The Gift of Consistency

consistency_quoteBetween now and Christmas, we’ll use this space to think about some of the non-tangible gifts we can give our families.

“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

Slow and steady wins the race. The hare is more fun to watch, but the tortoise brings home the prize. Real progress in most important areas of life is made incrementally through the slow and steady work of consistency.

If you want to get healthier, there’s not an instant fix. Improvement requires healthy choices repeated consistently over time. If you want to learn a language, there’s no way to cram it in your brain overnight. It takes learning and repetition over the long haul. If you want to develop a skill, practice makes perfect. One study suggests that ten thousand hours of practice is the likely requirement for true mastery of most subjects.

Consistency is one of the best gifts you can give yourself or your family. Children thrive in homes with consistent discipline; they learn what to expect and how you will respond. Your friends appreciate it when you are a consistent person.

Very little of value develops sporadically and spontaneously. Christian spiritual formation doesn’t happen automatically after years of sporadic church attendance. It happens when a person makes a habit of intentionally following Jesus.

being-consistentNietzsche said, “there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” Paul said, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Finding the Perfect Gift

blackfridayshoppersBlack Friday marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping craze. Americans will spend nearly $500 billion on gifts for friends and family this holiday season. There’s no way to begin to total the number of hours spent examining store shelves and browsing online sites trying to find the perfect gift. The gift exchange is an engrained part of our cultural identity. If we don’t overextend ourselves, it can be a wonderful way to celebrate and bring joy to those we love.

I want to remind you of something that you already know: some of life’s most important gifts cannot be found on a store shelf. This holiday season, I hope you’ll remember some of the things that matter most.

What spiritual gifts are you giving your family? Don’t take me too literally here; I’m not asking if you’ve bought a Bible for everyone in your family. I’m asking if you’re investing in them, not just buying junk for them. Remember that Jesus said we should lay up treasures in heaven, not just on earth (Matthew 6:19-20). Perhaps as we shop for Christmas gifts, we could think about the other kinds of gifts we leave our families.

Have you given your children the gift of a Christian father? Not just a guy who shows up to church, but who is truly a follower of Jesus? Have you given the spouse the gift of your presence? You have chosen to intentionally spend time with her, paying attention to her and turning off the TV and the phone. Have you invested in creating experiences and memories and opportunities to grow as a family or with your friends? Or are you just going to buy another iPad?

I love my toys—but the gifts that will last are the eternal ones. As you shop for fun Christmas gifts, don’t forget to spend some time searching for ways to give spiritual gifts, too.

Bible Memory Challenge

memorychallengeSo many useless things vie for the limited space in our brains. Our minds are constantly bombarded with messages of fear or pleasure or inanity that simply doesn’t deserve the space we give them in our brain. Why not try to fight back by making room for some truly important ideas? Here are seven passages that I wish every Christian had buried in their hearts and minds. Try memorizing one each day this week.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

What passages would you add?

Brace Yourselves: Election Day is Coming

54502273“Democracy,” according to Winston Churchill, “is the worst form of government. Except for all the others.”

The fundamental flaw with democracy is the fundamental flaw of all the other government systems we’ve come up with: human beings are running the place. If you haven’t read your Bible lately, human beings share a fundamental problem: we sin. We like easy things better than hard things. We play favorites and mess up justice. In all human history, there is only One who didn’t sin.

Whether you are pleased or depressed by the results Tuesday night, remember the bad news and good news. The bad news is that humanity is in no state to save itself. No politician can fix all that is wrong with us. The good news is that we don’t need a politician, because we have someone better.

John brought a message to the seven churches of Asia straight from God’s throne. His message came from “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth” (Revelation 1:5). He might not acknowledge it, but earth’s cruelest dictator does not wield total power.  He is under authority! God alone is sovereign. Jesus alone is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 17:14, 19:16). To him alone we bow.

Take comfort in knowing that we bow to Jesus Christ the ruler of all things. Take comfort in pledging allegiance to an incorruptible kingdom. Take time to pray for God’s blessing and guidance on our feeble attempts to rule ourselves.