly, how do these good intentions affect our spiritual life?

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, we do more paving than ever this time of year. The above example is about being physically fit, but our New Year resolutions cover the gambit of life. We want to grow closer with those who are important to us, grow deeply spiritually, read the Bible more, get out of debt, move forward in our business, or strengthen our marriage. I believe that the reason we do not follow through is found in Proverbs 29:18. “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” (ESV) This may sound a little different from what your used to. If we simply talk about the vision and perishing, we may forget about the God part.

So, as you look toward 2018, here are a few ways that your dreams can become goals, then your goals can become your new reality. First, ask God. Pray and ask the goals that he desires for you. As you sense his leading, ask your tangible next steps. Did you know that you are 42% more likely to accomplish your 2018 if you simply write them down and review them regularly? As you pray for goals, use a journal to write down what God brings to mind. Next, intentionally ask people to support you and hold you accountable for your goals. If one of your goals is bible reading, the YouVersion app has a feature that allows you to read the Bible in community and to be held accountable. Check it out in your Apple or Google AppStore.”Blessed is he who who keeps to the law.” God desires for us to look to him and his Word as we follow his vision for our life. So after you pray about and write down what God is telling you, look to his Word and see if your goals line up with God’s teachings. Finally, celebrate what God has done as you achieve in your year ahead.

What Day is It? A Joyous Christmas Memory

What do you look forward to the most about Christmas? Gifts? Seeing your family on Christmas day? Is it seeing your friends and community members at parties and concerts that continue all through December? Christmas brings a feeling of joy, community, and hope. During college I worked at a restaurant called Bob Evans. One night, I was washing dishes until late at night. We had been very busy that day and had to work extra late to clean up. Most of the staff were tired and ready to go home. As I was nearly done washing dishes, I heard the voice of our manager, Cliff. His tone sounded different from the rest of us. The rest of us were exhausted. We just wanted to go home and go to bed. But not Cliff. Cliff was exuded joy as he went about his work. As he approached me, I turned around and inquired, “Why are you so happy?” He replied, “It’s Christmas.” In the busyness of the night, in the lateness of the hour, I had completely forgotten that it was the night before Christmas Eve. The next day, we would close early to enjoy a Christmas Eve service with our families. And then, Christmas Day would come. Our families would gather. We would celebrate the coming of Christ.

Does that ever happen to you? Think of everything you must get done this holiday season. The Christmas tree and decorations need to go up. The gifts need bought and wrapped. Christmas cookies need to be baked, decorated, and delivered. The meal needs to be planned, purchased, preserved, and prepared. The kids need to be taken to their school concerts and Christmas parties. The list gets longer and longer. The stress builds. I am reminded of the story of Mary and Martha. In Luke 10, Jesus is visiting their house. Martha is rushing around the house preparing the meal for Jesus and the other guests. Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to him. Imagine the frustration and stress that must have been building up in Martha. There was so much to do. Food needed cooked. The table needs set. Meanwhile, Mary is simply listening to Jesus. I feel like our culture pulls us toward the Martha side of the equation. Get the to do list done, then use the dregs of our cup to hear from Jesus. The realization hit me when my manager walked up that in my stress and busyness, I had completely forgotten the reason that we had been so busy. People were doing their last minute shopping. They were enjoying time with family and friends from out of town. We had served people who were enjoying their Christmas holiday, just as we would be doing the next two days. When Cliff reminded me of this, it lifted me up and helped me to refocus on the reason for what was going on all around me. I pray that for you as well. In the midst of the busyness, remember the Christ of Christmas.

The Wonder of Christmas from the Eyes of a Child

Do you remember the wonder of the world when you were a child? I remember learning from my parents about thing that would today be very mundane. But back then, they were fascinating! How does a phone let you talk to someone on the other side of the world? Why do I go to school five days a week, Sunday one day, and my parents try to sleep in the other day? How does food go from the cow to my plate?

Harvey Mackay writes, “Throughout the holidays, a lot of emphasis falls on children. Why? Because children bring such a marvelous perspective to events that many of us take for granted. Kids get excited about life in general. They see everything with fresh eyes, knowing they will find something new and different every time they look. Adults, on the other hand, look for things they know and expect. Imagine what we grown-ups are missing.”

I often wish I could go back and read the Bible for the first time, all over again. Think about all the wonders of Christmas that we have grown far too used to. Angels surprising Mary and shepherds. How would you react if you were surprised like this? Or, a star that suddenly appears to show the Magi the way to Jesus. Or God becoming man in the form of a baby to seek and to save the lost. Wow. Do you remember the feeling that you used to have on Christmas Day as a child? It felt like a day that was different from all other days. A day of wonder. A day of family. A day of faith. And yes, a day of gifts. And yet, these gifts remember the greatest gift humanity has ever received. This Christmas, set aside all of the times you’ve heard this story before. Set aside your preconceived notions of what is happening. Simply experience Christ with the child-like wonder that we had lost. And experience the promise of Christ at Christmas all over again.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions, please comment below!

Church Shooting Reality Check

Sunday morning. Sutherland Springs, Texas. 26 people dead. Aged 5-72. One man with mental problems dead in a crashed SUV. Three days later, questions are answered. Other questions continue to linger. Why did he do this? Why at the church? How does his troubled military career play into all of this? Ironically, or perhaps, providentially, Sunday was a special day in the life of the church. Churches across the nation and around the celebrated the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. This was a day where we learned about Christians in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa who face persecution for their faith daily. Many believers listen to the stories and appreciate the prayer time. And they feel thankful that it would never happen here.

Then it did. 1 Peter 4:14 says, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” Now, these 26 never thought of themselves that way. They were simply attending church. The same thing they may have done for decades. They didn’t fit the mold that we think of a persecuted believer or martyr. They weren’t put on trial. They didn’t make a famous, “Here I stand” statement. They simply showed up for church. Yes, it happened because of a troubled man who never should have had firearms in the first place. But what small action did the 26 take? They showed for church. And Peter says that they are blessed for their small act of obedience. Peter says that the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon them for their small act of obedience.

Coming out of this incident for believers, I believe have a few takeaways. First, be thankful for the safety and security we enjoy that those in persecuted areas of the world don’t. Second, remember that those who died for showing up for church died with the blessing of God upon them. Lastly, let us follow their example and their lead in obedience. The small act of obedience of encountering Christ and worshiping him this Sunday morning.

Ready?

Pastor Li Dexian was just starting his sermon as the doors opened. The Chinese Public Security Bureau had found them. Everyone was threatened, and everyone was arrested. When Li was grabbed, he made a polite, yet firm request. “Wait, please allow me to grab my bag.” he asked the officer.

“What’s in there?” came the reply. Grabbing the bag before Li had a chance to respond, they found a blanket and a change of clothes.

Li was expecting to be arrested. In China, it is legal to be a believer. However, churches must register with the state. This leads to regulation and problems. Thus, many believers attend underground churches in order to truly live out their faith. This is the kind of church Pastor Li led. He was ready when the day came for his arrest. He was expecting it to happen. Yet he faithfully ministered.

1 Peter 4:12 tells us, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” Our trials can seem far different than what Pastor Li went through. Yet, they should not surprise us when they occur. Nor should we be caught unprepared for trials. Rather, we should be grounded in reliance upon God in all things. Looking to him in prayer as our protector. Readiness is a sign that there is deep commitment. Li has deeply committed to his faith. Because of this, he was ready when the test came his way. Are you prepared for your next test?

All Worked Up

Have you ever had that day where your to-do list was completed by noon, so you spent the rest of the day getting ahead on tomorrow’s? Me neither. Work is never in short supply. There is always one more thing to get done. One more thing to plan, one more household project, one more bill to get paid, one more toy to buy. We say we don’t have time to attend an event. We say that we don’t have time to get something done. Let me ask you this. Would you have time for a heart procedure? Have you ever told your boss that you don’t have time for him? Have you ever told someone that you couldn’t get to harvesting until after the snow fell? Life is always about priorities.

In Luke 10, Jesus visits the house of Mary and Martha. Martha is busy with serving. Today, she would be checking the oven temperature and timer, getting the plates and silverware ready to go, and carefully measuring out the coffee and ice tea. She has million things to get done. People are waiting on here. Internally, she’s frustrated that for all of her busyness, she is getting no help. Meanwhile, her sister, Mary, is sitting at the feet of Jesus. In these days, many teachers (called rabbis back then) would have objected to her sitting with the disciples. Yet Jesus continues teaching, women and all. Mary is listening to words of life while Martha is running around the kitchen getting everything ready.

In this picture, who are you? Are the hospitality guru with a million things to get done? Or, are you Mary, the one simply sitting at Jesus’ feet? Martha finally expresses her frustration to Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” Jesus replies, “Martha, Martha, you concern yourself with many things.” In the busyness of life, many of us can relegate Jesus to the backseat. We get a jump on the day by forgetting to pray or spend time in His Word. We get a jump on our week by skipping out on church, or by substituting church for a screen with a preacher on it. When Jesus is left in the back seat, when we concern ourselves with many things, we ignore the one that can bring clarity, peace, and order to our life in the first place. Bill Senyard likes to say that we are “overwhelmed, over-connected, and over-committed.” Do you ever feel that way? Try this. Sit down alone for a few minutes. Write down your priorities. If God isn’t your top priority, why isn’t he? Next question, does your life match up to the priorities you’ve listed?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below!

Support in a Time of Loss, When Does it End?

“She’s gone” my cousin, Rebecca, said. I had called her when I had missed two calls. My grandmother had been battling cancer for months. We understood the last few months that she wasn’t winning this battle. The death of a family member is unique. The whole family gets together. We share memories and tears. We catch up on where life has taken us. Then, as quick as we come together, we depart. We go back to our lives, to our families, to our places of work and worship. This is the roughest time for the spouse or those closest to the deceased. During the arrangements, there is so much to do. Decisions to make, people to pick up at the airport, phone calls, etc. Then everyone goes back home. And they are left in an empty house. They habitually think that their spouse is getting back from the store or walking down the hall. They think of something they need to tell the person or something that needs added to the grocery list. Then they realize, it’s only them now. After years, even decades, of marriage, of shared life together, they must adjust all over again. This blog post is a little different from others. It leaves you with a simple encouragement. We’re great at supporting people through the funeral and calling hours. But what about that man or woman down the road who lost their spouse six months ago? Now is the time that it is hardest. When do your letters and phone calls generally end? That is probably when they need support the most.

A Dog’s Passing & Loss

Susie was 14 years old, and a beloved member of the family. She lit up the room, especially my father, when she walked in. Susie was my father’s faithful dog, her princess, for over a decade. He loved to spoil her, take her with him on work trips, and snuggle with her during Sunday afternoon naps. A few weeks ago, my parents made the hard choice to put her down after a short illness. Their house won’t be the same. They provide us with unwavering love, faithfulness, a house covered in dog hair, and, sometimes, a few too many kisses. Losing a pet might not come across as a big deal to some. We’re not talking about a friend or relative. But any pet owner will tell you. Dogs are a part of the family.  Their personalities influence the atmosphere in our home. Their loss is painful to the kids and adults alike.

Throughout our lives, we face many losses. We may get laid off or let go from our work. We may have to say goodbye to a home or a business. We may move far away and say goodbye to friends and neighbors. We have to say goodbye to beloved friends or family who pass away or move away. Someone once said that the only constant in life is change. With changes comes loss. Have you ever felt that the harder you try to hold onto to the old way of doing things, the more God seems to be carrying you into something new? Regardless of the losses that we face, one thing remains the same. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT) says, “Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.” God loves you more than you can fathom. His love for his sheep will never run out or be cut off. His love for you lives on throughout the losses and changes that we face in life. His face shines upon you as his beloved child. Whatever you may be facing today, ask the Lord to remind you of his love throughout today.