When I was a child, I had the coolest toy! Sitting in our yard was a fire truck. My Dad was chief of the volunteer fire department and with that came the truck. I spent hours on that truck pretending to be a firefighter. I was imitating my Dad and all of the other firefighters I had seen. When I was older, I was allowed to ride on the truck to a grass fire with them. I will never forget the moment I got to fight fire for the first time. We had reached a fence the fire had just crossed. Because I was small enough to do it, I was able to take a wet toe sack and cross the fence to put out the small fire that had crossed. I was probably 10 or so years old, but felt grown up.
It is often said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. It is also true, that imitation is a great way to learn. Children watch and imitate the actions of others around them and thus learn many of the social skills needed in life. The same holds true in our spiritual lives. The Apostle Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 NKJV Paul modeled the Christian life for the believers in Corinth. He lived a life imitating Christ. He tried to let the character of Christ be visible in his life. He did this so consistently, he could tell the church at Corinth, that they could imitate him and thus would be closer to living as Christ lived.
The challenge to us is to follow Christ, so others will see Him in us as well. Each day, we should ask ourselves if we are living for Jesus. Are we walking as He walked? Are we loving as He loved? Are we preaching repentance as He did? Only when we answer yes, can we say as Paul did, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”
It is often said that April showers bring May flowers. If that is true, we are in for a bumper flower crop this year! We have seen many days of rain and several storms this spring. The quote is often used to remind us that the storms of today can bring future blessings. Paul said essentially the same thing in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
It is important to pay attention to what is said. It does not say “all things are good”. Neither does it say, “all things will be pleasant”. God through Paul says that “all things work together for good”. The storms and showers of today, can bring a greater good in the future.
God is building our character. He works to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus. In that process, He must remove some things about us which interfere with that goal. He must also build within us new attitudes and skills. That process is not always pleasant.
I always struggled with visiting hospitals as a pastor. It was not that hospitals frightened me or anything. You see, as a teen, I wanted to become a doctor. When I was called to preach, that dream changed. However, there was still within me a desire to be “of tangible benefit” to people. I felt I was doing less just visiting someone. I felt awkward. As a bivocaitonal pastor, I also worked as an Emergency Medical Technician. That gave some skills which were medical related. There was always a desire to look at the chart and “do something”.
Then, eight years ago, I became the patient. I developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome. GBS is a disorder which left me paralyzed in the hospital. I received a week of treatments and then spent a month in therapy. During that time of helplessness the calls, visits, cards, etc. were a lifeline to me. I experienced firsthand the value of a visit. Guess what? Being there for me was “doing something”. I will never again feel awkward when visiting, calling, or checking up on Facebook.
I would not volunteer to go through that again. However, I am grateful for that storm and the growth it brought to me.
In my job, I see many sick computers. There are several ways computers can start to fail. Sometimes malicious software (malware) and viruses can infect a machine and grind its processors to a halt. At other times, they have been running too long and need to restart to clean out the junk which clutters their memory. An especially aggravating malady to afflict our computers at work is that they quit trusting the domain. When that trust relationship fails, they will no longer allow users to log on. I requires being taken off the domain and reintroducing the computer to the domain in order to get them to trust each other again.
As I was deep into administering some TLC to a cart of computers this week, it struck me that similar things can interfere in our walk with the Lord.
Sin is far worse than any virus/malware at bringing destruction. It interrupts our communication with God. Sin starts destroying our testimony, and left unchecked (repented of), it leads to the destruction of our lives.
There are also times in my life in which I need a fresh start. The junk in life starts to clutter my mind and distract me from God’s purpose. It is good to occasionally clear out the junk which distracts us and wastes our resources.
Finally, many lose their trust relationship with God. They forget their place in the Kingdom. Like the prodigal son, they move on and forget their heavenly Father. It never changes the fact that God is their Father, but they get out in the pigpens of the world and need to be reintroduced. They need to remember who they are and what God has provided for them.
Hopefully, we will learn from the machines and not let sin contaminate, junk to clutter, and trust to wane.
I once asked an older gentleman how he was doing and he replied, “I’m getting by ok.” This exchange is typical in central Texas for hello. However, I began thinking how many of settle for just getting by. How many times do we just go through the motions and settle for making it through another day of mediocrity?
As children of God, we are called to so much more. C. S. Lewis argued in his sermon “The Weight of Glory” that we often set the bar to low. “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” In comparison to what God wants to give us, the best this world can offer is toys, trinkets and tinsel.
We need to set our sights higher than just getting by. Scripture says that we are joint heirs with Jesus, royal priests, sons and daughters of God, more than conquerors, etc. None of the descriptions I read inspire me to just get by. Raise the bar and go for it! Live life. Do not settle for merely enduring it.
Remember what Paul said, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (II Corinthians 5:10 NKJV). We will one day appear before Christ and give an account of how we managed this gift of life He gave to us. In that day, I do not want to say, “I got by…..” On that day, I want to know that I entered heaven having really lived and experienced abundant life in Christ. Set your sights high!
It had to seem overwhelming. Moses, the man who had led Israel from slavery to freedom was gone! This same Moses had been the instrument God used to win a showdown with Pharaoh and all of the Egyptian “gods”. Remember, Moses was so close to God that his face shone from having been in God’s presence as he received the Law. Now, the mantle of leadership had fallen to Joshua. I would not want to be in Joshua’s sandals. Talk about a tough act to follow!
In verses 7-8 of the first chapter of Joshua, we find that Joshua did not have to act alone. He had the same help as Moses. It says, “Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7-9 HCSB)
Look at the keys to success God gave Joshua. He promised to be with him wherever he went. In order to keep his steps on the right path, God advised Joshua to courageously observe His whole instruction. In other words, Joshua had to be bold in obeying God’s Law. He would be able to fulfill that by not deviating from the instructions of the Lord. Furthermore, Joshua was to keep the word in his daily life by reciting it day and night. In doing these things, he would fulfill the first instruction of carefully observing.God’s instructions handed down through Moses.
We need to courageously follow God today. What does courage have to do with it? It takes courage to live by God’s instructions when others are not. The world’s culture does not seem to enjoy absolutes. Yet God’s word is filled with several clear instructions. We must be bold like Joshua to stand for God even if nobody stands with us. Remember, even if nobody else is with us, God is! His promise is still in effect today. He is with us wherever we go, so why shouldn’t we have courage?
Every school day around 6:20 am, I get my two children corralled into the truck and we leave for the thirteen mike trek to school. We get to do this because my daughter has choir and recorder practice early every morning. She also likes to read. Being dark in the truck at that hour, she has devised a scheme to get light by which she can read. She turns on a flashlight, and gets under her jacket or a blanket with her book. This usually works well, but the other morning, the blanket slipped and the truck was flooded with light. I couldn’t see the road or anything but the light. It was shocking!
The impact of that light reminded me of the story of Moses spending time with God. After making the second set of stone tablets, he returned to Mount Sinai. “Moses was there with the Lord 40 days and 40 nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. He wrote the Ten Commandments, the words of the covenant, on the tablets. As Moses descended from Mount Sinai — with the two tablets of the testimony in his hands as he descended the mountain — he did not realize that the skin of his face shone as a result of his speaking with the Lord.” (Exodus 34:28-29 HCSB)
Moses had spent time with God and it showed. His face shown with God’s glory. I wonder if we reflect the glory of God like that? Perhaps our lives don’t shine with holy glory because we aren’t putting the time in with God. There is no shortcut that I have found in this. It takes time. Spending time with the Lord in prayer and in His word is an investment we must make if we want to reflect His glory to the world around us. We should want the world to see God when they look at us. That doesn’t happen just by saying it. We must invest the time with God.
Last night I was teaching road safety to my Cub Scout den. We went over walking on the left so that you face oncoming traffic, crossing the street at crosswalks, looking both ways when crossing the street, etc. It struck me that there are a lot of hazards to consider when just walking in our neighborhood. Why do we spend the time discussing and practicing these things? Failure to follow safety rules can lead to injury and death.
It stirred me to think about our “other” walk. You know the one to which I’m referring. Our spiritual walk is often like an untrained child playing and running in the road with no thought about possible hazards. We often do what feels right at the moment, or what we see others doing. We are often too careless and haphazard in our walk with Christ.
Ephesians 5:15-16 HCSB says, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— making the most of the time,[a] because the days are evil.” We are advised to pay careful attention to our walk. We can’t afford to coast and drift through life. That way surely leads to dangers. We must be wise and walk with a purpose. That purpose is to glorify God. In all things, we must carefully choose our steps. What dangers lurk out there in the spiritual realm? The sudden oncoming heresies, those teachings, which may seem harmless but are hurtling toward us and can wreak havoc upon our faith. There also ditches to avoid. When we stray from the path the Lord has laid out for us, we can land in sin and error. In addition to all that we can bring on ourselves, Satan, our advisory, is a lion roaming around looking for easy prey. If we are careless, we could be his next victims