I got my first suicide-threat phone call during my first year when I served as a pastor. I drove to the neighborhood and found the address in a row of massive homes with fine-trimmed lawns.
I rang the doorbell and a woman with a severe look cracked the door and eyed me without saying a word.
I began the brief conversation. “Hello, uh, I received a call about . . .”
“He’s around back,” she interrupted. The door slammed. I made my way to the back of the mansion and saw one of the several garage doors open. Inside, I found a man sitting on an upside-down bucket.
His bloodshot eyes looked up at me.
Sometimes our blessings get piled so high, it’s difficult to see around them. Blessings are ours in abundance—and tempt us to forget God. Of course, this is nothing new.
As the redeemed Hebrew nation anticipated entering Canaan, the Lord issued them an important warning:
When the Lord your God brings you into . . . great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you shall eat and be satisfied. Then watch yourself, lest you forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. —Deuteronomy 6:10-12
Notice God’s emphasis by the repeated phrase: “which you did not.” The blessings His people would receive would come from God’s hand—not from their own wits or wisdom.
Moses warned his people of the greatest danger from God’s blessings: to forget God.
We have that same vulnerability, don’t we?
We’ve all experienced it, haven’t we? We buy a car and suddenly, we see our car’s model everywhere on the road. We notice what we have on our mind. This is true in all of life.
On a recent trip to Israel, one man on our bus mentioned he saw beehives everywhere. Really? Beehives? I had never noticed. He was a beekeeper. We see what we’re thinking about.
- As a woodworker, I notice furniture everywhere I go—whether it’s made well or not.
- My daughter always notices a person’s shoes first.
- A girl-crazy guy walks in a room and in five seconds has the most beautiful girl pegged.
What you focus on will be what you see. It’s how God made us—regardless of how we use that ability. What do you see in these key areas of your life?
- Your job
- Your spouse
- Your children
- Your parents
- Your church
- Your life in general
Be honest. When you think about each of these areas, are your initial thoughts positive or negative?
What do you see?
I sat in the front row of my 8th grade math class and squinted at the chalkboard. A total blur. I had to face it. I needed glasses.
I’ll never forget the moment I put on my glasses for the first time. WOW! A different perspective entirely! I had no idea the details of life I had missed. They were there all the time, but I literally could not see them.
Glasses and contacts made a huge difference. Trees had leaves. Shapes had sharp edges. Colors were more vibrant. And, oh yeah, I could see in math class.
That worked great for about 35 years. But now I have another problem. As my eyeballs have aged, they have given me 2 choices:
- I can see far away (with my contacts).
- Or I can see up close (without contacts).
It was one perspective or the other—until my optometrist gave me a really weird solution.
You and I have the same challenge spiritually.
After my grandfather died years ago, I planted an oak tree in his memory in our front yard. The skinny stem stood only 8 feet tall (like Granddad did). I planted it on a windy day.
(By Almonroth. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
A few hours later, my neighbor hollered: “Hey, Wayne, your tree was really leaning over in the wind!” I grabbed the trunk and slightly bent the tree over. The whole base moved, because it had no root system yet. So I staked it down.
Two years later when I bent the tree, the base didn’t move. But you know what? The tree looked the same. No visible change. Its goal for its first two years was its roots, not its limbs and leaves.
That little sprig offers a contrast (and a lesson) to you and me.
The strength of a man’s virtue must not be measured by his efforts, but by his ordinary life.
It’s always easier to react to life rather than to shape it. To go with the flow rather than to dig a new trench. Obviously, we want to respond well to what life throws at us. It’s assumed we should do that.
But I believe God gives us help to choose the direction of our lives. To live intentionally for Him. I don’t mean we choose what happens to us, but rather, that God has given us the freedom to make significant choices in spite of our circumstances.
Jesus’ example shows us what choices to make to live intentionally for God.
Two questions can help us do that.
Okay, let’s make a quick list. If you had to write down what you need, what would top your list? Let me take a stab at what you might write.
(Photo: courtesy of ooomf)
If you’re like most folks, your list of what you need may read something like this:
- I need a new iPhone, Android, techie-whatever.
- I need more money and more time.
- I need my spouse to listen to me.
- I need more respect at work.
- I need a friend.
What DO you need? Ask that question to ten different people, you’ll likely get eleven different answers. But your needs aren’t subjective.
God has revealed what you need.
A euphemism is a nice way of saying something unpleasant. We’ll say: “He’s under the weather,” or “She passed away,” or “I misspoke,” when really we mean to say he’s sick, she died, and I lied.
I’ve never found a good euphemism for a lazy person. Maybe slacker. At best we have a few obscure expressions—lounger, laggard, drone—but these work only because we don’t know what they mean. And if we did, we’d wish we didn’t.
A lot of what I’ve learned about what’s best to do in life has come from observing mistakes. Even though a slacker would never have the self-discipline to give a lecture, we can receive a whole course of study simply by observing his or her lazy life.
Here are several key lessons we can learn from Mr. Lazybones that will keep us motivated from becoming lazy.
I forgot the birthday of a good friend. After I looked back at my calendar, I saw the problem. I neglected to set up a reminder for the important day. We overlook significant things in our lives often because of our busyness—not because of our apathy.
It’s no different in our relationship with God.
Whether we use string on a finger, a Post-it Note on the mirror, or an auto-reminder on our smartphones, we all need prompts for what we’d otherwise forget.
Unaware as it happens, we can allow our busy lives to crowd out our devotion to God. We enjoy our families, our homes, our food, our salvation—all of God’s blessings to us. But before we know it, we replace a devotion to the Lord with a devotion to His blessings.
And in a sad, twisted irony, those blessings become our focus instead of the God who gave them.
You’re going to stay busy. I get it. So let me share with you 5 ways you can remember God in your busy life.