“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
Peace. I offer you peace. But peace does not happen accidentally. It requires effort. Our natural bent is to put it off because it is simply too painful, to uncomfortable to engage in the conversations needed. “Settle matters quickly.” We make excuses as to why we should wait.
We avoid healthy conflict, but no face mask can prevent the damage that can be done through this practice. Research shows us that avoiding the conflict leads to a whole host of physical health issues. Families are destroyed because we don’t address the issues that are in our faces. Our minds become warped by our thoughts of revenge. But the most damaging is to our spirit.
Remember we were designed for a perfect life in the garden. Peace should be surrounding us. Contentment is in our wiring. However, sin came in and broke that peace. Our sin was a declaration of war against God. When we live in conflict with our brothers and sisters we are in conflict with God.
How often have I been in church, nursing a grudge? I feel angry and embittered over some slight real or imagined. In the darkness of my mind I have contemplated evil against my enemy, maybe even while I am there in church. While you are at the altar. While I am worshipping and recognize this anger welling up within me, I must go make things right.
Make peace. Sometimes you will be wronged, forgive anyway. Go make things right and then return to church and worship in Spirit and in Truth.
GRM offers a webinar on Restoring Peace where you can learn to become a peacemaker. Peacemaker is a role that our world needs today more than ever.
When the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel. When he went out to war, the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, so thathe prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.
When we look around and see that our world is in true need, a desperate need, our God is watching and waiting. Look to Him, to be our salvation and our hope. He is simply waiting for us to seek Him, to call out His name. Today is that day. Dear Heavenly Father I look to You above all things. Bring hope and wisdom to our world. Let us love abundantly. Let us face our enemies with courage and win them with our love.
He will send a deliverer filled with His Holy Spirit. I pray that I would live a life that would enable me to be chosen by Him to bring peace and to bring justice but most importantly the message that we all long to hear. THE KING IS COMING. Prepare the Kingdom for His arrival. Be purified. Choose to love the unlovable. Choose to forgive. Choose to speak against injustice. Choose to call of peace.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
In the last blog we talked about allowing the law and the prophets to be a mirror to our hearts. Most of us feel that we are “good enough” or “better than”. However, when we see ourselves clearly under the firm teaching of the law and the prophets, we begin to see the intention of the heart. Yes, we did something nice. But we did it so that we could get the applause. Maybe we want bragging rights for our patience. Regardless the law and the prophets will expose us at least to ourselves.
On the surface as I examine myself, I rarely break the ten commandments. Some claim that because we live under the new covenant the law no longer applies. But Jesus does not dismiss the old, he is adding to it. This passage is the first in the sermon to point this out to us. Do not murder. Simple straight forward. In my lifetime I have never killed, taken life from another human being. The biggest thing I ever killed was a very sick turkey that was suffering. It really was an act of compassion that was asked of me by my family. I found even that sort of killing to be difficult. As a soldier I have committed myself to defend others and if needed I am willing to take life. That would be a last resort to save someone else. But the actual killing of a human, not on my list of past sins.
If we were under the old covenant that many say no longer applies, I would be good to go. This sin would hold no sway on me. However, Jesus adds to the law. My personal history is full of times where I have lost my temper, where anger got the best of me. Jesus tells me here that I am subject to the judgement. The Father loves me, that does not change. But if I lose my temper, He is not proud of me. He cannot brag on me because I have broken the commandment not to murder. If, even in my anger, I use my words to cut someone down and insult them; I have murdered their soul. I have broken the commandment.
What Jesus is teaching me is that I must guard my words carefully. I must use them to speak the truth in love. While correction may be required, I must remember that the ultimate end that I am speaking life into them. I look around at our world today and it is dying slowly from all of the negativity around us. If someone does not agree with us or votes different than us, we throw our words around and stab at them with little barbs of hate.
My friends the lesson here is that we must speak life. Jesus is commanding us to think about how our words will either build someone up or tear them down. Choose life. Build up those around you. Even if they disagree with you, build them up. Even if they don’t seem willing or unable to understand you, build them up. Inspire others toward life.
So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership, and lay your hand on him. Numbers 27:18
God is seeking men and women that are willing to receive His Holy Spirit to guide their leadership and their lives. Joshua spent many years under the leadership of Moses and realized most likely early on that the task was beyond his ability. He became open to receiving the Holy Spirit. Inviting the Holy Spirit to take leadership of our lives and our leadership exponentially increases the potential of our lives. These leaders must seek to be filled, anointed and led by God. Many strive to learn the techniques and skills of leadership and these should not be abandoned, but seek the greater counselor. He can guide your training. It is the Holy Spirit that makes the Godly leader effective. It is the Holy Spirit that gives him or her unprecedented wisdom and insight.
The Holy Spirit will orchestrate a life that ultimately brings Him glory regardless of what seems to be the truth in your world.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Many take a large growing church as a sign of God’s favor and His blessing. It might be. The preacher might sell many books, have active speaking schedules and even be able to claim worldwide attention. Their ministry might be done in power with the signs and wonders of miracles, healing and more. But that is just a maybe. Those things were true of the apostle’s ministry, sometimes.
But too many today twist Scripture, cherry pick verses here and there in an attempt to justify their false teaching and explain away difficult passages such as, “Take up your cross…” These same teachers dismiss most of the Old Testament. Yet, Jesus warns us not to do that. He is a fulfillment of all the Law and the Prophets (most of the old testament by the way.) This means that if we are to understand Jesus, we must take the time to study to understand God as he is portrayed in the law and the prophets.
The law is a teacher. I really did not understand what coveting really was until I read the Torah. Honestly, apart from the law I think I am a pretty good person. My soul is dying but I have no symptoms that I am willing to acknowledge. But when I meditate on His law, I sense my own sinfulness. I see my own selfishness. Where when I only look at the New Covenant, I see that I am forgiven. I find peace with God and others through the saving Grace of Jesus. That is my only hope. But as long as I deny the symptoms, I will refuse the cure. The law and the prophets come together as a standard, as a covid-19 test to inform me of my illness.
But again, too many preachers today lie about numbers forgetting that lying is a sin. I have heard it justified saying that the end justifies the means. They manipulate people with soft music, shame and adjusted lighting so that they can claim “more souls for the Kingdom.” If they use the tools of the devil to gain an audience and they have twisted Scripture they are not of God. But since they have not examined their own hearts, they do not know that. Since they have not set their life alongside the law and the prophets, they don’t know that they are simply spreading their own sinful virus.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
The day of the false teacher is here. Do not be deceived. Instead, examine yourself and then receive the cleaning of the King.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you:
For some reason we (the people of God) have divided our world into secular and holy. Yet this is His world. We belong to Him. It is all His. All the world is holy. I pray that through this blog series you will begin to see the Holy Spirit directing your every step, in every area of you life.
We have come to believe that living a life filled with the Holy Spirit is limited to church or obviously sacred events. But the anointing or what is sometimes referred to as the infilling of the Holy Spirit is for our everyday life and work. Decide today to do all of your work unto the Lord. Invite the Holy Spirit to grant you the wisdom, understanding and knowledge to do all that your work and life requires. Allow Him to rule your daily life. He will cause you to do better work. He will cause your work to be done more efficiently and with a higher quality than you could ever imagine doing on your own. Do you have a speech to give? The same Holy Spirit that inspires great preaching can lead you to give an inspired presentation about architecture, solving world dilemmas and anything else that you are seeking to accomplish through your speech. It is the Holy Spirit, the gift of Christ that will empower you. Even the most secular, the most common tasks can be done in power and in overpowering love.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
For too many in the church today there is a focus on the darkness. Our denomination decides on what sin is and then we spout hate and division. Don’t get me wrong here, sin leads to death. There is no question on that. Our focus first must be on our own sin.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7: 3-5
Socrates is given credit for saying that, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Examine your life and cleanse yourself you doubleminded!
The light of the modern church is dimmed. We have forsaken the poor and put our focus on large church facilities. We claim this is the light of the world showing the power of God. However, remember who it was that promised the riches of the world to Jesus. Many of these large churches do have large numbers of people come to faith. But how many develop the heart of God to go into the inner cities? The light must show up to light the way for those who spend their lives viewing pornography, oppressing others, those that are feeling hopeless and more.
I am not saying ignore sin. We must call it out. What I have discovered as I have now routinely examined my choices and my own heart is that ALL of my sin stems from me trying to meet a legitimate need in a way that dishonors God. More and more I am better able to recognize the need and my temptation to meet it with some sort of idol worship. The recognition is powerful, and I can turn to God.
“Jesus I am lonely. Jesus I am afraid. Jesus, I don’t know what to do.” Sometimes I discover that I put too much stock into what people think of me or my identity is wrapped up in some false image. When I am successful at repenting and turning toward God I can become the light. I shine brighter. The light is not on me but is actually on the King. My God protects me, He defends me and He can do the same for you. Just trust in Him. I know you hurt. I understand because I often hurt too. Turn to God and ask Him to cleanse you so that you can be a city shining on the hill that beckons people to come to you because you represent hope, healing and salvation.
Many years went by when a signal went out far and wide to report the death of Joseph. Many arrived to visit his home and walk the grounds to see the place where they had buried his ashes. The place on the trail had been prepared many years in advance. The marker there said, “Parts of trail may be impassible. Yeah right!” The marker made all who knew Joseph to smile. Those who were random visitors would be perplexed. Shaking his head and smiling Samuel noticed the perplexed look on some children.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” one of the kids asked their mother who also looked baffled. Samuel continued to shake his head and debated whether he should admit that he was eaves dropping or not. He wondered if it was his place to tell the story. Samuel scratched his balding head and nodded to his wife and she too shook her head. She had heard the story too many times and really didn’t want to hear it again. However, she did like the expression on Samuel’s face when he told it. This was his first of many visits to Tranquility.
Clearing his throat, Samuel asked, “I’m sorry but I couldn’t help but overhear the question. I know the answer if you would like to hear it?” The little family sat down on a bench.
“When Joseph was a young man he was out on a vacation with his wife, kids and his in-laws. As part of the adventure they stopped by a state park that had been a routine part of his wife’s childhood. There was a lake and the day was really beautiful. They had not come prepared to do any swimming, but someone noticed that there was a nature trail that went all the way around the lake. After some consultation whether or not the kids could make the 1.2-mile adventure it was decided to give it a shot. The youngest could be carried a bit and they would take turns if it really came to that. It was not long from the trail head when they saw a sign that said that ‘Parts of trail may be impassible.’ Joseph looked at his wife and kids and another meeting was called. After some laughter it was decided that if it really was impassible, they could just turn around. They would go as far as they could. Several times along the trail they came across a log or a small stream of water. Every time that they came to one of these ‘obstacles’ Joseph would laugh and say, ‘Part so trail might be impassible, yeah right.’ Joseph when he told the story would stop there to say that many times there are signs that seem like the trail ahead will be impassible and that we should simply turn around. Most of these are fakes and lies. If God has called you to go around the lake, then go around the lake. No matter how many signs tell you that ‘parts of trail may be impassible’ you must just say, ‘Yeah right.’ As the troopers continued around the trail, they came to a place that was actually a raging stream flooded by some recent rains. By the looks of it there was no way to get past this one. That is when they noticed that the park rangers were in the process of building a bridge and had laid two logs across the stream. Another meeting was called. They had already hiked a little better than mile. The children had been carried much of the way. Everyone was starting to get tired. ‘Let’s go for it.’ Joseph climbed up on the log and scooted his way across as the family rested. He wanted to make sure that this was the only part of the trail that was actually impassible. Coming back and having confirmed that if they got past this that they might get a little wet, but there was only a short hike from finishing the trip. Joseph scooted with his boys across. His daughter made her own way. Soon his wife, taking off her shoes, meanders over the log and safely arrived on the other side. The in-laws also carefully made their way over. Joseph would say that there actually is no such thing as an impassible trail. Sometimes you must get creative to get around, under or over and obstacle. Over the years I heard him say many times, ‘Parts of trail may be impassible, yeah right!”
Other visitors arrived over the course of the year. Eric stopped by to pay respects during a visit back to the states from the Uganda where he, his wife and kids had been living as missionaries. Eric was now disciplined and healthy. His family was stable and enjoyed the stability that comes from an adventurous and stable family.
Julie was among the first to hike the trail. Her life was unbelievable. After five years of running the 50’s restaurant as part owner, her partner turned over the whole operation to her. She had launched out and added a medieval restaurant that did not succeed. With the encouragement of her husband she invested in theme dining opportunities of all kinds. She had one that was a replica of a 1920’s club with swing music that was very successful. The 50s and 80s themes were always popular and did well. She added in movie themed attractions and now was passing on much of the day to day operations onto her daughter.
Sarah never came to see Tranquility. Rarely did she even think of Joseph as she now was the CEO of a major hotel chain. Long since divorced she was lonely and even though she often put a happy mask on everywhere she went, she was secretly miserable. Her husband Mike though had come many times. After the divorce he took Joseph’s course and was now remarried and owned a small construction business that mostly did remodels. He was fully content.
Now you my friend. What will be your story? How should we tell your tale? Invest in yourself and experience a full and complete life. Invest wisely.
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
People are no longer thirsty for the things of God. Sure, many go to church and even more claim a style of Christianity, but few are desperate for the things of God. Once I had a toothache and determined I would do absolutely anything to make the pain go away. I handed my wife a hammer and asked her to beat the tooth out. I tied a string around the tooth with the other end on a weight and dropped the weight down the stairs. I slammed my head against the wall and so much more. Nothing worked. I was desperate but I was refusing to do the simple. I was refusing to call the dentist. Once I was desperate enough, I made that call. Less than two hours later I had seen the dentist, my pain was gone. He had absorbed the infection and given medication to care for me. I struggled in my own way for hours before calling on the only solution that had any hope.
In the same way there are many who will feel the pain and discomfort of their lives sometimes for decades but refuse to make the one call that makes a difference.
We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us, for He can even raise the dead. – 2 Corinthians 1:9
When you are salty you are looking for God in ALL situations. You are DESPERATE! You desire to please Him above all things. When you are salty you throw caution to the wind and simply go after Him.
It was safer for the Apostles to simply go back to fishing. No Pharisees nor Sadducees going to threaten to kill you while you bring in a catch of fish. Tradition says that all the apostles except John died a martyr’s death. That was not needed. Peter could have lived a quiet life with his family. Andrew would have sent his kids to visit Uncle Simon on the weekends. But he took a chance. He was salty. No, he was not perfect. He often held onto fear. Too often he tried to do things his own way and hold onto the old traditions. But when you are salty you are desperate enough to listen to the whole of God’s word. You are thirsty enough to consider that just maybe you are misunderstanding His Word. Your thirst will make you just a touch insane in your efforts to learn more, experience more and live more.
How do we get thirsty?
Pray deliberately and with emotion.
Pray God would open His Word to you in some different way.
Visit other denominations and faith groups.
Read books, articles and more from outside you faith group.
Talk with those in a different faith group and honestly seek to understand their interpretation of Scripture. (You don’t have to agree. You must just listen and seek to understand.)
4am. Joseph’s alarm went off with a cricket’s chirp that he had trained himself to wake up to but also did not disturb his wife’s sleep. Quietly as possible he crept into the living room and drank down a vitamin packed drink. He had been drinking this nearly every day for years and he felt as though it was building up his immune system. In his mind he tried to shift his self-talk. Left to itself his mind was trying to convince him that this morning discipline stuff was a waste of time. His mind directed him to go back to sleep. Joseph pushed back the temptation but still questioned himself. He had been doing this for years and could not really see any major benefits from getting up early. But he did recognize that those days where he gave into the voice and went back to sleep that he was not as productive.
Making his way to the couch Joseph opened his prayer book and cried out to God on behalf of people that he had met over the years. Often, he would also include some prewritten prayers. In the morning this seemed to help him overcome prayer ADHD. With his mind focused his real purpose of this time was not really a shopping list of needs to bring to his Creator, but rather a deep desire to connect and be able to hear from God.
His final prayer of this morning session always was the same. From the prophet Samuel he had learned to pray out, “Speak Lord your servant is listening.” He would pray that and purposely try to empty his mind so that he might hear that still small voice.
Joseph then put on his work out clothes that he had set out the night before. He loved this time of year because he did not need any winter gear. Sliding on his headphones, Joseph met his dog outside of the garage. Together they walked through the woods where Joseph did fifteen pull ups and then walked back through the woods to his garage. Stopping on the driveway Joseph pushed himself to do fifty push ups and then started running. As he ran his headphones played podcasts that taught him more about being a Godly leader. Often these podcasts challenged him to be a better father, a better husband or more. Nearly every day while he was running the country roads whether through these podcasts or just flitting along, he would receive an answer to that last prayer. God would speak. Joseph answered as the prophet Isaiah had, “Here I am Lord, send me.” Joseph was always touched when he heard from God. Usually it was encouragement from His Savior to continue in the work. Occasionally, it was correction or even direction of things to do that day. By the time he returned to his house he knew that he needed to get to his journal to take some notes. But first he fed his wife’s chickens.
After journaling, he would realize that he simply could not do what God had called him to do so he prayed the third part of the prayer. “Fill me with a double portion of your Spirit.” He had added that several years prior when he had read that the prophet Elisha had made that request of his own mentor.
Joseph then opened the Bible and read five psalms, one proverb and six pages of Scripture. Then he sat back and meditated on what He had just read. Were there any fresh insights? Anything new? In the silence Joseph listened. He desperately wanted to hear from God clearly every day however sometimes he was just too distracted. While he was certain God was speaking, he simply could not hear Him through the noise. Breathing in deep, Joseph tried to still his mind and focus. This morning he had read about Moses losing his temper with the children of Israel. Amid that frustration, Moses had struck the rock instead of speaking to it. With that act of disobedience Moses had lost his opportunity to lead the people into the promised land. Joseph sighed. How many times had he snapped or become sarcastic as he had tried to lead organizations or even something like his small little classes? Joseph wept.
Before breakfast, Joseph opened up his phone and one of his favorite apps that would tell him about some country in the world with specific prayer requests. This never failed to make him wish to be able to travel the world and share the Gospel with the lost or encourage believers in foreign lands. “Maybe someday.” Joseph journaled his remaining thoughts and went to the kitchen.
While he thought maybe variety might be better, Joseph liked the simplicity of fried eggs and because of the chickens they typically had plenty in stock. The silence of the house soothed him as he slowly chewed his food and thought about the day ahead. When he was finished with the meal, he would do the dishes as an act of service. He never wanted his wife to have to do his dishes in the morning.
Grabbing a cup of coffee Joseph opened his laptop and opened the local paper. Skimming different articles would grab his attention as he sipped his coffee. “The world is definitely broken,” he thought as he so often did while reading the news. The pain and heartache that he would read about as only marginally offset by the fun stories about fairs or achievements of locals.
The paper complete, Joseph would again pull out his journal and ask himself some personal questions based on Scriptures that he had pulled together over the years. He was terrified of being like so many that simply checked the box of calling themselves Christians. He was determined to live His faith but wanted to do this daily self-check to ensure that he was on track. With a deep breath, Joseph grabbed a professional magazine and read a few articles before turning on the coffee for his wife. At exactly six am he would deliver the coffee to the table beside her, kiss her on the forehead and move slowly out of the bedroom.
After reading a few more articles, Joseph again pulled out his journal and reviewed some memory verses and worked on memorizing a few more. At exactly six-thirty, Joseph started getting ready for the day.
The alarm clock was blaring and the lump under the covers was not moving. Clothing was strewn all about the room. An investigator would have thought the whole room was a crime scene. One of those plug-in air fresheners was giving it all it had but was failing miserably as the stench of sweaty clothes and body odor was overwhelming. The lump suddenly groaned and rolled over. Eric struck the alarm and looked at the alarm. His eyes tried to focus on the digital numbers, but they remained blurry. Blinking several times and seeming to have his answer he tried to think what day it might be. For a moment, Eric thought that it was Saturday and his heart swelled with joy and just a touch of annoyance at having left his alarm on. As he laid back down on his pillow, he suddenly realized that it was Tuesday and he needed to get going. He always planned his life so that he got the maximum amount of sleep. After almost twenty minutes he rolled out of bed and looked around the room for clean clothes to wear. Not finding any he pulled what smelled the least worst from a pile in the corner of the room and got ready.
Sunshine filled the room. Julie jumped out of bed. Unlike most people, she loved mornings. There was nothing that gave her more bliss than sitting on her back patio with a cup of coffee and she raced to the kitchen to get things rolling. She was almost dancing as she emptied the filter and the grounds from yesterday into the trashcan. Opening the cabinet where she kept the coffee she stared with unbelief. Quickly she grabbed a chair to look more clearly into the shelving where she kept the coffee. “No, no, no.” With horror she realized that there were no coffee nor coffee filters. Her mind took her back to the day before and she remembered that she had used the last of the coffee. Looking at the wastebasket, Julie considered for a moment using the old grounds but decided against it. If she hurried, she could stop by the coffee shop on her way to class.
Sarah and Mike sat in front of Pastor Dumas. Pastor Dumas was in his early sixties and very energetic, not just for his age but for any age. He was impeccably dressed though it was early in the day. For over thirty years he had been leading this church through seasons of storms and seasons of rejoicing for years. He had done countless counseling sessions over the years. Most were of the prenatal variety. He always thought that was important but also knew that most would not do so if he had not made it a requirement to be married at the church. Many times, he tried to convince couples that they really needed ongoing marriage counseling. Most couples seem to wait until there was an overwhelming amount of pain before coming to him or one of the other pastors for help. Pastor Dumas, himself, had been married for thirty-five years now. As he sat across from this couple, he reflected on all of the times that he had invited relationship experts to speak into his marriage. He had the habit of talking to couples that had been married for several decades and garner as much advise that he could gather. Overall, he was happy with his marriage but always sought to improve it.
Typically, in situations like this one of the couples, usually the guy, would be stoic and sit with his arms crossed as if he was angry. Most of the time his appearance of anger was just a cover for his feeling of failure because he could not fix his marriage problem. Additionally, he was not sure what the problem was that he could not fix. She had tried to explain it, but it made no sense. He saw himself as sacrificing and giving to his wife. He almost always saw himself as a great provider. Now the woman was always unpredictable. She might be crying but in recent years that was not typical. Now what was more typical was that she would by angry.
However, today was not typical. Both Mike and Sarah were crying. Pastor Dumas cleared his throat and allowed them a moment to try to gather themselves. A few minutes went by and what had started as light weeping had evolved into deep sobs. A few minutes later they were both into ugly cries of agony. Pastor Dumas prayed quietly and chose not to interrupt.
The last night of any class was always a struggle for Joseph. Relationships would continue. He still had contact with students from many of his early classes. As he recalled his flawed teaching, his sometimes lack of attention it was amazing that any of those early classes had any success. But despite his own efforts many had achieved a measure of their hopes and dreams. With many he could update information as it became available. It gave him great comfort to realize while still not perfect, he had been able to continue to learn and grow consistently over the years. If the students received nothing else, ultimately if they could realize that deliberate investment into their own growth paid exponential dividends.
The students were somber as they came in. They too could sense that this was the end of something and unlike graduations tonight there was a deep sorrow almost a feeling of grief. Tonight, nobody grabbed any snacks and only Sarah took a cup of tea.
“Let’s say that I was to offer you a job. This job would require you to work 1 hour a day. Reasonable sweat will be spent on this job. I will tell you that it is doable but not cushy. The entire project will only last about 30 days. On day one I will pay you one penny. Each day I would double the amount that I paid you the day before. How many of you would take that job?”
They all seemed to be doing the math in their heads. Samuel was the first to volunteer. Julie scrunched up her face and hummed quietly to herself. The others ultimately reluctantly decided to play along.
“So, on day one you get your penny and go home. Likely you are thinking this just is not worth it so you might contemplate quitting. But that would be a mistake.” Joseph smiled and paused for dramatic effect.
“On day two you get two pennies. Again, it simply does not seem worth it. Then the next day you get a whopping four cents. This is hard work now. You are feeling like you are getting nowhere. But hang in there. When you get to day 20 you will be getting $5242.88 for that hour. Not too bad. We still have ten working days left! Day thirty will give you $5,368,709.12 for that one hour of work. My friends that is what habits are like. Developing habits and including them in your life will bring you happier relationships. They will bring you better health, better knowledge and wisdom. I must also warn you though that negative habits and even no discipline also works in a similar fashion. The only real difference is that instead of a paycheck at the end you get the bill. The first few days of a bad habit don’t seem to negatively impact you that much. But ultimately they kill you.”
The students seemed to have new appreciation for the discipline of healthy habits and smiled broadly, even Julie seemed to grasp how this might benefit her.
“These habits should be built over time so that you can learn to manage them and be added to in a way that is not exhausting. Remember these are new skills. Additionally, unless you are professional athlete, but even then, you should strive to be well rounded. Everyone can benefit from some physical disciplines. Things like exercise, nutrition and rest can deeply impact all other areas. But also include relationship habits. These might include reading books, listening to podcasts and then practicing the things that they talk about in those programs.”
Sarah considered that and thought about how Mike had started bringing her coffee, holding doors and taking her on dates again. He would listen to her. Maybe that is where he got that stuff, she thought.
“You should set up habits to build your social skills, your work skills and your knowledge base. But again, don’t try to do too much all at once. Some of these habits could be daily, others weekly or monthly or even annual.”
After a season of questions and answers, Joseph prayed a blessing over each one and asked God to encourage them and help them all to grow.
“A realization that I recently as I was reading through the Scriptures.” Joseph took a deep breath.
“David is recorded in the Bible as being a man after God’s own heart. I guess I always thought that he was just born that way. My soul was perplexed because he was definitely not a man after God’s own heart when he did the whole Bathsheba thing. So I kept reading and rereading. I meditated on those passages and I asked God to bring understanding to how this could be. David was a man and if he is a man after God’s own heart the standard seems low. But then God took me to the final prayer of David.”
Joseph pulled his tattered Bible out and turned to 1 Chronicles and began to read from verse 10.
David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,
“Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.” Then David said to the whole assembly, “Praise the Lord your God.” So they all praised the Lord, the God of their fathers; they bowed down, prostrating themselves before the Lord and the king.
“What I see in that prayer is a man of praise. I see a man of humility. I see a man that trusts God for all things. We see a man of gratitude and so much more. That is the conclusion to His life. That is where we actually see him as a man after God’s own heart. I know that some of you struggle with the whole concept of God. But that is the ultimate target when you are making your life plans. When you are establishing these habits and living a full and abundant life. I encourage you not to simply do habits to do habits. Experiment try new things and build a productive life. I believe in you.”
All of the students were crying a little now. Saying their goodbyes, they all made their way through the door. Joseph left all alone, also wept.
While all of them had assorted plans they decided to stick together and went to a small Mexican restaurant to eat together. None of them felt like going home just yet.
Eric did great Joseph impersonations. Julie told stories about her childhood and ultimately told everyone about her work opportunity. Life was looking up for all of them. After much laughter and some tears, they all went home.
Project 1: List 1 thing that you could do daily spiritually, on thing physically, one thing mentally and one thing socially that would help focus you in all four areas.
Project 2: Create a series of promises to yourself to do those daily. Example: When the alarm goes off, I will get out of bed and walk to the living room. When I walk into the living room in the morning, I will drink 16 ounces of water, after I drink 16 ounces of water I will read my Bible, etc.
Project 3: Consider your living and dead guy council. What are some of their daily habits?
Project 4: Consider those closest to you. What are their daily habits?