God’s Two Boxes

I hear and read of things that people are working on in their lives or are praying for. I want to be more organized. I want to get my finances in order. I want to get into a house. Don’t get me wrong, those things have their importance and are meaningful, but I’ve been wondering how important they are to God in the His perspective from outside of time. He’s got the perfect vision, He can see the beginning and end of time at once. He knows how it all got stared and how it ends. He truly knows what’s important. Down here on Earth, with our limited vision of time, things can get cloudy. We get fooled by mirages and hallucinations. Which has lead me to this question:
If God had only two boxes to put everything of mine in, one marked ‘Important’ and one marked “Unimportant”, where would he put my stuff?
And, being boxes, they are limited in size. In other words, He can’t just keep putting everything in the “Important” box. Pretty soon it would get full, and he’d have to make decisions. “Hmm, I gotta take out the big screen or I can’t fit in salvation for his children.” Get the picture?
Yes, it’s a reductionist question, but I think we can learn from this simplification. It makes me think that some of the things we run after aren’t really that important to God. I’m not talking about just the material things. In fact, those are the things we can easily see God putting in the “Unimportant” box. No, I bet there are some Big Things on our lists that God looks at and says, “You know, from where I sit, looking at all eternity, that’s really no big deal.”
Good health? God says, “From up here, being sick for 30 years is a minute thing.” Financial security? “You know you only need to deal with that money for 75, 80 years. After that it’s useless.” A nice house? “You’re only going to live there for a few decades! After a thousand years, you won’t remember it, trust me.”
It’s the heart things, those things that shape us and define us that God might put into that “Important” box. A friendship that challenges you to grow? “Might be the difference in where you spend the next millenia.” An outward, others focus? “Might be the difference between where they spend eternity!” Learning to love like Jesus? “Might help My image, and maybe help others actually find their way home.”
It makes me think of this passage in a new light:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. but seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25-33

This passage is usually used to teach us not to fret over stuff, which is important. In the light of the idea of God’s two boxes, I wonder if Jesus isn’t also, or even primarily, teaching us to put things in proper perspective – God’s perspective. Food, money, shelter, in the long run these things, though needed, are not important. Let God take care of those things, you turn your attention to the stuff in God’s “Important” box.

Look, Dad, Look!

Maria and the oldest went to some home party together tonight, which left me and the younger two to fend for ourselves for dinner. I had to run to my sister’s too, so we hit the Golden Arches on the way home. We sat outside in the play area and after all the fries and nuggets were consumed they abandoned me for the play area.
There were a few other kids and parents there too. I was just enjoying a warm summer evening while the kids played when this little boy posed on the slide. Proud of himself, he called to his father, “Daddy! Look daddy! Daddy, LOOK!”
His dad looked over and nodded in appreciation and I was struck with that scene. The child hadn’t really done anything remarkable, just sat on the edge of the slide, somewhat precariously. But he thought it was cool, and he wanted his Dad to see what he could do. He wanted his Dad to acknowledge his accomplishment.
It made me think about our relationship with our father. We act this way too. We remember to share our faith, we have a good prayer time, we give some good advice or post something we think is profound and we pat our selves on the back. We may even say to God, in prayer, “Father! Look, father. Father, LOOK! I loved someone, I noticed them! I did something nice, I remembered. Look father!”
I’m not talking about the prideful moments we have, thinking were something we aren’t. I’m talking about the healthy pride, the sense of accomplishment. Last Sunday we had an outdoor service at a local park. It was a fair distance from the parking to the area we had service. All the teachers were bowing to take our communion around a picnic table. The prayer was being said and I noticed one of the older brothers making his way across the field, carrying a plastic chair to sit on. He was obviously laboring, so I left the table in the middle of the prayer to go help him out. I came back and took my communion and I had one of those moments. In the past I wouldn’t had left the prayer, that wasn’t right. I would have let him struggle across the field. But this time I was proud of myself for making this choice to help a brother out instead of legalisticly staying for the prayer. It was a better choice. “Look father! Look, I chose people over ceremony! LOOK!”
I like to think of God like the father of that boy at the McD’s, smiling politely. “That’s great, son.” But in his heart, he knows I’ve not really done anything great. He thinks, Son, that’s great, but it’s only start of what I have in mind for you. In the grand scheme of life, your choice, though noble, is so small. I came that you would make a life of such choices. One day you’ll understand.
As that boy grows, he won’t be so proud of those little things and he father won’t be as impressed with them either. You can’t imagine a 16 year old perched on a slide saying “Look, dad!” Dad would be disappointed if that’s what his son settled for. In some way I wonder, after 17 years of following Him, is God a little disappointed that I’m still proud of such little accomplishments? I wonder if He didn’t think I would be a little farther along this journey of becoming by now.

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.

Hebrews 5:11-6:3

New colors

I spent a couple of hours messing with the colors on my site and I’m not completely sure I like it. I think I like it. I want to like it since I spent an entire evening on it.
My wife’s response was ‘Eew’ with a disgusted smirk. Hmmm.
What say you?

Good Guys & a Good Friend

Earlier this month, I went with a friend to the 2005 Good Guys Nationals. This is one amazing car show that happens every year at the Ohio State Fairgrounds. Over 6,000 street rods, and custom cars. At every turn throughout the grounds there was another couple hundred cars, stationary and moving. We spent 6 hours there and saw maybe half the cars. Amazing rides, I’ve posted a gallery of 100 of the 120+ pictures I took here.
Of particular interest to me were the wheels on the cars. I wanted to both see the wheels I ordered (I’ve only seen pictures) and see how unique they are. I saw a lot of American Racing Torq-Thrust II, by far the most popular wheel. Second was Boyd Coddington’s Smoothie II, lots of those too. But not a single Junkyard Dog. Bummer, as I wanted to see them, but good that I picked something unique.
It was also good to see my friend. We hadn’t seen each other in about 2 years when we wen to Good Guys 2003. He is one of those who used to go to my church. He now goes to a ‘Mainline’ COC across town near his house. In fact, he’s since been appointed elder there. He shared about how he likes his church and how things are done. I shared a little of my disappointment at how things don’t seem to be moving in a new direction after all. But mostly, we looked at cars.
He’s a car nut too, with a 1964 Olds Dynamic 88 Convertible, a 1965 Mustang coupe and a 1966 Triumph TR4. I think the Olds is the only one that runs, the other two are ‘in process’. It was a good time with an old friend

J. Brian Craig

I’ve added a link at left for the music of J. Brian Craig. I meant to do this a while ago, but, well, I forgot. He’s a part of the LA Church of Christ and he has a real gift for modern, congregational worship music. Several of his songs are in our church’s songbook, and they’re among my favorites. You can download MP3 files of many of his congregational songs at his site as well as the lyrics for most of them. He aslo has an upcoming CD of congregational music coming out which I’m looking forward to.
In addition to his congregational music, he’s made two other CD’s. The first is no longer available, but you can still get the newest one, Rocks and Trees, and according to his web site, the proceeds from that CD go to missions work in Mexico and Central America.
He also has more (older, I think) MP3 downloads here.

House Rules

Things with our kids haven’t been going as well as we’d like. My wife, because she spends more time with them, was more acutely aware of it. I frankly hadn’t paid enough attention, to the kids or to her telling me they needed attention. (That’s another post in itself.)
Maria’s been reading a book called Smart Discipline, by Larry J. Koenig. Among other things (she’s not through the whole book yet), it recommends a list of rules for the house and a progressive scale of discipline for infractions. Having recently read this post at tent pegs, we combined the ideas and came up with our ‘House Rules’ (although, after visiting Tent Pegs again, I like ‘Family Code’ better.) We will revisit these occasionally, and the kids will have a say in them each time. (Their suggestions this time were things like “Don’t touch Mommy’s clock.” and “Don’t climb on the furniture.” (We decided those fall under respecting each other.)
They are principals that guide us, but with small children we thought that we needed to break them down, where possible, to some actual ‘rules’ that they could better understand and follow. We hope, though, that by incorporating them under bigger principals, they will be encouraged to think bigger and deeper than mere obedience.
Our family fears and serves God.

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua 24:15

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

Our family is honest and trustworthy.

The LORD hates every liar, but he is the friend of all who can be trusted.

Proverbs 12:22

But you want complete honesty, so teach me true wisdom.

Psalm 51:6

Therefore:

  • We will not lie; We will tell the whole truth
  • We will not take things that are not ours

Our family is respectful and loving.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Therefore:

  • We will not be disrespectful (with our voices or bodies).
  • We will not fight (physically or verbally).
  • We will not throw tantrums.
  • We will not be foolish when not appropriate (at the table, in the car, etc).

Our family is orderly and hard working.

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

1 Corinthians 14:33

She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.

Proverbs 31:17

Do your work willingly, as though you were serving the Lord himself, and not just your earthly master.

Colossians 3:23

Therefore:

  • We will do our chores without whining or complaining
  • We will keep our home and bodies neat and orderly

Our family is obedient.

Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you.

Deuteronomy 4:40

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Ephesians 6:1-3

Therefore:

  • We will obey God’s commands.
  • We will obey our parents the first time.
  • The discipline charts work like this. Each transgression merits a check mark. The first few are ‘free’, grace check marks – no consequence. After that, there is a consequence for each new check mark. There are 5 consequences on each kid’s chart, specific to them and what will resonate with them. The last one on each is to be grounded to their room. For the younger two (under 9), their charts are daily charts. They get 3 ‘free’ spots each day and their chart gets wiped clean each day. For the oldest, her chart is weekly. She gets 7 ‘free’ spaces each week and her chart gets wiped clean each Sunday morning.
    The system will help Maria and I as much as them. One of the biggest battles we face, as many parents do, is being consistent in our discipline. The kids need it but sometimes we get sentimental, lazy or even harsh. This will help us give our kids a fair and even face.
    I truly believe this will produce results in our children. We put in place on Sunday and there’s already a heightened awareness of doing the right thing. We will be on our guard to not produce little legalistsic slaves to the rules. But what we were seeing is them moving closer and closer to an ambivalence to rules, defiance of authority and a generally self focused demeanor. Our goal is to move them toward a greater respect for God, others and authority.

    That’s an Odd Looking Bird …

    Yesterday after work I filled Maria’s bird feeder. OK, she filled it, I just hung it up. This evening it was empty. All the seed, gone. (Like Elvis and his Mom.) The hook was away from the porch so the squirrels shouldn’t be able to reach over and pick stuff out of it. Hmmm.
    So we filled it again, halfway, to see if it would be gone in the morning, indicating a night feeding frenzy (or theft.)
    Just a minute ago, one of the cats is sitting at the patio door looking attentively outside, ears and head twitching. And then there’s a good, solid thump on the wood porch – and the bird feeder is swinging back and forth.
    Maria gets up and turns on the back porch light and there, under the now empty, oscillating bird feeder, is a young raccoon having a late night snack. The little bugger had climbed up on the railing, hung off to the feeder and pushed the edge down until all the seeds poured out!
    I guess it’s time to move the raccoon bird feeder.

    Jasper Christian Church

    Go read Daniel’s post about the blessings of being a part of his church, the Japser Christian Church. He describes a fellowship of believers that sounds to be exactly what Jesus wanted us to be. That is why He came, to become like this. Here’s a snippet:

    What can I say about our small group and others in our church family? They’ve been an absolute gift from God, there’s no other explanation. A journalist isn’t exactly the career choice for one who wants to be fabulously wealthy and times are often tight in our household. I am the financial worry-wort of the family and I have shared that struggle with our group often.
    But, it’s amazing how, when you share a struggle with a small group that’s really intends to share their lives together, God uses those people to provide for you.

    Go read the examples of God working in concert with people in tune to His Spirit and the needs of others to make a difference in the life of one family. Very, very encouraging.

    Stand Up, Sit Down, Fight, Fight … Fight?

    So, a couple weeks ago, I posted this post. Later, in the comments, my friend Paul posted this (and this response has been awaiting publication ever since):

    I wanted to share something with you. I spent a decade and a half, and still to this day, watching with vigilance to not “slip” from God. Then I started to consider the fact that I will not get any closer to God, than Christ crucified and resurrected. What I mean by that is that I was killing myself, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually trying to stay “spiritual.” Sharing my faith, showing up to functions, having my prayer and bible reading times, and so forth. Then I realized that I was missing the elephant in the room. It is not my divine responsibility to remain spiritual. I will never be spiritual in the sense of my actions. I will only be as good as Christ Crucified and resurrected. My whole Christian responsibility is to express the love I’ve received by obeying the command of God, which is clearly defined by the love we share for our fellow Christians, and our neighbors. It is to express mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. It is not a heavy burden of having the correct behavior every minute of the day. It is to forgive as I have been for given Ephesians 4:32. I had to stop, stop doing bad, and simply start what was doing good. Focus on what is doing good, and do that. You will sin as long as you live on earth. Period. Why stress out over a lull in the way things were going? Did you stop being compassionate and forgiving? Did you stop offering mercy to your neighbors? These are the things of God. Be holy as God is holy. Set apart by your purity and divine nobility. Being spiritually relaxed, and spiritually receding can be two different things, if you let it.

    Boy, did that hit my right where I live.
    Lately, I’ve been in this funk. I just haven’t felt like, well, doing anything. Yet, I felt guilty about not doing anything. Bleah.
    For 17 years I lived under the impression that what I do defines who I am. I scrutinized my actions and behavior. I compared myself to others, inside and out of my fellowship, to see how I was doing. I quantified how I was studying my Bible, how often I prayed, my giving, my church attendance, etc. It was all about measuring up to The Standard of The Bible.
    I’ve come to understand over the last year or two of that, intellectually anyway, that this is so incorrect, and obviously so. As I look again at this pattern, I see that there is no grace, or at least that grace is so marginal as to be dismissed. It becomes all about what I do, instead of what was already done for me, namely Jesus’ death on a cross. It’s the treadmill that has to be run, and at a certain pace, lest I get thrust off the end, lost forever. There is no stopping, no breaks, no rest, and my spiritual life becomes all about what I do and accomplish. Me, me, me.
    I say I understand it, intellectually. You see I know that it’s wrong thinking in my mind, yet my heart and emotions are still worrying about that treadmill. When I stop and think, that’s OK then, Jesus paid it all for me, it’s not up to me to do anything, then my heart gets antsy. It’s saying, “But you have to …. You’re not …. What about …. You’re falling behind!” You see there is some truth to the treadmill. Scratch that. There’s a truth that underlies the treadmill lifestyle. There is a standard in the Bible we are called to. We are called to be different, to be set apart. We are to watch our life and doctrine closely.
    We are called to do some things and not do others. The fallacy is in the believing that our running, our acting, our doing, has any bearing whatsoever on our belonging to God. Yes we must run, act and do, but God loves us already and Jesus has saved us already, whether we run, act and do or not. (That last sentence bothers me a lot. I’m not 100% convinced that is true, but I’m not sure it’s false either. Oy.)
    So there is this battle in my heart and in my brain and it drives me crazy. I’m the kind of guy who wants to have it all figured out. For years I thought I did, and it was good. I just keep running and everything is fine. Now that I know that’s not completely true – I can’t run enough to be fine – I’m going crazy not knowing just how much I should run and when. Should I sit, should I stand, should I fight? There is no right answer, and that drives me nuts.

    On This Day

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