Tag Archives: Simplicity

The Simple Lesson Between the Lines

[Azariah] was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years.
2 Kings 15:2 (NIV)

Sometimes the greatest lessons that come out of the chapter are not within the text but within the context. The lesson isn’t within the lines, but between them.

The scribes who penned 2 Kings were chronicling the history of the kings of both divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah. They wrote it so that I, as a reader, can get a sense of the timing of the overlapping reigns between the two kingdoms.

Today’s chapter begins with Judah’s king Azariah (aka Uzziah) who came to the throne at 16 and reigned for 52 years (FYI: He was a co-regent with his father for the first 25). A leper, he lived a relatively quiet and secluded life. The scribes point out that Azariah, while not perfect, “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.

The bulk of today’s chapter then goes on to describe a string of kings of Israel:

  • Zechariah (6 months) publicly assassinated by…
  • Shallum (1 month) assassinated by…
  • Menahem (10 years) handed the throne to his son…
  • Pekehiah (2 years) assassinated by…
  • Pekah (20 years) assassinated by…
  • Hoshea

Yikes! Talk about political chaos. In each listing of the this bloody string of successors the scribes point out the monarchs of the northern kingdom of Israel “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”

A long my spiritual journey I’ve learned that there is a balance between embracing that some things of the Spirit are very simple while also accepting that there are no simple answers to some of life’s complexities. It’s too simplistic say that Azariah had a long and prosperous reign because he did good and the kings of Israel had comparatively short reigns marked by violent ends because they did evil. That easily leads down the dualistic, transactional mindset of “If I’m good God will like me and bless me and I will succeed, and if I do bad God will punish me and I won’t succeed.” Both life and the spiritual journey are far deeper and more mysterious.

At the same time, there is simple wisdom in understanding that I experience a certain peace and stability to life when I’m following Jesus and actively attempting to conform my life to His will and His teaching (like Azariah). There is also a certain fear, anxiety and chaos to life when I’m living only for myself and the indulgence of my self-centric appetites for power, pleasure, and personal gain (like the kings of Israel).

This morning I’m reminded that it’s easy to get sucked into our popular culture and the obsession for power, popularity, prestige and worldly success. A quiet life in pursuit of Jesus may not make an exciting movie script, but there’s a peace and continuity to the path which shields me from a lot of other problems and cares.

 

It’s Simple

So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them.
John 4:40a (NRSV)

Sometimes we make things way too complicated, when Jesus’ example was always to make things very simple.

Salvation is simply this: Hearing Jesus, and inviting Him to stay.

 

chapter a day banner 2015Featured image by Michael Belk

The Big Talker

Whatever your lips utter you must diligently perform, just as you have freely vowed to the Lord your God with your own mouth.
Deuteronomy 23:23 (NRSV)

Just a few weeks ago I saw something on television that brought back memories of a kid I knew in high school. He was the big talker. His mouth was a never ending stream of braggadocios comments and tall tales about his experiences and accomplishments past, present, and future. It was so bad that some of his insane statements became legend among my group of friends. As far as I know, he did not remain a friend of any of us for long.

He came to mind again as I read this morning’s chapter. Today’s chapter is full of rather interesting and miscellaneous laws the ancient Hebrews had regarding who could and couldn’t enter the Lord’s assembly, how to handle human excrement/emissions, and the line between snacking from a neighbors grave vine and downright stealing from him. Fascinating, but admittedly not the most inspirational of thoughts for my day.

Then I came to the verse pasted above and it leapt off the page at me. While I can claim innocence from the type of arrogant tall tales of my high school acquaintance, how often have I promised and then not delivered? How often, with the best of intentions, have I stated that I’ll do this or that and then not followed through? Elsewhere in God’s Message is says that if you’ve committed the least of these offenses you’re as guilty as having committed it all. Ugh.

Today, I’m reminded of a simple rule of life: I don’t be a big talker, even in little ways. I don’t want to promise what I can’t or won’t deliver, even with the best of intentions. Say what I’ll do, and do what I say.

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featured image via quotesvalley.com

Simple, Honest, Straightforward

YesYou may be asking why I changed my plan. Do you think I make my plans carelessly? Do you think I am like people of the world who say “Yes” when they really mean “No”?
2 Corinthians 1:17 (NLT)

I recently had a conversation with a client who spent two weeks doing business in China. When I asked him how the trip went, he gave me a look of utter frustration. “I spent the entire time thinking things were going great,” he reported. “Then after I returned home and began following up I discovered that when a person in China nods their head ‘yes,’ and smiles what they really mean is ‘no.'”

I thought of my client and his frustration this morning when I read the opening to Paul’s letter to the Jesus followers in the city of Corinth. I guess Paul and the gang had their own frustrations with people who say “yes” but really mean “no.” And, I get it. Having organized and led countless volunteer projects over the years there is nothing more annoying than to have someone commit to something only to find out they never truly intended to follow through.

The further I get in life’s journey, the more I’ve come to appreciate being honest and straightforward in my answers. I am a people pleaser, so it’s easy for me to hedge and give a “maybe” or “I might” so as not to disappoint someone in the moment. But, I’ve come to learn that putting off a simple answer such as, “Thank you for asking, but I’m going to say ‘no,'” only serves to leave the “maybe” or the “kinda said ‘yes'” hanging over me for days or weeks or months like this cloud of unfinished business. In the end I will likely create even more disappointment (because they thought I might do it all along) and I will also create frustration and annoyance (because they expected or chose to hear a ‘yes‘ only to be told ‘no‘ at the last minute).

Today, I’m pondering Jesus’ instruction to make simple honesty part of daily life: “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no,'” He taught. As I begin the journey through another week, I’m reminded that in business, in relationships, in community, and in life I need to make my answers to others simple, honest, and straightforward.

Chapter-a-Day James 3

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 14:  Guests to the White ...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. James 3:17 (NLT)

It is said that good things come in small packages, and the further I proceed into the journey the more I find both truth and wisdom in the saying.

In our consumerist culture we fall easy prey to a mindset that “more is better” and “bigger is better.” The sentiment trickles into the homes we live in, the cars we drive, and even into our worship and our churches.

Big=success
Excess=success

I’ve watched speakers and preachers who fall into the same trap. If one point is good then three points are better. If one illustration is good, then five illustrations will nail it.

Things are different in the economy of God’s Kingdom. Despite what you may have heard from televangelists and public icons made by the Christian marketing machine, Kingdom economics run upstream from popular thought. In Kingdom economics less is more. The last is first. Giving is better than getting. The humble are exalted. Contentment is profitable.

In today’s chapter I found one little verse that sums up the entirety of who I want God to mold me to be. Such a good and powerful thing in a few simple words.

Good things come in small packages.

After all, salvation came in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Chapter-a-Day Mark 12

“And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.” Mark 12:33 (NLT)

Wendy has been doing a lot of baking lately. Cheesecakes and cupcakes have been the specialty as of late. She is amazing in the kitchen. One of her cheesecakes recently sold at a charity auction for over $1100. She’s learned in her baking that the quality and purity of the ingredients makes a difference in the outcome. The same is true with life.

For example, Jesus said that the greatest commandment is love.

Not good theology and love.
Not temperance and love.
Not obedience and love.
Not goodness and love.
Not sacrifice and love.
Not purity and love.
Not giving and love.
Not ___ and love.

The greatest commandment is just love. Love God with all you’ve got.
The second commandment is just love others as you love yourself.

The simplicity and purity of the ingredient is what makes the resulting life taste so good.

If you add anything to it, you ruin the recipe.

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 40

“My job is to stay here in Mizpah and be your advocate before the Chaldeans when they show up. Your job is to take care of the land: Make wine, harvest the summer fruits, press olive oil. Store it all in pottery jugs and settle into the towns that you have taken over.” Jeremiah 40:10 (MSG)

Some days, it’s pretty simple: Everyone has a job to do, and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

My job this day, as I write this, is to shovel the snow off the driveway so I can drive to Des Moines and keep my client appointments.

See you for Jeremiah 41 on Monday.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and glennharper