Too Many Irons…Not Enough Fire

Do you have too many irons and not enough fire?

We love to be busy.  It helps us feel productive and like we are an asset.  Whether we are busy with family things…work things…school things…church things…sports things…hobby things…whatever things…being busy means we’re needed and accomplishing something.

Years ago—too many for me to want to admit—I worked for Burger King in Rutland, Vermont.  They had a pretty simple unwritten policy…stay busy.  Even if there was nothing to do there was something to do.  During slow periods of business we were to be cleaning, sweeping, stocking, organizing…we were to be doing something other than just waiting for customers.  Sometimes we were busy just for the sake of being busy.  That kind of busy-ness can be frustrating.

Most of the busy-ness of life today is productive busy-ness and we gain a sense of significance and accomplishment from it.  We believe that what we are doing matters and it is making a difference.  Teachers, for instance, are among the busiest people I know.  They put in a full day in the classroom and then spend a significant amount of time at home getting prepped for the next day.  In the end their investment of time and effort should translate into educated children.

Every segment of life has opportunities for us to be busy…and sometimes too busy.

The Problem of Busy-Ness

There are real problems that are evident when people are overly busy.  Consider these:

  • Burn-out
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Neglect
  • Malnutrition

These are some of the conditions that we see increasing today as work-loads increase and opportunities for rest and down-time decrease.  Families struggle and often pay the price for our “industriousness.”  We try to justify ourselves by declaring we are so busy to provide for them, but what if what they really need is the one thing that our busy-ness takes from them.  Ourselves.

Before proceeding check out this video by Casting Crowns

Chasing the American Dream may mean we Lose it All

 

What Does our Busy-ness Mean Spiritually

Being overly busy can also be a hindrance to our relationship with God.  Let’s face it, often the first thing we let go of in the crush of life is our grip on God.  We start skipping prayer and quiet times and we pour more and more of ourselves into other pursuits.  We find ourselves exhausted, tired, spent, and have nothing left to give to the One who gave us everything.

We start letting go of the commitments and calling that God has placed in our lives, again justifying it the whole time to quell the conviction and guilt we feel through it. 

  • It’s for the kids
  • I’ll get more involved later
  • It’s not for very long
  • God will understand
  • No one else is having to do all I do

Whatever phrase or excuse fits best, they all say the same thing—something we would never say aloud.

“GOD ISN’T THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO ME.”

Does that seem harsh?  Certainly that’s not the message you intended, right?  But, that’s exactly what we’ve declared.  These things I’m involved in…good as they might be…have replaced God as the center of attention and affection in my life. 

What Can I do?

So, what can I do to change this situation?  Mind you, none of these come easy, especially if we have a tendency to be “busy” people.

  • Learn the hardest word to say – “NO.”
    • Sometimes we just have to say no to things…even good things, so that we can focus our attention and affection on the best things—the God things.
  • Learn the hardest practice of life – Let Go
    • Like saying “no” to opportunities that are offered to us, letting go of some of what we are already involved in can be difficult, but we have to measure the amount of our attention and affection these pursuits are sapping from God in our life.
  • Learn to take “Time Out” daily
    • Somewhere in every day we need to get some time away from the noise, the activity, the busy-ness, and get our focus right.  Let me share an experience from Scripture that illustrates this.

Take a moment and read Joshua 9:1-15  <–Click here to see it online

take note of verse 14…

14 Then the men [of Israel] took some of their provisions,

 but did not seek the Lord’s counsel.

Isn’t it strange that after all that they had experienced and seen these leaders didn’t take the few moments it would have taken to consult the Lord about this?  Were then too busy?  Too arrogant?  Too deceived? 

Fact is, if we don’t pause to consult God because we are too busy for Him then we are going to eventually wind up in a mess.  Overloaded and underprepared…like “Pedro” here.

So, take an inventory.  Are there things that you are not doing in the kingdom because you are so involved and busy with other things?  Ask, “what difference will this effort and endeavor make when I’m gone from this world?” 

Invest in the eternal…in the kingdom…and let your attention and affection be on God.

Need a simple formula to follow?  Here’s what I strive for:

  • 1st Place in My Life – God, Jesus, and the things of the Spirit and Kingdom
  • 2nd Place in My Life – Family (My wife and then my kids)
  • 3rd Place in My Life and Beyond – I sincerely believe that if these two are in their right place the rest will fall into place and I won’t have to worry or wonder about what my priorities are.

Blessings,

Big D

Am I Making Excuses or Making Changes?

Can This Be Said of You?

  • “Something is different about you.”
  • “You sure have changed.”
  • “What happened to make you so different?”
  • “Why don’t you do what you used to do?”

Change…difference…alterations…  Can these things be said about you since your relationship with the Lord began?

Relationships change us.  We know this is a fact.  When I was single I lived as a single person.  When I married my life changed.  My relationship with my wife changed my behaviors and activities.  Fact is, if married people don’t change when that relationship starts they probably won’t be married for long.  Because, relationships are supposed to change us.  

So, why is it that so many people claim to have a relationship with God, but feel like they don’t have to experience any changes in their lives?  True, for some the changes might be slight, but still there.  For others the changes will be drastic and dramatic, real life changes.  Sometimes these changes happen incredibly fast, and other times they occur over periods of time, but there is still change visible.

Think about how marriage or even dating relationships change us:

  • We stop “seeing,” “hanging out,” dating other people.
  • We begin spending significant amounts of time with one person specifically
  • We start wanting to make this person happy, pleased, comfortable, content with us.
  • We change the places we go and the events we attend (Stop some and start others)
  • We alter our language and the way we talk, the things we say
  • We change the choices we make in a variety of categories

See, things change.  Think for a moment of what you have changed because of a relationship you have/had with a bf/gf/spouse.  What changed?  What stayed the same?  Did any of these lead to conflict?

Our Relationship with God Changes Us

God meets us right where we are, with all of our wounds, baggage, sin.  But He doesn’t want us to stay there.  He works in our lives and He’s giving us what is needed for change, but we have to be willing.  For some changes it means we have to release some things, possibly things that have been very important to us before.  For other changes it means taking on some things that we wouldn’t have been willing to do before.

Why make these changes?  We change because of the relationship.  Relationships change us.  Problem is that we don’t like to change.  So, with God it becomes easy to make excuses.  We find ourselves tolerating things in our lives that we shouldn’t.  We excuse out actions and behaviors with a flippant, “That’s just how God made me” when we should be saying, “God, forgive me.”  None of us are immune to this, and the culture and community we live it makes it far more acceptable to compromise then to commit and change.

Need some proof?

  • The divorce rate in society is only slightly higher than in the Christian community.
  • Adultery rates among believers is incredibly high
  • The crimes of child molestation and abuse within the church are staggering.
  • Reports of Christian men sucked into the lure of pornography are shameful
  • Drug and alcohol addiction and abuse among the church mirrors the lost

Now, don’t hear me say that if you are engaged in these behaviors you shouldn’t be in the church.  If we are sincere about Christ’s purpose for the church we will recognize it as a hospital for the sin-sick and not simply a display case for the divine.  We are here precisely because these issues exist and God wants to change lives.   It’s just time that we stop making excuses and justification for our own sinful behaviors and we start bringing them to the cross.

national day of prayer

Today is the NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER (always the first Thursday of May).  My custom is to read the passage of Scripture from 2 Chronicles where Solomon has completed the temple and is dedicating it to the Lord.  It was in this reading today that God pricked my heart about this in a very familiar passage.

2 Chronicles 7:14
14 and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.

As in that day with Solomon, God had done all that was needed to experience incredible blessings and benefits with this vital relationship with Him.  It was all up to the people to respond and to turn from their evil…wicked…selfish and self-serving…ways and return to Him. 

The same is true right now.  We need to choose to stop making excuses and start moving toward change.  When we start to hear comments like I listed at the beginning of this article we will know we’re on the right track.  People around us…closest to us…should recognize that something is different about us, that we are changing.  They might not understand it, and they might not like it, but they should see it.  In addition, these changes should point them all in one direction—the cross.

So, what about the change in your life?  Is it there?  Do people notice it?  Have you chosen instead to make excuses?  “This is just who I am.”  Jesus gave His life so that you could have a changed life.  Claim it…receive it…and live it

In closing check out this video by one of my all-time favorite Christian artists.

So, What About the Change in You…….

 

Until the next time…

God Bless you in the Change!

 

I’m a Big Fan of Dancing with the Stars

by: Pastor Dave “Big D” Bentley

You might not know this about me, I have been a closet Dancing with the Stars fan for the past four seasons.  My wife “forced” me to watch through a season with her a while back and since then, while I don’t often admit it so publicly, I have been hooked.  I like almost everything about the show.  The banter with the judges, the performances, the laughter, the frustration, the epic atmosphere.  Like most fans of the program I have people I like, and people I think should be “voted off the island.”

There is something that I find disappointing, and it was highlighted again last night for me in the elimination broadcast.  I wasn’t surprised with the person who went home—Kendra Wilkinson just didn’t have the heart as far as I could tell for the ball room.  What disappointed me was that Chelsea Kane could be in jeopardy of departing the program.

 

I think that Chelsea is the best contestant and shows the most promise for bringing home the mirror ball trophy at the close of the season.  Problem is that it doesn’t really seem to matter what I think, or who I believe is the best.  The decision is up to the general public who votes each week on their choice for the best, and the judges who score the dancers based on technical merit and entertainment.  Even so, I couldn’t believe that Chelsea was left standing beside the soon to be departed Kendra last night as one of the options to be sent packing. 

In the four seasons I’ve watched I have had this experience every season, and sometimes watched in agony as someone I believed should have gone all the way instead, because they lacked the votes they walked away.  I have yet to see my favorite go the distance and win, although with Kelly Osborne and Bristol Palin I have at least had my horse “show” in the competition.

Thing is, as my wife points out to me frequently, I really can’t complain because, as much as I might enjoy the program or be a fan of one of the celebs, I don’t usually vote.  Since whether or not the dancer remains on the program is based in large part on the votes received I am doing a disservice to my favorite by not picking up the phone at the end of Monday nights show and casting my ballot (however many we’re allowed) for them.  So, next Monday night I intend to do my duty and fulfill my responsibility to my favorite duo of dancers and vote.

    (I’m not even going to bring up American Idol which my wifestarted me watching this year and I have since boycotted with the ouster of Pia—who I didn’t vote for either.)

So, what’s my point?

Wouldn’t it be awful if life were like these programs.  We had to perform to a certain standard in order to get a good score from the judges, and we were dependent on the votes of others who would cast a ballot for us based on…well who knows what really.  As long as we scored high enough and got enough votes eventually we could make it into heaven.  Life would be frustrating and exhausting, and we would never have any sense of security or worth.  Sadly, there are many people living life just like that.  They follow some sort of spiritual “check-list” to make sure they have everything in order.  They place their lists of accomplishments and deeds on the altar before God in an effort to—if at all possible—gain His favor.  They base their existence here and their admittance into heaven on what they can do and give to win the highest score.

 

The flip side is that you just come to a point where you don’t care and you can’t be bothered to try anymore.  That is equally as heart-breaking. 

There is another option, a greater option.  It’s known as Grace.  In a book I read years ago called GRACE WALK it recounted the futile efforts to earn God’s favor and the fact that God’s Favor (His Grace) is ours for the asking if we will receive Him by faith.

Ephesians 2:8-9
8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast.

This removes all of the effort of attaining God’s favor from our shoulders, and allows us to focus on discovering what His purpose and intention is for our lives.  See, that passage is followed with this:

Ephesians 2:10
10 For we are His creation—created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

God has a plan specifically tailored for our lives, and purpose that is designed to fit us perfectly.  Discovering and fulfilling that isn’t about getting a high score from the judge, or winning a big enough fan-base to keep us on the program one more week, it is about being who we were created to be.

Next Monday I’ll be watching DWTS (see I’ve even learned the lingo for the show) and I intend to vote at the end of the show as often as I am allowed for my favorite couple.  But I’ll leave each day grateful that there are no numbers appearing on the bottom of my life that people need to call to cast a vote to keep me, and that my Father in Heaven doesn’t hold a numbered paddle in his hand that could mean I score to low to gain His approval.  I am approved through the death and resurrection of the one who gave it all and did it all so that I could live. 

Let me close with these incredibly reassuring words from Scripture:

Romans 8:31-39
31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He did not even spare His own Son, but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything?
33 Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies. 34 Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. 35 Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. 37 No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Be Blessed…And Dance Without Fear in Christ!

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LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE XI–Footwear of the Warfare

How important can shoes really be?  Well, most women would tell you that they are extremely important and in great quantity and variety.  Paul would say that one pair of shoes is most important, the “footwear of the preparation of the Gospel of peace.”  Take a look at today’s VIDEO DEVO as we continue contemplating the Believer’s Battles.

Lace up Your Shoes…and Let’s Go!!!

That’s Just Crazy! The Craziest Lover Ever

Sermon Outline from Sunday’s Message (May 1, 2011)

I think at some point after we become followers of Christ we become Christianized in a way that insulates us and makes us forget just how “crazy” the claims of Christianity are. This month I want us to revisit some of the stories the in Scripture that before we came to know Jesus would make us declare, THAT’S JUST CRAZY. I hope that we will refocus a little on the people we are trying to share this “insanity” with in our family and community.

“That’s Just Crazy!”

The Craziest Lover Ever!

Hosea 3:1-3 (HCSB)
1 Then the Lord said to me, “Go again; show love to a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, just as the Lord loves the Israelites though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.”
2 So I bought her for 15 shekels of silver and five bushels of barley.
3 I said to her, “You must live with me many days. Don’t be promiscuous or belong to any man, and I will act the same way toward you.”

Hosea 14:1-4 (HCSB)
1 Israel, return to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled in your sin. 2 Take words [of repentance] with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him: “Forgive all [our] sin and accept what is good, so that we may repay You with praise from our lips. 3 Assyria will not save us, we will not ride on horses, and we will no longer proclaim: Our gods! to the work of our hands. For the fatherless receives compassion in You.” 4 I will heal their apostasy; I will freely love them, for My anger will have turned from him.

THE DEPTH OF GOD’S CRAZY LOVE (1)

· God Does Not Need Us –

o What do we have to offer him?

o What do we have that he needs from us?

o Our Very Best cannot measure up.

· God Wants us…He Desires Us…He Loves Us!

· And His Love is Steadfast and Faithful Even when we Are not

THE COST OF GOD’S CRAZY LOVE (2)

A. The cost to Hosea

1. The Exorbitant Price of a Slave

2. Imagine the things running through Gomer’s mind with Hosea’s bid (revenge, subjection)

B. The cost to Christ was the cross at Calvary

1. When he should have been ruling from a throne he was bleeding on a cross

2. When he could have been judging he was weeping “Father forgive”

3. When he could have demanded allegiance he merely asked for a relationship.

THE EFFECTS OF GOD’S CRAZY LOVE (3)

· What Difference Does this Crazy Love Make in My Life?

· For Hosea and Gomer:

“You must live with me many days. Don’t be promiscuous or belong to any man, and I will act the same way toward you.”

· Gomer’s Commitment (live with me many days)

· Gomer’s Purity (don’t be promiscuous – leave that old way of life)

· Gomer’s Relationship (I will be faithful toward you)

· What Would Gomer’s Response Be?

THE HOPE OF GOD’S CRAZY LOVE (14.2-4 and following)

A. In spite of our disobedience – God Loves

B. In spite of our unfaithfulness – God loves

C. In spite of our disrespect and irreverence – God loves

His Love Brings:

Healing, Refreshing, Renewal, Revival, Provision, Guidance, Protection, and Forgiveness

THE INVITATION OF GOD’S CRAZY LOVE (14.1)

Israel, RETURN to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled in your sin

è Forest Gump – He Never Stops Loving Jenny

The Invitation to All of Us…

è In spite of Failure – Return

è In spite of Unfaithfulness – Return

è In spite of Filthiness – Return

è In spite of Wandering – Return

àIllustration of the runaway in Sao Palo Brazil (No matter what you have done…come home)

 

Coutnry Song: HURRRY HOME – Jason Michael Carroll

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWEI8Y91dQ0&feature=fvwrel

He’s been sitting by the phone since she left
But it’s time for work and he just can’t be late
So he grabs his old guitar and he plays a couple bars on the machine
And then he softly sings
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done I still love you
It doesn’t matter where you’ve been you can still come home
And honey if it’s you we’ve got a lot of making up to do
And I can’t hug you on the phone, so hurry home
Well, the message light was blinking when he got back
It was an old friend calling ’cause he just heard the news
He said man, I hope you find her
If I see her I’ll remind her that her dad is worried and want her to know
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done I still love you
It doesn’t matter where you’ve been you can still come home
And honey if it’s you we’ve got a lot of making up to do
[ From: http://www.elyrics.net/read/j/jason-michael-carroll-lyrics/hurry-home-lyrics.html ]
And I can’t hug you on the phone so hurry home
Well, the days dragged by without a word from her
And it looked like she might not be coming back
People said man, don’t you think it’s time to take that old message off
He said no, you never know when she might call
She was just outside a bar in New York City
Her so-called friends had left her all alone
She was scared he wouldn’t want her
But she dialed up that old number and let it ring
And then she heard him sing
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done I still love you
It doesn’t matter where you’ve been you can still come home
And honey if it’s you we’ve got a lot of making up to do
And I can’t hug you on the phone so hurry home
He walked in just in time to hear her say
Dad, I’m on my way

My Name is in the Book

Security Check-Point

This past Saturday I went up to the Southern State Correctional Facility to visit one of the guys who has come to our church and is now being housed there.  I have to be honest, it’s not my favorite place to visit.  I remember the first time I went to visit at a prison in Clio, Alabama and hearing that incredibly sobering sound of the gates closing behind me and sealing me in.  I would have rather been anyplace else other than there.  So, there is a measure of anxiety that accompanies visits like these.

The process is pretty simple here, much different then I remember it being in Alabama.  I entered through the main door and got a locker for everything I had in my possession.  Honestly, I had forgotten I was carrying my Leatherman tool—the guard reminded me in a gentle but firm fashion that I wouldn’t need to bring that with me the next time.  Once everything is in the locker I took off my shoes and passed through the metal detector—which invariably goes off every time I go through one.  The guard checked the inside of my shoes—a thankless task—and then scanned over me with the detector wand thing.  It didn’t find anything so I had passed the process to this point. 

After putting on my shoes I moved to the next and most important level of clearance.  At the visitor check in desk there is a book.  It’s a simple white binder with several pages of inmate information.  Each inmate has to fill out forms for who will be allowed in to see them.  If your name is not in the book you can’t be allowed in.  After scanning through for a few seconds the guard found my name and I was allowed in to see the inmate. 

The process brought to mind the day that is coming when we will appear before the Lord at the Great White Throne.  See this Scripture:

Revelation 20:11-15
11 Then I saw a great white throne and One seated on it. Earth and heaven fled from His presence, and no place was found for them. 12 I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books. 13 Then the sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead; all were judged according to their works. 14 Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (HCSB)

On that day, we’re informed, there will be one book that matters above all books.  THE BOOK OF LIFE.  In this book is written the names of those who have entered into that faith relationship with God through Christ.  Those whose names are found in the Book of Life will enter into eternal life in heaven.  Those whose names are absent from the book of life will be cast into eternal condemnation.  It matters whether your name is there. 

Think about the places where your name needs to appear for admittance

  • Reservation List
  • Hotel Room List
  • Party Invitation List
  • Appointment List

How do you get your name on these lists?  You make a call or answer an invitation.  That’s also how you get your name on the list in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  He has invited you to come to Him, but you have to respond to that invitation by faith.  When you make that choice to follow Christ your name is penned in indelible ink in the Book of Life and it can never be erased. (Rev. 3.5)

So, I have to ask in closing, is your name on the list?  Have you answered the invitation of the Lord Jesus into that faith relationship?  If not, make a call right now and get that reservation set.  Pray the following prayer or something similar in faith, believe, and live with Jesus as Lord of your life.

Lord, I answer your invitation to eternal life right now.  I know I’m not invited because of who I am because alone I am lost, a sinner without hope.  But through your death on the cross I am invited to become your child.  I believe in Jesus and all that He has done for me.  I come today in response to your invitation to come to you.  I want to live my life here and hereafter with you as Lord over my life.  Grant that my name be written in your book forever and help me walk with you and live with you everyday.  Thank you for the assurance of heaven, and for your presence in my life.  AMEN

  • Made that your prayer today?  Please share that information.  I want to know and rejoice with you, and so do many others. 
  • Still not sure, check out one of the following resources for more information.

It is the greatest and most important decision you will ever make in your life. 

Many Blessings!

Big D