Suffer the Little Children

A young mother was rushing around trying to herd her children in the general direction of the door so that she could try to get to church on time. So many “last-minute” adjustments to make and the clothing options kept coming “undone” as her young girls were making last-minute wardrobe changes after playing around for so long.

The telephone rang and in her rush the young mother answered wondering, “Who could be calling?” It was the children down the street, wondering if she could give them a ride to church. These children played with hers all of the time, but there was always bickering, tugging and pulling. With a sigh the young mother agreed and told them she would be by in five minutes.

They eventually came boiling into the building, a few minutes after the devotional had begun. Passing into classes, the young mother finally began to regain her composure, at least until the baby she had brought to class with her needed some special attention. She was once again swept away by the ongoing whirlwind of childcare.

Later, after worship, when everyone was preparing to return home, we found them. There were two “notes” written in third grade scribble that had been prepared for the collection trays passed around every Sunday. When read, they placed on open display the hearts of the little children who had called for a ride. The notes said, “I’m sorry that I didn’t have any money to put in the bucket.”

All of the trouble and inconvenience involved in moving the flock of children to worship, without the assistance of a border collie, was clearly part of God’s plan. This young mother likely felt that she would have been just as well off to stay home, since she couldn’t relax and “worship” in the midst of her circle of turmoil. “Worship,” however, was exactly what she was doing. She was elevating God above herself in spite of the turmoil that accompanied her.

This “All In” mother likely felt as if nothing was being accomplished, but God has clearly been doing a great work in the lives of the children all the while. We have not been charged with delivering measurable results, merely faithful response to the opportunities He places on our path.

Be “All In” and let God do the heavy lifting.

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The Impact of a Life Well Lived

We can not measure the impact we have upon others. Parents teach their children to care for others above themselves by modeling that very attitude in the everyday mundane-ness of life. Teachers impact their students far beyond the curriculum by their personal carriage and deportment. So it is in the really important matters of life as well.

There have been many whose impact on my life can be measured by my own reckoning. Others have made their mark in ways I can not distinguish or remember. Some have come into my life and passed through in what seemed to be a few insignificant encounters. Others have been a presence for a much longer period.We can never know the long-term impact. So it is with my impact upon others.

The death graduation of one man has prompted this reflection. I heard of him from others and did not quite know what to do with their accounts of his faith, especially given his past. Then I met him. I still did not know what to do with him, but I could no longer discount him.

His faith was simple yet overwhelming in its simplicity. Even in his parting word to his son as he slipped out of his physical body and into eternity, I am bewildered and led. “Its been a blast!” were the whispered words of another Stephen, willing to go wherever and do whatever God’s Spirit directed, always displaying the excitement of the adventure and the trust in his Parent like a child going through Disneyland.

God knows how many were led, not just pointed toward, but led to Jesus by Bob. I have been forever changed, and he probably had no idea the impact God had on me through him. May I be the “All In” servant used by God to impact others so profoundly. May you be as well.

Photo: Bob Hughey

The Garbage Does Not Take Itself Out

A friend reported that her little girls had learned to say “b*#ch” in a foreign language. While that seems to be a rite of passage for children, it clearly demonstrates the aggressive proactive posture parents need to take in their children’s lives. Whether it is with their electronic devices, television shows, music preferences or “new words” they pick up, the garbage doesn’t take itself out now does it?

Adults must stay on the offensive to keep themselves pure as well. The great deceiver, Satan, takes every opportunity to chip away at our holiness and make us comfortable with that which we would not have tolerated in our own lives in the past. It happens so slowly that we find ourselves making justifying arguments based upon technicalities instead of godly principles.

Being God’s “All In” disciple has its foundations well before associated behaviors become apparent. We respond to life and situations from the depths of who we are.

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV).

Being “All In” is not a religious hobby, it is a godly obsession.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:3-11 ESV).

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By The Way, You Have Cancer

I talk to people who describe themselves as cancer survivors. Like many others I am in a category that is a little different: Still surviving with cancer. When told I had cancer in 2004, there were many thoughts and emotions to be processed… some over and over. It is interesting how a “sniff” of your own mortality gets one’s attention.

I recently visited with a man who had that day learned that he, like me has a cancer that, barring God’s intervention, he will have until he graduates into eternity. I recognized the ongoing turmoil as we spoke of many things.

The main thought I wanted to share, one that has been central in my walk, is that we are God’s servant in all circumstances. That includes health challenges. He and I, as well as many others, are walking a health challenged path God has placed us on to accomplish His will. That will may be to change us, or to impact others. It is likely a blend of both.

I told the gentleman that I do not know everything that God has as a goal in my circumstances, but that it has granted me the honor of showing my family how a man desperately trying to be “All In” faces death. What an honor! Who else would I rather teach my sons and grandchildren this walk?

Being an “All In” disciple even permeates the shadows of life. After all, it only makes sense that my trusting God with the big picture of eternity will make trusting God with something as temporary as my health, a no-brainer.

Looking In from the outside, being “All In” seems like it would be very stressful. The exact opposite is true however. As promised, it ushers in the peace that just can’t be explained.

Take the plunge. Be “All In.”

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Training Day In & Day Out

“People aren’t born with the innate ability to do what they need to do. Everyone needs training. Training is not a once and done kind of thing. Training takes place day in and day out.”  – a quote from Charlene Notgrass and her blog (It is worth your time to subscribe – http://notgrass.com/dailyencouragement/your-childs-personal-trainer).

Many people these days seem to think that they are designed to “get along” on their own intuitions, premonitions, or some other kind of self-contained “-tion” without relying on others input, instructions, or wisdom. NOT TRUE.

One of the more difficult challenges for me, personally, is that as an “All In” disciple of Jesus, I am to be open to healthy influences from others. “Open” does not, of course mean that whatever is suggested I assume God sent me. I must “try the spirits” (so to speak), but I am to be open AND discerning. One of the more deceptive “voices” I hear with regularity is my own!

It is sooo “not in man …to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23) that the Spirit directed the Apostle Paul to tell Titus to have those folks in Crete look for the right kind of people to be their spiritual mentors. And by the way, in case you missed it, Titus had the right kind of spiritual mentor himself: the Apostle Paul.

Arrogance is a powerful tool Satan uses against people everywhere. It comes with a huge price tag, the wrath of God (Romans 1:18). Arrogance is especially deceitful when used against “All In” disciples. Becoming prideful moves us right out of the category of disciples of Jesus and plants us firmly in the category of self-centered, without our even noticing the shift.

Humility is the key to our “All In-ness.” Just don’t become proud of it.

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I’ve Just About Had Enough

I have a few people in my life who seem to operate from anger. Most conversations are complaining, accusatory, assaultive, argumentative, or leave the impression that they are on the edge of one of those. Being around these people is like being around a dog that is snippy, you just can not relax and let your guard down. I nearly always come away exhausted.

About the time I’ve had enough and… did you notice that? “I’ve had enough…” shifted the focus. I mean, I was not really focusing on God’s purposes or their best interests, but on my own discomfort and frustration. That is so easy to do.

I may need to distance myself until they settle down (Warn a quarrelsome person once or twice, but then be done with him. It’s obvious that such a person is out of line, rebellious against God.” Titus 3: 10 MSG), but my focus is not to shift away from the other person’s best interest to myself. I struggle with that, do you?

Being “All In” as a disciple of Jesus includes stuff like this. Are you up for that? Jesus was. Let’s you and I be up for it as well.

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Spoiled Milk Is Still White

There are few things that elicit as rapid a response as chugging a mouth full of spoiled milk. Some people can smell the putrification without opening the container. Some do not have the ability to detect the condition by smell. One thing is for certain, spoiled milk usually still looks like unspoiled milk.

The long term impact of misjudging milk, while unpleasant, isn’t serious for most. The long term impact of other misjudgments are often more dire. Are the car tires safe? Are the propane tank fittings properly secured? Is my mentor really looking out for my best interests?

While the questions above are centered on other things and other people, the same questions really should be directed inwardly. Am I really God’s person? Am I God’s person no matter the cost, inconvenience, or immediate consequence?

Posturing and pretending to be God’s impacts eternity, both mine and those gullible to the point of following my lead. Hence the warning: Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1).

There is a certain power and prestige that comes with having others think of you as a wise teacher. Jesus encountered some who reveled in the notariety, but did not trouble themselves by becoming: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27)

Being deceitful is worse than being blatantly defiant. Jesus likened it to a mouth full of spoiled milk, or in this case a tepid drink: “…because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). It takes professional help to misunderstand that!

Better to be “ALL IN” than to be spit out.

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