Never overlook a small blessing

I am easily distracted by shiny things. Or by cute things. It’s like my attention is full and focused, and I’m running at 110% capacity. And I’m stressed out because things aren’t going my way. Or I’m worrying myself into a nervous breakdown because I have too much to do. And without intervention, I send myself tumbling down that dark, isolated tunnel of anxiety.

But if someone comes along and shows me a cute puppy (like what happened yesterday), all of a sudden, life gets better. Or at least, life seems to get better. Because, hey, I’ve got a cute little puppy to cuddle. How bad can life be?

I was kind of upset at myself later. I mean, what kind of goofball gets in a better mood just because of a puppy? It didn’t change my day. It didn’t change the amount of work I have to do or extend the deadlines on my late projects. Does that make me superficial? To change moods so rapidly for such a silly reason? Or is there more to it?

My coworker's adorable little Yorkie/Cocker Spaniel puppy

My coworker’s adorable little Yorkie/Cocker Spaniel puppy

Today’s verse is Zechariah 4:10.

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.

Something God is teaching me more and more every day is that He is just as present in the small things as He is in the big things. Granted, I know that. But as I’ve said before, there’s a big difference between knowing God is there and living like it.

When I get stressed out and anxious about the stuff going on in my life, I’m not looking at God. He’s not my focus when I’m worrying. My focus is myself when I’m worrying.

I’m only thinking about what I can accomplish. I’m only thinking about what I can do in the time I have or with the resources I have available. I’m focusing solely on myself and what I can do in my own strength. And that’s the not the way I’m supposed to live.

I have access to the greatest wealth in the universe. I have an all-sufficient, all-powerful, all-knowing Father who wants me to ask Him for help. And I’m foolish to forget it so often.

I’m completely convinced that God sends small things to stop us in our tracks in those moments when we’re stressing out about something. On those days when the anxiety is overwhelming, have there ever been moments when something funny has happened? Or something cute has come into view? If you think about it, I bet there has been. Maybe it was something that just made you stop. Maybe it was something that took your eyes off yourself and your own issues for a fraction of a second.

In those times when you’re drowning in stress and sorrow, when you get the chance to think about something else for a little while, don’t push it away. Don’t assume it’s not worth your time. Don’t see it as a waste of time. Look at it like a gift.

I got to hold a cute little puppy for a few minutes on a frustrating Thursday afternoon, and once I gave her back (reluctantly), I was in a much better mood. Why? Because I’m a terrible person? Or because I’m not dedicated enough to my job?

No. For a few minutes, my job didn’t matter. My deadlines didn’t matter. My performance didn’t matter. And I just got to stand and hold a beautiful, sweet little creature that my God made. And it helped me put the rest of my day in perspective because I stopped making my day the center of my world.

Give yourself a break. That pile of paperwork will still be sitting on your desk when you come back. But what I’ve learned about being a workaholic is that the longer you work, the less effective you are. People weren’t created to work 24/7. Some of us try because we’re gluttons for punishment or because we have this weird idea in our silly brains that running ourselves into the ground will please God (that’s a lie, by the way).

Stop pushing so hard. When a little thing comes around that makes you happy, take a few minutes and enjoy it. Then go back to what you were doing, and you might find that your focus is vastly improved.

Don’t overlook the small things. Sometimes small things bring us the greatest joy in life.

And if you’re stressed out at work, let me just say that getting a puppy is the best thing you could do. Because, seriously, who could be stressed out when you look at that face?

Sleeping with his eyes open?

Sleeping with your eyes open?

Some mornings I wake up and the last thing I want to do is get out of bed. There are a number of reasons. The number one reason, as some of you know, is that I have no heat and no air conditioning in my bedroom. So in the summer, my bedroom is 95 and in the winter it has gotten as cold as 15. I have an electric blanket that does a super job of keeping me warm during those cold winter nights, and this winter we’ve had it pretty easy. My room has only gotten below 30 once.
But one of the hardest things to do, especially after a week of late nights, is to wake up in the morning and climb out of my toasty warm bed into the 30-degree air of my bedroom where my feet make condensate on the wood floors when I walk. But I usually get up anyway. Know why? I have a lot to do. Granted, most of my tasks are self-appointed. But either way, I only get 24 hours in a day, and if I lay around I’ll never get anything done.
Sleeping with his eyes open?

Sleeping with his eyes open? - Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

The verse I read for today is Titus 3:14.

Our people must learn to do good by meeting the urgent needs of others; then they will not be unproductive.

I was curious about this one so I did a little comparison on translations and context. It’s taken from the very end of the Book of Titus, which is a letter written by Paul to a young man named Titus (surprise!). And this last bit which encompasses verses 12 through 15, makes up the conclusion of the letter where Paul is giving specific instructions to specific people. But verse 14 isn’t specific. It says “our people,” meaning believers in general.

I decided to look it up in the Message too. The Message isn’t my first choice for deep Bible study, but it’s a good paraphrase in real modern language to understand the concept that the Scripture is trying to get across.

Our people have to learn to be diligent in their work so that all necessities are met (especially among the needy) and they don’t end up with nothing to show for their lives.

And there it was. Be Diligent. Our people must be diligent.

Christians, real believers, are to be diligent. Not indolent.

We’re supposed to work so that we can be ready when trouble comes. We’re supposed to work so that we can help other people who haven’t been as fortunate as we have. We’re supposed to be up and on our feet and moving. Not sitting.

It’s easy to spend your life sitting. In a way, sitting makes life easier sometimes. I know I can convince myself that I’m waiting on God so I can’t actually do anything. But what if God is waiting on me? Maybe I need to take the initiative sometimes.

So what does that mean? Does that mean I have to sleep with my eyes open? Does that mean I can’t get any rest or ever take a break? No. That’s not diligence. That’s perfectionism, and there’s nothing that will wear you down and burn you out faster than perfectionism.

The dictionary defines diligence as constant effort to achieve something. But I say, diligence is character. Diligence is getting up when you don’t feel like it. It’s taking the hard path instead of the easy road because you know it needs to be done.

That being said, diligence is never easy either. But diligence is always productive. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. If you approach it with diligence, you will accomplish something, and you’ll have something to show for it, whether it be a completed novel or a clean house or projects completed at work. Maybe all you’ll accomplish is that you’ll learn something. But that’s something.

Diligence never goes unrewarded. It’s never easy, but it’s worth it. So get out of bed. And get busy. We all have tools and gifts and opportunities. Let’s do something with them.

The necessity of action in faith

Today’s verse is James 1:22.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

This is a hard one. It’s so easy to just listen to what God is saying in the Bible and not to act on it. I can go to church and sing the songs and listen to Pastor speak and nod and say Amen all I want, but what good does any of that do me if it stops there?

Faith in action is difficult.

Faith in action means that you not only have to know what the Bible says about finances but you also have to do it. You have to know what the Bible says about people and you have to do what it says. You have to know what the Bible says about life and you have to do it.

Otherwise, you’re a liar.

I think it’s in this same chapter where the Bible says that faith without works is dead. Doing good things isn’t what saves us. That much is clear. THere is no good thing we can do that will redeem our souls. The only action we can do that saves us is choosing to follow Christ. But if you say you follow Christ and don’t do the things He tells you to do, are you really a follower of Christ?

I can’t see another person’s heart just like someone else can’t see my heart. People can’t judge each other. But God can judge all He wants. And the Bible says that good works are the evidence of faith in Christ. To me that says a Christian who just sits on his blessed assurance needs to take a good long look at his heart.

Can you be a Christian and not do good works? Sure. But that just means that you’re lazy or selfish or that you’re allowing yourself to be ruled by fear. And none of those things come from God. So if you truly believe in Christ but you aren’t following Him, you need to take a good long look in the mirror . . . because the more you claim to be a Christian and the more you refuse to live like Christ, the greater the possibility that God is going to have to do something drastic to get your attention. I don’t want to be the hypocritical Christian who claims to believe God but never does what He says.

Can you do good works and not be a Christian? Absolutely. If you’re trusting in the good things that you’re doing to save you, you aren’t following Christ. You’re following culture. You’re following yourself, your own heart, if you will, and people are broken and flawed. We can’t save anyone. And if you think that all you have to do to get to heaven is be good enough, then how good is good enough? What is the standard?

All I’m saying this morning is that we need to stop beating around the bush. If you don’t believe God, that’s fine. That’s your choice completely. But if you say you believe Him and you don’t follow Him, you’re lying to yourself. Wouldn’t it be better then to say that you don’t follow Christ if you have no intentions of living like Him? At least then you could be honest with yourself and the people around you.

And we Christians need to get off our backsides and start working. There’s a lot of work to do. I go to an awesome church of 5,000 people, most of whom are new believers. And probably ten percent of that 5,000 are actively involved in ministry. That’s not good.

If we say we follow Christ but we aren’t doing good works, how can we show people that God makes a difference in our lives? If we aren’t willing to stand up and work and let God use us, how can we help anyone? Because I guarantee you can’t help anyone in our own strength.