Lessons from a Used Car Saleman

Psalm 119:2 – “Blessed are they who keep His statues and seek Him with all their heart.”

To say that I felt a bit hypocritical yesterday as I wrote about being blessed is an understatement. You see, when I was writing about God’s blessing, I was also feeling bitter.

Why?

Because, it feels like our entire financial world is being rocked(BLESSED, it could be our health). I chipped my tooth on a tootsie pop yesterday, and it will cost $400 to get it fixed (BLESSED, I have insurance). We have school shopping to do for four kids (BLESSED, my wife is an incredible bargain shopper and has already found great prices on almost everything that we need). We returned from a wonderful vacation (BLESSED, unlike the majority of the world we actually got to take a vacation) on Saturday. I was driving our van. It made it over 1300 miles without incident (BLESSED). On Sunday morning, as I was driving to church with Breanna and Chris I noticed a very loud noise coming from the front of our van. I’d heard the noise before. On a prior vehicle, the noise resulted in a tire falling off of the car as I was driving and ruining the car (BLESSED, because I could have been killed). After church, I took the van to a service station. My engine light was on too, so they ran a full diagnostic. The result? I need a new transmission and new wheel bearings. The noise was due to the fact that our wheel bearings are going to give out. The cost was estimated to be at least $4000. Our van has over 164,000 miles on it (BLESSED – That’s a ton of miles! BLESSED – We have a van).

So, I was upset. We do not have any money to put towards another vehicle. With four kids, one income, and Christian school education for three of our kids (BLESSED – We have been given so much) there just isn’t enough money to go around for another car payment.

Cyndi and I drove to the car dealership where we purchased my car a few years ago (BLESSED – We have two vehicles). When we got there I put on my best car buying face. I didn’t want to purchase anything, because I knew we couldn’t, but wanted to at least hear what we might be able to afford.

We were greeted by a used car salesman. And, he totally fit the stereotype. Except for the fact that he had told his boss to go home, because his boss was working too much, and he thought his boss needed to spend time with his family.

Over the course of the next hour, our salesman opened up to us. He told us of his divorce a few years back. His wife ran off with his best friend. He told us about his two kids who are in college. He told us of his own financial crisis. He was two weeks away from losing his home. And, he told us about how God had provided. He found this job around the time that he was about to lose his home. He had one great month that allowed him to make up for three months on his mortgage. He doesn’t know how he is going to make it this month, but he is trusting God. He told us that he had read a book about praising God in everything. “And so,” he said with a smile, “I am praising God for my children. I am praising God when I make a sale. I am praising God for my financial troubles. I am praising God for my divorce. I am praising God for the years that I have had in my home. I am praising God for my physical ailments. I’m praising God for it all. And, it’s transforming my life.”

I was convicted. Here I sat as the pastor, upset at God for letting my van get wrecked, and I was being taught by a man who has lost almost everything. (BLESSED)

So, what about Psalm 119:2?

Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

1) God really wants me to understand what it means to be blessed. He has already blessed me, but He wants me to know how much more blessed are those who seek Him and obey Him.

2) Jared Falkanger, one of my students sent me Jeremiah 29:11 today on my Facebook account. It’s a verse that I am reminded of at least once a week. But, today, I recalled Jeremiah 29:11-13, which says,

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

God wants me to seek Him with all of my heart. It’s talked about in Deuteronomy 4:29 too.

3) God really wants us to KEEP his commands. He talks about it in verses 22 and 146 of Psalm 119 as well. He also talks about it in Deuteronomy 6:17. Jesus told his disciples to keep his commands in John 14:23 (This was just a few days before He was crucified). Right before David died, he told his son Solomon, the heir to the throne to “walk in His ways and keep His decrees . .. ” in 1 Kings 2:3.

4) I can’t keep the commands of God without the Holy Spirit’s work in my life (Ezekiel 36:27).

Finally, I read about King Hezekiah today. In 2 Chronicles 31:21 it says, “In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.”

Dear God,

Help me to obey you like Hezekiah. Help me to follow you even when no one else in the world is. Help me to seek you with all of my heart. May my life be a living sacrifice. And, may I always remember the lesson of the used car salesman. Please give me the strength to praise you in everything.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Blessed

Psalm 119:1 – “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.”

I don’t know about you, but when I think about those who walk with God, I think about spiritual giants. I think about Elijah, walking along the road and then being escorted into heaven by a flaming chariot. I think about Enoch, another man who tasted not death, but was brought into the very presence of God. I think about Abraham and that burning bush experience that left him changed forever, and began a new path of walking with God. I think about David, the man after God’s own heart. But, Brian? No, I don’t think about Brian. And, I wish that I did.

I want to be a man who is known for walking with the Lord. I want to be known as a man who walks according to the law of the Lord. I began my spiritual journey of mediating on a verse in Psalm 119 each day for the next 176 days, this morning.

Today’s verse is a tough one. It’s about more than just walking with God. It’s about being a person whose ways are blameless. And, how does one do that? I don’t know about you, but blameless isn’t a word that I use to describe myself.

And, maybe that’s the point. Maybe what the Psalmist is trying to tell us is that none of us are blameless. And, maybe that’s why the hope of a Messiah, and our assurance that Christ is the Messiah is so beautiful. We, who desperately needed a Savior, have one. And, through Him, and through His forgiveness we can experience the walk of the blameless. We, who are far from blameless can be viewed as blameless before a Holy God.

That’s what a relationship with Christ does. So, if we look at Psalm 119:1 backwards, we end with the word “blessed.” And that’s what I am.

I am not blameless in my eyes. I am not one who walks in the law of the Lord. I try. But, I fail so often. But, I am blessed. And, I’m blessed because of Jesus.

Psalm 1 begins with the word “blessed” too. It says, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he mediates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2)

So, I’m blessed. And I’ve begun this journey of biblical mediation. And, Psalm 1 tells me that the blessed person mediates day and night on the law of the Lord.

Jesus talked about being blessed too. The most famous occurrence of this is in a passage of Scripture that we know as the Beatitudes. Matthew 5:3-12 tells us,

3″Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11″Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

In Luke 11:28 Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Like a rebellious child, so many times I think that I know better than God. That my ways are better than His. Talk about the ultimate in arrogance. If I’d just listen to the Word of God and obey it life would be better.

Want more passages that correlate with this type of blessing that Psalm 119:1 speaks of? Check out Psalm 112:1, 128:1, John 13:17, James 1:25 and Revelation 22:14. The Bible is full of practical teaching on this subject.

In Ezekiel 11, God was calling His people back to Himself. In verse 20, God said, “Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.”

Did you ever think that when we fail to walk in God’s ways that we fail to allow God to be God? It’s time. It’s time to obey. Its time to walk in God’s ways. It’s time to recognize that blessed people, people who have had the grace of God lavishly poured upon them, need to live like blessed people.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your blessing. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your work on the cross. Thank you for your resurrection power. Thank you for your transformative power. Thank you that you see me through the lenses of your forgiving power and not as a hostile judge. Thank you that you have the power to transform me. Help me to believe that with you working in me that the transformation can occur.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

We Are Attempting Bat Evacuation

I have a new respect for Batman. In the movie Batman Begins, we find out that Bruce Wayne became Batman after overcoming his intense fear of bats. His fear developed when he fell into a well as a child. The well was full of bats that swarmed above young Bruce as he screamed in fear.

Last week, I encountered a bat. The bat was HUGE. He must have had a wing span of 10 feet. He had long vampire like teeth and beedy black eyes. And, he wanted to kill me. At least that’s what I thought when I saw it.

It was a little before midnight when, at the rental home that we were in at Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference I saw it. He flew a few inches away from my face out of the bedroom and into the living room. At first I thought it was a bird. The lights were off. When I switched the light on, the bat came toward me again. This time, sure it was a bat, I did what any self-respecting man would do. I screamed like a little girl. My wife was in the next room and wondering what her husband was screaming about. I told her, “There is a HUGE bat in our house. It is trying to attack me.” She couldn’t stop laughing. When she told me to just get it out of the house I told her of my intense fear of bats. This is one creature that I could not get out.

We called the front desk at the resort. They called in a teenage security guard. Twenty long minutes later he arrived; tennis raquet in hand. And, I . . . well, you’ll have to watch this youtube video to see for yourself.

I’m ashamed. So, very ashamed.

176: A Spiritual Discipline

My family and I spent last week in Michigan. It was our annual vacation to Marantha Bible and Missionary Conference. You can find out more about Maranatha by following this link: Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference. One of the things that I love about going to Maranatha is the time that I have to be spiritually fed by others. I also love the walks on the beach and the personal quiet times that I have with God. This year, I felt like God was telling me to take an in depth look at the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119. So, for the next 176 days, I’m going to try something very different. The plan is to meditate upon one verse in Psalm 119 each day. And then, I want to record whatever it is that I feel that God is teaching me from that verse on my blog.

There may be some days where I record a lot. There will be other days that there isn’t much there. I’m excited to see what God does in my life as I take this extended look at Psalm 119. I can’t imagine that there won’t be a change in my life. And, I’m excited to invite you to join me on this journey.

The journey begins tomorrow morning.

You can read Psalm 119 in it’s entirity by following this link: Psalm 119.

Leith Anderson’s Sermon on I-35W Bridge Collapse

Many of you have sent me e-mails or phoned in response to the tragedy that took place in Minneapolis last week. No one that I knew was involved in the accident. That said, I, along with most people who live in the Twin Cities have been profoundly impacted by Wednesday’s event. In some ways we all feel like we have been affected by this event. I spoke on the tragedy in our Senior High group on Sunday. Our students had such a need to process the bridge collapse.

Leith Anderson preached to the congregation on the event. I found Leith’s sermon to be comforting, compelling, and challenging. You can listen to his message by following this link:

When Calamity Comes To Where We Live.

Catastrophic

It’s hard to put into words what I am feeling right now. Earlier tonight, while I was driving to our Wednesday evening Bible Study, I turned on my radio. I had it tuned into KFAN, the sports radio station in Minneapolis. What I was hearing had nothing to do with sports. The announcers were talking about my city. They were talking about a catastrophe. They were talking about a major bridge collapse. They were talking about a bridge that almost everyone that I know drives on a regular basis. The 35W bridge crossing the Mississippi River was gone.

I switched the station.

Now listening to WCCO, the local talk leader, I heard the frantic reports of various eyewitnesses. Trucks were on fire. People were trapped under rubble. A school bus, full of children, was on that bridge. People were dying.

I arrived at the home where our high schoolers would soon be arriving. The television set was already on. And, I watched. I sat in stunned silence as the images flooded across the screen. The images reminded me of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s. The Interstate Series, as it was called, was suspended when a giant earthquake made rubble of San Francisco’s highway system. This compared. But, we are in Minneapolis, and there was no earthquake.

As the students arrived, we watched. And then we sang songs of worship to our God. And then, we prayed. I loved listening to the heartfelt prayers of high school students, as they cried out to God on behalf of those who would never again see their loved ones. Our students understood that in this most awful of days, Jehovah was still on the throne.

As I get ready for bed, I’m shaken up. We cancelled our bowling activity that was scheduled for after Bible Study. We all felt a need to be close to the ones we love. When I arrived home, I held my kids. My younger two boys wanted to snuggle in Daddy’s arms. I thought about the people gathering at Hennepin County Medical Center waiting for word on their loved ones. I thought about those at North Memorial Hospital, and my friend Chris who moved back to the Twin Cities today from Chicago. He had sent out an appeal for help moving. He lives right by North Memorial. I thought about the police, fire fighters, rescue personnel and city officials. I’m full of questions. And, I’m trusting.

Lord,

I don’t understand why you allowed this tragedy today. I marvel at the way that you protected 60 kids on a bus, and I wonder why you allowed others to die. Come alongside of our city tonight. Come alongside of our state. Come alongside of all those who are hurting. And, use us as instruments of Your healing.

In Christ’s Precious Name,

Amen.