Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Things I learned from my dad, things I learned from my kids...

Things I learned from my dad…

Ice cream can make help make a bad day good, and a good day even better.

If you put God first, everything else will find its place.

Music has value. (We disagreed if that included country music)!

Tell the truth, because it always ends better than a lie!

Be generous with your family and with others.

Always leave things better than you found them.

People will know you love them when you show them your love.

If you borrow something and it breaks, replace it with a new one.  (That is why my dad was reluctant to borrow things!)

Playing cards together is a great way to spend time.

It is usually difficult to do the right thing, but you will never have regrets when you do.

Few things are more enjoyable than a freshly cut lawn.

If you do it right the first time, you will be happier than having to do it again!

Things I learned from being a dad…

My dad made it look easier than it really is.

Becoming a good father is a sure path to becoming a good man.

From the moment you know you are going to be a father, your heart is never the same.

Nothing is more precious than your children. Few people can frustrate you like your children.

Time is your most precious currency; spend it on your family.

Your kids do not imitate only your good characteristics!

It is impossible to pray for your children too much.

The day will soon come when memories are all that is left of childhood. Better make them good ones!

You will make mistakes. Admitting and correcting them in the presence of your children will help them learn to deal with their own mistakes.

A frustrating incident that becomes a family joke, redeems the original frustration! (Rome!)

Your heavenly Father and your earthly father will help you when you do not know what to do as a dad.

If your house is full of love, fun, and food, your kids, and all their friends, will be blessed.

 - Kenny Payne

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Imitate Jesus… Imitate!

What does it look like to imitate Jesus? Some think that it looks impossible, since Jesus is the perfect Son of God, how could someone possibly imitate him? This line of reasoning can cause you to seek to claim the grace of Jesus without making any effort to actually obey his commands. Jesus himself warns against this line of thinking at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27 NIV) The difference between a life that can withstand the storms and one that is washed away by them is simply a willingness to practice the commands of Jesus!

Jesus was humble and compassionate in heart, fervent in prayer, loving and forgiving both friends and enemies, full of grace and truth, and overflowing with patience and joy. To know that these things are true about Jesus does not really improve our lives at all – we must allow Jesus to create these same commitments in our hearts. The path to spiritual maturity is achieved by creating space in our hearts and lives for Jesus to do his transformative work. When we imitate Jesus, we begin to make spiritual progress. 

We certainly know that all of our efforts to imitate Jesus will come up short of actually living a sinless and fully mature life, but that cannot hinder us from making the effort. Paul once said, “Imitate me as I imitate Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) He was not claiming to be perfect, for he lists his limitations in other places, but he was striving to live like Jesus and he was successful enough at it that he called others to follow him on that path!

The imitation of Jesus is not a short term project, rather it is the consuming life goal of all disciples of Christ. Eugene Peterson calls this “A long obedience in the same direction!” The writer of Hebrews tells us to “remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” It is that willingness to “consider the outcome” that makes the imitation of Jesus, not only a burning passion for disciples, but the only sensible way to live the life you are given. If you choose to imitate anyone but Jesus as you walk through life, in the end you will regret that decision.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried.”  The same is true for imitating Jesus. Much like a child mimicking a parent, imitation is difficult at first, but you will grow into it – Jesus promised to be present to help us! 

- Kenny Payne

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Imitate Jesus… Patience!

            Although Jesus did not say much about patience directly, his life is the greatest example of living prayerfully and patiently.

            Once Jesus taught his disciples about their need to “always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). He reminded them that patience and persistence are the keys to getting what you need in life – if your patience and persistence are directed towards God. Because Jesus knew God to be a loving Father, he lived on the basis of “asking” for the things he needed. “Ask and you will receive” is the spiritual approach to life that Jesus modeled clearly. The process of asking and receiving both teaches and demands patience!

            Because life is full of both difficult circumstances and people, we have an unending need for patience. Yet patience is never produced “in the heat of the moment” (which, of course, is when we need it!) but comes from previous successes or failures at attempting patience. Those who want to learn from Jesus will pay attention to his way of showing patience and will notice how he is working to develop patience in our lives.

           In difficult circumstances, Jesus relied on prayer and his knowledge of God’s faithfulness to see him through. Sometimes God delivered Jesus, like the time he walked through the hostile crowd that intended to throw him off a cliff at the edge of Nazareth (Luke 4:29-30); but sometimes Jesus was not delivered from his difficult circumstances, like the time he went to the cross, despite praying for it to be removed from his life. In all difficult situations Jesus was patient and obedient to the will of his Father.

            With difficult people, Jesus was patient, hoping to promote repentance and growth in their lives. Jesus was patient with Simon Peter as he moved from impetuous to mature. Jesus was patient with John as he learned to trade “thunder” for love. Jesus was patient with Paul as he grew from persecutor of the church to apostle to the Gentiles. Jesus is patient with you as you are learning to walk with him. Jesus is always willing to patiently encourage people who are seeking to grow.   

            Paul once said, “Love is patient…” He learned this from the patience that Jesus showed to him. He also learned to imitate Jesus in showing patience. To the church in Ephesus, Paul wrote, “Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)  This is a deep spiritual truth – we desperately need Jesus and others to be patient with us as we grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we need to extend that same patience to others as they grow.

            Peter once said, The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) This is the desire of God – that everyone has the time to grow to the point that they desire repentance and salvation. His strategy is that he will be patient with people, encouraging and prompting them to righteousness. Because he is patient with us, he calls us to, in turn, be patient with others. Patience leads to salvation, both for us and for others.

- Kenny Payne

Imitate Jesus… Joy

We tend to think of joy as circumstantial, but Jesus wants us to think of joy as consequential. If we are dependent on our circumstances being “right” to experience joy, then most of our lives will be spent without much joy! However, if we understand joy to be a consequence of our relationship with our loving Father and the life that he is calling us to live, then even in difficult situations we can be full of joy.

On the evening before his arrest and subsequent crucifixion, Jesus had an extended conversation with his disciples. One theme running through that conversation is the joy that Jesus is trying to create in the lives of his disciples. It is important to notice that this conversation about joy happened in the shadow of the cross in order to keep from falling into some “pie in the sky” sentimentality that considers joy as simply a strategy to avoid all the tragedy in the world. Jesus was known as “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” He knew that joy was not a placebo against sorrow, but was a greater reality behind the sorrow and grief of the world.

Jesus rooted the joy that he wants to give his disciples in the powerful love of God the Father. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:9-11) The love of God is the most secure place in the universe. No matter what happens to you in life, if you are in the love of the Father, all will be well. Because we are mortals who will be given immortality by God, even our deaths are not the final word on our life and joy. Jesus surrendered to death and conquered it through his resurrection. That promise of life eternal is grounded in the love of God.

Jesus also promised his disciples joy in the middle of their grief. Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:20-22 NIV) Their grief was centered on the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus, Their world completely fell apart and they did not know what to do with themselves. But on Sunday morning there were stories of Jesus alive again, resurrected! Grief turned to joy and joy turned to mission.

It is hard to imagine, especially in the middle of tragedy, how God will restore and redeem this fallen creation, yet that is the promise He gives us that he is working to make all things new. Jesus called it the “restoration of all things.”  Paul reminds us, For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…” God’s faithfulness is the source of our joy!

                                                - Kenny Payne