For years, I’ve used a decorative paper towel holder in my kitchen. It looked nice; matched my kitchen theme—roosters—and held my roll of paper towels within arm’s reach.
There was one problem with the holder. It was made for an earlier time, when a roll of paper towels wasn’t as thick as it is today. That meant every time a new roll was placed on the horizontal pole, I had to use one hand to grab a towel and the other to pull it away from the roll and tear it off.
This was frustrating, because when I’m cooking, I don’t always have a free hand to grab a towel. Of course, the problem resolved itself once several towels were removed. Then, the roll would move freely on the holder. After that, I wouldn’t give it another thought.
The other day, I accidentally hit the bottom of the ceramic holder, and a piece of it fell off. I didn’t immediately think about replacing it, because it wasn’t that noticeable, and it didn’t affect the way it worked. Later that day, I was in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond store shopping for another product, and I happened to pass by a shelf of paper towel holders. Several of them had labels describing them as being perfect for today’s extra large rolls.
That was the moment I decided not to put up with the frustration I felt every time I inserted a new roll of paper towels on the ceramic holder, and I used my 20% off coupon and purchased a sleek new modern-looking one.
When I brought it home, I placed a fresh roll of paper towels on it, and presto! problem solved. I’ve had it a week now, and I’ve probably changed the roll three times—I’m very messy in the kitchen—and, every time I install a fresh roll, I ask myself why I didn’t buy a new paper towel holder sooner.
Why did I put up with something that was clearly a problem and had an easy solution?
The answer’s pretty simple. It seemed like a small problem, and I had too many other things to think about, and, after removing a few sheets, I didn’t notice it again until I needed a new roll.
Too often, we treat spiritual problems in the same way. A situation arises; tempers flare, angry words are spoken, lustful thoughts are entertained, gossip is spread, godless choices are made, and then we move on.
However, the sin that caused the problem in the first place remains; it’s never examined, never prayed over or confessed, and the situation happens again. And again.
God’s Word gives us much counsel about dealing with our sin, and one example is found in Psalm 51 where David realizes the only solution to the sorrow he’s experiencing is to confess his sin to God.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” (Psalm 51:10-12).
Don’t put up with it!
As believers, we sing of God’s amazing grace, but, if the parable Jesus told in Matthew 20 is any indication, lurking beneath these praises could be a heart of jealousy.
In this story, found in Matthew 20:1-16 and often called the Laborers in the Vineyard, Jesus tells of a landowner who hires laborers to work in his vineyard. He does this throughout the day, so that the laborer hired in the early part of the day works many more hours than the laborer hired at the end of the day. Yet, the landowner pays each worker the very same wage–the amount initially agreed on when the hiring took place. Thus, those who worked longer received the exact same wages as those who worked for only one hour.
Predictably, when those who had worked a full 12 hours noticed that the landowner had paid each man the same wage, they grumbled and complained to the owner of the vineyard. This was the owner’s answer in Matthew 20:15, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?”
Since the landowner is representative of God, we should take this parable as a cautionary tale to guard ourselves from complaining about the blessings God bestows on someone who appears undeserving of such grace. Instead, when God showers someone with blessings, our response should be one of joy. Imagine how pleased the landowner would have been if the workers, who bore the heat of the day, had rejoiced with with the workers who had worked but a few hours. What a celebration they could have had!
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Philippians 2:14-15.
If you’ve spent any time at all on any of the social media sites, you’ve come across something called “best hacks” or “unbelievable hacks.” These are usually discoveries people have made to make life easier. Whether it’s simply a description or a full-fledged video, each discovery uses a tagline to get your attention. My favorite is “this shouldn’t work, but it does.”
Here’s my own “best hack” for having a meaningful, God-glorifying, devotional moment. And yes, “this shouldn’t work, but it does.”
Take almost any Scripture, short or long, random or favorite, and read it through once. Then, go back and emphasize each word, using that word’s meaning to draw your attention to the Lord.
Here’s an example from Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
God–Of course, this is an easy one. Focus on your Creator, the maker of all things.
Is–Focus on God’s state of being; the essence of being the “I Am.”
Our–Focus on belonging to Him
Refuge–Focus on God as a shelter
And–Focus on God being more than
Strength–Focus on the availability of His strength for you
By the time you’ve completed this simple exercise, you will have glorified God and, most assuredly, you will have been blessed yourself.
It’s easy to lose your way in the world. Our modern world has a myriad of paths from which to choose, and we can explore them all, saturating ourselves with facts and philosophies and desires and practices and beliefs.
However, like hikers exploring a new trail, there are some precautions we should take before we head off into the unknown. Otherwise, we’re sure to lose our way. These practices should serve us well, whether we’re looking at a belief system, a career choice, a new set of friends or anything requiring our time, money, and effort.
First, FIND a way to have a Daily Quiet Time
Spend at least thirty minutes every day in Bible study and prayer. It doesn’t matter how you do this. There’s a Bible reading plan out there that will match up with anyone’s learning style and preferences. The important thing is to put yourself in a position where your Father in heaven can communicate His love, His plan, and His desires for you, and in return, you can catch a glimpse of His Glory.
Second, FIND a way to meet with others to worship God
Praising, loving, and serving God with other people will strengthen and enhance an individual’s faith. However, being with others in a faith-based group isn’t always about the individual’s needs. It’s about a people who together desire to give glory, honor and praise to an Almighty Creator who sacrificed His only son to make such a relationship possible.
Third, FIND a way to express your faith
Our belief in God requires an outlet. Otherwise, stagnation sets in. This expression can take many forms, and it may be different according to personality types. For some, it may mean singing, speaking, teaching or preaching. For others, it may mean journaling, writing, serving, or counseling.
Jeremiah 6:16: “Thus says the Lord: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”
As I enjoyed an early morning quiet time on my patio recently, I became captivated by the play of light and dark, shadow and sunlight, across the foliage of my backyard. I had just been reading a devotional about mankind’s universal search for happiness. In the article, C. S. Lewis’ classic, Mere Christianity, is referenced, particularly this quote, “All that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”
After reading this quote, I glanced up from my iPad and saw the patterns the early morning sun was drawing in my garden. Some flowers were in shadow, while others were in sunlight. The flowers highlighted by the sunlight looked “happier” than those flowers residing in the shadows. Why was that? Well, obviously, it was because the “happier” flowers were basking in the sun’s light, while those in the shadow were not receiving the sun’s full benefits..
Although I’m quite certain flowers do not experience human emotions, my garden’s shadows and sunlight illustrated the truth of my devotional reading. We all seek happiness, but as long as we remain in the shadows–substituting other people, pleasures, and pursuits for God in our lives–we will never be truly happy.
“You make known to me the path of life, in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11.
Turn your face toward the Son. Bask in the warmth of His Light today.