MIddle School, Back to School, Anxieties, & the Gospel

Our youngest is navigating middle school.  This is her second year, but her first without a sister, as my oldest two are now in high school.   Whew, we are off to a tough start.

Let me just say that my youngest is awesome.  She is super creative and energetic, but her highs are high and her lows are low (isn’t that all of us?). 

As we head into the third week, a very common challenge has sprung up:  gym.  As a kid, I was fast, but that didn’t earn me much in gym as I was like 4 foot 3.  I was picked on, and I hated the whole locker room.  As best as I can tell, the lack of a close friend seems to be the culprit in this case. 

As we headed to school, Em’s just didn’t want to go.  Since there is a 10 min gap between dropping off my high schoolers and going to the middle school, I took the opportunity to try to soothe her.

We talked about David and King Saul in 1 Samuel 24.  This is the story about David cutting off the corner of Saul’s robe while David hid in a cave and Saul relieved himself (for real).  As soon as David cuts of the corner of the robe, he immediately repents.  He runs out to Saul, lies prostrate on the dust, and confesses his sin. 

How risky!  Saul wants to kill David, but David knows that he has disrespected the Lord’s anointed and sinned.  The two leave in peace, and we have a great testimony about how to interact with authority, loving our enemies, and an example of repentance.

Em and I talked about his.  I ask her if anyone in there is her enemy.  She says no.  Then we talked bout how to bless the people in her class.  We come up with this plan.  She is going to begin the class by praying for herself – praying that God would sustain her when she is miserable in gym.  Then, she is going to look at each person in the class.  She knows their names.  Then, she is going for God to bless each one of them.  It will take most of the class to get through every person’s name and to pray for them.  Then, she is going to pray for herself again.  My encouragement is that I am sure that God will bless her if she is praying that God will bless them. 

Will she find new friends?  Will gym by enjoyable?  We’ll see, but the time will be redeemed if she blesses those that she feels alienated from, and that is a pretty sweet work of the Gospel. 

Middle school is tough.  Emotionally loving (and sometimes nudging) your kids is a challenge, but we trust God sustains our kids and ourselves as we seek to bless the world. 

Gordon Duncan

Gospel Rich Books

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Godliness Affects Leadership

1 Samuel is an amazing picture of how Godliness affects leadership.  Take for example the contrast between King Saul and King David.

  1. Rationalization for Sin – In Samuel 13, Saul is facing defeat from the Philistines, so he asked for the priest Samuel to come onto the field to offer a sacrifice to God. But he wasn’t patient, so he offered the sacrifice himself which was unbiblical and disobedient.  When Samuel confronted him about it, Saul lied.  When he was caught in the lie, he then blamed the people. At that point, Samuel tells Saul that his kingdom will be given to another.
  2. Endangers the People He Leads – Later on in a battle with the Philistines (1 Samuel 14), Saul foolishly declares that any of his solders who eat before the victory is won will be put to death. His son, Jonathan, doesn’t know about this vow.  Jonathan eats, feels better, battles the Philistines and wins.  Saul foolishly declares that Jonathan must die, but the people ransom Jonathan so he isn’t executed.
  3. Selfish – Saul is then commanded to go and strike the Amalekites down. God commands him not to leave any single thing alive and to devote everything to destruction.  Saul instead takes their best livestock and keeps the King of the Amalekites alive (1 Samuel 15).
  4. Ignores God’s Honor – When Goliath threatened the Israelite army (1 Samuel 17), Saul didn’t lead them into battle and didn’t inspire anyone enough to fight for him and the people of God.

Now we know that David is not perfect.  He lied and deceived the priest when he was hungry.  As a result, David sinned, a mass of priests died, and an entire city was wiped out (1 Samuel 21-22).  But here is the difference between David and Saul.

  1. Ownership of Sin – Unlike Saul who lied when confronted with his sin, David admits his sin. He shows what true sorrow and repentance looks like. The next time David is put in a stressful place, he asks God for wisdom about what to do, not one, not two, but three times (1 Samuel 21-22).
  2. Protects the People He Leads – Whereas Saul threatened his men with death to motivate them, David leads a group of debt-dodging soldiers into battle, and when they express their concern and weariness, David takes their concern to God in prayer (1 Samuel 23).
  3. Selfless – When Saul disobeyed and withheld the best for himself against the Amalekites, when David fought for Israel, he obeyed completely and God gave them the victory (1 Samuel 18).
  4. Defends God’s Honor – And when Saul wouldn’t fight for Israel against Goliath, David boldly defended the honor of God (1 Samuel 17).

Godliness isn’t required to be a good leader as evidenced from the many amazing leaders in our world, but if someone has faith in Jesus, their Godliness directly affects their leadership.  Humility, faith, and boldness will either bolster one’s leadership or the lack of those things will hinder it.

May we pray for humility, faith, and boldness today as we are called to some measure of leadership.  David shows us that we don’t have to be perfect; we just need to be greatly dependent on the grace of Jesus.

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Solitude is the Fear of the Human Heart

Solitude is the fear of the human heart.

In the midst of celebration, our hearts want someone to hug, sing with, drink with, or even high five.

In mourning, we need everything from the hand that hands us a cloth to wipe our tear to people willing to sit with us in silence.

But what we want is presence.  And in presence, we find love.

When Jesus enjoyed His last meal with His friends, He told them that He was headed off to die. 

He told them that people were going to hate them. 

He told them that people were going to want to kill them.

But…

He promised that they would not be alone. 

Jesus promised them that He would give them that Holy Spirit.  They would never be alone.

This is the story of many people who love God.  In fact, this is the story of all who love God. 

Moses walked with God.

Joshua walked with God just as Moses did.

The disciples walked with Jesus.

And you have the Holy Spirit.

So, today, you are free to love God.  You are free to love others as you love yourself. 

And through the wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit, you are free not to be alone.

Gordon

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New Blog & Podcast Ask, “Is There a Theology of Vacation?”

The New “This is Gonna Hurt” podcast is out, and this week, we talk about a theology of vacation.  You can find all the links on all of our platforms at This is Gonna Hurt.

In this episode we discuss:

Is there a theology of vacation?  Well, not specifically, but in all things, we should build a theology around what we choose to do or not do.

Scripturally, there is definitive theology of sabbath – the commanded one day of rest in seven.  I think this is perhaps the hardest commandment given.  We all struggle with God having a say in our life.  The moment He says He is the Lord of our time, our hearts rebel, but that is a topic for another day.

As for vacation, Biblically, most people didn’t have the option in their day because they lived in an agrarian or agricultural society.  Oh, you can take a week off, but animals don’t milk themselves and crops aren’t harvested without you.  Leaving for any extended time might mean the death of your sources of income.

Mark 6:31 shows us Jesus took time away for rest, but no one with integrity could find an American styled vacation in His three years of ministry.

Really vacations are about being a good steward of all that God has given you.  As Colossians 3:17 says, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

So, how do you approach vacations?  I want to offer a few tips, especially as I approach my vacation very soon.  Full disclosure, many of my thoughts here are focused on vacations with a family with children.  I’ll leave that theology to someone else, but I will offer that some of the thoughts might be helpful to singles and married with no children couples.  For the sake of organization, I’ve divided my thoughts into three categories:

Time Alone

Vacation offers some rare time alone.  How do you redeem it?  I would say three ways:  exercising, reading, and spending time with God.  You may not get those each day, but if your family schedule allows, take it.  If you have small children who require attention, swap out time with your spouse so you can care for yourself.  Don’t let vacation be permission to eat terribly and not move.  If so, vacations just become a time of regret.  Don’t neglect time with God.  You won’t have more time when you get back home.  And read for goodness sake.  Engage those eyeballs in a good book.  Your brain will thank you.

Time with Spouse

This one can be tough when you have kids.  If you can’t get away from them, steal a few moments when they go to bed or get up.  If they are old enough and responsible enough, take a walk without them.  Make that time purposeful.  Have times where you talk about what you need to talk about.  Have times where you talk about interests (what you are reading, etc).  Enjoy each other.  Sit beside each other.  Walk on the beach.  Just don’t let vacation come and go without a few moment to be refreshed with each other.

Time with Children

Making vacation fun for your kids can make vacation not feel like vacation to the parents.  But here is the thing, there will come a day when your kids can’t take vacation with you because their lives are full.   Have fun with your kids.  Play board games.  Play on the beach.  Play, play, play.  Read together.  Whatever.  Just make the time with your kids purposeful.

Hopefully, you and your family can get a vacation this year, even if it is small.  Take it seriously.  Plan ahead so you can relax.  And in the everything, give thanks to God.

If you want to hear more about this thought.  Check out the “This is Gonna Hurt” podcast where I talk about this very topic.

Gordon

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What Holly Golightly & King David Teach Us About Bitterness

In Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, we meet Holly Golightly.  She is a New York socialite struggling between two lives.

In her past, she was Lula Mae, a fourteen-year-old who stole turkey eggs to survive.

In her present, she can’t seem to commit to any relationship.

These two worlds collide when she learns that her beloved brother dies while she simultaneously rejects the one person who appears to accept her and all of her foibles.  Her past and her present are both uncertain.

What is the temptation of the human heart when there is unresolved hurt from the past and an unsecured present?  Bitterness.  Bitterness, by definition, is unresolved conflict with either a person or God.  Either type is toxic.

Believe it not, Holly Golightly is a lot like King David in 1 Samuel 22.  Yep.  I just said that.  King David and Holly Golightly are a lot alike.

You see, King David has an unresolved past and a shaky present.  He deceived Ahimelech, the priest, and because of that, King Saul orders the death of Ahimelech, 85 priests, and every man, woman, child, and livestock from Nob, the city of priests.  Additionally, David is the anointed king of God’s people, but he doesn’t sit on the throne.

David could be overwhelmed with guilt.

He could shake his fist at God.

He could ball up into fetal position and give up.

What does he do?

1 Samuel 22:20 But one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David. 21 And Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. 22 And David said to Abiathar, “I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have occasioned the death of all the persons of your father’s house. 23 Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life. With me you shall be in safekeeping.”

David takes responsibility for his sins, and he commits to protecting Ahimelech going forward. David doesn’t know what’s going to happen next, but he knows blame shifting is not going to work.  Getting angry God is not to work.  He owns his sin and commits to faithfulness in the present.

That’s what we are all called to do when we struggle with bitterness.  Ephesians shows us how:

Ephesians 4: 25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Put away falsehood or excuses.  Speak truth where necessary.  Repent.  Put away bitterness and wrath, and seek to forgive as Christ forgave you.  Not easy, but it is the pathway out of bitterness and a protection against potential bitterness.

Gordon

Gospel Rich Books

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When Your Identity in Christ Doesn’t Match the Realities of Your Life

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When you have faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin, you become a child of God, a son and daughter of the king.  That means, when you have faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin, you receive the gift of His goodness, His righteousness.

That gift is not like a gift I could give you.  I could give you the new iPhone X, and you could use, put it on your bedside table, lose it, or even break it.  The gift of Jesus’ righteousness is not like that.  You can’t pick it up and put it down.  It is “imputed” to you.  Jesus’ righteousness was given to you, and your sin was given to Him.  Through faith, we become His righteousness.

2 Corinthians 5: 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The challenge to this truth comes when our identity as sons and daughters of God don’t seem to match up with the realities of our lives.  We ask,

“I know I’m a child of God, but I’m also so anxious and depressed.  Is that how a child of God is supposed to live?”

“I know I’m a child of God, but our finances are so bad.  We have so much credit card debt.  Is that how a child of God is supposed to live?

“I know I’m a child of God, but we fight so much at our house.  We don’t tell anyone because we are so ashamed.  Is that how a child of God is supposed to live?”

And you know what happens when our identity as children of God and the realities of our lives don’t seem to match up?  We are tempted to sin, and quite often give in.  That’s a lot like what we see with King David in 1 Samuel 21.

In 1 Samuel 21, King David doesn’t live like a king.  He is on the run from King Saul.  David is the anointed king of Israel, but he isn’t the coronated king of Israel.

David’s identity is a king, but he doesn’t have the wealth of a king.  In 1 Samuel 21, he is penniless and begging bread.

David’s identity is a king, but he doesn’t have the authority and power of a king.  He rules no one.

David’s identity is a king, but he doesn’t have the home of a king.  In 1 Samuel 21, he is homeless and on the run.

And guess happens?  David is tempted to lie because he is on the run and hungry.  And guess what?  He gives in to sin just like we often do.

David tells the priest that he is on a mission from King Saul.  He’s not.  But by saying that, the priest is compelled to give him food (which David is not supposed to eat no matter whose mission he is on).  Then, David asks for a weapon.  The priest gives him the sword of Goliath.  That’s fine because that sword is technically David’s.  But David says he needs it because he is on a mission from Saul which is a lie.

The connection between David’s identity and the reality of his life is too much for him.  He gives in to sin.  Just like David, when our identity and our reality don’t seem to match up, we do the same.

Our hope is learning to live out our identity in Christ while embracing the promises of God that may or may not be seen in the day to day.  2 Peter explains.

2 Peter 1: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,  and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ

Verse 8 is so wonderful.  What God is promising is a change of character and person more so than a change of circumstances.  As we embrace that work of Jesus, we will then grow to be effective and fruitful for the work of Christ.  That hope, coupled with those promises, is the reality we should hope for and look for in our lives.

Gordon

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Gordon Wrecks His Car and God Gets His Attention

This past week, my daughters and I were in a car crash.  Thank God everyone walked away okay.  Physically, there is nothing but bumps and bruises.  Mentally and spiritually, there is a lot more going on. 

First of all, the wreck was traumatic.  For various reasons, none nefarious, my Honda Accord wound up straddling two trees while being suspended over a 5-foot drainage ditch in my neighborhood.  Because of the trees, we never hit the bottom, and I fear the accident and wounds would have been much worse if we had hit the ground.  I’m thankful for God’s uses of those two trees.

Now, we sort out our hearts and minds post-wreck.

For example, my totaled car is 11 years old.  My children only know me driving that car.  They love it.  They said it smelled like me (coffee).  I was planning on gifting it to my daughter when she gets her license next year.  All of those plans have changed. 

Financially, waiting until next year to get a new car made a lot sense for us.  Now, we have to figure out whether we are shelling out cash to get an older car back on the road or whether we need to buy a newish car.  Neither were the plan right now.  What a time to trust God because I don’t have the answers

Spiritually, we are so thankful to God.  Once we got everybody home, we circled up and prayed.  I thanked God for his faithfulness and mercy in a wreck that could have been much worse.  I also encouraged my children in this way.  I told them, “I’ve said all summer that this is the summer we get closer to God.  God just agreed.”  I don’t want to waste this moment. 

The wreck last week was one of those moments where God just pushes the pause button in your life.  It was an occurrence that we just weren’t expecting.  Our plans were good, but they didn’t include the demolition of my car. 

Human wisdom says, “Man plans.  God laughs.”  Biblical wisdom says:

James 4: 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

I don’t know if we were boasting in our plan for a new car next year or not, but I do know that right now, I am praying a whole lot more about things like new cars, a new driver, and my finances. 

All in all, my family is okay.  We have such a more rich prayer life and dependence on God right now.  For those things, and my family’s safety, I am so thankful.

If you would like to hear more about this moment, I talk about it in my podcast, “This is Gonna Hurt”.  You can find the direct link here.

Gordon

Gospel Rich Books

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