Actions Have Consequences!

One of the most important lessons that we must learn in life to succeed is that actions have consequences. What we do will lead us to be victors or lead us to failure. Every decision is important!

 

If your kids are like mine, you probably have issues getting them to bed on time. We’ve cajoled, we’ve spanked, we’ve nagged. It’s tough stuff! Recently, though, at the suggestion of our counseling pastor we read Boundaries With Kids and have implemented what Cloud and Townsend call “reality based consequences.” What that means is that when kids disregard a boundary they have to deal with a consequence connected to their breaking the boundary. For us and bedtime we established a firm boundary: the kids must get to bed by their bed time, in jammies, teeth brushed, family prayers said, and without us having to warn them of the time. The consequence for breaking the boundary is that for every minute they are late to bed, the next day their bedtime is 5 minutes earlier. So 5 minutes late to bed tonight costs 25 minutes tomorrow!

 

Sure, the kids tested the system. They’re kids! After a couple of tries to avoid the consequence and realizing that we were going to hold to it, they started adjusting. And now, several months later, it is almost comical. Our youngest daughter is 7 and was playing some Wii near her bedtime. I even remarked to our oldest child that I was wondering how late she was going to be! Then, about 6 minutes until bedtime, my little one realized what time it was. She sprang into action! It was amazing how fast she turned off the video game, got dressed, got her teeth brushed, and huddled the family up for prayer. And sure enough, she was in bed SECONDS before bedtime! Knowing that there was a firm boundary and established consequences made a huge impact on her.

 

We now have a mantra for our kids at home: “I am responsible for me.” I ask the kids who is responsible for them, and they all answer “I am responsible for me!” That extends to school, to bedtime, to chores, to life.

 

This is how life works. When we break a boundary, there is a consequence! I had to explain this to a student this week who had a court date. He was frustrated that he would miss class and asked me for an excused absence. He had been ticketed and needed to be in court for sure, but I told him that he was responsible for himself and that the absence was not excused. That would cost him points in class, and he tried to tell me all about how it wasn’t his fault that he got pulled over. Nope, sorry bud. Actions have consequences! (this is a good student, so no hate there…)

 

Do you realize that this is how God works? As Christians, we are each responsible for our conduct and our decisions have consequences, good and bad! 2 Corinthians 5:10 says that we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 Paul tells us that our decisions as Christians matter!

 

If anyone builds on the foundation [of Christ] with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

 

Actions have consequences and I am responsible for me! Likewise, you are responsible for you. How you live for Christ matters not only in your witness but in your reception by Christ on judgment day. There WILL be consequences for what we have chosen on that day, for good or for bad.

 

So…a question for you. How are you doing with those boundaries? Now that you know that the boundaries are established and will be enforced, does it change how you look at your decisions today? I hope so! Smile

Single-minded Focus

1434140008I love riding my motorcycle. I love to ride because it requires focus and concentration to ride safely and effectively and to have fun doing it. Motorcycle riding doesn’t allow for multitasking! I can’t answer my cell phone or eat or listen to the radio while on the bike; every bit of attention has to be focused on my surroundings, what other cars are doing, anticipation of what is ahead of and beside me, what gear I am in and throttle position, lane space, etc. It takes single-mindedness to successfully ride and not end up as street pizza!

 

Don’t get me wrong; I have seen people riding their motorcycle while smoking, while talking on the phone, listening to an iPod and more. For me, though, I can’t do any of that stuff and ride in a safe manner. For me to enjoy the ride and get there safe, I have to have single-minded devotion!

 

As I rode in to the office this morning, I got to thinking that this is a great analogy to the Christian life. This is the same kind of devotion that Paul talks about with regard to our Christian life: it takes focus and single-minded devotion to do it well.

 

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” (Philippians 3:12–16, ESV)

 

No distractions, no other priorities, no competing ideas to keep him from living for Christ. That’s the path to keep from wrecking our faith and being unfruitful for the kingdom.

 

How about you? Are you single-minded in your devotion to the Lord, or are the distractions of life keeping you from being all that God wants for you? How do you deal with distractions and temptations? What helps you and what hurts your focus on Christ?

What’s it Worth?

What’s your time worth? If you were to put a value on your time, what would it be?

Well, many (most) of us trade our time for money in order to pay for the necessities of life.  According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average worker in the US trades an hour of their effort for just about $23. (I must admit I was surprised it was that high, but that includes highly paid people in the average too)

Many of us think about our time in terms of exchanging it for money, especially if money is tight.  However, we often forget the opportunity costs that come along for the ride when we work overtime or are so tired from work that we can’t do the other things we want to.

God has really been working on me with opportunity costs lately.  This summer I resigned one of my teaching positions because it was just taking too much time from my family, and the bottom line was that the cost of teaching was too great.  That’s not to say that I don’t like teaching’; far from it.  But the opportunity cost was too high.

Jesus keeps bringing this topic to mind, and as I did my devotions the past couple of weeks this came to me again:

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24–26, ESV)

 
A black bear that came for a drink. And proof that, had I had a bear tag, that I would have got him. :)What will it profit me if I exchange my soul for the world? What, in the end, is the lost opportunity from what I am pursuing.  I actually read these words while sitting in a hunting blind with my son, enjoying a beautiful morning in the woods of Northern Arizona.  Sure I was passing up some chances to be up there with him hunting elk, but it was worth it.
 
Jesus brought it to mind again yesterday as I was studying.  I have made a conscious effort to be home more recently, and yesterday I decided to work from home in the afternoon so that I could be around for the kids and help Laura too.  James got restless in the afternoon, and there I was translating Exodus 14 in my recliner.
 
I had an opportunity to love on my son, so I put the laptop aside and grabbed the football.  We probably only played for a half hour, but soon he will be grown up and gone, and my opportunities to sow some love into him will be gone.  And Exodus 14 was still there waiting for me when we got done!
 
I am trying to look more for not only what I can do, but what it costs me to do what I do and whether those opportunity costs are worth it.  And because of that, I am spending my time in some different ways, with plenty more to work on!
 
How about you? Do you think about opportunity costs? In your spiritual life, are you considering what you pass up to take part in what you do? Is Prison Break or Monday Night Football or Battlefield 3 taking up enough time that your opportunity to worship Christ is passed? How about in your relationships, your habits, your thought life?
 
Where is God leading you in making the most of the opportunities you have right now?

Good or Great?

It’s an interesting week in my life, as God has taught me a major lesson in priorities and selfishness.  I feel like I can relate to Archippus, who was reminded by Paul the Apostle:

Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” (Colossians 4:17)

Allow me to back up.  If you know me, you know that I am a gun nut.  I just dig firearms.  I love to shoot and love to hunt.  Some guys like cars, some are into computers, some play lots of sports. (I do all of that to various degrees, too…)  But for me, shooting is it.  I am good at it, I enjoy it, and it is stress-relieving.  It’s not any more expensive than golf and there is less beer involved. Smile

So a couple of months ago a friend encouraged me to send in an audition email to the producers of Top Shot.  I am a big fan of the show, so I went ahead and sent their producers a casting email just for fun.  I got a call from their producers!  After a 20-minute phone interview they asked me to make a casting video for them; this is what we made. (hat tip to Lowman Photography for the amazing video)

After the video was submitted, Laura and I started really praying in earnest about it.  It wasn’t a slam dunk that I would be cast, of course, but there was a real chance that I could be chosen I think.  (I have friends who have worked in the industry and they liked my chances)  The hitch: the production schedule.  Filming for the show is August 3rd-September 15th, during which time the cast is sequestered.  They go live in Southern California and have no contact with friends and family for 6 weeks. 

That was a pretty steep price to pay.  I was asking my wife to let me have 6 weeks of no contact with her; same with my kids.  I was asking my church to allow me to basically take a sabbatical of 6 weeks and our two other pastors to pick up the slack.  I was asking both schools I teach at part time (ACU and Phoenix Seminary) to let me take about 4 weeks at the beginning of the fall semester off or maybe replace me for a semester.

So I did what I always do when things are not clear: I started praying, and started talking to my mentors.  I talked to the man who led me to Christ, Keith, who is a wonderful mentor and friend.  His advice was that this is a great, national opportunity to preach the gospel but if Laura wasn’t fully on board I should let it go.  I talked to several other people about it too.  We decided just to let the process take its course and hey, if they said no then fine.

After awhile of not hearing, I finally sent a follow-up email to the producers asking if I had been eliminated to just put the idea to rest.  I didn’t want it hanging around if I were out of the running!  He emailed me back and said that I was still “in the running,” and that was when I really had to make a decision.  That email, telling me I was still in, didn’t fill me with excitement or joy; instead I felt a sinking feeling because I still had to decide if I could ask everyone to go out of their way for me.

But more than anything the advice of the man I call my “hunting mentor,” Norm, rang in my ears.  Norm reminded me that I have a very unique calling and opportunity.  He reminded me that I get the unique privilege to be a shepherd and to serve people with the message of Christ.  And that got me thinking about underlying motives.  It got me thinking about why I wanted to be a contestant on Top Shot.  It’s because it is a cool show and the contestants get to participate in some awesome marksmanship contests. 

So, at the core of it, I was asking everyone around me to sacrifice a bunch so that I could go play with guns for six weeks.  Now, how much does that sound like what Jesus says?

“And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?’” (Luke 9:23–25)

 
Yeah, not much.  Sounds pretty selfish to me.
 
So Laura and I prayed.  And Wednesday I sent the producers an email asking them to take me out of consideration.  They were disappointed, but understood.  Someone else will take my place for sure!
 
I don’t post this to toot my own horn, but just to let you, dear readers, in on my thought process.  As Paul tells us, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. ” (1 Corinthians 6:12) It would be “lawful” for me to go, but even if profitable for me it wouldn’t be for my wife, my kids, and my church. (okay, if I won the $100,000 grand prize it would be…but there are no guarantees there for sure) 
 
So God reminded me that I needed to focus on the great rather than the good and the fun.  That I needed to die to self a little and think of those around me.  After a few early days this week of self-focus about this, He has reminded me again to put others ahead of my pleasure and seek the kingdom of God. 
 
How about you?  How is God leading you to put aside ambition and self-interest in His cause?  How is God changing your priorities and habits to be more like Him?

The Next Step

“Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1, NAS)

 
I love these words of Paul’s.  I am studying the New Testament with my students at Arizona Christian University, and yesterday we dug into 1 Thessalonians.  The tone of this letter is so much different than his tone in Galatians.  He was flat out mad at the Galatians for their legalism, but it seems that the Thessalonians were doing a great job.  They were pleasing God and walking with Him well.  They had it going on!  I just imagine them thinking that compared to many other churches (the Galatians and Corinthians come to mind), they were awesome and could just keep at what they were doing.
 
So what was Paul’s response? “Excel still more.”  He didn’t want them to rest on their laurels or read their own press clippings.  They thought that they were on the mountain top, but to Paul they were at base camp!  He was pleased with their progress but not content with their situation.  There was still more work to do if they were going to be everything that God wanted them to be.
 
I’m trying to do this in my walk with God as well as in my other areas of life.  I have run 3 half-marathons in the past year, which is great.  But now it’s time to “excel still more.”  So between now and June I will lose 15 pounds and on June 5th plan to run my first FULL marathon. (pray for me…it appears I have lost my mind!)  Our church is doing well in so many areas, but now it is time for me to “excel still more” in leading our staff, empowering our ministry leaders, and building authentic relationships with more people in our congregation.   I made some changes to my classes at ACU and Phoenix Seminary this semester too, so time will tell if they make the classes better.
 
How can you “excel still more”?
 

  1. In your walk with Christ.  What one area do you think that God wants you to change today to be more like Him?  How can you take a strength of yours in your walk with God and make it even stronger?
  2. In your relationships. Is your marriage good?  Your parenting?  Your friendships?  Where are you meeting standards, but want to change that “C” into an “A”?  What is one step you can take today to move in that direction?
  3. In your vocation. If you’re good at your job, what separates you from being great at it?  Would 10% more focused effort lead to 25% more success?  Can you be more agreeable to coworkers, or easier to lead as a team member?  Can you be a better model for those you supervise?
  4. In your finances. If your most successful friend from a financial standpoint looked over your finances, where would they say that you could make some changes to strengthen your giving, your saving, or your spending?

Doing good enough, in God’s eyes, is…well…not good enough.  Where can you “excel still more” today to the glory of God?