“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Where is my treasure?
Where is my heart?
I have lots of interests. I spend my time on lots of things. I work. I read. I blog. I run. I watch television. I eat. I sleep – some.
Do I devote the same amount of time, energy, and attention to the people and the things that mean the most to me? This is the question that stretches me. My God, my wife, and my kids deserve my focus.
This doesn’t mean that I can’t have interests and hobbies. But I must always keep these things in check.
How about you? Do you know where your priorities should be? How do they match up with reality?
(Please add your comment, and remember to come back tomorrow for a great guest post by Jonathan Pearson!)
Today, I have the honor of guest posting over at The Handwritten. The Handwritten is a blog by my friend Michael Perkins. Michael is a creative pastor, blogger, husband, and dad. Everyday, Michael posts a handwritten thought. I love his creativity and honesty, and I consistently am challenged by these thoughts. Please check out his blog and my guest post which is titled Stop & Start. Then do me a favor and leave a comment. Thanks!
(Regarding guest posting, I love opportunities to guest post as it provides another opportunity to “stretch” me, so contact me through the comments if this is something that interests you. And I love to share others stretch stories and guest posts, so let me know if that’s something that interests you as well.)
Yesterday, I posted about Joe Paterno, and I wrestled out loud about whether or not he deserves a second chance and about whether or not he deserves grace. There was really an interesting discussion that happened through the comments of the blog. As I thought more about the issue, the post, and the comments, I kept coming back to the same thing: What about grace and me? Do they go together?
I’m not in the national spotlight like Joe Paterno. I haven’t been involved in something so devastating and dark. But here’s the deal. When it comes to God’s holiness, I fall way short of the mark. I sin. My thoughts aren’t always the best and neither are my actions. I wrong others and God through my attitudes, my lack of response, and my general failures to get it right. So if I’m honest, I have to ask if there’s grace for me? Just like Joe Paterno, I need grace.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23
Do I deserve grace? Does Joe Paterno deserve grace? I think the answer is actually no. Grace is not earned or deserved. Grace is given. It’s an undeserved gift. So when I ask the question “does Joe Paterno or Jon Stolpe deserve grace?” what I’m really trying to say is “would you be willing to give me (or Joe) a second chance despite my failings?”
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
So what about you? How does grace fit into your story? Have you ever received grace from someone? Have you had the chance to give someone a second chance?
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. I Corinthians 9:24-27
I love running analogies! As a runner (I think I can say that), I especially resonate with a few of the scriptures that tie running or other sports to living our faith. The scripture above is definitely one of my favorites.
From yesterday’s post, you’ll remember that I ran over 20 miles on Saturday morning. I ran the Perkiomen Trail from Green Lane to Oaks, and I finished up my run at the parking lot by Pawlings Road. If you’re not familiar with the trail, there is a “mountain” in the middle of the trail. Seriously, Spring Mountain (our local ski “resort”) is 7.5 miles south of Green Lane. Skiers in our area joke around that it should be called Spring Bump, because it’s not that big compared to some of the ski mountains just an hour or two away in the Poconos. But I can tell you, that whether it’s a bump, a hill, or a mountain, it’s not easy to run up Spring Mountain. But it is possible. I did it Saturday in the middle of my long run.
How did I do it? That’s a good question. First, I knew it was coming. I’ve run every part of this trail several times. I knew that this obstacle was inevitable. Second, I stayed focused on one step at a time. I literally shortened by stride, put my head down, and concentrated on the next step. Third, I remembered that there was more to come. I still had 13 miles to run. I couldn’t let my mind and body give in now. Fourth, I thought about the prize waiting for me at the end. Leanne was scheduled to pick me up at 10 AM. I had to keep going in order to reach my bride. Finally, I remembered that this run was necessary to prepare me for my upcoming marathon. How would I survive the marathon if I gave in now.
I think Paul’s running analogy is so appropriate to life (and ties into my running experience this weekend). First, Paul talks about the importance of going into strict training. I think this means studying God’s word and finding how it applies to our lives. Second, Paul seems to point to the necessity for strategy in living out our faith. Living our faith aimlessly isn’t fruitful. Third, Paul realized that more was expected of him. Training wasn’t the end, there was more to come. There was more preaching and sharing that lied ahead. Fourth, Paul clearly had the end in mind as he trained to share his faith with others. He clearly pursued that through his life. And finally, he knew it would be hard, he knew it would take effort and hard work, and he kept going.
This speaks to me. I want to run the race of life in such a way that honors God and brings Him glory.
As for my running, my body is still recovering from Saturday, but I’m happy to say that I got back to running this morning. Just a few more weeks until the marathon!
How’s your training going? What are you doing to prepare for “the race”?
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. I Corinthians 10:31
I’m always blown away by the conversations that emerge from my weekly MEAT (Men Eating And Talking) Meeting. And last night was no different. The conversation at the table in the diner went deep quickly. Without going into all the detail, the conversation eventually centered on the chief purpose of man. What are we here for? Why do we exist? How does God fit into this? How about Jesus? Are we doing what we’re supposed to be doing? These are all fairly deep questions.
As we talked, I was reminded of the verse above and something I’ve heard my dad tell several times before. I wish I could find the reference, but the general gist is that whether we lead a big company, preach at a church, pick up trash, or clean bathrooms, we should do everything for the glory of God.
Stop and think about that for a minute.
The first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism applies to this conversation:
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, [a] and to enjoy him for ever. [b]
- [a]. Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; I Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11
- [b]. Ps. 16:5-11; 144:15; Isa. 12:2; Luke 2:10; Phil. 4:4; Rev. 21:3-4
And so, MEAT once again left me with plenty to chew on. I’m looking forward to next week, when the conversation will continue.
What are you facing in the day ahead? How are you framing your activities for the day? How would things change if you really did everything for God’s glory?
Happy Halloween! I cannot believe that we are here at the last day of October. (I also cannot believe that we had snow this weekend, but that’s another story.) As I look back on the past month, I am thankful for God’s faithfulness and steadfast love. As I recall, I started this month with feelings of anxiety and anticipation as we continued through a season of difficult memories. Last year, Leanne came home from the hospital on October 1st and began extended care at a day program. As we went through October last year, we were definitely trying to find a rock to stand on – some sort of normal – some type of answer that everything would be okay.
So as we started this October, things had been moving along pretty well. We had started to hit a “normal” stride. There was nothing to say that was going to change. But I still carried some memories of last year. As October has revealed itself each day, I have been relieved and renewed to see God’s faithfulness. We’ve had a lot of things to be thankful for this month like: a family trip to the Apple Farm/Pumpkin Patch, spectating at several of Hannah’s cross-country meets, enjoying food and friends at our 1st ever Chilifest, having the opportunity to serve at the Norristown Community House and Cradles to Crayons, and having the opportunity to share at a Group Leader Meeting.
While I’ve been processing these thoughts these days, it was appropriate that one of my readings from this weekend came from the book of Lamentations. In this passage, I am reminded of hope, never-ending compassion, unfailing love, and enduring faithfulness that comes from God. This is a great way to leave the month of October!
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
Let him sit alone in silence,
for the LORD has laid it on him.
Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.
For no one is cast off
by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone.
How have you experienced God’s hope, never-ending compassion, unfailing love, and enduring faithfulness this month?
“Be still, and know that I am God”
– God (Psalm 46:10)
That’s all I’ve got today.
How about you? What’s your word for the day?
This past weekend, we celebrated the 1oth anniversary of a great family camping tradition. We’ve been camping with the same four families since the beginning. It’s been amazing to watch our kids grow up together. Isaac was two and potty training on our first rainy camping trip to Locust Lake State Park. Now, Isaac’s eleven, and he’s becoming a wonderful young man. The story is similar for all the other kids as well. It’s truly been a gift to experience the richness of these friendships year after year. I look forward to many, many more family camping trips to come.
Nine out of the ten years, we have camped in a Pennsylvania State Park. Pennsylvania is the only state that has an established chaplaincy program in its state parks. Most years, we have worshiped together at the camp’s Sunday worship service. This year was no different as we walked down to the outdoor amphitheater following a delicious camp breakfast. I love my church, but there is something refreshing about getting outdoors and stripping away the music and lights and air conditioning.
At the service, Chaplain Jason shared from the passage in Romans. Jason’s message provided some great reminders:
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
1. I have gifts. I should be sharing these gifts.
2. My gifts are different from other people’s gifts. We all have different gifts.
3. Everyone’s gifts are important to completing the work of the body.
4. I’m not gifted in everything. Saying no sometimes is okay.
I’m sure there were some other great points, but these are the ones that struck me.
What fun family traditions do you have?
How are you using the gifts that God has given you?
This morning I woke up with these words on my mind from Psalm 36:
5 Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.
7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
How have you experienced God’s unfailing love and faithfulness this summer?
I took this picture on our Cape Cod vacation a couple of weeks ago. It’s a boardwalk that takes you out to the edge of the marsh from Grey’s Beach in Yarmouth Port, MA. I ran out to the end of the boardwalk three of the mornings we were there.
In the picture, it appears that the boardwalk goes on forever.
Some days, things can seem like this. We have a tough day at work. Our parenting doesn’t seem to be making any head way with our kids. Perhaps, we’re facing health issues that seem unbearable.
The Bible provides encouragement to keep going when we’re ready to give up. I often draw encouragement from these verses:
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13,14
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
One of the last day’s that we were in Cape Cod, I took Leanne out to the end of the boardwalk to enjoy the walk and view together. The long walk was well worth it!
What are you facing today that seems like it could go on forever – that seems overwhelming or unbearable? What keeps you going?