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At my church, I am doing a teaching series on Wednesday evenings called “Building Blocks”. The purpose of this series is to aquaint people with the structure, literary styles, and some major themes of scripture. It has been a fun experience.
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Just accept it now. On all of your checks, occupational paperwork, and other important documentation, you are going to write 2015 for approximately 4 weeks. If you are lucky, you will cease this trend before February, but let’s just all agree that there is grace for those who do this. Don’t worry. You will learn to correct this mistake.
You will also go to the gym religiously until February 19th and then life will make it harder to commit. Okay, so I may not be giving humanity enough credit, but whatever our fate may be in 2016, it is vital to look back on the previous year to reflect on the lessons that we learned. For me, there could be a hundred pages filled with nuggets of wisdom I have gained. Today, I want to talk about just 7 of them.
These are 7 Lessons I learned in 2015:
I don’t have to understand God’s plan
This lesson is a hard one for many believers to accept. We often think that, in order for God’s plan to be holy, beneficial, and redemptive then it has to pass through our mental and emotional filter. The fact is God has an amazing and powerful plan for each one of us, and the more we fight Him on this, the less joy we get out of the process. We must learn to trust even when it doesn’t make sense.
God is not my helper
When I see the bumper sticker, “God is my co-pilot”, I have want to ask why. The reason for this popular cliché is probably because humanity has a tendency to want to be in control. Scripture tells us that God does not belong in the passenger’s seat, or even in the driver’s seat (sorry Carrie Underwood), but He is the road, the signs, the car, the engine and the fuel. My prayer life has changed from, “God, please help” to, “Lord, please guide”. I have learned that God desires for me to be ready for His will not impose mine upon Him.
People don’t want to just hear about Jesus…
I could be the best preacher in the country, but if my spiritual walk does not match the words that are coming out of my mouth then I am a fraud. People don’t want to just hear about Jesus; they want to see Him in action. This is not only in my life that is lived outside of the church doors, but also in the life I live in private.
I can’t do life on my own
When we feel hurt, afraid, or disappointed it is easy to tell ourselves the lie that we can do better on our own. We think the remedy for alleviating all hurt is isolation. When this line of thinking is embraced, we see things like addiction, self abuse, and depression talk full hold. God made us for His glory, but His glory can be seen in the context of community and pouring into the lives of others…or allowing others to pour into us.
Often we are the only obstacle in our spiritual growth
I can’t tell you how many people I have ministered to that had no desire to grow, but only the desire to be served. This may seem harsh but there has to come a point where we start to own our mistakes, faults, and the scars of our past and seek to overcome the hurdles. Sure, there is grace and mercy available for all, and there are none that lack a certain level of brokenness, but we can’t stay there. As a Christ-following community we must understand what it means to love, and serve, but to also allow people to be stretched in their faith. Pain can be our biggest catalyst for growth. In my experience, I have realized that sometimes I don’t allow myself to grow, because what I am doing is still Godly, and it is also comfortable. I stand in my own way.
Prayer works even when it doesn’t work
I am fortunate enough to have been born into a legacy of believers that has seen the power of prayer. This doesn’t mean, however, that I do not become discouraged when God does not answer when I expect Him to. What if God plans to answer our prayer, but it is not imperative that we have a hand in it? Think about Moses. Moses’ prayer was that his people would be set free, and given their own homeland just as God promised. The Lord honored this prayer in His timing, and the people inherited a land that was fertile, rich, and accommodating. Moses, though, did not get to experience it. It may be hard to hear, and maybe you will see the answer, but God’s plans are bigger than your wants, fears, and even dreams. It could also be that God is waiting for you to let go of the outcome. Keep praying, but surrender to whatever the answer may be. Don’t let your feelings dictate your prayers.
My contentment is my responsibility
I cannot rely on other people, situations, or outcomes to control my level of contentment. This posture is one that stems from a decision in my own heart and mind. As Christians, this lesson can be a tempting one to disregard. Sometimes, when something looks discouraging, we tend to equate that with “God’s leading” and thus avoid any more hurt. In all actuality, He could have a completely different purpose for allowing you to go through it. Personal growth, of course is the goal when faced with difficulty, but perhaps the goal is also the growth of someone else.
Trust God’s agenda.
As you anticipate what 2016 will bring, look for lessons you can reflect on. Don’t just survive.
Love you all
“Landon, did you read chapter 7 like you were told to do for today’s quiz?” Of course I did…who is actually going to say no to that question? There can be nothing more exciting in life than an entire chapter on the wonders of the preposition. In fact, I couldn’t put the book down Mrs. Davis…I didn’t sleep at all and felt like I needed to read the chapter 10 times just to make it really soak in.
Okay, so I didn’t really say that when Mrs. Davis asked me the question. I thought it though. Her question was somewhat annoying because she knew I didn’t read it. I mean, with my active social calender, reading a chapter that explores a part of speech was not on my priority list. She loved this stuff though. You could tell that this got her up in the morning. I, however did not get the same rush out of 6th grade english class. My quiz score that day showed it too. Also, the fact that I was known to turn in the occassional late assignment because “I forgot my notebook at home”. That was my go-to excuse…but she didn’t buy it. She was good…really good.
I loved Mrs. Davis…even though she was a little too excited about adverbs…really excited (english nerds will get that pun). Every day I came to 6th grade english, I was confronted by a woman who put up with me and made it her mission to help me grow in knowledge. She taught me more than just how to diagram a sentence (I shutter).
Today, I want to share 5 things in that I learned from this amazing educator.
1. Your work reflects your integrity– Many times I came to class unprepared. It was no one’s fault but my own. I had made laziness a fine art that was perfectly honed over time. One day, Mrs. Davis sat me down and talked to me about how it was unfair for me to not put in the effort when others tried so hard. I really didn’t listen at the time, but in my adult life this has proven to be true.
2. Shut your mouth– Deep in the recesses of my memory, I can recall a few times where I may have been told to quiet down in class. Okay…I admit it…I was a talker. I still am in fact. There were times that I had wonderful grades on my report card and there would be comments that would indicate that I was an “excessive talker”, and I tended to be a “distraction to others”. I looked at it as sharing my wisdom with my classmates…that and I really wanted them to laugh in the middle of quiet reading time. Overall, I learned, just like it says in the book of Proverbs, those who remain silent are often assumed wise.
3. It’s okay to not know the answer– I would get so upset with myself everytime I would raise my hand and my answer would be wrong. I felt inadequate. I felt humiliated. Looking back on it I realize it was silly to feel this way, but I wanted to be right. I think, sometimes, we discount the importance of being corrected. Our pride often gets in the way and we miss opportunities for learning and growth. It’s okay to admit that there are things you need to learn.
4. Your discomfort should not control your action– There were times when I would have given anything to avoid doing that book report. The book was not exciting and all I wanted to do was go out and play after school instead of putting some time in typing an essay on a book I picked out of the library solely based on how many pages it had…When I took it seriously, though, I found that I expanded my mind more than I thought I would. Push through the urge to reject discomfort. It can lead to growth.
5. Passion is contagious– When the end of the year came, I realized that I had gained a deep love for reading and writing that continues this to this day. Mrs. Davis loved what she did and wanted others to share the same passion. It worked. People loved her class and, as much as I would have hated to admit it then, she made learning fun.
God speaks truth to people in many ways, and through many people with many different occupations. I am grateful that he used this teacher to speak to me at a time when I really needed to hear wisdom. My hope is that many more can learn from the lessons God taught me.
“Red rover, red rover send Stacy right over!” You remember that game don’t you? Two lines of children would face one another and when your name is called, your job is to run at full speed and attempt to break through the human chain that opposed you. Some would timidly trot only to be captured…others would use this opportunity to take out some aggression. These are the types of things we did at recess as children.
Recess was an incredible time. Next to lunch, it was my personal favorite period of time during school. If we grew up with this as a common occurrence we can close our eyes and remember times when we made terrible decisions, and also lifelong friendships in the midst of a kickball game or on the “time out wall” when we pushed Emily Stevens down the curly slide and she had to be a stinkin’ little tattle tail and rat us out…umm…hypothetically.
As I was reflecting on my experiences during this unstructured time of play, I realized that there were lessons I learned from the playground that can translate into my spiritual life. It may be a stretch, but sometimes it is fun to see how things like this can link our thoughts to wisdom.
There are 5 lessons I think we can take from recess
1. Tetherball is important– The game of tetherball can be a lesson in the way we handle our pain. The point of tetherball is to hit the ball and draw it closer to the center pole. Your opponent’s purpose is to drive the ball farther away from the pole in the opposite direction and oppose your progress. Each day we are tested in the same way. Life abuses us, sends us through trials, and we walk through suffering unwillingly. If we are not careful, we can walk through these struggles and, if not looked at redemptively, they can oppose our growth and draw us further from the center focus…God. God does not want any pain to be wasted. We can use these instances to draw closer to Him.
2. Bullys are everywhere– Whether it be in the work place, in the grocery store, or the bank we know that bullys still exist. We encounter people on a regular basis who seem to desire the worst for us and our well being. Our first impulse may be to put them in their place or get angry, but often we do not see below the surface. Many times the people who are this way are dealing with such deep pain. Pray for them…they need an encounter with God. They are not your enemy.
3. People will chase you– I noticed that, when people chased you at recess, that meant they really like you. Personally, I was a fan of being chased by girls even though I didn’t admit it. Obviously our main goal in life is not to be liked by all, but we must ask ourselves what type of influence we are to others. What kind of life are you living that deserves to be influential? Hopefully it is one that is chasing after Christ.
4. The point is to get sweaty– As kids we knew what recess was really about. Teachers wanted to get us sweaty so we would “get the wiggles out” for the rest of the school day. It was smart because we were more productive in the second half. Many of us limit our Christian experience to reading, and silent reflection. These are absolutely essential, but there is also more to it. When we get closer to God we realize that there must be a point in which we bring action and service to our faith. “Getting sweaty” is the point of a life that draws us closer to Him. We are being formed in His image to be a light to the dark world.
5. Red rover, red rover– Remember this game? I think we can learn something from it. God wants us to live our lives with purpose and focus. With His resourcing we can break through to freedom. The enemy will try to prevent us from growing and being a part of God’s mission, but He has plans for us. Plans that can give us hope and a future…we just need to close our eyes, put our heads down, and run towards Him.
This is just what I have reflected on…it is no comprehesive exposition of scripture, nor is it meant to be used in a university setting. All I know is that God wants us to learn things through every experience we encounter.
Know you are loved. Know you have a purpose.
If you have ever noticed as you are talking to me, I wear a silver necklace. I have worn this same necklace for many years and some people have made the remark that they notice I never take it off. There is a reason for that… it is a reason that has actually evolved over time, but now I understand its full weight. This necklace, given to me by my girlfriend (now wife) so many years ago was actually a replacement to a necklace I wore nonstop that started to fall apart. To tell you what it symbolizes will require a story…
Do you ever get the feeling you are being watched? 16 years ago, as I walked through a children’s neighborhood park, I had this feeling. I felt as if I were being followed or watched or stalked. My curiosity was overwhelming so I started to look high and low for the culprit. It was only me and a friend walking in this area so it was an odd feeling to have. As I tried to get my mind off of the concept, I looked up and I found the source. A little boy had climbed a tall tree and was watching every move we made.
We were in this park as a result of being on a mission trip with our youth group to North Dakota. The youth group had split into 3 groups
and our smaller group mission was to clean up this park and to teach object lessons (and play with) kids that we found there. The problem was…there were no kids at this park….well, except this small boy hiding in the tree.
Later, we found this woman who had walked to the park and told us she was this boy’s aunt. We found out the boy’s name was Forest and he was 4 years old. The aunt was somewhat nervous because this particular park had a reputation as a drug dealing hub. Forest was in danger simply by playing at this park.
After a few days of our mission, we saw more and more children come to play at this park. We cleaned it up and made it usable. Parents came to greet us, bring lemonade, and thanked us for making this park a safe play area once again. These children came as a result of Forest and his family spreading the word that the park is now a place of fun… drug dealers, for some reason had moved on to another spot to do business.
At the end of the week, I bought a necklace because I wanted something to remind me of this event. Now, this necklace reminds me of two important truths.
- Anything that seems hopeless or lacking worth can be redeemed for good.
- Sometimes that which seems weak (4 year old boy) is just what God uses to penetrate the darkness.