What A Mess

While we were in Myrtle Beach, and a few weeks before that while we were hiking some beautiful waterfall trails in North Carolina, I couldn’t help but notice all the mess that people had left behind.  Even in these beautiful places, people still didn’t have the common sense to pick up their trash.  And as I reflected on that thought, I came across the following devotional from Our Daily Bread.

“Could they not carry their own garbage this far?”  I grumbled to Jay as I picked up empty bottles from the beach and tossed them into the trash bin less than 20 feet away.  “Did leaving the beach a mess for others make them feel better about themselves?  I sure hope these people are tourists.  I don’t want to think that any locals would treat our beach with such disrespect.”

The very next day I came across a prayer I had written years earlier about judging others.  My own words reminded me of how wrong I was to take pride in cleaning up other people’s messes.  The truth is, I have plenty of my own that I simply ignore, especially in the spiritual sense.  I am quick to claim that the reason I can’t get my life in order is because others keep messing it up.  And I am quick to conclude that the “garbage” stinking up my surroundings belongs to someone other than me.  But neither is true.  Nothing outside of me can condemn or contaminate me, only what’s inside (Matt. 15:19-20).  The real garbage is the attitude that causes me to turn up my nose at a tiny whiff of someone else’s sin while ignoring the stench of my own.

Forgive me, Lord, for refusing to throw away my own “trash.”  Open my eyes to the damage that pride does.  May I have no part of it.  Most of us are farsighted about sin, we see the sins of others but not our own.  “Matthew 15:19-20 says, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts . . . . These are what defile a person.”

In today’s passage, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees, a group of the religious elite in Israel.  They taught that obeying the law was the most important thing, so they emphasized external behavior.  Jesus called attention to the condition of the heart and basically said to them, “It doesn’t matter if you do everything right.  If your heart is bad, you are still defiled.”

In Christ,

Josh

The Danger Of Freedom

I recently came across the following comments found in an Our Daily Bread devotion book.  Here are portions of that article:

“Thanks to the ingenuity of our Chinese friends, we here in the US celebrate our independence this month with massive displays of colorful fireworks.

Every year when we sing our national anthem and enjoy the vibrant patterns created by “bombs bursting in air,” I remind myself that most bombs are deadly, not beautiful like the fireworks display.  Although both use similar ingredients, one is intended to kill; the other to entertain.  In this metaphor we see an example of how something can be used for both good and evil.  In the hands of capable, careful, and caring people, something dangerous becomes glorious.  But the opposite is also true.

Freedom, the very thing we celebrate with fireworks, can also be used for good and evil… When it comes to freedom, we must not use it as a weapon to impose our will on others but to display the glory of God’s will.”

Just yesterday, we shot off fireworks, we celebrated our independence, and we took a moment to recognize the freedoms that we have.  However, just like the ingredients used to make fireworks can also be used to make bombs, we have to realize that when we go against God’s will, our “freedom” can be a bad thing.

In case you missed it, and I’m not sure how you could have, but recently people have used our “freedom” to justify everything from abortion to same sex marriage, and a whole lot more.  But, just because we have freedom to decide these things, doesn’t mean that they please God.

The best freedom that we can have, is the freedom from sin, which was bought at a price.  God sent His only Son to this earth, to die on a cross for our sins, so that we could experience that freedom.  And as a result, our lives should be lived in pursuit of honoring God for the blessing of freedom that He has given to us.

No matter whether we are talking about freedom from sin, or our freedom as Americans, our ultimate goal should be to do what pleases God.  It has been said, “Freedom doesn’t give us the right to do what we please, but to do what pleases God.”

In Christ,

Josh

 

Beware The Lazy Summer Days

Summer is my favorite season.  I love the laid back days when Nellie is off from school and we can put aside some of the normal routines of life.  We get a chance to do new things, see new places, go on vacation, go boating, go swimming, just get out and do a little bit of nothing and be a little extra lazy.

It’s hard to beat the two week vacation we took to Hawaii last summer just Nellie and I.  But this year we are going to get to go on a whole family vacation with my side of the family to North Carolina, and then later in the summer, we are taking the kids and going to Myrtle Beach for a week.  And I can only assume that with the way that Brady eats everything he touches, he will be eating a lot of sand this summer.

But really, vacations are great.  Summers can be a great time to get away and relax a little bit.  To put the cares and the stresses of everyday life behind us for a while and just sit back and breathe at times.  And we all need times like that in our lives.  Times when things aren’t so hectic, and we can just slow down and get out of the normal routine of everyday life and rest a bit.

But, even though summer can be a great time to relax, it can also be a dangerous time of breaking good habits.  Certain routines are good.  You see, good routines make sure that the important things in life get done.  We need food and sleep at regular intervals.  And when it comes to our spiritual health, certain “routines” would be considered beneficial as well.

Now, we sometimes hear legitimate warnings about allowing routines to turn into meaningless ruts.  But the Bible indicates that having set times for certain things is good.  In Psalm chapters 5 and 143 David indicated that morning was the right time for him to praise God and ask for His direction.  And in Daniel 6:10 we learn that Daniel prayed three times a day, and not even the threat of death made him change his routine.  So, while we don’t want our routines to become a meaningless rut, it is good to have healthy routines that point us to God.

So, this summer, while enjoying carefree days, we must not become careless about spending time with God.  Make sure you take time to study His word.  Make sure you are still communicating with Him through prayer.  And wherever your summer takes you, find a good church and attend.  Whether here in Sciotoville, or in Hawaii, or Myrtle Beach, or Florida, or Disney World, make sure that you don’t neglect meeting together for worship.

In Christ,

Josh