Story: Why Did You Give Me This?

gift

Ryan looked up from the pages of the how-to-code book with a sigh. This was sooooo hard! His eyes wandered out the window to where his brothers were throwing a ball their father had given them. Why couldn’t his father have given him something easy to use too? He was frustrated…and afraid of failing.

“I gave you just what you need.” Ryan’s father’s voice startled him. Ryan had forgotten his father was sitting right there.

“It’s just so hard,” Ryan muttered.

His father smiled. “Of course it is. You know, I never expected you to do it alone. I’m right here and can help you.”

Ryan looked back at the frustrating coding pages. He would try again…this time, with his father’s help.

The book was still tough, but it made such a difference to do it with his father! A  strange thing began to happen. He began to actually enjoy his coding assignment and become thankful his father had given him it. Truly, his father had known what was best!

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17 (NASB)

“Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11 (NASB)

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Instantly Fit?

Instantly Fit?

Cherie knew she wasn’t as strong as she needed to be. Somehow, exercise just never made the top of the to-do list.

One day, she decided to change. She began exercising.

But as she did so, she quickly became discouraged. She couldn’t keep up with the people in the exercise video. Her muscles screamed at her after just half the repetitions. Plus, old injuries began hurting again. Hadn’t she already rehabilitated that knee? Why was it causing problems yet again?

“I just can’t do it,” she moaned to her friend Anna.

Anna’s reply surprised her. “Why, Cherie, did you expect to get fit overnight?”

“Well…” Cherie wasn’t sure how to reply. In a way, she sort of had.

“Cherie, it takes training and work to get strong. Don’t give up just because you’re not instantly fit.”

“Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV

Story: Unused Medicine

Maureen stared at the shelves of medicines in awe. Why, Sarah’s medicine cabinet rivaled any pharmacy’s…as did her knowledge of the different medications.

“What does this one do?” Maureen asked, holding up a bottle of pink pills.

“Oh, that’s an antibiotic for infections. It—” Sarah’s voice cut off in a cough that caused her to double over in pain.

“Are you okay?” Maureen asked, concerned.

After the coughing finally finished, Sarah replied in a shaky voice, “I’m fine. I just have a bad infection. But no worries.”

“What’s this cream for?” Maureen asked, pointing to a cream on the shelf.

“Oh, that helps skin infections,” came the quick reply.

Maureen glanced at her friend in confusion. She knew her friend had often complained about her skin infections. In fact, Sarah was constantly sick. “I don’t get it,” she confessed. “If you have all of these medicines, why are you always so sick?”

Sarah hardly looked up from the letter she was attempting to write. “I don’t know. I’ve had the medicines for years, but I guess I’m just doomed to sickness.”

Maureen turned from the medicine cabinet and sat next to her friend. What could be the problem? “Do you take the medicine like it’s prescribed?”

Sarah blushed. “Well, now that you mention it, no, I guess I don’t.”

“So let me get this straight. You have all of these medications, and know all about them, but you don’t take them?”

Sarah nodded, blushing more. “I guess that’s about right.”

Maureen shook her head in disbelief. “I guess we both know now why they’re not working. Sarah, you have to act on what you know.”

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” James 1:22-25 (KJV)

Story: It Helps to Plug It In

Short Story

Short StorySusan stared at the mixer in positive frustration. Mixing this cake was SO much work! She was trying so hard, yet it seemed she hardly made any progress. She thought baking was supposed to be fun. What was wrong?

“You are supposed to mix this batter,” Susan lectured herself (and, in a way, the mixer). But lecturing about what she was supposed to do didn’t seem to help at all. What was wrong?

Her mom walked by and saw her frustration almost instantly. “Susan, you need to plug the mixer in,” she explained.

Sure enough, a plugged-in mixer made a world of a difference!

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” John 15: 5 (KJV)

Story: A Mixed-Up Army

Jake had never seen such a mixed-up army before. They were in the middle of a battle, with bullets flying all around. Yet the soldiers all seemed more concerned with what their fellow soldiers thought of them than they did of the war!

“I pressed my uniform this morning,” one was explaining proudly to his fellow soldier. Blood was gushing from a bullet wound in his leg, but the soldier was wearing a brave face. He didn’t want anyone to know he had gotten hurt. He wanted to look like a good soldier.

Another soldier, obviously a seasoned one, responded by sharing in pride about some of the battles he’d lived through and the things he knew. When another soldier joined them and began sharing proudly too, Jake decided he’d had enough.

“This is ridiculous, you guys!” he exclaimed. “We’re all in a battle, not a competition.” Without another word, he tore off his jacket and began using it to bandage the one soldier’s leg.

The other soldiers hung their head as each remembered they’d nothing really to be proud about. Their commander had led them to victory. He’d given them a position to serve and to fight the good fight. It wasn’t about them at all. There was a battle to be fought, not a competition to be won. They slowly turned, shoulder to shoulder, and reengaged in the battle, encouraging and helping their fellow soldiers.

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:11-16

Thought: I Can’t

“God helps those who help themselves”—or so the saying goes. Yet God’s Word tells us God helps the humble (James 4:6), the sick (Mark 2:17), and the meek (Psalm 147:6). God helps those who realize they can’t help themselves.

At the same time, the Bible certainly doesn’t tell us to curl up in defeat or do nothing. We’re urged to seek the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:11), obey His Word (James 1:25, Hebrews 3:15), and repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15). We do need to “help ourselves” in the sense of acknowledging our inability, running to the One who can help us, and obeying what He’s told us to do in His Word, knowing that ultimately, we’re helpless without Him.

Do you feel as if you can’t go on? As if your heart is breaking? Are you out of strength? Be honest before God about it—He knows anyway.

And be honest with others too. We all need help fighting this battle called life. It’s warfare, not a competition for the most-put-together-Christian prize. Wars are messy and tough. But our Captain has already won the victory and given us the tools to walk in that victory, such as prayer, praise, and repentance. He is able to do what we are not–don’t let anything keep you from running to Him.

“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” James 4:6

“When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Mark 2:17

“The Lord lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.” Psalm 147:6

Short Story: Taking Steps

I just can’t do it, Priscilla thought to herself yet again. Her friends ran marathons, bench pressed, and did other valiant physical feats, but she just couldn’t. She wasn’t happy about her weakness, but there didn’t seem to be much she could do about it either.

Every week she went to a class at the gym. She studied how to exercise. But then she went back home, and life surrounded her. A thousand things demanded her attention, and somehow, exercise just slipped into the background.

She finally forced herself to go for a walk after dinner. But her mind was not on the walk, and her feet only mechanically went through the motions.

One day she casually confessed to a friend how little she felt she exercised. Her friend’s response surprised her. “Do you really want to get in shape, Priscilla?”

The question took Priscilla by surprise. “Of course I want to,” she stated, a tad sharper than necessary.

Her friend raised her eyebrows. “Well, then, you know what to do.”

“I do?” Priscilla asked in confusion.

Her friend smiled. “Of course you do. If you want to get in shape, you begin exercising. You take the first steps, even if they seem small to you. And you keep at it, refusing to give up when it’s not easy. Priscilla dear, don’t settle for the shape you’re in now—take steps to get where you want to be.”

“But I don’t know what steps to take,” Priscilla argued. Even as she said it, though, she blushed with embarrassment. Her father was an Olympic trainer–she’d only to ask him, and he’d show her exactly what to do and help her. In fact, he’d written down instructions already…she’d just been ignoring them. She didn’t really have any excuses; she just needed to begin.

“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8

“If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” 1 Timothy 4:6-8

*********
As we start a new year, it’s a wonderful time to think about steps we can take to seek God and trust Him more. Here are a few ideas:

Pick a Scripture and read it daily each week, asking God to help you live in light of it.
Commit or recommit to daily Bible reading. Don’t let Satan discourage you through comparisons against what others do. Start small if you need to–even a quick 2-minute reading is a beginning. View it like you do physical food–somehow, we make time to eat, even if it’s a quick bite on the go.
Write a Scripture out and put it in your pocket, rereading it throughout the day.
Put Scripture verses up over your light switches or some other place you look frequently as reminders.
Make sure you’re in Christian fellowship/have spiritual accountability.
Memorize Scripture. Again, start small if you need to.
Choose to consciously praise.
Whatever area God has brought to your attention, take the first step to respond, trusting Him to show the next one.

Know that as you take steps to seek God more, the enemy will try to discourage you. Don’t let him. Let each failure serve to drive you back to the cross and remind you of your great Savior who claimed all your sin as His own and freely gave you His righteousness. Remember the Christian walk is a battle–but Jesus has already won the victory. Choose to trust Him and take steps to obey what He says in His Word. Babies don’t start running without first learning to stand, toddle, and then walk. But imagine how sad it would be if a baby gave up after the first fall, discouraged because he couldn’t run!

“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” Ephesians 4:15

“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:14

Story: Job Usurping

Jeremy wanted desperately to be helpful. In fact, he had given up several opportunities in order to stay home and help his father. But now Jeremy was incredibly frustrated. It felt as if he wasn’t accomplishing anything. Sure, he had a few small tasks to do, but they were nothing special. He wanted to make a difference. He wanted to do something great. And he resented all the circumstances that kept preventing him from fulfilling any of his plans.

As Jeremy entered the barn one day, he stopped short as he heard his brother singing while he worked. Jeremy sighed to himself. He remembered the day when he used to sing while he worked too. What had happened to his joy?

He knew what had happened. Previously, he’d chosen to rejoice, knowing that his father was giving him his daily assignments and had the future all in control. He’d rejoiced in his father’s love and care. But lately—although he never would have acknowledged or worded it this way—he’d begun to doubt his father’s care. He knew that was a pretty foolish thing to do. His father was incredibly wise and smart…and totally loving. Jeremy knew that. Yes, he knew it—but would he live as if he knew it?

Jeremy didn’t quite see how to, but he knew the first step was to repent and start replacing his complaints with praise. Whenever the complaints would fill his mind, he began choosing to say a praise instead. He also began reminding himself of his father’s character and love—and of how faithful his father had always been. Slowly but surely, the cloud began to lift from his heart and a smile crept back once again. Once more, he was content to let his father direct his steps, even if that plan didn’t seem very special at the moment.

~~~~~~~

“Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
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Jeremy knew the fields needed planted soon. His mind kept racing to try to figure out what he should plant where. Should they grow potatoes or corn in the backfield? Should they order from Seeds Express or Seeds Forever? How many tomatoes should they plant? The list of decisions went on, and with each additional one, the tension in Jeremy’s heart grew that much bigger. He finally couldn’t stand it any longer. He hurriedly sought out his father.

Jeremy’s father was waiting for him and, as always, listened lovingly as Jeremy poured out his list of decisions. “You know, Jeremy, I’ve already made all those decisions.”

Jeremy looked up in surprise. “You have?”

Jeremy’s father nodded. “A looong time ago. Jeremy, I’ll tell you what to order when. Just seek me and ask what you need to do and be about what I tell you to do.”

Those words lifted a huge weight from Jeremy’s shoulders. No wonder he’d felt so exhausted lately—he’d been trying to do his father’s job! Now how silly was that? His father had it all under control.

~~~~~~~
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
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“Benjamin, that’s not how you feed the pigs. Daniel, would you please try to pay attention to the instructions I printed on how to milk a cow?”

Jeremy’s patience was completely exhausted with his brothers. He wanted desperately for each of his brothers to do a good job—for his father, of course!

And the neighbors—now they were a whole other story. Jeremy wanted them to get to know his father too—he knew that was what his father wanted. But sometimes it felt quite impossible to convince any of them to so much as talk with his father.

Once again, Jeremy was discouraged. And once again, he sought out his father.

His father explained, “My dear son, you’re taking on my job again.”

Jeremy looked at him in surprise. “I am?”

His father nodded. “It’s my job to train your brothers and deal with them if they’re not getting it—it’s just yours to faithfully teach them what I tell you. And it’s my job to get the neighbors to talk to me—it’s just yours to faithfully present to them the truths I gave you to share with them. You can’t control any outcomes; that’s my job. All you can do is faithfully obey what I tell you.”

Once again, a load fell from Jeremy’s shoulders. Oh, when would he learn to stop trying to take over his father’s job!

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Short Story: Play by Play

Andy raced down the field, reaching up after the basketball. He knew exactly what he was doing–or so he thought. He had read that cutting to the right like this was the right move to make. Yet to his surprise, he saw the basketball sail past him to the left. He had missed the opportunity he’d been waiting for…again.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The other players had all filed out of the locker room long ago. Only Andy sat, his head buried in his hands, defeat written in his posture, even if he hid the despair in his eyes and face.

Andy heard his name called–he recognized that voice. It was the voice of a fellow player–Tony. “Hey, Tony,” Andy mumbled, struggling to collect himself. “I thought you’d left with the others.”

Tony gave one of his broad grins. “And so I did–but I realized you weren’t with us and came back. You okay?”

Andy started to nod, then shook his head. “Not really. I just don’t understand. I keep messing up. I just wish I knew where to be when.”

“Sounds to me like you need to talk with the coach,” Tony replied with a knowing smile. “He’ll fix you up right quick. Say, I think he’s in there.”

Andy followed Tony’s finger, which pointed to their coach’s office, located just off the locker room. “Now?” he whispered.

Tony grinned again. “There’s no time like the present.” With that, Tony patted Andy good-naturedly on the shoulder and headed back outside.

Andy knew his friend was right. He needed to talk with the coach. It had been too long since they’d had a really good talk.

To Andy’s surprise, the coach guessed his frustrations and articulated them clearer than even he could. “Andy,” he explained, “you want to know what you’re supposed to do all the time. You want me to lay out for you a game plan for the rest of your career–a rule you can follow about where to be when. Today, for instance, you copied what you had seen another player do in a game, and thought you’d be able to catch the ball.”

“But the game doesn’t work that way. I call the plays one at a time, play by play. Our strategy against one team will be entirely different than against another. And what I want you to do will be different too, although never outside of the bounds of the rulebook. Andy,” the coach paused and looked straight into Andy’s eyes, “it’s your job to read and know what is in the playbook; more importantly, though, you need to listen. The entire game tonight, I was calling out directions–I told you the plays we were running as you needed to know–but your mind was too filled with trying to figure out what to do on your own, and looking at your mistakes, to  listen. There’s no formula you can follow out there on the court–you just need to listen play by play.”

As the coach’s words sank in, a weight fell of Andy’s shoulders. It was the coach’s job to figure out who needed to be where! It was his job just to listen–and obey.