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The Mysterious Appearance of Big Bills in the Pews

Hey, look at this! I just found a $50 dollar bill,” Ted yelled, waving it overhead.

We’re all dumbfounded.

From the giddy third graders to the sensible adult leaders, no one can make heads or tails of it.

Big bucks- $5’s and $10’s and $20’s and, last night a $50- have been mysteriously tucked in church Bibles. They’ve been showing up Wednesday nights at AWANA. No notes, not envelopes, no rhyme or reason- just fresh, dreamy cash.

The first $5 was laid bare a couple months ago during the group devotion. Lucky little Dominick got that one. It happens like this: kids crack the Bible to lookup a verse and, lo and behold, there appears cash. Every Wednesday, a $5 or $10 or $20 shows up.

Last night, it was a $50 bill.

Expectation, Hope and a Sense of Urgency

Part of me wishes I was the Mystery Bill Filler who tucks big bucks into pew Bibles.

Because those hidden bills are making kids open the God’s Word with glee. With expectation and hope and a sense of urgency.

I know, I know. The third grade treasure hunters scrambling over, under, around and through the pews last night were not desiring the pure milk of the Word. They just wanted the cash.

But the sight of those kids practically somersaulting over pews to open the Word show us how all God’s children should go after the Bible.

“The Bible,” Patrick Henry said, “is worth all other books which have ever been printed.” That’s because in it, God reveals God. The Creator shows himself to the creation for what he is a glorious, good God.

And calls us to seek Him- for forgiveness and life and fullness of joy- just to name a few (Isaiah 55:6-7, Psalm 17:3, Psalm 16:11). And we find Him by seeking him in his Word.

It’s one thing I resolve to do till the day I die.

More to be Desired than Gold

I haven’t a clue who’s been tucking the big bucks in the pew Bibles or why.

But I can’t miss the metaphor. With just a little imagination, there’s a beautiful truth here to behold.

The bills in the Bibles – and the way the kids raced to get to a Bible and open it up to find the bills- make a spiritual truth plain: God’s word is “more to be desired than gold, even much fine gold,” (Psalm 19:10).

Last night, the leaders made Ted put the $50 bill in the offering box. But I pray that one day Teddy and the others will remember back. Back to third grade when all those big bills mysteriously appeared and that when they do, they’ll rejoice.

Because in that day, they’ll realize that the Word of God is all that.

And so much more.

….My heart stands in awe of your words. I rejoice at your Word like one who finds a great spoil.”

Psalm 119: 161-162

“I want to know one thing, the way to heaven: how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end he came from heaven. He has written it down in a book! Oh, give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be: “A man of one book.”

John Wesley

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10 Things I Don’t Do (& 1 Thing I Do)

I write on the side. For love

Three days a week, I am gainfully employed outside of the home. Another day and more is joyfully invested in ministry and treasured scheduled times with my girlfriends. And feeding and clothing and making this house in the woods a home for Jim and the two sons we’re training up to be men takes time too.

Because I wear so many hats, now and then friends will ask, How can you do everything you do?

But what these friends might not know are all the things I DON’T do.

So if you ever feel rotten because you can’t do all the things that a friend of yours can do, this post is for you. On the gateway of the year, pause and remember: there’s a lot of things that person you’re comparing yourself to DOES NOT do.

Like these 10 things, for example, that I DON’T do🙂:

  1. Care for pets. But Dinah and Zippy were delightful parts of past seasons.
  2. Clip coupons, buy Groupon and find all the best deals. (I sometimes use Kohl’s cash, though.)
  3. Sew, knit, quilt and crochet. But I am super blessed by a mother-in-law, nephew, nieces and friends who do.
  4. Decorate my home.  Our walls are (mostly) monastery white, our sofa is 21 years old and that’s all right.
  5. Workout at the gym. In the time it would take me drive there and back, I can squeeze a jog or bike ride in.
  6. Watch TV and rarely a movie. I have never, not ever, rented from Netflix or Redbox or Vudu. Really. Truly.
  7. Make lasagna or salsa or pizza from scratch. Although, as in #3, I’m blessed by family and friends* who do.
  8. Scroll my way through Facebook. I post and run a lot, and Instagram and Pinterest are off limits for me.
  9. Pamper at the salon. A combination of Great Clips, Clairol and my friend Holly manage me swimmingly.
  10. Garden. And by extension: can, freeze and make herbal soap with lavender and thyme.  Caveat #7 applies.

That’s my list of 10 things I DON’T do.

They’re not good or bad, right or wrong. The point is not that I can’t or shouldn’t do these 10 things. It’s that, at least for now, I don’t.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. It does mean we’ll all find it easier to rest content with what we don’t do when we acknowledge God made us- intentionally-  fearfully and wonderfully different. We have different and unequal sets of skills, goals, interests, abilities, and resources.

Which means our lists could stretch to 10,000 things we DON’T DO. And that’s okay. Because our limits are built-in by God. They’re good.

Here’s how Andrea Dekkar closed her “10 Things I DON’T DO”  post that prompted this post:

I think the important thing is for each of us to realize what our skills and goals and interests are, and then focus on putting our time, energy, resources towards activities that align with our skills, goals, and interests.

If we can do that on a regular basis, our lives will feel simpler, more organized, less chaotic, and less stressed!

I like that and agree. Building on strengths and using gifts- rather than wishing we could do what we don’t- tends toward growth and joy.

But I can’t leave it there. Because, while my list of 10 will no doubt change with each season of life I’m in, there’s this 1 thing I do that I pray never ends.

Seek Him.

One of the first Psalms I set (back) into song 20 years ago was Psalm 105: 1-4. We four still sing it now, ending with verse 4:

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

Look to the Lord and his strength and seek His face. Those might sound like three, but it boils down to  one.

  1.  Seek Him.

Bing, bang, boom- some things are that simple. God’s children seek his face. They press on, they exert effort to get to God himself.

John Piper describes this sort of seeking as,

[T]o constantly set our minds toward God in all our experiences, to direct our minds and hearts toward him through the means of his revelation…

And there are endless obstacles that we must get around in order to see him clearly, and so that we can be in the light of his presence. We must flee spiritually dulling activities. We must run from them and get around them. They are blocking our way.

These things we must move away from and go around if we would see God. That is what seeking God involves.

That’s my 1 thing. I want move away and go around- some of my DON’Ts- to seek His face because I want to know Him more.

He still speaks.

Because how can you possibly love someone you don’t know? And how can you possibly know someone if you never listen? If you don’t seek?

To know God, we must listen to his voice. His sheep listen to his voice and follow Him (John 10:27).

We must hear God speak.

The spectacular truth is we don’t have to climb a mountain or sail the sea or even rise at 5 am in the quiet, dark to hear Him speak. Because He has spoken. His words are within arm’s reach right now. “The Bible,” AW Tozer wrote, “is not only a book which was once spoken, but a book which is now speaking.”

God wants to speak to us today through his Word. So let’s don’t say God is silent.

He wants us to seek Him and press on to know HIm.

Don’t say God is silent if your Bible is closed.

Tozer also wrote,

Everything is made to center upon the initial act of ‘accepting’ Christ . . . and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him, we need no more seek Him.

Spurious means false. It’s false to think that once we’ve come to faith and received Christ as Lord we’re done. As if once you’ve found a great friend you can stop seeking to know him.

No! John Piper says it like this, Go hard after the holy God. Isaiah, like this, Seek the Lord while He may be found. He may be found now in His Word.

But we silence the sound of God’s voice in our lives when we leave our Bible on the shelf (or ignore our Bible apps). As has aptly been said, Complaining about God being silent when your Bible is closed is like complaining about not getting texts when your phone is turned off.

Tim Challies puts a bow on it:

Apart from this, speaking by his Son, through his Spirit, in the Bible, God does not promise that He will speak in any other way

In other words, we can all believe that God will speak to us through the Bible. And all this JoyPrO stuff, I hope, is about how God does speak. About how we find Him when we seek.  

What’s on your lists? Do you have 10 things plus 1?

My list of 10 things I DON’T do will change. There might even come a time when I make soap with thyme and crochet.

But seeking Him by grace will – I pray- be my 1 thing. To begin and end this year and all others.

How about you?  What are 10 things you don’t do?

And 1 thing, so help you God, you do?

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.
Philippians 3:13b-14
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Grind the Wheat

“I will meditate on Thy precepts.” —Psalm 119:15

Revival in 2014? The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul (Psalm 19:7).  

Blessing in 2014? Be assured: to the one who meditates on the law of the Lord day and night (Psalm 1:2).  Vigor and vim, and discernment, too?

You know it: The Word of the Lord is living and active, sharper than a double edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

These quotes below infuse fresh courage, feisty zeal, joyful resolve in my soul.  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering.  I want crystal clear vision to check sin that clings, that entangles as I follow hard after Him.

Fresh courage take, acedia shake with these wise words:

“There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord. . . .” 
– Charlies H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

“For too many of us, the hustle and bustle of electronic activity is a sad expression of a deeper acedia. We feel busy, but not with a hobby or recreation or play.  We are busy with busyness.   Rather than figure out what to do with our spare minutes and hours, we are content to swim in the shallows and pass our time with passing the time.  How many of us, growing too accustomed to the acedia of our age, feel this strange mix of busyness and lifelessness?  We are always engaged with our thumbs, but rarely engaged with our thought.  We keep downloading information, but rarely get down into the depths of our hearts.  That’s acedia– purposelessness disguised as constant commotion.” 
– Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy

“More than just a novel about “censorship”-as the cover usually claims- Fahrenheit 451 is a picture of how private citizens’ lack of will to reflect on anything- which can be understood as a lack of intellectual diligence-leads to censorship.  And not just censorship of reading material, but a soul-crippling censorship of thought.  Monolithic government-control has been achieved through the means of a thoroughly entertained populace.  It’s a world where TV and sports and bite-sized snippets of inconsequential news have become the center of all culture and society.  And reflection, thought, has become a pesky, bothersome thing that just gets in the way of all that.  Reflections causes only sorrow, those in charge say.  And so, for the good of society, books-which induce reflection far more than most things- are illegal.”
-Garret Johnson, “The Virtue of Dystopian Fiction,” The City, Fall 2013

“The true notion of holy evangelical truths will not live, at least not flourish, where they are divided from a holy conversation….And herein alone can we come unto the assurance, that what we know and learn is indeed the truth.  So our Saviour tells us, that ‘of any man do the will of God, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God’ (John 7:17)…And hereby will they be led continually into farther degrees of knowledge.  For the mind of man is capable of receiving continual supplies in the increase of light and knowledge whilst it is in this world, if so be they are improved unto their proper end in obedience unto God.  But without this, the mind will be quickly stuffed with notions, so that no streams can descend into it from the fountain of truth.” 
-John Owen, Works IV

“Here, then, is the real problem of our negligence. We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.”
-R. C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture

I know a 90 year old man named Alan.  This saint follows hard-grinds the wheat– still studying to show himself approved.  Disciplined, he loves the Lord with his heart, soul, and mind.

Asked how Alan spends his time these days, his granddaughter, related, “He doesn’t go out to church as much.  But he reads the Bible all the time.  And he fasts on Tuesdays.  And prays for missionaries.”

God give me this one magnificent obsession.

Give me one pure and holy passion

Give me one magnificent obsession

Give me one glorious ambition for my life

To know and follow hard after you

To grow as your disciple in your truth

This world is empty, pale, and poor

Compared to knowing you, my Lord

Lead me on and I will run after you

-Mark Altrogge