Monday, April 20, 2015

Never Out To Lunch

Many times I've gone to the store, only to find a sign on the door.

At five after five I arrived, only to find another sign.


There is one place this does not happen. The throne room of God is always open.
At any time I can call His name — because His love for me will never change.
The key to His storehouse I have received. The key is that I only believe.
I've gone to His throne many times and have never found Him "OUT TO LUNCH".
He never closes right at five; in fact, He's always working overtime.

        Little known fact about me: I find humor in strange places and various situations, and once my funny bone has been struck, it take me a little while to pull myself back together. Normally this would not be a problem, but I’m a teacher.  So, daily I see things, hear things, and often think things that send me into a laughing fit.  One of these things is the mistaken perception of the seventh grade mind that EVERYTHING is an “end of the world crisis” and demands my IMMEDIATE attention. (O.K. it’s only really funny the first 500 times. After that it’s annoying.) But, the other day I noticed in my wife’s classroom a cute little nick-knack I had not noticed before. (She teaches high school Math.)  It was an apple shaped chalkboard with numbers hanging off it. The message on the board said, “Take a Number: The Teacher is Busy”.

         After a long laugh and a few moments lost in the thought, “I need one of those — Nah, my students would not understand the message”. My mind turned back to reality, we see those “Take a Number” things at the Post Office, Department of Transportation, Ice Cream Shops, everywhere we have to stand in line and wait for service. The one place we don’t get this treatment is in prayer.

         God is always available. At this point, take a moment to consider the provision the Lord makes for our every need. He is always there to comfort, guide, protect, and supply. He has given us hope, and taught us not to worry because He is in control. Jesus taught saying:

"Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is today in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." — Luke 12:24-32 (KJV)

         Sometimes I feel like a seventh grader. EVERYTHING in my life becomes an “end of the world crisis” and I need immediate attention. Do you ever feel like that? The state of the world, the economic situations we face, the rapid and relentless changes in the work place, it is ALL under God’s watchful and skilled direction. I have no idea where you are today or what you are facing, but I do know I am facing a career change. I am trapped in the valley of decision. The two questions I struggle to answer are: Who is there that I should be fearful? What can be taken from me that is so central to my life? I am constantly reminded Job had his troubles, as I am sure you also suffer difficulties.  

         Growing up facing childhood, and later teenage challenges, my mother would say, "That's all part of growing up." What she did not tell me was we NEVER get to a place in our life and faith where problems don’t affect us. I have learned over time I can either trust God’s Word and be faithful to Him or I can allow the storms of life to drive me into depression. Wouldn't it be better for each of us to join the ranks of the faithful rather than joining the ranks of the depressed? The Psalmist wrote these words:

“I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.” — Psalms 18:1-3 (KJV)

         The simplest advice is often the most difficult to follow but here it is: 1. Enjoy the blessings God provides. 2. Trust that He knows what He is doing; even if He does not choose to let you in on the big secret at the moment you want to know. 3. Remember He will reveal all things in His time. 4. Our “end of the world crisis” does not shock, surprise, or disorient God. Each event in our lives is designed for the purpose of bringing about His will. Wisdom to address the situations in our lives is the direct result of a trusting relationship with the Lord.

Daniel answered and said, “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king's matter.” — Daniel 2:20-23 (KJV)

         Although I'm not Daniel, there are some principles that have helped me through a few tight spots along the journey. Daniel prayed earnestly and sought God for the answers to every problem, and he was not afraid to show the world what he believed. For several years now I have been learning to accept, hopefully without question, the things God has allowed to happen in my life. And, eventually the reason is made clear. As my life stands now I am trusting God to develop those things within me that are recorded in 2 Peter Chapter 1. Yes, I know they are lifelong goals, and at times I seem to be caught in the self-control, and perseverance loop; if I don’t give up, God will continue to work in my life. The really good news is according to Peter, these belong to all who have obtained the same precious faith.

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” — 2 Peter 1:5-8 (KJV)

         You might easily recognize part of that list of attributes as the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23. The Holy Spirit has been cultivating fruit in our lives since the moment we accepted Christ as our personal savior. The result of spiritual growth is a deeper more sensitive awareness to spiritual matters in daily life. One of these issues for me has been to recognize some of the demands God has made with regard to service. I'm not sure if I can really call them demands because He still honors my free will, but God asks for submission in three areas: Time, Testimony, and Talent. Each area demonstrates to the world around us how we live our faith. Each area demonstrates our level of dependence upon God to supply whatever we need in every situation. How frequently and fervently do we call upon Him? How deeply do we depend upon Him? Do we take God for granted in our lives? 

         God has promised never to leave us. He has promised to supply all our needs and our FAITH can access the POWER of God. Still, life is filled with circumstances that stress and pressure us. All these problems are the needling annoyances Satan uses to distract us from serving God.  Time is, for me, by far the most precious gift I have to offer God. The difficulty lies in all the others who are screaming for a moment of my time. Testimony, at least here in the finiteness of my empty mind, can be understood as free will offerings of both money and praise. My testimony is how the world judges the investment I am making in the “Kingdom of God”. What does my life say about the God I serve? How well do I represent the Christ of the cross? Do I “put my money where my mouth is”?

         The third aspect of our devotion and giving is: Talent — natural ability or giftedness used to accomplish a task. What an abstract and misunderstood concept. As Christians we often employ the excuse: “I’m just not talented in that area” to disqualify ourselves from service. Why is it so difficult for us to believe God desires to use us to bring glory to His name? I have observed many talented people and come to this simple conclusion — Talent begins as a spark of interest — Is fanned into a flame through continued practice — Becomes a raging bonfire through commitment and continued growth. God gifts those who make themselves available. God is never out to lunch and He will use anyone who will answer the call with a life available for service.

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