Thursday, May 31, 2007

Think! Think! Think!

(The following challenge is copied from "Drops from the Honeycomb",
a compilation of inspirational readings by James Alexander Stewart)

"Why stand ye here...idle?"
(Matthew 20:6)

"It is possible to be idle and yet to be fully occupied; to neglect one's paramount duty while yet employing every moment of one's time.

Young Christian, is it possible that it may be thus with you? Can it be that your industry and diligence are running in wrong channels, and so are, in result, mere idleness? Would the Lord Jesus Christ, after watching all your secular and sacred engagements the week through, and observing that you are really busy all the time, address to you nevertheless, in sad, reproachful tones, the question,

"Why stand ye here all the day idle? Working, but not where you are needed---in My vineyard; toiling, but not in the best way---in My service; busy, but not about My Father’s business; industrious in a sense, but, as far as regards the spread of My kingdom, idle!”

Consider then! is it not idle to waste time in trivial occupations when we are charged with serious responsibilities, or to employ only our lowest powers and talents and leave our higher ones unused?

For a Michelangelo, who could plan and erect a St. Peter’s, to spend his life in rough hewing blocks of marble, would it not have been a sin and a shame? For a Duke of Wellington, who could direct a battle or arrange a campaign, to devote his energies to serving a gun or commanding a regiment, would it not have been wasteful folly? For Peter, James, and John to have continued their fishing after receiving from the risen Savior their great commission, or for Paul to have retained tent-making as his life’s main business after his conversion, would it not have been sinful waste of precious time, as well as sinful disobedience?

And without being either an eminent genius or a divinely commissioned apostle, many a Christian man and woman may be in danger of similar folly and sin. They may be spending the one life God has given them to live for Him, in doing work of kind different from that which their Master intended, qualified, and commanded them to do; of a lower and less important description, than that for which they are competent and consequently responsible.

Such persons, however busy, are idle."

-Grattan Guinness

Friday, May 18, 2007

"The Gladness of My Joy"

The world has varied charms, yet none
Without some base alloy,
I turn from it to Thee, my God,
The gladness of my joy.
Sorrow may sorely press me down,
Yet not my peace destroy,
It only drives my soul to Thee,
Still gladness of my joy.
Earth's highest prize becomes a straw,
A worthless, glittering toy,
Beside Thy beauty, O my God,
The gladness of my joy.
Then let me all my heart and soul,
My every power employ,
In serving, praising Thee, who art
The gladness of my joy.

-Elizabeth Prentiss

Monday, May 14, 2007

Purple Crayons or Millstones - Part #2

In the first part of this article, we looked at the powerful influence that teens have in the lives of young children, simply by the way they live their own lives every day. Now I would like to take it a step further with one of those last questions I asked: Do you actively involve the young ones in your life in your activities and interests, or do you see them as an annoyance and hindrance to those things?

Reading the way Jesus took time to hear and take care of the needs of a man who everyone else thought was just “getting in the way” really puts our responsibility into practical perspective. Take a moment to read it in Matthew 20:29-34 and notice how the intense gratitude the man felt for what Jesus did motivated him to start following Jesus.

For the sake of our study, I’ve written up an imaginary (but entirely plausible) modern-day reenactment set at my house. Make sure you read the Scriptural account first so you can think about the parallels:

And as I was leaving my bedroom, several wild and rambunctious little boys met me in the hallway. And one little boy, seeing that I was not totally occupied at the moment, began frantically begging, “Abigail, I need you to help me!“ I could tell he wasn’t hurt or anything, so I sternly told him that I was too busy and he ought to be quiet, but he kept on begging all the more. So finally, I stopped and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” And he said to me, “I need you to find my man‘s sword. Timothy threw it back in the container and I can’t find it anywhere!” Moved with compassion, I went in the room and spent five minutes rummaging through the Playmobil container until I produced the sword. And immediately he took it and returned to playing with his men.

Unlike the “important” things like blindness and demon possession and death that Jesus dealt with, most of the needs and wants of our younger siblings---like finding plastic swords for Playmobil men---are probably not what we would consider “important”, especially in the light of everything WE have to do. Nonetheless, we need to take the time to listen to their needs and deal with them.

Consider Jesus if you think you’re too pressed for time for that---He only had three years of ministry on this earth, and yet, He took time for a simple beggar who no one else cared about.
If you do take that time, you might be surprised to find your younger siblings following the example of your life.

Realistically, yes, when you give an inch, they’re probably going to take a mile, and you’ll probably spend multiple five-minutes over the next weeks searching for Playmobil men if you continue to be “moved with compassion”. As many of you older brothers and sisters would verify, in all reality, my little brother was NOT going to get up immediately and start physically “following me” after I found his sword, or begin asking me what he could do for me. He was going to keep on playing!!! That was the point of my finding the sword after all, wasn’t it?

Take heart, though, that in the long run, the interest you show those little ones and their world will give them in interest in yours. And if you’re living like a maturing child of God should, that just may be exactly what they need.

Yes, kids need role models and heroes today; but the place they need them most isn’t in magazines and on the TV’s in their own living rooms, kitchens, and backyards. In the words of Arthur Ash, “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others, at whatever cost.”

Jesus said it this way: “...whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)

We teenagers desperately need to take this responsibility seriously and start seeing younger ones in our lives, especially our own little siblings, not just bodies in the background of what we’re trying to get done in life, but as an integral part of our ministries NOW. And this consideration ought to shift our focus from simply enduring or even simply enjoying our younger siblings to a focus on serving, loving, and instilling Godly visions into them.

What things are you motivating the children in your life to love and pursue? What vision are you giving them to strive after? What kind of example are you leaving for them to follow? And lastly, when this season of opportunity is passed and those little ones aren’t so little anymore, when you stand before God and give an account for your influence over them, will your legacy be purple crayons or millstones?

The choice is yours.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Where are they?

In this day and age, and in such a medium as the internet, I must be extremely careful. Originally, I posted links to blogs and websites that contain articles and materials that have been a blessing to me, hoping that these articles and materials would also be a blessing to the readers of my blog. However, I have only read a portion of what these blogs and websites have to offer.

This morning I was reminded again of the verse I quoted in my article below, Matthew 18:5-6: “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

I read blogs with the perspective of gleaning---looking for truth and guarding against error. It was with this understanding that I linked to the sites I did, assuming others would do the same. However, I realize that is not necessarily the case, and that even this mindset does not protect me or others from being deceived.

I have removed the links, because quite honestly, I am not willing to be held responsible for causing someone to stumble if they are led astray by some error that creeps into any of those blogs or websites without my knowledge. The links may return in the future, but at present, I believe the wisest course for me is to remove my link to these people and groups. It is a heavy enough responsibility to keep watch over my own words without being a discerner of how others' words might affect those who read them.

To all of you who I had linked to, please know that you are still a blessing to me, and I will personally continue to read your blogs (with the perspective of a gleaner!), but I am seeking to be careful at this time. Thank you for your understanding, and may God bless you!!!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Purple Crayons or Millstones - Part #1

If you had asked me to name three famous actors when I was seven or eight years old, I would have given you a blank stare.

In contrast, I have vivid childhood memories of the older girls who helped in my Sunday school class. While I may have wished for a personal encounter with the president as a child, when it came down to daily life, I was in the clouds if one of those girls six or seven years older would just smile at me. Good grief, I didn’t care how Britney Spears styled her hair---but those girls colored their Bible characters with blue and purple crayons, and by George, so would I.

That, my friends, is called influence. Role models---the people we look up to---have an incredible ability to instill a love for something into our hearts, in little and big things...especially when we are children.

If you don’t believe me, come over to my house any random afternoon, and I’ll show you one absorbed thirteen year old soaking up his older brother’s historical novel from the Napoleonic era, and one animated little seven year old on the floor next to him, studying an encyclopedia open to the same subject. Random chance that three boys with completely different make-ups find the same period of history fascinating? Maybe, maybe not.

A wise man once said, "The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal that you enthrone in your heart---this you will build your life by, this you will become."

All of us are influenced most by the people we are around in daily life. Knowing this, what kind of vision are you instilling into the hearts and minds of the little people looking up to you? What ideal are you living out before their eyes? I assure you, whether you are attempting to or not, your daily life is giving them an ideal to judge their own life by, both now and in the future.

Does your life present a challenge for them to meet and exceed your accomplishments, or are you stifling their ambition through daily habits of laziness, disrespect, and selfishness? Are your words, your attitudes, your actions with them and around them an encouragement for them to pursue their best for God? Or does your apathy squelch their budding passion? If they took you as their blueprint, what kind of life would they be building?

Matthew 18:5-6 says, “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

We don’t usually think of “stumbling” as being a very big deal, but when it comes to His little ones, the Lord Jesus Christ does. We as teenagers need to think long and hard on the realization that the choices we make in our lives affect not only our future and us but also the lives and futures of the children who are watching us. And we need to realize that whether we like it or not, if that influence is a bad one, not only are those precious little ones going to suffer for it, but we are going to be held accountable by the God of heaven.

That thought has challenged me of late to stop and look at the kind of example I have been living out for my little brothers, and to start viewing them not as “in the way” of where I’m going in life, but as part of it.

Join me in considering the following questions:
  1. Do you actively involve the young ones in your life in your activities and interests, or do you see them as an annoyance and hindrance to those things?
  2. Has your influence on those young ones been an inspiration or a detriment? What can you do on a practical level to chance and improve?
  3. How did older teens affect you positively or negatively as a child? How can you improve upon their example?
God bless you as you seek His heart about these things!