Living On Purpose: One Day At A Time, Part One

The “S” curves along Interstate 405 South to State Route 167 were usually slow at this time of day.  Beginning about 2pm, traffic on any major roadways in and around Seattle are equivalent to the cholesterol clogged arteries of anyone on a steady diet of biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast, McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese and fries for lunch, and Pizza Hut for dinner.  Within a half mile of pulling onto 167, I was bound the shoulder because I could no longer see the road through my tears.

Rewind about two hours…  I was just finishing class for the day at Northwest Bible College when I heard about Darrell, a local pastor who I idolized, thought was a great example of someone who knew and followed God, and someone I had no idea what was really going on in the darkest corners of his life.  Darrell flushed his vows when he left his wife, family and church to find solace in the arms of another woman: the church secretary.  Rewind another year and you’ll discover another idolized pastor, named Robert, who’s erring decision involved not the church secretary, but the church piano player.

I was devastated; sitting on the shoulder in my 1984 Subaru Brat trying to convince myself it was worth driving another foot further.  It was Wednesday and we had youth group at the church where I was a youth ministry intern.  I usually arrived at the church around 3pm to set up, connect with students and get ready for the night.  However, today I wasn’t going to make it by 3pm.  And, I didn’t make it by 4pm.  I literally sat on the road for a couple of hours praying, asking questions and making life long resolves.

One of the questions I asked:  How does a guy walk away after standing at an altar – before God, a pastor, a soon-to-be bride and a gathered audience – and make vows that 20 years later seemingly mean nothing?  The only answer I could come up with then and still today is this:  One day at a time.  The adverse question gets the same answer:  How does a guy remain faithful to his God, wife, family and church – even after 20+ years of marriage?  The answer:  One day at a time.

An affair.  It begins with little lapses of judgment – things thought to be harmless plant the seeds of demise.  Every decision changes the trajectory of our lives until one day we stand at the point of folly; a leap we’ve been preparing to make for a long time.  Then, in a moment of self-described weakness, life is forever altered.  Everything is ruined.  As far as I’m concerned, you don’t get the benefit of the “weakness card”.  You’ve purposed in your heart to go there as soon as the right situation presented itself.  Sin always results in death.  In this case, it’s the death of your moral authority, potentially your family and any aspirations you had professionally.  The consequences are the same for the church as in the marketplace; your choice brings more change than you planned for.  It’s time to start looking for moving boxes.

One day at a time.  What if we decided – one day at a time – to remain pure, faithful and forthright?  That’s what I decided over 25 years ago on the side of the road near Renton, Washington.  Over the last couple of decades I have been developing a system to help me keep short accounts with my character, resolve and relationship with God and others.  I call this system, My Personal Development.  Next week, I’ll share with you the details of this system.

Until then, check the trajectory of your life.  Where are you headed?  If traversing down a dark path, stop and turn around.  On many levels, you cannot afford the damage, pain and death that moral destruction brings.  What you’re deciding to do is decidedly not worth it.  Stop and turn around.

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How The Nature Of Man Affects The Nature Of Our Marriage Relationship

It was one of those sleeps that when you wake up it takes a few minutes for everything to come into focus.  God had caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep, removed a rib from his side and used it to fashion Eve.  It’s uncertain what first caught Adam’s eye but one thing is certain, Eve was striking.  “This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called ‘woman’, for she was taken out of man.”  The Genesis account teaches us about the nature of man and the nature of the marriage relationship.

From chapter two we know that God placed Adam in the Garden second only to Him; to maintain and care for it.  Specifically, God gave Adam the responsibility to name all of the animals.  The power to name is the power to lead.  Part of man’s nature is that he is a leader.

As Adam was naming and cataloging the creation, certainly he noticed Mr. and Mrs. Giraffe and Mr. and Mrs. Rhinoceros and Mr. and Mrs. Alligator, etc…  Watching the creation propagate the earth, Adam realized that he had no counter part.  However, life in the Garden was helping develop the second nature of man; creation was teaching Adam to love even before Eve was made.   Part of man’s nature is that he is a lover.

Listen up:  How we lead and how we love affects the nature of our marriage relationship, which is also found in Genesis.

One of the natures of relationship found in Genesis is that there’s a partnership.  Eve was fashioned from one of Adam’s ribs; part of him.  In a marriage, there’s a partnership.

The second nature is found in 2:24-25, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become a new family.  The man and his wife were both naked, but they were not ashamed.”  Genesis 2:24-25

Another translation says that the two ‘will become one flesh’.  In this case of the union of husband and wife, when the two become one, there’s permanency; the second nature of marriage relationship.

Let’s put this all together:  How we lead and how we love affects the nature of our marriage relationship, which is partnership and permanency.

Stop and think about any marital strife you’ve experienced.  No matter what it is, the strife can be traced back either to a failure in leadership or a lack of love.

Here’s a sampling of common strifes gripping marriages that I encounter almost weekly as a pastor:

Arguing over finances?  Poor leadership.

Extramarital affair?  Lack of love.

Addictions?  Poor leadership and lack of love.

Drifted or grown apart?  Poor leadership and lack of love.

Lack of convictions or godly values?  Poor leadership.

Differences in parenting styles?  Poor leadership and lack of love.

A failure in leadership or a lack of love can and will affect a marriage partnership and its permanency.  Let us lead and love well.

God’s Expectation: Be A Good Steward!

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a Gatorade bottle being placed on the ground through the cracked driver’s door of a running Honda Passport.  I witnessed the sequence of a pulled back hand, a closed-door and the appearance of backup lights indicating the exit of an individual apparently ignorant of what it means to be a proper steward of the earth.

The next moment found my index finger tapping on the driver’s side glass and my eyes meeting the sheepish stare of a caught litterbug.  The driver opened her door slightly and I opened my mouth.

“Are you really going to litter like that?”, I asked.

“It was his bottle,” she responded, pointing to someone in the back seat.

Somewhat dissatisfied with her answer and noticing three other pupils, I asked again.

“Are you really going to litter like that?”

“No,” she said embarrassingly picking up the bottle.

This entire conversation occurred in the parking lot of Redamak’s in New Buffalo, on the shores of Lake Michigan.  I flew to the area to attend meetings at Willow Community Church 25 miles northwest of Chicago.  I had just finished having dinner with friends who live in the area when I exited the restaurant and headed to the back of the building where the main parking lot is situated.  Those who know me know that I’m no environmentalist in the political sense of that word.  However, I do believe God expects us to exercise proper stewardship of the world.

God is the Creator who loves and cares for nature, but not over His love and care for humanity.  Man, above all created things, has been given stewardship responsibilities over the earth.  After the debacle in the garden, enmity developed between man and nature.  As a result, Adam was forced to exploit his physical environment to survive.  This is one of the many effects of sin.

The Christ-follower’s view of the environment needs to be garnered as God intended it.  Understand that the natural flora in which God placed Adam required no exploitation for him to survive; everything for sustenance was provided.  Genesis 1:28 teaches us, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.”  The words, ‘subdue’ and ‘rule’ were given to Adam before he sinned and contextually cannot give us permission to abuse and distort nature.  On the contrary, the context promotes stewardship.

Biblical stewardship is probably best illustrated with the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).  The scriptural definition of stewardship is caring for someone else’s property with the goal of improving that property.  So subduing and ruling, with regard to the environment, mean caring for God’s property as God’s chosen steward, thereby making it better.  We are to intelligently manage the resources God has given us, using all diligent care to preserve and protect them.

The Bible also teaches that God did not create nature primarily for man’s use.  The earth and everything in it are God’s and for His good pleasure (Psalm 24:1).  Throughout scripture, God demonstrates that He personally cares for nature and finds absolute joy in His creation (Psalm 104:10-14).

As followers of Christ, we should be known as good and proper stewards of God’s creation.  Begin today subduing the earth as God intended – as a diligent steward.  Rule over all created things, as a conscientious steward.  This was God’s expectation for Adam and subsequently, it is God’s expectation for us.

Praying for you.

Job’s Resolve

Without a doubt, the story of Job is one of the most mesmerizing, puzzling and unpopular narratives in the Bible.  Job was a godly, moral and blameless man whose life personifies a bad movie script.  In Scene One, everything he owns is stripped from him.  Then, some freak desert tornado incises the house where his kids are having a shindig, collapsing the roof and smothering everyone inside except one courier.  As if that isn’t enough, Scene Two leaves Job scraping his carcass with glass just to relieve pain left by head to toe lesions.  Torture, agony and despair are inferior words that pale in comparison to the reality of the situation.

Job is a universal and personal story; a tale, perhaps, too close to home.  It’s conceivable to cry, sympathize and identify with Job because we are not sheltered by unspeakable pain.  I’m encouraged by Job.  His life is a profile of courage in the face of adversity.  He did not give up on his character, give in to his pain, or give way to Satan.

I’d like draw attention to Job’s resolve in Job 31:1, “I made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I entertain thoughts against a virgin?”   This verse and resolve, seems oddly placed considering the underlying message of the Book of Job.  But, follow me here…

Job has been running on reserves for a while now.  Like anyone in his situation, Job is confused and hurt, both emotionally and physically.   About out of gas, he begins to reminisce; hoping someone left behind five gallons of fuel for him to find.  There’s got to be something there to help him get through another day.

Like an artist, Job paints a picture of his former happiness.  He was prosperous; even his foot print showed evidence of abundance.  Job’s riches, benevolence and kind treatment of the needy had earned him respect.  Reports of his philanthropy could be heard in the neighboring towns and back patters were on every corner.  Gone.  They’re all gone.  It’s all gone; reduced to a distant memory.  There isn’t any lasting happiness to be mined in the days gone by.  In this life you cannot retrace former footsteps to pick fruit from a joy tree.  Your feet will trod wherever your eyes lead.  Job, the former no longer remains – it’s gone – so why go looking for it?  There’s a reason God put eyes in the front of our heads.

Job is in a dangerous and precarious position right now.  Ask any alcoholic.  Inquire of anyone addicted to pornography.  Question anyone struggling with an abusive lifestyle and they’ll tell you they’re hardest hit with temptation when their emotional tank is nearing empty.  Job’s emotional tank was depleted and lust came crouching at the door of his mind.  Consider Job’s resolve again from Job 31:1, “I made a covenant with my eyes, how then could I entertain thoughts against a virgin?”  It makes more sense now, doesn’t it?

Now, let’s apply this to men universally.  Guys, any time we’re tired, hungry or lonely we are more susceptible to temptation.  You don’t have to be an alcoholic to be tempted by alcohol.  Incidentally, you don’t have to be addicted to pornography to be tempted by images on your computer screen.  Our enemy, the devil, knows that when fatigue, hunger or loneliness bumps into temptation all men are at risk.

Pray and ask God to give you the resolve of Job.  Know, understand and manage your tipping points.  Don’t give the enemy a foothold in your life.  Quit trying to convince yourself that you deserve “it” because “it” always leads to sin, regret and pain.  There isn’t a man on the planet who doesn’t need accountability in at least one area of his life that is prone to sin.  For Job, obviously it was lust.  For you, I don’t know.  For me, well, that’s between me and my accountability group.