Art Supplies

I had this idea back after I wrote The Inspiring God and decided to say a little more about it.

When we make something to express our enjoyment of what God has made and our praise to God, it can be like a child making a picture or craft for their parents. When a child makes something for their parents, the parents are excited and happy to have it, even though they’re the ones who bought the supplies for it. Having supplied the materials doesn’t lessen the parents’ enjoyment when the child presents their creative efforts, it’s a joy for them to know that their child made something for them out of love, and a joy to know that the child enjoyed making it.

Similarly, God has given us everything we have, but He still enjoys it when we praise Him, when we make things for Him, when we present creative effort to and for Him!

God’s Idea and My Worries

Yesterday one of my sisters sent me something she heard in church: Worry is believing God won’t get it right, bitterness is believing that God got it wrong.

This got me thinking about something related I’ve learned: God’s idea is always better than yours.

Followers of Jesus believe and know that God knows what is best for everyone and that He loves everyone. This means we don’t have to worry. But so often if we aren’t living as practical atheists, we act as if we aren’t convinced that God really does love us. We go about as if our problems are entirely up to us. We go about afraid that God’s way won’t be as good as what we have in mind.

God’s way of doing things is not always painful. We are often afraid it will be, but we don’t have to be afraid. Even at times when things are painful, God is still there walking right next to us – sometimes carrying us!

Just because I don’t know what God has in mind doesn’t mean I need to worry or be afraid. Just because things didn’t go the way I wanted doesn’t mean that God messed up or that He doesn’t care. God sees all of time at once and knows how it all fits together. Whether things feel good or bad right now, God has a plan for it all to turn out for His glory and your benefit.

Related:
Fear, Worry, and Trust
Trust Issues
Trusting God
Trusting God with Others
Conversations with God – I Can’t
Peace Passing Understanding

Obedience and Gratefulness

This past Sunday the pastor talked about the ten lepers in his sermon from Luke 17:11-19.

Of necessity, lepers in that day were separated and quarantined from society so they wouldn’t give their disease to anyone else. This disease eats away at your body, and since there was no cure, lepers were essentially the walking dead. The lepers in this account were a mixture of Jews and Samaritans. Normally these people wouldn’t associate with each other and often hated each other, but their common suffering took away that barrier. Since these people couldn’t work around other people and whatever they touched was considered unclean, they were dependent on help from others to survive. So as Jesus walked towards the village outside of which they lived, these lepers called out to Him, having heard of His reputation for compassion.

They were some distance away from Jesus and His following so they wouldn’t spread their leprosy, but Jesus still noticed and cared. He told them to go show themselves to the priest. In Leviticus 13-14 there were rules about various skin conditions and what to do about them, as well as what to do whenever you were cleansed from leprosy. These people knew that, so obeyed Jesus and started off to see a priest.

At some point along the way they realized they no longer had leprosy! Imagine the excitement! After seeing the priest and going through the necessary steps to re-enter society, they could finally go back to their families and friends! No more isolated waiting to die. Nine of them continued on their way, while one, a Samaritan at that, decided that seeing a priest could wait. He had to go back to thank Jesus first!

On his way back to Jesus this man loudly glorified God, and once he saw Jesus, he went closer than he dared at their first meeting. He went near Jesus and bowed face down at his feet, giving Him thanks for healing him. Jesus wondered aloud where the others were, noting their failure to give praise to God. He then said to the grateful Samaritan that he could go, his faith had made him whole.

At this point we see obedience and gratefulness. The other nine were certainly still obeying Jesus as they went to see a priest, but they skipped over the gratitude. The Samaritan was obedient and grateful, gaining an experience with Jesus that the others did not.

How often do we obey God but then forget to show gratitude for what He does for us? How often are we the one grateful Samaritan and how often are we the ones who skipped being grateful? How often do we miss out on more with Jesus and how often do we take and make the time to experience more of Him?

Deep in the Ministry

Continuing from the things I’ve learned last Sunday (last post, Being a Believer, Being a Disciple, Being Free).

In the sermon after Sunday School, one of the things we talked about was being in ministry. Through Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42, we saw that sometimes you can get so deep into the work of ministering to people that you lose sight of the people you’re doing it for in the first place. You can get so overwhelmed that you think no one cares. You can even begin to think God Himself doesn’t care about your efforts.

Martha was ministering to, serving, Jesus and her other guests that she’d taken into her house. This was not a bad thing at all, it was a very good thing. Mary was sitting and listening to Jesus. This was not a bad thing at all, it was a very good thing. But Martha got so involved in the work that she got frustrated and asked Jesus if He even cared and to make her sister come help her. There were a few issues here, and I’ll explain them as I heard them.

As the pastor pointed out, what Martha did by interrupting Jesus would be like if I’d invited the pastor over to my house, and I was busy making biscuits while one of my sisters was sitting listening to him, then I came in and told him to tell my sister to stop being lazy and help me. As a guest he does not have the authority or responsibility to tell my sister to help me. On top of that, if I need help I can just ask my sister directly and without so much frustration.

As mentioned, sometimes we can get so bogged down we wonder if God even cares about our efforts at all. Jesus’ response to Martha’s attitude of wondering if He even cared was not, “Oh, sweetie, I do care.” As the pastor pointed out, if Jesus coddled our complaining we’d keep doing it and have a very unhealthy attitude and relationship with Him. Instead, Jesus addressed the actual problem. He wasn’t upset with Martha, He simply let her know that what Mary was doing was good and He wasn’t going to take that away from her.

The pastor also talked about how when we take on a ministry, we take on everything that comes with it. If I volunteer for a children’s ministry, I shouldn’t be complaining that now I have to work with children. If I volunteer for the bus ministry, I shouldn’t be complaining that now I have to drive this bus everywhere. We can get so caught up in the work that we forget why we’re doing it, and that often happens when we’re overwhelmed. We need to balance ministry work with sitting and listening at Jesus’ feet.

So from Martha and Mary we learn that we need balance. If you feel overwhelmed, don’t think that God doesn’t care, He certainly does care and will give you what you need. If you feel overwhelmed you can ask the people around you for help instead of complaining that no one is helping. You should ask them when you need it. Some of them might not know you need help. Take time to sit at Jesus’ feet and remember why you’re doing the work.

Being a Believer, Being a Disciple, and Being Free

Continuing from things I learned Sunday in John 8, (things after the last post, Jesus’ Identity and Missing the Point).

Speaking to some of the people who believed on Him, Jesus told them to continue in His word, which shows that they are truly His disciples (John 8:31). If we keep following Jesus, choosing regularly and putting forth effort to do His will on purpose, we are His disciples, His followers, His learners. If we keep following Jesus and doing the things He tells us to do, both generally and specifically, we’re not just hearers of the Word, we are also doers of it (see also James 1:22). Jesus also told these believers that along with this following and discipleship they will also know the truth, and the truth will make them free.

When Jesus said this, some people (probably the religious leaders with which He’d been talking before) retorted that they were children of Abraham, they themselves were already free and had never been in bondage. Never mind that for a large portion of Jewish history these people had been in bondage to several peoples, and never mind that they were under Roman rule at the moment. But that still wasn’t the point. Once again, some of them were missing the point.

Jesus didn’t bother addressing the physical bondage, He went right to the spiritual. He let them know that if you commit sin (any sin at all), you are the servant of sin. The Greek word often translated as servant really means slave. So if you commit sin, you are its slave, you are in bondage to it (John 8:34). But Jesus, the Son of God, has the authority and ability to truly free you from it (John 8:35-36).

Being a believer in Jesus and being a disciple of Jesus are not meant to be separate things. You and I were meant to be free from sin as we follow Jesus. Believers in Jesus are supposed to be followers of Jesus, we cannot be slaves of sin.

Related: Being a Disciple

Jesus’ Identity and Missing the Point

I was at a different church yesterday. Something about Sunday School stuck out. We were in John 8 when Jesus is talking to the religious leaders about who He is, and how much they’re missing the points He’s making.

Right after Jesus had forgiven the woman caught in adultery, He began to talk about being the light of the world (John 8:12), and claimed to be the Son of God by using the words for the name God had given Moses to tell the children of Israel: I AM (Exodus 3:13-14, and notably John 8:58, though sprinkled throughout the chapter).

When Jesus started the claim, the religious leaders told Jesus that just because He said He is something doesn’t mean He is. They told Him He can’t bear witness of Himself like that. But He could, because He was telling the truth. Jesus went on to tell them so and that He still had more witness than just Himself, He had the Father that sent Him. The religious leaders either missed the claim or pretended they didn’t realize it, given the way they asked Jesus about His Father. Jesus proceeded to tell them that they didn’t know either Him the Father like they should. He then told them that they would die in their sins and not be able to go where He was going (John 8:21), meaning Heaven.

Instead of focusing on the part about dying in their sins, the religious leaders skipped that and immediately asked what Jesus meant by going where they couldn’t, wondering if He was going to kill Himself. They missed the point. Because they wouldn’t accept Jesus, they would die in their sins and that’s why they wouldn’t be able to go where Jesus was going. Jesus told them they were from beneath, of this world, and He was from above, not of this world, again pointing out that they would die in their sins because they wouldn’t believe He was the Son of God sent from God the Father (John 8:23-24, with an I AM).

Once again they missed the point, asking Jesus who He was even though He’d just told them. As my dad said when he was teaching the lesson, it would be like if the police came knocking at your door and said, “Open up, it’s the police,” and you asked who it was at your door! So Jesus reminded the religious leaders that He’d been making this claim from the beginning and He’d already made the point clear, but the religious leaders still missed it (John 8:25-27).

Jesus continued again, pointing out a symbol from the time of Moses (Numbers 21:8-9). Jesus would be lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness so people could look to Him and be saved. When He was lifted up (on the cross), that would be further proof of His claim to be the Son of God (John 8:28, with another I AM). Jesus added that God the Father had sent Him and is always with Him, and He always does whatever pleases God the Father.

At this, many of the surrounding people who heard this conversation believed in Jesus’ claim. Jesus is the Son of God, sent by God the Father. The religious leaders missed the point, but these people did not. This makes me think of today. There will always be people who miss the point, but there will also always be people who get it.

Jesus is and certainly claimed to be the Son of God sent from God the Father to save us from the penalty of our sin. Because of Jesus we don’t have to die in our sins and not be able to go where He is.

God Inside and Outside the Box

I’ve written before about how God doesn’t fit into a box you’ve made for Him (God in a Box), and about the universe being like a box (Outside the Box). Sometimes it helps to think of God being outside of the box and reaching in, but God is omnipresent so it’s important to remember He’s inside the box at the same time!

While it is important to think outside the box, you don’t have to find the edge of the box or look outside the box to find God.

Thanks-Christmas

We’ve reached the time of year when sometimes I’m not sure which holiday to prepare for first, or if I should prepare for more than one at the same time. Either way, it doesn’t have to be a time of year when we’re all completely stressed out. For me, thankfulness and giving are highlighted, both for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I wouldn’t have a reason to do much celebrating at all if it weren’t for God. If I didn’t have God to be thankful to, I think the only reason I’d celebrate Thanksgiving is for the food. Maybe the historical aspect, but definitely the food. And if I didn’t have God to be thankful to, I think the only reason I’d celebrate Christmas is the gifts. Both giving and receiving gifts, but certainly the happiness that goes with them.

Not that those things are bad reasons to celebrate, they just aren’t the best reasons. I can have a deeper, more meaningful experience over the holiday season because I know God and He knows me. Because of all that God has done in giving us life, a place to live and thrive, and the ability to enjoy these things, because God loves us and gave us Jesus, we can have a richer way of enjoying this time of year, even if it does get stressful.

Little by Little

Sometimes there is a task so huge that I’m not sure I’m ever going to get it done. Sometimes that feeling keeps me from even bothering to start the task, and it goes undone for a long time. But it’s like the saying goes: “How do you eat a whole elephant? One bite at a time.” When you break a task into smaller tasks, it becomes more manageable and can even feel like you’re making more progress. Being able to focus on a smaller, less stressful, less involved task really makes the bigger one easier. One thing at a time is much easier than trying to handle everything at once.

For example, cleaning the whole house in a day can be an ordeal, but if I just take it one room at a time and one step in each room at a time, it isn’t so bad – especially if I put on some epic music. Dust all the furniture in the room, dust the baseboards, then sweep and/or vacuum. Or if it’s the bathroom, I work on one area at a time. Tub/shower, done. Toilet, done. Sink and mirror, done. Floor, done.

Sometimes you don’t even have to do the broken down huge task all at once. House cleaning example again, if I just do one part of the cleaning every day, I don’t have to do a bunch of it all at once. Should I decide to do it all at once anyway, it’s not as hard because it’s still mostly clean thanks to the maintenance I’ve been doing. Dust one or two rooms one day, vacuum them the next. Clean the toilet one day, the bathtub the next. Wipe down the kitchen counters regularly, make sure they’re clean as soon as I’m done making a mess on them.

Sometimes you don’t even have to do the full task yourself. Another house cleaning example! When my siblings and I clean the house, we each have something to do that makes it faster. In the kitchen, someone will make sure the dishes are put away so someone can clean the sink, meanwhile someone’s cleaning the stove and someone else is cleaning the counters. Once that’s all done someone vacuums and then someone mops.

While thinking about all this, I started thinking about the process of sanctification. When you believe in Jesus and He becomes Lord of your life, you have some changes He’ll be making with you. We Christians are called to be more and more like Jesus every day. That can be a daunting task, especially when we so often fail and fall short of the perfection God wants for us. But God breaks it down for us, working with us in ways we can each understand. God can take us one day at a time, one step at a time, little by little.

We are to work with God to accomplish this sanctification, and it’s going to take us several steps, much like travel or a journey on foot. It’s going to be something we need to do every day, like personal hygiene and eating. It’s going to be something we need to do regularly like cleaning the house. But again, God can take us little by little.

See also Romans 8:29; Galatians 5:16; Philippians 2:12-13; Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Peter 1:15-16, 2:2

A few related things:
The Process of Sanctification
Becoming Who You Are, Staying Who You Are
Religious Tooth-Brushing
Detailing the Heart and Mind

Stewarding

In church yesterday we talked about being a steward. When you are a steward, you handle someone else’s resources on their behalf. To have this position requires you to be trustworthy, loyal, and skilled. Do we meet those qualifications when it comes to all God has given us?

If we don’t, we should start getting there. God has given us everything we have, including life itself, so we should be doing things with it all that God approves.

Sometimes we complain about not having enough, but we have more than we realize. Sometimes the reason we don’t have more is because we aren’t handling well what we already have. And I’m not just talking about money, I’m talking about talent, time, and other resources.

Sometimes I go around life as if the stuff I have is mine. But I don’t have it because I made it out of nothing. Everything in existence, including every human soul, is something that God made and rightfully owns. Did God give us volition and does He allow us to use and enjoy the things He’s made? Yes! We just need to remember that we didn’t get it on our own. Our very ability to do anything at all comes from God. God’s stuff is made for His glory, not our own squandering. While we have the ability to do with it whatever we please, we will answer for whatever that happens to be.

For more:
Stewardship: Stuff That Isn’t Yours
Nothing Without God
Entrusted Deposit
God Trusting Us
Prospered for Giving