Devotional: We are the Clay

“Yet, O Lord, you  are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

Observations: God is our father–not only is He the source of all life, but He has a special relationship with His people as our provider, protector, teacher, etc. Comparing God’s people to clay and God to a potter suggests that God molds and shapes us into the people we become. In one way, God created us with our unique personalities, natural talents and inner desires. But He also molds us by the work of His spirit through our restored relationship with Jesus Christ (sanctification). We are God’s handiwork, created by Him for a purpose and we are dependent upon Him to fulfill our purposes in this life. However, we are not devoid of all responsibility for our behaviors and the shape we take. It is our responsibility to respond to God’s call in our lives and to the work of His spirit, at least as much as we are able to in our broken condition.

Application: I will rest in the arms of my heavenly Father, secured by the blood of Christ, remembering that I am the work of His hand that was created for a specific purpose. I will remember that my responsibility is to respond to God’s leading and continually seek out His will daily, though it is Him who actually accomplished His perfect will.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for Your tremendous love and grace. Thank you also for creating me the way that You did. God, help me to not lose sight of who I  really am in this ever-changing, crazy world. Help me to look to You alone for my worth and value, seeking after Your will above all else. Guide me and mold me into the image of Christ. Amen. 

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Devotional: Cast your cares on Him

Scripture: “Humble yourselves therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6&7

Observations: God cares for His people so fully and completely that we can confidently cast our anxiety on Him and trust Him to take care of all our needs. However, we must also humble ourselves before the Lord, making ourselves lower and being submissive to His authority and power.

Application: I need to continually remember my proper position before my holy God. I need to make myself lowly before Him, so that I can trust and obey His word and be lifted up in due time accoding to His purposes. Whenever I feel the crushing weight of my fears and anxiety, I will remember who God is and who I am to Him. I will remember that I am a deeply loved child of God. I will humble myself before the Lord and trust Him to take care of all my needs. If I fully trust Him and I am growing in that trust, believing that He is all-powerful and the ultimate sovereign authority, then there should be less and less room in my heart for unhealthy fear and anxiety.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for being mighty and powerful and worthy of all my trust and hope. Especially in times of stress and anxiety, help me to remember who You are and that I can trust in You for ALL things. Take away my fears and anxious thoughts, and replace them hope, trust, and faith in You and in Your perfect love. Thank you Lord, for your gift of salvation in Jesus. Strengthen me and prepare me to share Your love and Truth with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be content

Scripture: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5)

Observation: We can trust God to meet all of our needs because He has promised to continually be with us and provide for us. Therefore, we should be content with what we have as we find rest in His promises. Money and possessions can never really fulfill our needs like God can.

Application: I should not love money or put my trust in it, but I should instead love and trust God, who is the source of all good things. I should have confidence in my Lord, remembering that He loves me dearly, knows all my needs and desires, and has promised to never leave or abandon me. Because of this covenant relationship, I am free to be content with my life–my income, my job, my family, my possessions–if everything is kept in the right perspective as gifts from God to be used to serve others and honor Him. I will continually strive to honor God with the money and possessions I’ve been given, handling them wisely and generously.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for being my provider in whom I can always trust. Help me to remember who you are and what you have promised. Help me to keep money, possessions, and my entire life in proper perspective before You. Help me to be content with what I have and to honor You with all that I have and all that I am. Thank you Lord for your grace, your provision, and your incredible gift of eternal life through Jesus. Amen. 

Are you obsessed with Jesus?

Are you a Christian? Do you believe in Jesus? Do you follow him? If so, are you fully devoted to him, are you obsessed with Jesus? Does your life look a little crazy to most people? In his book, Crazy Love (I know, I’ve already referenced it a bunch of times, but it’s just that awesome) Francis Chan asks honest questions like these and lays out a “profile of the obsessed” that the reader can use to evaluate his or her own faith. As I share some of these descriptions, my intention is not for them to bring about shame or guilt, but my hope is that they will both challenge and inspire you to live your life differently in light of your faith in Jesus.
 
“Obsessed people are more concerned with obeying God than doing what is expected or fulfilling the status quo. A person who is obsessed with Jesus will do things that don’t always make sense in terms of success or wealth on this earth. As Martin Luther put it, ‘There are two days on my calendar: this day and that day.'” (see Luke 14:25-35; Matt. 7:13-23, 8:18-22; Rev. 3:1-6) (pg 136)
“People who are obsessed with Jesus do not consider service a burden. Obsessed people take joy in loving God by loving His people.” (see Matt. 13:44; John 15:8) (pg 139)
“People who are obsessed with God are known as givers, not takers. [They] genuinely think that others matter as much as they do, and they are particularly aware of those who are poor around the world.” (see James 2:14-16) (pg. 140) *see also Philippians 3:18-21

A person who is obsessed thinks about heaven frequently. Obsessed people orient their lives around eternity; they are not fixed only on what is here in front of them.” (pg. 142)

A person who is obsessed is characterized by committed, settled, passionate love for God, above and before every other thing and every other being.” (pg. 143)

People who are obsessed with God have an intimate relationship with Him. They are nourished by God’s Word throughout the day because they know that forty minutes on Sunday is not enough to sustain them for a whole week, especially when they will encounter so many distractions and alternative messages.” (pg. 145)

A person who is obsessed with Jesus is more concerned with his or her character than comfort. Obsessed people know that true joy doesn’t depend on circumstances or environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God.” (see James 1:2-4) (pg. 146)

A Person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the best thing he can do is be faithful to his Savior in every aspect of his life, continually saying ‘Thank You!’ to God. An obsessed person knows there can never be intimacy if he is always trying to pay God back or work hard enough to be worthy. He revels in his role as child and friend of God.” (pgs. 147-148)

Here is a quick recap of the obsessed:

People who are obsessed with Jesus…

  • obey God
  • take joy in serving others
  • are known as givers, not takers
  • think about Heaven and orient their lives around eternity
  • are characterized by committed, settled, passionate love for God
  • have an intimate relationship with Him
  • are nourished by God’s Word throughout the day
  • are more concerned with character than comfort
  • know that true joy doesn’t depend on circumstances, but is a gift from God
  • know that they can never work hard enough to be worthy
  • find rest in their role as children and friends of God

Are you an obsessed follower of Jesus? Or are you just a fan?

Please share your thoughts in the COMMENTS section or on FACEBOOK.

See Crazy Love by Francis Chan to learn more about what it looks like to be obsessed with Jesus.

Are you rich?

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But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:20 (ESV)

On Sunday, the pastor at my church spoke about being “rich.” He asked several rhetorical questions to the congregation to prove that we were all rich compared to most of the world. Have you ever looked in your closet full of clothes and said, ‘I have nothing to wear’? Do you have a house just for your cars? Have you ever traded in a working car, plus a pile of money, to get a slightly newer working car? Of course, I answered yes to most of his questions (and so did he). He also pointed out that a small family could live in my walk-in closet. This was a passing comment, but it is still very true. Much of the world has living quarters only a fraction of the size and quality that most Americans enjoy. If we ever feel guilty about this, the solution is not to simply get poor and live in a storage shed. It is to become good at being rich (the pastor’s words, not mine). In his first letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul says:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Timothy 6:17-18 NIV)

It is an epidemic in our culture; most people place their hope in their bank account, the stock market, and their ability to provide stuff for themselves and their own family. People easily become arrogant when they make a lot of money (a lot is a very subjective amount, by the way) and seem to forget that it can all disappear in the blink of an eye. Paul reminds us of this truth and wants us instead to “put [our] hope in God, who richly provides us everything…” Did you catch that? God provides for us richly and He provides us everything. Every good thing that we have comes from Him. We are responsible to work and labor for our paychecks, but it is God who provides the job, brings the rain and sunshine, who created and sustains the entire universe in which we live and work and play. If we gather buckets full of water to drink it is only because God’s fountain has overflowed and He has allowed us to drink.

In his book Crazy Love, Francis Chan gives a brief “profile of the lukewarm,” citing several characteristics of the half-hearted Christian. One of the questions they ask is “how much do I have to give?’ instead of ‘how much can I give?’ (pg 76). “Lukewarm people,” says Chan, “are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control. This focus on safe living keeps them from sacrificing and risking for God” (pg 77). When we think that we have everything under control, it is easy to trust in ourselves and the possessions and status that we have acquired. It is difficult, likely impossible, to trust in God when we do not recognize His sovereign control in our lives. We want to keep ourselves, our families, our money and our stuff safe, but we truly lack the positional authority to do so. (For more on this topic, see my previous post “Safety is our Top Priority” http://wp.me/p42Xa5-C). As Chan so clearly points out, this overemphasis we place on our safe living is often disastrous to our spiritual lives. We don’t sacrifice ourselves, our time, or our money. We don’t take risks for God’s sake. We may give some small percentage of our income to our local church, maybe even a few other non-profits, but do we really ever go above and beyond what we feel is “safe”? Recently, I’ve been giving consistently to my church even when money is tight. I have been developing a more generous heart and I’ve felt pretty good about it. However, when I realize that my “generous giving” only means that I cannot double up on my car payments every month, it seems pretty pathetic. I’m not missing any meals to make sure others don’t go hungry. I’m not giving until it hurts. Well, maybe it does hurt a little. But I think what God wants, and what the world needs, is for us to give generously with our money, well beyond what the average Christian gives (3-5% of income is what I’ve heard) and even more so to give of our time and talents. We can always get more money in this life, but we can never get more time. None of us even know how many days, hours, and minutes are in our “time account,” so we ought to spend today wisely. It’s good to give away money to keep in mind who is really in control, but I challenge you to also give your precious time to serving and loving others in your life. Serve your spouse, your kids, and your friends, but also go beyond the familiar and serve those who cannot likely serve you in return. Remember that God sees even what is done in secret and He truly knows the condition and motives of your heart.

How can you serve others and be generous in your daily life? What creative ways have you found to love others amid the busyness of life?

 

For more on the book “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan, see crazylovebook.com 

To hear what my pastor said straight from the source, see tricountychurch.net

“Safety is our Top Priority”

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We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety. This is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.

(The Pursuit of God,Tozer, pg 28)

The above words of A.W. Tozer, thought written several decades ago, still ring true today. So often, we try really hard to protect everything we have. With home security systems, car alarms, safes, security guards, and security cameras, we try to protect our stuff, ourselves, and our families. If you have ever worked in construction, manufacturing, or the oil & gas industry, you have been told a thousand times things like “safety is our top priority,” “safety is our number #1 value,” “nothing is too important that it can’t be done safely,” etc, etc. You’ve probably sat through endless training sessions that try to make you “think safety” and you may even have a dozen different ID cards to prove how “safe” and well-trained you are. Even with all this safety talk, there are still accidents and injuries every day of the week. Hopefully not all at one job site, but somewhere every day there are incidents, accidents, injuries and workers comp claims being filed. Car accidents happen constantly, understaffed hospitals are filled with patients, and health and life insurance claims are piling up. The reality or our lives is that that are brief and they are fragile. We will all die–some of us today, some tomorrow–but at some point in our lives we all end up dead. We try not to think about it because it’s uncomfortable and unpleasant. We try our best to avoid injury and death at great expense. But no amount of training, security equipment, or crash-testing can change this reality.

What then should we do? “Live life to the fullest,” is what people say. “Chase your dreams,” “love like there’s no tomorrow,” “carpe diem!” Although I agree with some of these cliche sayings, I believe the best possible way to live life is in total surrender to God. I know, that doesn’t necessarily sound like a lot of fun–go skydiving, rocky-mountain-climbing, bull-riding (Tim McGraw song reference, anyone?). However, I think most would agree that a meaningful life trumps a fun life every time. What Tozer is getting at in the above quotation (and in his entire book) is that we can and should trust God with our lives, including all of our stuff and our relationships. Abraham trusted that God would keep His promises through his son Isaac, and even if Isaac was killed, he trusted that God could raise him from the dead. Abraham believed God, trusted in His character, and let God rule in his heart. He was tested with giving up his son because his love for Isaac had become a sort of idol in his heart. But when tested, he obeyed God and was willing to give up his beloved son for God’s sake. We should follow Abraham’s example. I’m not suggesting cutting firewood and taking our favorite kids up on a mountain. But I am suggesting that we surrender all of our possessions, all of our relationships and loved ones–even our kids–to the Lord.

What does this look like in our daily lives? Spending time alone with God when we could be playing with our kids; giving generously to our church and people in need when we could be saving more or buying more; it may mean adjusting our dreams for our family to include serving God as our top priority; it could mean that we fasten our seatbelts and buy insurance, but we know in our hearts that we could be standing before the Lord at any moment. We should commit everything that is ours and everything that we are to God without fear, because we can trust Him and He is faithful.

What things do you do to keep yourself trusting God with your stuff? With your family?

Who I am and Why I’m here…

I’m Tyler Brooks. I’m a twenty-something who is a husband, father, born-again, sinner-saved-by-grace Christian. I’m an amateur writer, a thinker, a dreamer. I care deeply about relationships with family, friends, and Jesus. I’m an introvert with a few extrovert tendencies; basically, I love being around people, just not too many and not for too long. I have aspirations of being an author and speaker and maybe even a pastor.

My motivation for writing this blog is simply to use it as a platform to share my thoughts and ideas, as well as to engage in meaningful conversation with others. The title, “The Mind of Tyler,” is intended to communicate that the content you read streams rather freely from my mind. Therefore, the topics covered are likely to be widely varied and my thoughts may at times seem incomplete. I’m OK with that. Sometimes, self-expression is not pretty and it is NEVER perfect. As a recovering perfectionist, this blog is kind of like therapy for me. That being said, my readers will likely see a lot of content about Jesus, Christianity, Faith, Family & Marriage, relationships, some book reviews, personal finance, small business, entrepreneurship, leadership, and whatever else I feel the need to share.

In the next 6 months, I intend to update this blog at least 3 times/week, hopefully more often. By this time next year, I hope to have a consistent group of readers who engage me. I really enjoy positive feedback, but I appreciate ALL constructive feedback. If you read my post and have an opinion or some thoughts to add, please feel free to COMMENT.

The people I hope to connect with through this blog are students, teachers, pastors, Christians, non-Christians, academics, leaders, business owners, entrepreneurs, artists, and anyone who enjoys thinking and interesting conversation. If you would like to see a particular topic covered (or just more of it), please let me know. Thanks for reading!