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?

The Big Picture

Chennai Marathon 2010photo © 2010 Simply CVR | more info (via: Wylio)

Sometimes I have to remember that the big picture is more important than today.  That can be hard when the demands of today are right in my face and I want to be successful at every task and every challenge, but that’s just not how life works.

I am struggling through a lesson in “keeping the big picture in mind” in my marathon training.  I (finally!!!) went for a run in my Vibrams on Thursday after owning them for a couple of months.  It was SO fun, and it was only two miles right?  Wrong.  I stressed a joint in my right foot pretty hard, and made that foot awfully sore.  I went to the chiropractor and got it adjusted, and he told me a couple of things:

  1. I need to ice it twice a day.
  2. I can’t run my planned long run on Saturday; I had 20 miles on my goal sheet for this week and he said it ain’t happening.
  3. I need to take a couple of days off and rest it so that it won’t bother me long term and impact my ability to complete my first marathon in June.

“Remember,” Dr. Kevin told me, “your goal is the marathon in June, not 20 miles on Saturday.  Rest now to succeed then.”  I know he is right, so even though I would LIKE to take a run today, I can tell that my foot needs one more day of rest before getting out for a run.  So I will listen, even if (a big) part of me wants to get out for a run today.


I see Jesus practice something similar in Luke 4:1-13.  The temptations that He faced were real; the temptation to doubt the provision of God, the protection of God, and the plan of God were far more significant for Him than for us.  But Jesus wouldn’t take the bait.  He never let today, with its struggles and challenges and needs, get in the way of the bigger, more significant goal of glorifying the Father by fulfilling His plan in Jesus’ life.  He was focused on the larger, more significant goal rather than the minor, in-His-face goal.

I see this in myself too often spiritually too.  I put the urgent in front of the important.  I put time for sermon prep in my schedule but too often get too busy to spend time in significant prayer or non-prep Bible reading.  I prioritize mentorship but often not being mentored or just hanging with my wife and kids doing family stuff.  I too often put the intermediate goals (a good sermon, a smooth transition at church, a belt in kenpo) ahead of the big goals (glorifying God in my family life and ministry and self-defense).  And as I take a day off to rest, my foot reminds me that in those areas too I need to keep the bigger goals in mind and plan today with the end in mind.

How about you?  Where have you let the goals of today and the tyranny of the urgent get in the way of the bigger picture?  Are you focused on the big picture and setting goals appropriately, or are the minor battles and ideas of today so important that you have lost sight of the reason you are living to begin with?  And (maybe most importantly for me) can you mentally and emotionally allow what might look like a setback to be a reminder and a re-commitment to the more important objectives you’re chasing?

An “Inside Out” Perspective

A big question I often have is perspective and motivation.  Should I do the right thing only when I feel like it, or should I work on my beliefs and understanding and not worry about the outside as much?  Obviously the goal is to be an authentic, transparent disciple of Christ whose motivation is right and whose actions are God-honoring.  If I have to err, though, which side should I err on?

Several guys at our church started an online men’s Bible study last week,  (the link to the group is in this post if you’re (a) male and (b) interested) and today’s reading in our group really got me thinking about this topic.  We are reading the book of Colossians every day for the month of March.  I am posting my entry from today because I think that the approach that God wants is for us to focus on the truths of Scripture and the hope of eternity with Him, allowing that hope to change us from the inside out.

Today I did my reading after men’s group. I got chapter 1 read, then had a meeting, and then read chapters 2-4.

What really struck me today is the theme of hope in chapter 1. I looked up the term “hope” in my handy dandy Bible software, and Paul uses the term three times in Colossians; all three of them come in chapter 1. (that’s why I checked; I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss any!) This seems to be an important concept that he wanted the Colossians to be reminded of right off the bat in this letter. The first use in verse 5 comes in the context of Colossians 1:3-5:

3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,
4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints;
5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel

The second is in 1:23 and comes in the context of Colossians 1:21-23:

21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,
22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—
23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.

The final use in Colossians 1:27:

to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

It really struck me how important hope is in chapter 1.

  1. In the first instance, the faith of the Christians and the love they had for the saints came as a result of the hope they have laid up in heaven. Our godly actions came from the source of our hope!
  2. In the second usage, if we go backward from verse 23 it is “the hope of the gospel” that causes us to be firmly established in the faith, which then as we continue in it will present us to God holy and blameless and beyond reproach.
  3. Finally, in the third usage we see where the hope is anchored: Christ in us. Christ within us, and His righteousness living inside of us, is the source of the “hope of glory” that Paul talks about in chapter 1.

So what is hope? Well I looked it up in my “Student Bible Dictionary” (and confirmed it in my Greek lexicon for you Bible nerds), and it defines hope as “Belief that God will accomplish what He has promised.” The term means to look forward to something with confidence, expecting fulfillment. The gospel, or “good news” that is the anchor of our hope, is that all who trust in Christ alone for eternal life will spend forever with God, pardoned for their sin and in perfect fellowship with Him!

When I put those two together it really hit me how important my outlook and focus are. Christ in me is the reason for my confidence that God will rescue me from hell and welcome me into His presence forever. By remembering that hope, having confidence in God’s fulfillment of His promise and not being moved from it, by focusing on it and keeping it in the front of my mind I know that when I meet God on the day of my death I will be presented to Him “holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (v. 22). The meeting day will be a good one, filled with celebration at His gift given to me and His faithfulness to His promise. Finally I know that the path of hope expresses itself in the love I have for God’s people and the trust I have in Christ in my daily life.

So today’s theme and focus for me is hope. Am I confidently expecting God to fulfill His promise, focused on the eternal life that awaits and eagerly anticipating it? That is then the source of my actions, my trust in Christ for my daily needs and love for His people. Truth drives action today.  I will focus today on living “from the inside out.”

May your day be a day of hope today as well!