THINGS

 

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Luke 10:40 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

 

In the midst of some scurrying about this past week, I was brought up short by the words of Jesus to Martha in a similar situation, “…you are anxious and troubled about many things…” (When Jesus calls your name, it’s time to listen.) As I stopped to ponder the truth of that admonition—I often get caught up in “things”—I was reminded of another verse that I’d never connected to the first: “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Jesus said in another place that sometimes we allow “the cares of the world” to choke the Word, and we become unfruitful (Mark 4:19). Instead, we’re to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb. 12:2).

Obviously, as hard as we may try, we can only focus on one thing at a time. As often as we claim to successfully multi-task, the Cleveland Clinic claims that “the concern among neuroscientists studying the workings of the brain is that our tendency to divide our attention, rather than focus, is hampering our ability to perform even simple tasks.” I don’t think our problem is trying to do too many things at once; I believe we’re trying to do the wrong things. Our priorities are misaligned.

Jesus said, “Seek first” God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness (his right-living, right-being, and right-doing). Push everything else aside. Focus on him. Seek him. Nothing Jesus tells us to do is impossible with his Spirit’s empowering. We—I—just need to do some severe editing and stop being anxious about many things. Only one thing is necessary.

Jesus first. Then everything else falls into place.

I surrender, Lord. All to Jesus, I surrender. I surrender, Lord. AMEN.

GIVING: A TRUE STORY

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38

 

 

A colleague and I have been doing lectures for clergy and laity on Christian stewardship.  So many people seem to be of the opinion that stewardship is optional—we pick and choose those things we will care for.  As if our bodies will run on automatic without proper food, exercise, rest, and relaxation…  As if our spirits will continue to thrive without the Word, obedience, or prayer…  As if our souls will be sustained without love, intellectual stimulation, or challenges…

Stewardship is holistic:  our time includes choices and priorities; our talent encompasses sharing those unique gifts with which God has blessed us; and treasure is that which God has planted within these clay vessels as well as all the resources he’s entrusted to us.   Actually, we are brimming over with riches that we can expend on God’s Kingdom and at his direction.

Over dinner, some friends told me how their pastor had graphically illustrated this point last week.  Typically, their church doesn’t pass an offering plate—people entering the sanctuary place their offerings in a box set aside for their tithes and offerings.  The pastor announced he would do something different.  He would preach on giving, and they would take an offering.

After this unusual occurrence, the ushers passed buckets—the pastor asked people to give only the cash in their pockets—and then brought the buckets back to the front whereupon the pastor told the congregation that the buckets would be passed again.  But this time, anyone who had a need was to take out what he needed—that was what everyone wanted him/her to do.  At that, the congregation began to applaud, and the buckets were passed.  Right and left, hands began to reach out and find that there was plenty for all.

This week, the pastor announced the result of this ministry:  Stories were pouring in of desperate folks being touched and helped.  After all the needs were met, there was still $68,000 left over.  He asked everyone to stay tuned to see what God would do with the leftovers.

Does that remind you of a story about loaves and fishes?

 

Father, when we trust you and allow you to be Lord over all you’ve given us, there is always enough—and more.  Thank you.  AMEN.

SPENDING TIME

…making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  Ephesians 5:1  (ESV)

 

Summer is just around the corner, and I so look forward to it.  Even though I’ve been out of school for a while now, I still mentally organize my days by the school calendar:  For me, the year begins in September, and the end of May brings the summer vacation.  All of us tend to consciously or unconsciously arrange our days according to a system of our own devising.

What do you do with your time?  Some of us work, but all of us have time that is free to allocate according to our priorities.  Time is a valuable commodity.  In fact, we have a number of sayings relating to time:  Time is money.  Don’t waste time.  I need to make up for lost time. Time flies. Time heals all wounds.  And so on…

Have you ever thought of giving God your time?  The Psalmist said, “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15).  Whatever we do in the next twenty-four hours, time will pass.  If we use that time for good, it will be invested.  If we use it for ill, it will be lost.  If we use it foolishly, it will be wasted.

So here we are at the beginning of the summer season when 60% of Americans take time off work for vacation.  How will you spend your “free” time this summer?  In September, will you be able to look back with joy at the investment you’ve made in a life, in your family, in your community, in the Kingdom?  No matter what you do, the time will have passed.

Make plans now for how you will invest your time this summer.  To paraphrase another old saying, “Only this time, ‘twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”

 

 

Father, here we are at the outset of another period of great potential.  Help us to wisely number our days and seek your direction for how best to use them to your glory and our highest good.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

A QUIET TIME

Be still and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10

 

There is a tiny space between Christmas and New Year’s—it’s just about one week long—and it seems to be claimed by no other special activity or pressing responsibility.  Advent and preparation for the Lord’s coming takes us right up to Christmas, while the hustle and bustle that’s part of our traditional celebrations have consumed those weeks after Thanksgiving.  And  here we are at that quiet time after Christmas just before we launch headlong, full speed into the New Year.

What a good time to slow down, to process, to be still and know…  Could we set aside our personal agendas just for this week to listen?  Are we able to stop long enough to worship?  Can we quiet our passions to spend several days resting in him?

The story is told of an early explorer who was trekking across the jungles of interior Africa.  He had been advised that his porters could travel only a certain distance each day, but he was determined to make better time.   Day by day he pushed his men until one day he arose to find that no one would move from his tent.  No bit of cajoling or threatening would budge his team.  Finally, sensing the man’s frustration, one of the porters admitted that they had traveled so quickly, they had left their souls behind and were waiting for them to catch up.

We’ve been given the gift of this one week to be still, to let our souls catch up.  This is a week to acknowledge God’s sovereignty, to bask in his love, and to nourish that relationship with him.  Can we slow down enough—just for a week—to know that he’s God (and we’re not)?

 

Father, “the world is too much with us.”  The holidays are crammed with activities and distractions—so much for holy days.  Thank you for this brief, quiet time to reorder ourselves and our priorities.  To be.  Our eyes are on you.  AMEN.