Rubber, Metal, and Glass

We are all people of limited resources and ability.  We are efficient beings, meaning that we have certain limitations along side certain expectations.  To the contrary, God is not. He has no limits, his resources are unlimited and his very nature is his expectation.

It is when we take those truths and apply them to our lives, things get complicated. Questions arise like: How do I set my priorities in the realms of family, work, and school? How do I manage my time with my responsibilities? It doesn’t take long to realize we are indeed limited and we will not get everything done.

To some this could be a disappointment. Though I would argue, from the Christian worldview, that it is not. God has called us to be faithful stewards, not independent superheroes. It is when we, as the redeemed in Christ, rest not only in the person and work of Christ but also in the sovereign mind and will of our Heavenly Father, that we find true liberation from the perils of our limitations.

“Honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.” Take this commandment for instance. The Sabbath has to do with our personal trust in our personal God. If He has made everything, is everywhere, and knows everything (omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient) then surely his children should trust him with one single day off of work. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The Sabbath is our weekly opportunity to trust God, in so doing, we are drawn to worship Him.

Sleep for instance points us in the same direction. Sleep is a gift. We close our eyes at night, whether we know it or not, trusting that God will not only keep the world spinning and in control — but also wake us up!

Operating with this theology, how can we practically navigate the waters of priority in our lives? In other words, how can we concede our limitations, get our priorities in line, and still honor Christ?

I once heard a very wise suggestion. Something like this: In life everything, the tangible and intangible, is made of either rubber, metal, or glass.  Now if you took just the first course in Chemistry, you understand the stretch of the metaphor. But there is great truth in the wise man’s advise. Everything we do, everything we handle, and even the things we aspire to do, can be thought of as one of three materials: rubber, metal, glass.

First, we need to identify that which is rubber. These are the things in life that you can drop, whether by accident or not, and they bounce right back. Take exercise for instance. Does it really matter if you missed your Saturday run, because you were out of town? I mean, really?

Being able to identify the things in life which are rubber, will give you an incredible sense of flexibility. In fact, you may even delight in dropping a few things, knowing they will bounce back. Do yourself a favor in stress relief. “Drop the ball” every now and then — just make sure it’s rubber.

Second, identify that which is metal. These are the things that when dropped, make a very loud noise. Unlike rubber, they do not bounce back. You have to take time and effort to bend down and pick them back up. All is well once you do so, but let’s face it – it’s not exactly convenient when you drop metal. The noise makes everyone look, you cause a distraction, time is wasted and apologies are made.

The grace in this is that nobody gets hurt. It may sound like they should, but all is well. Take for instance your job. Do something stupid and get fired. Okay, you can get another job – hopefully, depending in just how stupid you were.  Most likely you will be back in the daily grind in a couple of months. But you know what happens. First you have to pack your office. Then you tell your spouse. Then you fret, worry, cry, and wonder about the “if only I would haves”.  Then comes the job search. You get it. A bunch of work, a season of distraction all because you dropped the metal.

You are right now carrying some metal. I hope not too much, not too heavy, not too bulky. Because when you drop a piece, it’ll be awkward at best.

Third, identify the things in life with the highest value and priority. These will be the things made of glass. You drop them, they break. There is no picking them up again, because they’re in a thousand pieces. Yes, they will make a loud noise much like metal. Everyone will look. But instead of picking the thing back up, you’ll be sweeping pieces into a dust pan. And most likely you’ll need some help.

Glass will be all over the ground. People will most likely cut their bare feet on left over shards. The drop site may be a hazard for years to come. Here’s the lesson: Don’t drop the glass. Throw down the rubber, let the metal down gently if you have to but don’t drop the glass.

Your family, yes, is glass. Your spouse, is precious glass. And just incase you were wondering, you yourself are glass. God has entrusted you with many things. All on your plate to make you into a faithful steward, giving him thanks for everything and everyday.

We all have full and heavy loads. Watch what you carry and how you carry it. And as you live life, first by the leadership of the Holy Spirit — it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have some people look in your backpack every once in a while. Accountability saves lives, it also saves a lot of dirty work.

Rejoicing in God’s Sovereignty

In Children’s Church this semester, our Coat’s children will be learning about God’s sovereignty. Whether the trial faced is a storm, a sickness, or a seemingly impossible task, they will learn that God is powerful, and He is in control.

In the Old Testament, they will learn how God sovereignly provided a son for Abraham and Sarah, even in their old age, and how He was always in control like when He led the Israelites into the Promise Land. In the New Testament, they will read about Jesus’ life and see that He had power to calm storms, heal sick people, and do things no one else could do, like walk on water.

However, these stories can seem distant when we look around to find a broken world full of natural disasters, sickness, violence, and chaos. It is easy for us to allow the brokenness to drown out God’s goodness.

But, praise the Lord, the same powerful God that our kids will learn about this semester is still in control today.

Over the past few months, Daniel and I have marveled at God’s sovereignty in our lives. If you were at church a few weeks ago, you may have heard our exciting news: we are expecting our first child in March! However, just a few short months ago, we were laughed at for even thinking that God could give us a child.

You see over the past few years, I have been told over and over that my odds of every being able to have a baby were less than 10%. For many months, I struggled to reconcile two facts: God is sovereign and the world we live in is broken.

As I was reading through the book of Genesis at the beginning of the year, I was encouraged by God’s ability to bless Sarah and Abraham, Rebekah and Isaac, and Rachel and Jacob with a child. As I dove deeper into the Old Testament, God reminded that He is sovereign. He is in control, and He is powerful. I stepped back and left our plans to God’s sovereign will.

During this time, I wrote a simple prayer in my Bible, “Lord, if it be your will to grow our family this year, we will praise You. We know that any child from you will be a blessing.”

Fast forward to July 8th (exactly one month after Daniel and I got married). God led me back to Genesis and reminded me of my prayer. During that quiet time, I was overwhelmed with God’s power as I realized that He had answered my prayer. After running to the doctor (who thought I was crazy), one of our greatest joys was confirmed. Baby Taylor is healthy and growing, and is a living declaration of God’s sovereignty and goodness.

As we praise God for His faithfulness to answer prayers and rejoice in His sovereign plan, we pray that God will use our little one to bring glory to God.

The Benefit of Disagreement

A while back I came across a saying on Facebook. It said, “Listen to understand, not to respond.” This should go without saying. How can we respond adequately if we do not comprehend? However, we live in a world where we are quick to speak, slow to hear, and ready to beat down anyone who challenges our convictions. In doing so, we violate scripture and we damage our witness.

James 1:19–20 says, “My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness” (emphasis mine). This has become a lost art for many of us. After viewing a 20 second video clip, we are ready to pass judgment on issues we really don’t understand and venues like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram give us the vehicle to say it all to the world.

Have we ever stopped to consider the benefits of disagreement?

Disagreement, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. It can actually be very beneficial. For example, the early church discovered the doctrine of the Trinity because of an opposing view. This doctrine states that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all One (having the same essence) and distinct, at the same time.

Man did not invent the idea of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit being “The Trinity.”  The basis of this is scripture, beginning in Genesis 1:26, where God said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”. But, since the word “trinity” is not found in scripture the idea has been formalized into a doctrine. But where did this start? It started with a question that led to a disagreement and the time to find the answer.

As we look into the Christian Intellectual Tradition, the youth High School Sunday school class came across a guy named Marcion. He lived approximately 85-160 A.D. Marcion asked the question, “How can Jesus be God and the Old Testament God also be God?” Now, Marcion’s answers to these questions would not line up with most anyone reading this post. But that is not the point. Marcion’s question, and his very creative response, prompted the church to grapple with the question.

As the church worked through the question, what we know as the Doctrine of the Trinity was discovered. I use the word “discovered” rather than “defined” to make a particular point. The Trinity always existed. Evidence of the Trinity can be found all over scripture. But it took diligent study, instigated by a question that lead to a formal doctrine.

What if the early church had not wrestled with Marcion’s claims? What if they had only listened to respond and not to understand? While Marcion’s answers to his own questions are a great departure from the teaching of scripture, (he was declared a heretic in 144) his question was still valid. In treating it as such the early church not only found the trinity, but an appreciation for the Old and New Testaments being two parts of a whole.

With this in mind let us truly listen to the world around us. When you push past the bluster to the heart of the matter, people are asking the same questions they have always asked. Maybe we have the answer to those questions. Maybe the questions push us to discover the answer for ourselves. And once we have an answer, I pray that we have treated the questioner with enough respect and dignity that they will listen to the answer we have found.

A Walk on the Beach

Nothing comes closer to the feeling of hitting a reset button than a long walk on the beach. It clears my mind and allows me to relax, to think, and to reflect on life. I love the beach for many reasons but, chiefly, it is an immediate reminder that what I think I understand, and what I think I have some control over, is completely dwarfed by the enormity of the world that is beyond my control.

It’s quite ironic that the realization of being out of control would be so comforting. How could a sense of helplessness be soothing? How could weakness and vulnerability offer peace? Perhaps knowing that I’m not in control provides the correct mindset to understand that someone else is.

When I’m at the end of what I can see and touch, it seems that I can begin to see the sovereignty of God. The collision of that which I know and the vastness of that which I can only begin to comprehend provide a physical reminder of a spiritual reality.

Most of our lives, we pretend and even fool ourselves into thinking that we have control. To be sure, we do make choices and certainly should be responsible for our actions and decisions but the only thing we really control are our choices. Other people, world events, random circumstances, even the weather impact processes and outcomes so significantly that rarely do things turn out just as we planned. The consistent pattern in which our own plans fail ought to provide ample reminder that we’re not in control, but yet still we pretend.

Perhaps it is this self-imposed illusion (delusion?) that causes so much stress. Paul reminds us of the truth: “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7). Did you catch that? When we concede our thoughts of control (i.e., “don’t worry about anything”), then we can see God clearly to approach Him in prayer and petition and He responds with the provision of peace in Christ Jesus.

While on the beach, Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John and perhaps others to “follow me” (Matt 4:18-22). Imagine how many miles the disciples must have walked with Jesus over the next few years. He didn’t let them get comfortable. They learned, over time, that they were not in control. Time and time again He took them out of their comfort zone. In fact, it was as they came to a point of desperation and hopelessness, hiding from authorities, unsure of what to do, that the risen Lord appeared with peace, a commission, and promise of true power through the filling of the Holy Spirit (John 20; Acts 1).

What about you? The physical locale isn’t the point; it’s the position of the heart that matters. The principle here is that we are to get past our misperceptions of control, which, in a nutshell is idolatry, and submit our lives afresh to the Lordship of our Sovereign God. He is in control and He loves us. Now, that’s comforting!