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Being busy is not the problem

I understand how life can get busy as different obligations creep in. I know there are seasons of busy-ness and that’s OK. But here is something to think about.

People who say they are busy say sometimes that if they were less busy, they would have time to read the Bible. If they just weren’t so busy, they’d have time for serving. If they didn’t have such a crowded day, they’d have time for ministry. Being busy is sometimes the reason they do not meet with God or serve the kingdom.

I’ll look at the issue in two ways, first, here is John MacArthur talking about giving. He isn’t talking about being busy, but the concept is the same. If you had more money, you’d give more. If you had more time, you’re do more. Here is JMac:

Some people say, “Well, if I just had more I’d give more.” No, I’ve heard that. You always hear them say, “If I had $1 million I’d give it over here and I’d give…if I could just win the lottery. Oh man, if I could just win the lottery.” The question is not what would you do with $1 million. The question is what are you doing with this $4.00 you’ve got in your pocket. What are you doing with the $10.00?  What are you doing with the $20.00 or the $60.00? That’s the issue, because Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 says, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money. When good things increase, those who consume them increase.”

Another way to say that is, the only advantage to money is to watch it slip through your fingers. The more you get, the more that goes. So it isn’t a question of if you had more you’d give more. No, that’s not the issue. Jesus said it this way, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much, and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” Sermon, The Biblical View of Money

It isn’t a question of if you had more you’d give more. I can attest to that. Confession time: sometimes I’m not busy at all and that’s when I do the least for Jesus.

I work in education, which means I have extended time off during the summer break. This year our break is about 8 1/2 weeks. I work hard during the school year. Most school years I also work a second job in the After School Program, as I will be doing this year again. When I arrive home between 5:30-6:00pm, I begin my second shift of reading the Bible, writing, praying etc. Thursday nights are devoted to Bible Discussion Group, and of course, Sundays are for worship service with either Bible group or fellowship time afterward. Add the occasional social time with friends, school meetings, and must-do tasks (car oil change, doctor appointment,) and you have a pretty full schedule. I’m not crazy busy, but the school year has structured time that mostly fills my day from bedtime-to-bedtime.

All I can think about during the school year is how happy I will be during Summer when I have all this time to myself. “I’ll read the Bible more…write more…research different topics…read theological books…” And I do. At the beginning. I get up early, do my spiritual tasks, spend the rest of the day productively for the Kingdom.

As summertime slides on, though, so does my schedule. I get up later, watch more movies, snuggle with the cats longer, take more naps. I spend less time doing things for the kingdom and more time just being comfortable for myself. There have been a few days when I sit here, the Bible within reach, and never have opened it once during the day once.

If I had more time I’d do more? Not hardly. Sloth and laziness are built into us I think, and I soon fall victim to it. I have to work diligently during summer to ensure that I maintain my prayers, do my Bible readings, and complete my spiritual kingdom work when what I really want to do is watch Youtube videos of Kids Escaping Cribs or Funny Cats.

So I can attest that having more time does not mean that I’d do more. In fact, for me it’s the opposite. When school starts in ten days I’ll be grateful for the structure again. My work schedule really helps me keep track of my spiritual self.

Don’t delude yourself into thinking it is because you’re so crazy busy you have no time to read your Bible, pray, or serve. As John MacArthur said on the subject of giving, it’s not about not having millions of dollars, it is about what are you doing with $4 in your pocket. Whether you have 24 hours to yourself or 20 minutes to spare, what are you doing with the time? If the issue regarding money isn’t “Oh man, if I could just win the lottery”, it’s the same for time. It isn’t about “Oh man, if I could just have all day to myself.”

Here are a few resources on balancing work-busy with (summer)-lazy.

What does the Bible say about being too busy?

In our supersonic postmodern society, known for its busyness and its increasing ability to deliver instantaneously, we find ourselves hurried more than our ancestors ever could have imagined. We have come a long way from the horse-and-buggy days, and because of that, our twenty-four hours a day seem more and more restrictive. We never feel like we have enough time to accomplish everything we want or need to do, and the clock keeps ticking

Parents, don’t waste your lazy summer days

But is it really such a bad thing to have wide open spaces in our planners? Might this be the very thing we need in order to refocus our priorities and make the most of the short season of time we’re given with our children?

Tim Challies’ book and course with a practical guide to productivity
Do More Better

I wrote this short, fast-paced, practical guide to productivity to share what I have learned about getting things done in today’s digital world. It will help you learn to structure your life to do the most good to the glory of God.

Challies’ book is also a course with the same title at Ligonier Connect.

How is being clamorous like a Russian nesting doll?

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (Ephesians 4:31)

My Sunday School teacher was reading this verse aloud yesterday, and I got stuck on the word ‘clamor’.

It is an interesting word. We hardly ever hear anyone use it these days. I like the word clamor, if not the real life noise it represents.

According to the internet dictionary, clamor means

“a loud and confused noise, especially that of people shouting vehemently.”

Set of Matryoshka dolls nested
inside each other. Wikipedia

Whenever there is a list of words together, especially moral qualities, it seems to me that they build. Like Russian nesting dolls, they’re connected. In this case, Matthew Henry Commentary explains the connection between bitterness, wrath, and anger and its connection to clamor and slander and malice.

By bitterness, wrath, and anger, are meant violent inward resentment and displeasure against others: and, by clamour, big words, loud threatenings, and other intemperate speeches, by which bitterness, wrath, and anger, vent themselves. Christians should not entertain these vile passions in their hearts not be clamorous with their tongues.

Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2315). Peabody: Hendrickson.

I think this can be especially applied to women. The bible speaks of woman’s quietness and gentleness as part of exemplary character. Riotous women, whether in anger or clamorous mirth, are not to be modelled after. In fact, Titus 2:3 says women should be reverent in behavior.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. (Proverbs 31:25)

Whether man or woman, we know that what is inside us comes out and it can either honor Jesus or defile us. See Mark 7:21-23,

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.

Matryoshka dolls set in a row
Wikipedia

If I suddenly break out in clamorous, slanderous, or malicious talk, then I know I have much more inside me that needs to be repented of. The outward expression is merely the end result, not the beginning. The beginning is what is in the heart. It is a grace to have verses like these, which tell us that if we are speaking clamorously, then it is the warning signal that there is something needing to be addressed inside of us, as a sinful heart condition.

Aren’t we fortunate and blessed to have the Word of God to use as the mirror of all goodness? Holding it up to ourselves as a reflection is painful sometimes but this is what Jesus wants, and it is good for us. After all, didn’t Paul say to Timothy,

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16)

Sleepovers? To do or not to do? Tim Challies has some thoughts

Tim Challies wrote a good piece on whether to allow your child to sleep away overnight at a friend’s house. He and his wife have their own reasons that he shared in a blog essay as to why they don’t ever allow their young children to sleep overnight at another person’s house.

Why My Family Doesn’t do Sleepovers

Before my children were even old enough to ask, Aileen and I talked it through and decided we would not allow our kids to do sleepovers. Now let’s be clear: there is no biblical command that forbids them, so this was not a matter of clear right and wrong, but a matter of attempting to act with wisdom. We determined we would make it a family rule: …

Then the piece blew up. He was astounded to find that three quarters of million people looked at it in just inside of week. And the comments section blew up too. He bemusedly said that he never quite knows which of his blog essays will generate such reaction, but usually a person can kind of tell. a On the sleepover one, though, he had no idea it would generate controversy and also such encouragement. Read his second piece here:

6 Reflections on Sleepovers

I didn’t see this one coming. After over ten years of daily blogging, I tend to have a pretty good sense of which articles have the potential to cause a reaction and which articles have the potential to fizzle. I might have guessed that an article on why my family doesn’t do sleepovers would have attracted a few more readers than usual, but I wouldn’t have believed that in its first week it would be read by nearly 750,000 people. But it was, and I found myself wondering why.

Here are some other moms and dad bloggers with thoughts on the subject of sleepovers.

Rethinking sleepovers

Today’s Christian Woman shares some pros and cons in this article

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis shares a situation of how he handled when his daughter was asked to go on a sleepover birthday party. Scroll down.

Caring for youths temporarily living with you

Murillo: The Return of the Prodigal Son ~1667

This week I was asked about how far to go in discipline and instruction of youths or children who aren’t our biological children but are living in our household. It comes to pass quite often in Christian circles, that people often take in kids who aren’t their blood relatives. They aren’t adopted, and they haven’t gone through a formal foster home process, they just wind up living with Christian parents for a while. It is a quasi-parental situation and though the bible is full of advice for children that are ours, when asked, I have not been able to find verses which address temporary or informal foster-situations.

The Proverbs are saturated with eternally wonderful advice for parents. The Psalms as well and the New Testament have plenty to say about families and children. But what about children who aren’t ours and when there is some expectation that sometime the child/youth will likely go back to their home of origin?

There are several verses in the New Testament which address the household. In the 1st century, the household included the immediate family, extended family, servants, and slaves.

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)

He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved. (Acts 11:14)

Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. (Acts 16:32)

These verses do NOT mean that if one member of the household becomes saved, by extension all the members are automatically saved. No. It means that when the Gospel is preached in the household by even one person, and lives are lived by Christianity’s precepts by at least one of its members, then the Spirit moves and salvations occur in the rest of the members. Salvation is ever and only an individual event. But without at least one person in the household preaching and instructing, salvations are not as likely to occur.

We are undoubtedly familiar with all the verses in Psalms and Proverbs addressing how to train up a child in

Eli and Samuel, John Singleton Copley, 1780

the way he should go. (Proverbs 22:6). However, to specifically address the question, I immediately thought of one book of the bible where it depicts a long-term foster-youth situation- Philemon.

It seems from other contexts that Philemon lived in Colossae. Philemon was an adult man whom Paul had led to the Lord. Philemon had a household where he owned at least one slave, Onesimus. Onesimus was not saved. He stole from his master and ran away to Rome. Providentially, Onesimus met Paul and Paul took him into his house. Though Paul was imprisoned, he had been allowed to live in a rented dwelling, albeit accompanied by a guard. (Philemon 1:1, Acts 28:16, 30; cf. Ephesians 6:20.) Paul immediately began instructing Onesimus in the way of the Lord. Onesimus was saved.

Paul’s imprisonment in Rome lasted two years, but it is not clear how long Onesimus was with Paul. Long enough for Paul to come to love Onesimus as a father, both personal and spiritual.

I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.” (Philemon 1:10).

As Onesimus lived with Paul, Onesimus’s story came tumbling out. He was a thief and a runaway. Despite the fact that Paul had come to love the youth and he was useful to Paul, and Paul wanted to keep Onesimus living with him, (Philemon 1:13), the consequences to Onesimus’s behavior had to be addressed. It was the secular law of the time regarding slaves that they be returned. In addition, it was right to do this according to Christian ethics. Paul made the decision to send Onesimus back to his household of origin.

Paul asked Philemon to graciously accept Onesimus back as an example of forgiveness, in the same way Jesus had forgiven all of us. Forgiveness and unity in ministering in the name of Jesus in general is the high example here. Paul didn’t harangue Philemon but did intimate that there are expectations given the stellar example in Jesus. (Philemon 1:16).

Paul must have taught the boy well- Onesimus might have faced severe consequences. He could be flogged. Under Roman law Onesimus could even be killed. He could be sold to a harsher master. Yet Onesimus agreed to go. Paul’s letter to owner Philemon was a plea for forgiveness to Onesimus.

Paul was sensitive in this area. He could have trumped Philemon by claiming his apostolic authority and could have commanded Philemon to take Onesimus back kindly, but Paul didn’t. He appealed to Philemon on the basis of Christian brotherhood. And Onesimus submitted, willing to face the discipline awaiting.

Whether for long term or short term, we see several models for foster parents in this short book:

–Taking in a lost and wandering youth as Paul did. We give hospitality.
–Paul unhesitatingly taught the youth the way of Jesus without permission or seeking advice from Philemon. If a young one is in your house, you teach him the Way of Jesus.
–Behavior has consequences. Paul didn’t shirk disciplining the runaway slave by teaching him that right thing is to return to face them.
–At some point, when it’s time for the youth to be returned to his household, he should understand that if there are to be consequences due to his behavior or consequences on no account of his own from the master of the house, either way, he should be willing to take those consequences and forgive the household leader in turn. Philemon is a book of forgiveness.

I believe Philemon is a book that shows us that whoever is living in the household, we teach the younger and the vulnerable and the lost the way they should go, AND discipline them accordingly. Above all, Philemon is a book that relies on the example Jesus gave us. It is a book of forgiveness, love, and service.

Now, Philemon was a Christian, and Onesimus was a Christian and so was Paul. If you have a youth living with you who must return to their home of origin and that home is not Christian, then I believe the same principles apply. If we demonstrate Christian love at all times, model forgiveness and persevere in dedication to the name of Jesus, then one by one, families can be re-knit. (“You and your household.”) Who knows, it could be as Paul intimated in Philemon 1:15-16…

For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord

…that the escape and the return of Onesimus, now that he was in Christ, perhaps will have a further good.

Paul was clear in his expectation that Christian ethics be applied to the situation by the youth and the adults. He also shows us that the relationship does not end when the youth returns home. Paul expected to be released soon, and he planned a visit.

“Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.” (Philemon 1:21-22)

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Alternately, what if you have an unChristian prodigal biological son or daughter who doesn’t live with you but wants to return? What if he is in rebellion and though he doesn’t live with you he wants to visit? What if he doesn’t want to visit but you want to make it clear that he is still welcome, yet set boundaries that uplift the Gospel and protect the rest of the family members?

I am reminded of a very good essay of a letter a dad hypothetically wrote to his son. In 2007 when the hateful letter of a ‘Christian’ dad disowning his gay son went viral, David Murray responded by hypothetically writing his own letter in 2012. Please read this wonderful and loving letter. Below is a short excerpt.

What letter would you write to a gay son?
Perhaps these boundaries are not going to be easy for you to accept, but please try to understand that I have a duty to God to lead my home in a God-glorifying manner. Psalm 101 commands me to prevent sinful behavior in my home. While extremely anxious to preserve a relationship with you, I am especially concerned that your siblings are not influenced into thinking your lifestyle is fine with God or us.

Here it is read aloud:
Two letters to two gay sons

These are difficult issues and I am certainly no authority, I don’t have children. I did my best in thinking and praying about these kind of questions regarding informal domestic foster-child situations and prodigals. I recommend the book of Philemon, it is so short but bursting with love and forgiveness and the power of the Gospel to change families and people.

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Further reading

Bible Introductions: Philemon

The parable of the prodigal son

Does the bible allow for slavery?

Be angry…but do not sin

Are you righteously angry? Even personally angry? It’s OK … within limits.

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” (Ephesians 4:26)

Why should we deal with our anger right away? Because it is deceitful and it hardens us faster than you can say Jack Robinson.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13).

And why should we take care of our anger or other sin as long as it is “today”? Because it takes our eyes off Jesus.

And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30).

How long did it take for Peter to sink after he took his eyes away? Immediately.

Ultimately the only thing our anger does is prevent us from producing righteousness.

because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:20)

Only God’s anger produces righteousness. Barnes Notes says of the James 1:20 verse, that human anger “Does not produce in the life that righteousness which God requires. Its tendency is not to incline us to keep the law, but to break it; not to induce us to embrace the truth, but the opposite…A man is never sure of doing right under the influence of excited feelings; he may do that which is in the highest sense wrong, and which he will regret all his life. The particular meaning of this passage is, that wrath in the mind of man will not have any tendency to make him righteous.”

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Further reading

How can I know for sure that my anger is righteous indignation?

“What does the Bible say about anger?”

Be a Daily Christian

Christianity is not a one time moment when we are justified. That is simply the beginning. Our sanctification means we are being continually transformed into the image of Christ.

To that end, we submit to the transformative efforts of the Spirit and speed His work along with deliberate actions of our own. We should be a daily Christian. The bible is replete with admonitions about how to live a holy life. It means doing certain things, consciously and purposefully. These things are not and should not become a prescription for rote legalism, but guides for holy living.

Because the devil is so powerful, so destructive, we need Jesus every day. As the hymn says, every hour. But as we go along in life we often forget that. We begin to believe our own press, that we can handle things…that we’re all right.

No.

We need Him daily. If we are to live according God’s word it means doing certain activities every day. See a few of the biblical admonitions for what to do to be a Daily Christian.

CC, by Rachel Titiriga

The first priority in life is this: Salvation.

For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Once we have been saved from His wrath and forgiven of sins, declared righteous (justified), now begins the life of sanctification, living holy.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile… (1 Peter 1:13-25).

‘Prepare your mind for action’… the verse doesn’t say lay around and wait for inspiration. We must prepare ourselves, ready our minds, and be willing to engage in action. What actions? Some follow below.

hardened clay pebbles, Wikipedia CC

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13)

Sin hardens the conscience. We must exhort and encourage each other constantly, so sin does not deceive us or that the church falls into apostasy. The very fact that we must do this daily is the clear indicator of how short a time it takes for us to harden. We humans are fast-setting clay!

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

Pulpit Commentary explains, This readiness to give up ease, this willingness to bear suffering, will be a matter, they must remember, of everyday experience. The terrible simile with which the Lord pressed his stern lesson home was, of course, suggested to him by the clear view he had of the fearful end of his own earthly life

The Lord’s Prayer reminds us to ask for bread, daily. And not only that, but there are other daily admonitions in the prayer as well. To praise Him daily, to ask for help daily, to seek the Kingdom daily, and ask for forgiveness daily.

“The Lord’s Prayer” Creative Commons, art by navalatanjjnn

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:9-13)

We are noble if we search the scriptures daily.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

It goes without saying that if we are to pray ceaselessly and rejoice always, we are doing these things every day.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; & see also Romans 12:12)

Creative Commons, by Eva, flickr

Far from being a burdensome or legalistic rote activity, do these things with gladness. We serve a holy and mighty Jesus, who loves us deeply. What are some things we do daily without even thinking about it, easily and habitually? Give the kids a bath? Cook supper for our husband or wife? Have a drink of water? Yet Jesus is the Living water, how much more refreshing would our lives be if we actually did these things daily as the scriptures and the Father’s will command?

Christianity is not something to trot out once a week in the pew. It isn’t something to fall back on when the dreaded diagnosis comes in. Living a vibrant life submitted to the Holy One is a daily activity. Sin wants to deceive us into thinking we can go a few days, or a few weeks, or a few years without ‘our daily bread’, but we can’t. And we shouldn’t. What joy there is in Him! We abound in His hope! We are filled with peace!

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.” (1 Peter 1:8)

Responding to God’s call

“I gathered them to the river that runs to Ahava, and there we camped three days. As I reviewed the people and the priests, I found there none of the sons of Levi.” (Ezra 8:15)

The first group of returnees had already accompanied Ezra back to Jerusalem and the temple had been rebuilt. It is 50 years later and the sacrifices and spiritual life of the returnees is ongoing. The next generation is coming up. However, it hadn’t taken long for the people to start abandoning the LORD’S ways once again. Even the priests were carnal. So God sent priest and scribe Ezra to Persia bring back another group of exiles who had been carried off to the Babylonian captivity, for the purpose of teaching the people at Jerusalem. (Ezra 8). This calling was prompted by Persian king Artaxerxes’ letter to Ezra which decreed “that anyone of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom, who freely offers to go to Jerusalem, may go with you.”

The Levites were the tribe of Levi, and when land was being distributed to the 12 tribes, the Levites received none. They were to be consecrated for service to the LORD at the Temple, (sort of deacons to the priests) (Numbers 8:6; Numbers 8:14). They were not to be farmers. Therefore they needed no land. (1 Chronicles 15:2; Numbers 3:6). The entire tribe is set apart for temple service on behalf of the people in submission to God.

So Ezra trudged back 900 miles, and put out a call for the people of Israel and priests and Levites. They came. They assembled. And Ezra reviewed the assembly and he saw people and he saw priests. He saw no Levites. (Ezra 8:15b)

No Levites showed up. Not one.

Can you imagine, the personal call of God to the very people He raised up for the purpose, declining the call. They were comfortable. They were settled. They likely thought, ‘Let someone else go.’ They ignored the reason they were put on earth: to glorify God in active service to Him.

The verse in Ezra 8:15 where no Levite showed up is one of the saddest. I like to picture the actual circumstances. I imagined in my mind the hillsides where the families were assembling, the donkeys and camels and trunks and baskets. The running children, and the sense of purpose and excitement. I imagine the women pitching the temporary tents as they waited for the rest to show up who would show up. I picture Ezra in his robe walking among the groups and clusters, and frowning as he finds no Levite. How sad! How awful!

As with every scripture, there is application to our day. Are we a Levite? Settled and comfortable? Do we fail to respond to His call of the one thing we are put on earth to do, which is to glorify God with our hearts and mouths and minds and our lives? Beware! It is easy to look back through the lens of 20/20 hindsight and say that they were foolish not to show up. But while living out our own lives do we do the same? We are human, like they were, so yes, we do the same.

I pray that if you receive a call to do a work for God that is outside your comfort zone, that you will respond. I’m not talking about the big things, like being a missionary in North Korea or something, but responding to any call that puts us either permanently or temporarily outside our comfort zone. I pray that for myself, too. I want to serve and I want to respond to the call, no matter what it is. I pray I respond like Samuel, like Isaiah, (1 Sam 3:4, Isaiah 6:8) “Here I am Lord! Send me!”

God brings us to a place to do a work or to grow in His light and that may be where He wants us for the rest of our lives. It may be, though, that He may prompt us to do something outside of where we feel comfortable. If He does, will you show up? Will I?