A Mouth Full

birdhouseOpen your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things.
Psalm 81:10 NLT

When I heard the chirping, I knew their mouths were full.

After settling into my new position as pastor of a small rural church, I placed a few things on the front porch of the office building. Among them a bird house. Within a few days, a mother bluebird began building her nest. I looked from my office window as she carefully selected materials and brought them to the house. When she started entering the house, I knew she had laid her eggs.

Two weeks later, I knew the eggs had hatched. I heard small intermittent chirps. As they days passed, the chirps grew louder as the baby birds aged. I’d peak out of my window and see little mouths extended from the small hole as mom and dad bluebird hung on the outside of the birdhouse stuffing food between those eager beaks. When they had filled the mouths, they’d fly off again to retrieve more food. It seemed the little birds just couldn’t get enough.

Deliverance from Egyptian slavery was a landmark point in Israel’s history that God didn’t want His people to forget. After reminding the psalmist of this rescuing, God told him to open his mouth, and He would fill it with good things.

There have been countless times when I’ve missed good things from God because I didn’t open my mouth. Somewhat like not getting things I could have had from God because I didn’t ask. When Jesus knocks, I have to open, if I want I have to ask, and if I desire good things, I have to open my mouth.

God is filled with love and mercy. He has wonderful plans for His children. He desires to give us more than we have, but there are conditions. Opening our mouths is one. As the baby birds eagerly received their parents’ food, I must receive what God offers. He offers instruction and encouragement from His Word. I’ll never go hungry—or wrong, when I receive it. He offers daily guidance from His Spirit. I’ll never make a wrong turn when I take it. He gives abundant opportunities. I’ll never regret taking them. All I have to do is open my mouth.

Open your mouth, and let God fill it with good things.

One Thing after Another

sad1aI have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights.
I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food.
I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.

2 Corinthians 11:27 NLT

With a sigh, my wife called to tell me the garbage disposal had broken. This was just the beginning.

For four years, we’ve rented our patio townhouse. Not long after moving here, we noticed various types of repair trucks were regular visitors in our neighborhood. Our trouble had been minimal…until the garbage disposal stopped working.

Knowing very little about garbage disposals, I pushed the reset button to see if it would restart. No luck. The next day, my wife called to let me know all the water had not drained from the dishwasher. I took a look. Good reason. The dishwasher drains through the garbage disposal. The next morning, I heard gurgling in the commodes when the washing machine reached the spin cycle. When I returned home for lunch, my wife informed me the microwave had broken.

I’ve experienced “one thing after another” episodes before, but these breakdowns came too close together. And I almost forgot. These breakdowns were preceded by the news that our landlady was planning to sell our unit. We would have to move.

Compared to Paul’s one-thing-after-another list, mine seemed tame—but aggravating nonetheless. Any season of endless disappointments or trials always is. When Paul stopped persecuting the church and started promoting it, things heated up. And most of the heat came from his own people who didn’t believe what he was preaching about Jesus.

Sin not only affects people but it also affects things—causing breakdowns or wear outs. God allows the one-thing-after-another episodes in our lives, but knowing that doesn’t make them any easier to endure unless I remember He’s also in control. My response is paramount. I can become angry, disillusioned, and despondent, or I can take each hit with the same attitude Paul did. He learned to be content regardless of the circumstances and rejoiced in the Lord always.

I haven’t mastered Paul’s attitude completely, but I’m closer now than I have been in the past. Knowing how to respond properly when the one-thing-after-another episodes hit is a work in progress…but one God will help me learn if I ask.

When one thing after another hits your life, trust God for the wisdom to carry on with a good attitude.

Flawed but Functional

sadFor you are a people holy to the Lord your God.
The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples
on the face of the earth to be his people,
his treasured possession.

Deuteronomy 7:6 NIV

Sin had ensnared another victim.

I listened as the newscaster gave a piecemeal report. The leaders of a noted mega church were meeting behind closed doors. The pastor had planted the church 16 years ago on a college campus. From a small start, it grew into a mega church with numerous satellite campuses. Thousands flocked to its campuses each week. The following morning, I listened to the newscaster again. This time the news was grimmer. The pastor had been accused of alcohol abuse and asked to step down.

Had church leaders polled church members for advice on how to handle the situation, they would have been given a wide variety of opinions. Some would want him to stay, some would want him to leave, and some would have given intermediary actions between the two extremes. What will happen to his ministry is also up for grabs. Opinions of those in leadership positions will determine whether he ministers again.

Though God proclaimed His Old Testament people holy, they were often anything but. They dabbled in the pagan worship rites of their neighbors while trying to worship God simultaneously. Their repeated pattern was faithfulness followed by rebellion. God designated them as holy—and expected them to be, but they rarely were. Flaws decorated their lifestyles—just as it did the pastor of this mega church.

Flaws are inevitable. I was born with a flawed nature. Christ gives me a new one at salvation, but He doesn’t perfect me immediately. I’ll have to wait for heaven to experience that. In the meantime, I’m flawed like the Israelites and the pastor—and all people. I journey toward experiential holiness, but flaws keep me from reaching it in this life.

But the news isn’t all bad. I may be flawed, but I’m still functional. Though this pastor abused alcohol and was asked to step down, God can give him power over his addiction and use him again. God used the Israelites in spite of their rebellion. King David committed adultery, murdered, schemed, and lied, but God still found room in His service for him. And He has continued to use me even though I’ve made many missteps into areas I should have avoided.

You may be flawed, but you are still functional in God’s service.

Come Out of the Closet

closetIn the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see,
so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Matthew 5:16 NLT

She’d been in the closet for five years. Now she was coming out.

Collecting old picture frames with photos of unknown dead people is a hobby my wife doesn’t particularly appreciate. She does love the old frames with the ornate handiwork and will gladly replace the dead person with a modern piece of art.

This particular closet dweller hung on my office wall for 3 years, eyes following everyone who looked at her regardless of where they stood. Then we moved to our current residence, and my wife said, “No dead people hanging on our walls—except in your office.” But my dead girl with the roving eyes wasn’t even allowed there. I convinced my wife not to sell her. Instead, she stuck her in a closet.

One day when I came home from work, I found my girl leaning against a bookshelf. My wife had cleaned the closet in my study.

“Why is my dead girl picture out of the closet?” I asked.

“I have a place on the wall you can hang her.” And she did. Now as I walk in every morning, her wandering eyes greet me. I’m glad she got to come out of the closet.

Jesus doesn’t like closet dwellers either. He wants our lights—our good deeds, to shine brightly before others. Putting a light under a cover or shielding it only dims the light or extinguishes it altogether.

The light I have as a believer is my testimony of what Christ has done in my life as well as how I act out daily the difference He has made. I don’t have to preach a sermon to tell others what He has done. Because of the snippet-world technology has created, I need to shorten my testimony to the bare essentials so I can share it in a minute or two.

But what I say isn’t nearly as important as what others see. Words mean little without actions to back them. God gives me numerous opportunities to act out my faith in practical ways. And I’ll see them if I ask Him to give me a gentle nudge when He sends them my way.

Don’t hide your faith. Come out of the closet.