“…there was a richness about them…”

From the “Guest Blogger” Series on I Am the Clay

Pastor Aaron

Guest Blogger: Aaron D. Burgner, Lead Pastor at Church at the Mall

I’ve been wanting to feature a “Guest Blogger” series on I Am the Clay for some time now by using great writers, thinkers, and communicators I’m blessed to call my friends. My guest today—and my first guest blogger—is my pastor, Aaron Burgner.

The article below was one he sent to our church family via email and graciously agreed to let me post here. And while it’s a very personal message to our congregation (as you’ll see in the final paragraphs), his message is universal—give richly because you’ve been given richly. As with every sermon he preaches, he captures the heart of this particular message in a unique and compelling way. (Services at my church are not to be missed.)

To hear more from him, check out our church website at churchatthemall.com… our Facebook page… or listen to our “Church at the Mall” podcast. (The handsome fellow above can flat out preach the word.)

And if you’re in the Central Florida area and looking for a church home, you won’t find a better one than Church at the Mall. God is at work in a mighty way and we would love to have you come be a part of it.

• • •

Church Family,

During some of my devotional time this past week I was struck by a verse in Proverbs that I have read many times before.

“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” Proverbs 11:24

My Grandpa Burgner (Poppie) was one of the most giving people I have ever known. He worked for the county, fixing roads his entire adult life. I remember as a young boy spending time with him riding around in his pickup truck taking eggs from his chickens and delivering them to the men that he worked with on the roads. He was always giving what he had to others, whether it was from his garden or his money.

Looking back, my grandparents never had much, but I thought as a child that he was the richest person in all of Medulla, which was pretty much the known world to me at the time. It was the way he and my grandmother chose to live their lives—as givers—because of the outflow of God’s grace in their lives, that led me to believe they were rich. I know now that they were not rich at all, at least not in worldly terms. But there was richness about them that no one could ever take away. The Spirit of God gave them a joy in their giving that could not be stripped away, and it seemed to intensify the more they had opportunity to give.

Sadly, as a pastor, I have also known many people who have much, and yet they cling to it as if they actually have eternal control over the things with which God has blessed them. I can hear King Solomon’s heart when he wrote these words in Proverbs. Probably spoken out of his life experiences, he learned that riches are found in the joy we find in God. Ultimately, it is in Christ that we find this joy as we are a giving people, the way that Christ gave. King Solomon also saw that the tighter we cling to the resources that ultimately all belong to God, the more miserable we become.

I want our church to be a giving church. I want our church to be a church that has maximum ability to send more money to the nations for the purposes of the Gospel. I want us to be debt-free so that we aren’t sending money to a bank, but rather using it to see people’s lives changed by the power of the gospel. I want us to be a rich church. Not rich because we have more, but rich because we give more. I want us to be satisfied in Christ and find our joy in Him alone.

I ask you to help us tackle our debt as a faith family—that we would give graciously of what already belongs to God. And His Word tells us we will be all the richer for it.

I love you church family, and it is my joy to be your pastor. I am looking forward to the 30th of September as we have the opportunity to do more for the purposes of the Gospel. I am praying for you and that the riches of Christ would overwhelm your life.

For His Glory,

Aaron D. Burgner

• • •

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Space Invaders

Space Invaders

Down here betwixt the Golfo de México and the Atlantic Ocean we’re smack dab in the throes of C.F.M.S. (Central Florida Monsoon Season)—and have been for a couple weeks or so (probably more like “or so”). Plus, with Tio Alberto doing a drive-by and adding his own brand of joie de vivre in the mix, the rain has refused to let up for any extended period of time and everything is starting to mildew. The mouseke-tourists have even been trying to use their Fastpasses to go to the head of the line to buy ponchos. (On the upside, a few pasty Yankees will probably be spared the threat of skin cancer.)

Don’t get me wrong—we need the rain. A few weeks ago, everything in my yard was brown. And not a pretty brown, like a Hershey Bar or a roast beef sandwich, but a given-up-the-ghost brown, kind of like old guacamole. The only greenness to be had in my yard was due to a big, lush patch of invasive flora—a/k/a weeds. From a distance, though, it still looked green, thanks to the weeds. I’m sure passersby were thinking, “That man has a nice green yard. I wonder what his secret is?”

Laziness. Laziness is my secret. Makes me think of a verse from Proverbs…

I went past the field of a sluggard…the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. Proverbs 24:31-32 NIV

(I don’t have a stone wall, but my driveway has a few cracks…

And now for the rest of the story…

Holy Spectacles

untitled“One…” *click* “…or two?”

“Ummm…”

*click*

“One…” *click* “…or two?”

“Two… I guess—maybe just a little.”

*click* *click* *swivel* *click*

“One…” *click* “…or two?”

And so it went. My optometrist would click a lens in place—“one”—then click a different lens in place—“two”—and ask me which one made the little teeny-tiny row of letters I was looking at more clear. Sometimes it was pretty obvious, but most of the time it was more like a Moe’s burrito vs. a Chipotle burrito—it’s a tortilla with beans, meat, and cheese. Bueno.

While the whole optometrical once-over—including the air rifle blast in the eye and the blinding dilation drops—is kind of a chore, it’s worth it to get a new pair of glasses every year.

And now for the rest of the story…

Holy guacamole, Batman!

From “The Lizard Lounge” Series on I Am the Clay

avocado

It’s been a rainy summer here at the “Lizard Lounge.” (If you’re new to “I Am the Clay,” take a second and follow that link to find out where that name came from. You can also click here for the whole series.) That’s good, though, as all that free stuff means I don’t have to pay the city for it. While I didn’t plant vegetables this year, I did explore fruit-i-culture; more specifically, the Persea americana, commonly known as the avocado. In the process, I learned a lot about fruit bearing, both botanical and spiritual.

Who knew my earthly home could teach me so much about the journey toward my heavenly one…?

• • •

Avocado: you either love it or you loathe it. While there’s typically very little in-betweenism when it comes to one’s relationship with avocado, I definitely fall into that camp. To me, it doesn’t have much taste at all, kind of like eating mushy thick green air. However, I eat it all the time.

All. The. Time.

‘Cause it’s embarrassingly nutritious.

If Jesus had passed out slices of avocado along with the loaves and fishes, those five thousand people He fed would have also gotten:

  • a boost to their immune system
  • a drop in their high blood pressure
  • a little extra help fighting off 1st century cancer. (And possibly more, since Jesus would have been the one slicing it up.)

The fat it contains—and it does contain a fair amount—is monounsaturated fat, the good kind. (Never thought I would use “fat” and “good” in the same sentence.) Your cholesterol levels will thank you.

And now for the rest of the story…

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers

Homemade soups and stews—I revel in ‘em. They’re hearty, healthy, and happy-making. And you only have to wash one pot when it’s all over.

I kind of fancy myself a Renaissance man when it comes to cooking these scrumptious olios, sort of the Sultan of Soup, the Star of Stew, the Bon Vivant of Broth, and the Leading Man of the Liquid Lunch.

In short, I can throw down on some homemade soups and stews.

So when I went home to see my parents a couple Christmases ago, I decided to make one of my favorites: “Red Bean, Chicken, and Sweet Potato Stew.” Not only does it have those three oh-so-tasty title ingredients in it, it also has tomatoes, bell pepper, garlic, green chilies, Cajun seasoning, and the pièce de résistance: peanut butter.

Peanut butter—for real. (Don’t be all “eww…” until you try it. It’s magical.)

And now for the rest of the story…

The Lamb

Shepherd

From the CLAY “Story” Series

And you, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come… Micah 4:8 NKJV

“Shimri—come quickly! Hannah is about to lamb!”

The young man came bounding up the hill, his tunic gathered so he could run and his torch held high.

“Hannah? You named a ewe Hannah?”

“Would you just come with me? We need to get her up to the birthing floor in the tower before the lamb comes.”

Shimri grabbed his staff and followed his younger brother down the hill.

“Nathanel, slow down—I don’t have a torch.”

Nathanel stopped while Shimri caught up. “If we don’t hurry—“

“She’ll be fine. Where is she?”

“Under the sycamore at the foot of the hill. This is her first lamb and I just—“

Shimri smiled. “So that’s why you named her Hannah. Good to know you’ve been paying attention in synagogue. Am I going to run into a Ruth or a Jochebed while we’re out here?”

“No. They’re both over in the far pasture.”

Shimri chuckled under his breath. “Of course they are.”

And now for the rest of the story…

I’m goin’ to Disney World

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48 NIV

When I was a senior in college, I never would have imagined that a couple of 10-year-old kids would grow up to be two of my dearest friends. At the time, that would have just been weird. But let 35 or so years go by – during which time those kids get married and have a family and do all sorts of wonderful stuff – and now it doesn’t seem weird at all.

The “kids” I have in mind are Monday and Darin Cleghorn, dear friends from North Alabama and members of the church where I grew up. Prior to being the responsible grown people they are now, though, they were just like any other kids – well, sort of. When Monday was a youngster, she wrote and illustrated a story for me about a poisonous “snak.” (You know, silent “e” is such a waste of crayon when you’re 8…) And although I was not a witness to this, I understand that Darin stole a tractor once and took it for a joy ride. (Since he was just 2 at the time and wasn’t wearing anything but a diaper, no arrests were made.)

And now for the rest of the story…

Why are you crying?

2011-10-021-jesus-is-resurrected-2400x1200

“After three days I will rise again.” Matthew 27:63 NIV

It was Friday. The day before, she had spent Passover with family and friends in Jerusalem, feasting and celebrating like hundreds of thousands of other Jews in the city. Today, however, there was no celebrating. Today, she stood huddled with several other women watching a barbaric execution.

She was at Golgotha—“the skull,” an apt name for such a foul, place of death—helpless, trying to be strong, watching as He hung there dying. When He told His followers they would have to take up their cross, she never dreamed He would be the first to set the example.

For months she had taken care of His needs and those of His disciples, using her own money and resources to support Him and His ministry. He gave her her life back; gave her new life. Just like each of us who are His followers, she owed Him everything she had.

Most of His disciples ran and hid in fear; but not her. She forced herself to watch the Light of the World hanging there like a common criminal, determined to stay until that light was extinguished.

That Friday, Mary Magdalene was a witness to Jesus’ crucifixion.

And now for the rest of the story…

Once More, With Peeling

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

I’m having a horticultural “best of times/worst of times” moment in reference to an event unfolding in my hindmost landscaping bed (i.e. that patch of dirt out behind the carport). I’m watching one of my banana plants actually sprout bananas – one of the coolest and rarest things ever (at least in my particular plant hardiness zone). Out of the blue recently, a large, deep-red banana heart appeared at the top of my tallest plant. As each layer of the banana heart peels back like a petal, it reveals tier upon tier of tiny, finger-sized bananas.

Once the final petal has opened and the baby bananas have had time to ripen, I’ll have my own little bunch of Chiquitas. And they’re sweet – much more so than their store-bought banana brethren and sistren.

Makes me feel kind of like a parent (of really tall, green, and quiet children – who sprout bananas).

That’s the good news. The bad news is that a banana plant only has one bunch of bananas in it; after that, it dies. So no sooner are the tiny potassium- and vitamin C-laced babies ready to adorn a bowl of corn flakes than the plant I’ve fed and watered and nurtured from a pup suddenly takes an unceremonious, leaning-tower-of-Pisa-like nose-dive into the mulch.

Not a happy sight. But that’s the way God made bananas – bear fruit and then exit, stage left.

With just a cursory read of the Bible, you’ll discover that “bearing fruit” is also the perfect analogy for being a productive Christian. Many of the Biblical writers have a lot to say about bearing fruit, as did Jesus. (Of course, He’s generally not talking about bananas – at least I don’t think so. I can’t imagine one of the apostles slipping on a banana peel. That would give a whole new meaning to the phrase “the fall of man.”)

Paul had some pretty insightful things to say about bearing fruit, as well. In chapter 5 of his letter to the church at Galatia (in what today would be Turkey), he found himself in the unpleasant position of having to give the Galatians an “F” in “conduct” on their spiritual report card. He didn’t pull any punches when contrasting their fruits of the “flesh” – referring to their proclivity to sin – to fruits of the “spirit.”

Although Paul reminds the Galatians that they were called to be free, he warns them to not let that freedom take then down the wrong side street.

He writes:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21, NIV

That’s an embarrassingly l-o-o-o-ng list of possible sinful pursuits. He pretty much takes those Galatians to the woodshed – if you’re going to act like this, he says, you can jolly well kiss any chance of eternity with God in heaven “αντίο”.

But the God of all creation (including bananas) is also the God of new creations. In verses 22 and 23, Paul goes on to offer an encouraging “but” to those who belong to Christ Jesus.

“But,” he says…

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23, NIV

How d’you like them bananas? (or, you know, the fruit of your choice) Now that’s a list I can get into.

Sadly, though, it’s kind of hard to find many of the fruits on that list percolating through the world today. Just think about your latest drive home from work – did you see any joy or kindness or self-control out on the interstate? Me neither.

Earlier in his letter to the Galatians, Paul says:

The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14, NIV

In other words, don’t tailgate or speed up just to cut your neighbor off and keep him from merging into your lane.

Love him…

  • Love that left-lane hogging driver with his turn signal on for the last 20 miles riding his brake and flicking cigarette ashes out the window while texting.
  • Love that person in front of you at the grocery checkout who waits until the cashier has rung up all her groceries and given her the total before she starts hunting for her credit card which is somewhere in her wallet which is somewhere in her voluminous purse – while texting.
  • Love that know-it-all in your meeting who, because he or she can’t get enough of hearing him- or herself talk, forces a follow-up meeting to be scheduled, since they ate up so much time nattering on (while texting). And if there’s two of them competing for air time? Ay-yi-yi… Pray for peace. And strength. And grace. And a stomach bug the day of that follow-up meeting…

So just like “fruits of the flesh” vs. “fruits of the spirit,” this whole “fruits of the banana” vs. “fruits of the Christian” essay is an exercise in contrasts. My banana plant only gets one shot at it. Once it’s borne its fruit, that’s it – it passes on, it’s no more, it ceases to be, it’s a stiff, bereft of life, an ex-banana.

For the Christian though, Jesus used a beautiful fruit-bearing analogy when He said:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” John 15:5, NIV

Not once, like my soon-to-be-finished banana, but over and over – as long as we continue to share His Gospel. In fact, if the fruit we bear leads others to a saving knowledge of God’s grace and results in eternal life for someone else, we can conceivably “bear fruit” forever.

I find that very a-peeling…

Power-Aid

God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV

I’m finally doing it – I’m writing a book. (Cue the choir for the “Hallelujah Chorus.”) It will be a self-published paperback called “I Am the Clay” and will be a compilation of some of the things I’ve written for this blog adapted into book format. (There will also be a Kindle version.) But since I wrote them originally – or rather, God used or inspired or directed me to write them – it’s pretty much the same thing.

A real book – who’d a thought? (Some of you did – thank you for your ongoing encouragement.)

Not to dampen the “woo-hoo” moment of announcing a book-in-progress or anything (or muffle that choir), but let me linger here a moment so that I don’t blithely skip over the part about God using / inspiring / directing me to write.

Using this blog as His classroom for the past two-and-a-half years, He has helped and encouraged and taught me every step of the way. Every time I’ve waited on Him and asked for His guidance He’s faithfully and without fail given me something to say, as well as a forum on which to say it. And that faithfulness has been extended to include His two thumbs up (if He had ‘em) to move forward with the book.

So here’s the deal: His approval for the book, combined with the fact that 95% of it is already written, should make finishing it and preparing it for publication a piece of cake. But the adapting and compiling has been going on for, like, ever – all because of my foot-dragging. I see the same thing happening when it’s time to write a new post (like this one). I’ll have the Bible verse and the start of an idea and then…well, anything other than writing typically takes place.

I’m sure there are psychological implications of that hesitancy, but I’m more concerned with the spiritual implications, especially when some of my favorite Bible verses celebrate the support of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit:

If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 NIV

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 NIV

The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 NIV

With all those sure-fire promises, it’s hard for me to determine exactly what drives my reluctance – fear, possibly; pride, likely:

  • Fear that, when it comes times to write, God won’t be there with guidance and inspiration. (Of course, He always has been, so this particular fear has been proven to be unfounded.)
  • Fear that I’ll get in over my head with the mechanics of book publication: formatting, coordinating ISBN numbers (whatever those are), hiring someone to create a cover design, and being sure nothing is amiss from a legal standpoint.
  • Fear that it will be a big ol’ “fail” and my pride will be wounded.
  • Fear of success, or of failure, or of going out on stage in my underwear. (No, wait – that’s a totally unrelated recurring nightmare…)

Since I know the Lord has called me to do what I’m doing, there really isn’t an excuse for not being about His business. I’ve closed my Facebook profile (no more wasting time endlessly scrolling), I don’t have a TV (no more wasting time endlessly channel surfing), I don’t have any distractions (except for the ones I seem to create) – so what else have I got to do but serve the Lord through writing, which I love to do in the first place?

Paul’s young protégé, Timothy, apparently went through some similar hesitancy, at least early in his ministry. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he spent a little time being the older and wiser mentor, reminding Timothy that he not only had a gift but a responsibility to use it. Here are excerpts from what Paul told him:

I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:6-7 NIV [emphasis mine]

It’s verse 7 – the part about tapping into the power, love, and self-discipline available to us by the in-dwelling Holy Spirit – that I’m focusing on here.

Maybe you’ve felt that spiritual reluctance at times as well; reluctance to do something you knew the Lord wanted you to do. That could include:

  • Sharing the gospel with a friend or family member
  • Volunteering for some sort of ministry or missions opportunity
  • Teaching Sunday School
  • Serving the Lord in any capacity
  • Giving sacrificially

Although hesitation to do some of these could definitely be out of timidity or fear, for some it’s just being selfish with time or money. For most of us, we have the ability and the time and the money to change lives; we just don’t seem to be able to tap into all that Paul says the Holy Spirit has given us – power, love, self-discipline – to make it possible for us to overcome our fear/pride/stinginess to do so.

So let’s explore these three separately to see if we can learn something new. And please know that, as much as anything, I’m looking for these answers for myself…


Power

I’m not talking about the kind of power that allows the leaping of tall buildings in a single bound, but the power and resolve given us by the Holy Spirit to do whatever it takes to change hearts and lives of those around us.

  • Do you share the gospel often – or ever – with friends, family members, co-workers? (I hardly ever do, at least not in person.)
  • Do you support foreign missions work or contribute to organizations that put Bibles in the hands of people around the world? (I do that – but I could do more.)

If more people had access to the gospel and became followers of Jesus, we might see more people becoming Christians; more people with the power and resolve to change even more hearts and lives. We could even see a reversal – or at least a slowing – of the erosion of our religious freedoms.

I can hear the objections (‘cause I’m thinking them myself): “There’s nothing we can do – God is sovereign. The Bible even says people will turn away from Him toward the end.” Indeed He is and it does – but that doesn’t mean we have the luxury of just sitting in church with our hands folded in our laps, waiting for Him to come back and rescue us. At the end of Matthew 28, Jesus told his apostles to:

“Go and make disciples of all nations…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 NIV

All nations…to the very end of the age – no hand-folding allowed. Time to get busy.

Love

“Love,” as it’s used here, is an action word. A classic example of this kind of love is illustrated in Matthew 25, where Jesus tells of the day when He will reward His sheep – true believers who were faithful to Him – after recounting everything they did for others, and vicariously for Him, during this life. Jesus will say to them:

“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:35-36 NIV

Do you contribute to canned food drives or give to organizations that feed the hungry? (I do that – being a chow hound, I can’t bear the thoughts of not doing something to help people who have nothing to eat.) Being the hands and feet of Jesus to others: that’s love [action word].

Testifying to the enormity of God’s grace and sharing His plan for salvation is another way to show love.

Jesus was pretty plain about that, too:

“Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation…” Mark 16:15 NIV

Not letting someone die without hearing the gospel: that’s also love [action word]. (Yes, Lord – I hear you loud and clear here. This makes it all the more inexcusable for me to hesitate to pound the keyboard for your honor and glory…)

Jesus showed that action type of love in everything He did, including the last and most important thing He did for us on this earth. Following His example, we should have that same love in spades.

I definitely want to be on the same side as the sheep, how ‘bout you?

Self-Discipline

Although lack of self-discipline is a biggie in our country right now, with over-eating, pleasure-seeking, and over-spending, it takes on a new dimension when it train-wrecks our self-discipline in doing the things the Lord asks of us – watching all six seasons of “Lost” non-stop on Netflix instead of praying or reading the Bible, for example, or spending beyond our means instead of tithing.

For me, there really isn’t any point in my getting all sanctimonious for not wasting time on Facebook or TV when all I seem to have done is swap those time suckers for something else. According to Paul, God has given us a spirit of self-discipline along with instructions to buckle down and do the things He’s called us to do (like write in my blog, for me)…

Do not neglect your gift…Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them… 1 Timothy 4:14-15 NIV

So what’s the solution?

The other morning as I was praying with this whole “procrastinate rather than write” business on my mind, the Lord spoke to me so plainly it was a little disconcerting. (I wish He wouldn’t do that when I’m just expecting to coast through Prayer Time. It totally catches me off guard – which I guess is the point.) I don’t mean to put words in His mouth, but it went something like this:

“So what’s your plan? How are you going to structure – or ‘redeem’ – your time better?”

Me: “I was kind of hopin’ you’d just supernaturally jump in here and take care of that.”

As an answer, He led me to this verse:

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV

As Paul says here, when I choose to do the good work God has called me to do, He will provide His grace in abundance to enable me to do it.

He wants me to be a sheep, too.


Power, love, and self-discipline – no doubt three very important tools in our spiritual tool belt – available to all of us who are followers of Jesus.

Paul told the Colossians:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. Colossians 3:23 NIV

I get that (and I’m ready for that inheritance), but I’m still seeing my resolve to do what I’m supposed to be doing teetering on the edge at times. So to do what Paul said, to “work at it with all [our] heart,” we have to put a practical plan in place, putting some thought and effort into our mission while trusting God to take care of the rest. It’s what I refer to as “the intersection between human volition and divine intervention.” He doesn’t force us to serve Him, but when our choice to do so starts to run in tandem with His will for us…

Baaaa…!

Looking at the earlier “spiritual reluctance” list, here are some ways to be super sheep:

  • Write your tithe check first before anything else.
  • Put some $5.00 fast food gift cards in your car to hand out to people on the side of the road carrying handmade cardboard signs asking for help.
  • Many churches have some sort of food pantry or provide clothing to those in need. Spend an extra $10 on whatever canned veggies are on sale each week at the grocery store and drop them off at church. Stop by the Salvation Army store and get an armload of clothes (it’s amazing how much you can get for $10-$15). Or hit a yard sale in the neighborhood and buy whatever clothes they have – they don’t have to match your shoes or anything…
  • Enlist a friend to partner with you in whatever ministry opportunity God has presented to you, whether that’s going on a mission trip together or just going next door to talk to your neighbor about Jesus.
  • Set aside a specific time to prepare a Sunday School lesson or (for me) to write: two or three nights a week for an hour-and-a-half, or whatever works best.

I’m still working that out. Obviously, I was able to muster the wherewithal to finish this post, and I’ve made lots more progress on the book this past few days – that “redeem the time” discussion with the Lord had something to do with that. (Sheep are notorious for wandering off, but they always come back when they hear the shepherd’s voice.)

Moving forward, though, what’s the final answer going to be? The same answer as for every question: trust God and stand on His promises:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV

None of us can do it alone; but, then again, none of us has to.

So let’s ditch the fear and plug into the power, love, and self-discipline given to us by the Holy Spirit. If we’re not taking Him up on the gifts He’s given us…well, let’s just say that, when it’s all over and you stand before the Lord, you definitely wanna be a sheep…

…And not sheep-ish.