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Getting Life Straight By Pastor Thomas Engel


Not to get too personal, but if I walked through your house right now, would I see the beds made and the sink empty because the dishes have been washed, dried, and put back in the cupboards?

Is the house picked up with all the socks off the floor and in the laundry basket?

You might answer, “No, but I’ve been busy lately. Don’t judge me. Usually, I got things under control.”

Well, if you don’t mind, I’m going to apply a little judgment as we go along here, but I hope you see some benefit to it.

We can come up with all kinds of excuses for a messy house from a busy lifestyle to thinking that if I’m going to bed again tonight, why should I make it in the morning?

I have to admit that kind of housekeeping philosophy does give something to consider, but I hope you do apply that logic only to your bed and not to your dishes.

When I was back in college, I did apply that thinking to my dishes and also my socks. Why wash them when I am just going to use them again?

I’m the only using my dishes, and it’s just my feet.

Since those feeling-out about life college days to making a transition to real adult life, I’ve made the habit to wash my dishes every day, and, after one wear, my socks are tossed into the laundry basket.

My case for making our beds can be supported by the book, Make Your Bed: Small things that can change your life...and maybe the world.

The author is Admiral William H. McRaven, a former Navy Seal.

To give my short synopsis of the book, Admiral McRaven, remembering himself as a cadet, talks about how instructors would walk into the barracks and inspect the beds to see if all the corners were tucked in just right.

The theme of the book is that if you make your bed in the morning, you have gotten off to a good start to accomplishing other tasks in your day.

I was not in the military, but I’ve heard stories that if a bed was made just right with the corners tucked in tight, a coin can be flipped over the bed, and when it lands, the coin will bounce as if it was on a hard surface.

I can picture how making a bed in the morning can have a domino effect. Pick one thing to do and start off with doing that one thing. Be sure to do that one thing well, and soon you will be doing other things well, too.

Let’s go deeper about how to turn a disorganized and cluttered life into one that any quality control manager would be proud of. How about getting your life so kept-up that it’s as neat as a pin?

Although when I’m saying that a life is messy, I’m not necessarily talking about having a cluttered house or a hectic schedule where you are always playing catch-up.

Your house might be spotless and as in order as an army barracks. You could be a person who is ten minutes early for all your appointments and ready to go.

But, some of your life is still a mess.

I could look at your credit card statements and see that you are heavily in debt. Finances are out of control and not because of a job loss. Actually, your boss just gave you a big raise, but your budget is upside down because it seems the more money we make, the more we spend.

I might see you arguing quite loudly with another person. That conflict with another person won’t get resolved in a screaming match.

I might see you in the doctor’s office, but you have been putting off going to the doctor for several months. Now, we hope that you listen and do what the doctor tells you to do.

A lot of life is cause and effect. Many situations, some that just come our way-accidents do happen-and others we make for ourselves, cause undesirable effects.

Things that cause messes have their way of piling up. Don’t they?

The best thing to do is to reverse the cause and effect. Stop your over-spending, and start paying off the debt with a good payment plan.

In a conflict with another person, start saying “nice” little things, and soon the ice of animosity melts away to the return of affection for each other.

To get feeling better again, get off that couch and start taking your medication, eat fruits and vegetables, and get some exercise.

I have to admit something here to you-I’m a neat freak and a minimalist. My house is always ready for the Queen of England to stop by. I even have the tea and frozen strawberry tarts to pop in the microwave for a proper British tea party-I mean you never know who will drop in.

I have strong relationships in my life with a loving family, good people at work, and nice neighbors-at least I think so-you will have to get the details on how’s it going with them.

My budget is balanced and bills get paid on time with even some “fun” money left over.

I try my best to eat right-I’ve learned it takes as much effort to bite into an apple as a candy bar, and, for exercise, my English Mastiff has me trained to take her for walks everyday.

Trust me when an English Mastiff says, “Go,” you go.

Looking from the outside in, my life can look pretty good.

Let’s say that you were looking at my life and saw a cluttered house, I was asking you to loan me twenty bucks, and I was cranky most of the time.

Talking about making judgments, you could say my life was a mess, or in fact, I was a mess.

To tell you the truth, I am a mess, and I also can say that you are, too.

And we can say this about each other without visits to each other homes, looking into our bank accounts, or asking our families if we have been real gems or sour old cranks lately.

We all know what is happening in each other lives when we go to church on Sunday mornings.

During the confession and absolution, we admit out loud to ourselves, to one another, and to God that we have sinned in thought, word, and deed.

Sin can only make messes.

I’m all in with Admiral McRaven and his encouragement to make our beds in the morning.

I like the theme that one good thing leads to another good thing.

But, my idea of what that one thing is not about making a bed. In a round-about way, let’s see what the one thing is that is certain to lead to other good things.

Earlier, I talked about judgment and how it can be a benefit to us to be judged.

To be clear, I was not talking about my judgment about you. If you think about it, why should you care about what I think of you?

For what I think is just a matter of my opinion of what is right. I know what is right for me, and I might judge you on my self-made standards.

The list is long about how we go about what we think of each other-we can talk all day about how we distinguish ourselves by political parties, social classes, levels of education, looks, talent, color of skin, fame, fortunes, ladders of careers, and degrees of success.

Who has appointed you, me, and that person over there judge on anything?

The problem that we are seeing right now in our culture is that people are taking their opinions and making them sound like they are to be written in stone saying this is the way it’s got to be.

Judgments of each other are so high that some are saying we are in a culture war.

To point out, judges and juries everyday do decide if people have done wrong or not based on an agreed law.

In our personal lives, if someone is doing something wrong against us, we can speak up for ourselves.

So, in a sense, we do judge one another. A sincere effort to find out what is wrong can be a benefit because it can lead to a straightening out of a twisted problem.

The tricky part is that we seem to be having these days is distinguishing between a difference of opinion and an actual wrong that has been done.

As humans, we are not perfect judges because we have from our sinful nature self-centered egos that we need to satisfy.

God is a perfect judge because He has no ego that He needs to satisfy. He is the creator of all, so He rules all as He sees fit.

Our God is righteous judge who is clear about His ways-how His ways are just, how He will punish those who do not follow His ways, and how we will benefit from following His ways.

God has a high standard for us because He wants the best for us.

And, a high standard it is-Scripture says it’s like making a plum line, walking through a narrow way, and, with some sarcasm, like a camel walking through an eye of a needle.

So it seems that we better get to work at trying our best to do all things right according to God’s will for us.

It makes sense from looking at a perspective to getting all things done right that we pop out of our beds and make them with corners tucked so tight that any drill sergeant would have to say, “Good job, private.”

Then, with proud heads, we are on our way to tackling other projects that will likely start changing our lives, and then, the world.

Sounds good at first, but the fact is that we will not get all things done right in a day. The truth is that we can’t possibly meet such a high standard.

What does this mean for our lives that will never be just right and for our world with all of its sin in it?

This news of our inability to be perfect can lead us to despair, but we can know God is not only a righteous judge but also a gracious God.

The one thing that we can do everyday is to admit that we are sinners.

When we come to confess our sins, we know the next part-absolution.

We know the story of how we receive forgiveness of every sin.

God as a righteous judge had to have sin punished, but not wanting us to be damn for all of eternity, He sent His Son, Jesus, to the cross to take the punishment for our sins.

We have everything that Jesus has won for us by his death and resurrection.

In our forgiveness, we are free to do the right things in life.

You can make your bed or not make your bed although I would say wash your dishes and wear your socks only once. Keeping a good budget is a good idea, and talking “nice” to other folks is a pleasant way to go through a day.

I’m not sure these things will change the world as Admiral McRaven says, but it’s worth a try.

What will make a change is repenting of our sins to our Lord, who is a righteous, but who is also merciful and gracious and says, “You are forgiven in the name of Jesus.”

As forgiven people by the mercy and grace of God, we have everything going for us.

In Christ, we are as straight as can be, so we are free to do all things well in life-every day is a new start to keep doing our best.

I’m not sure how often you clean your house-once a week or once a month. I’m a clean as you go type of person.

It doesn’t matter so much-I won’t be coming over to give the white glove test, and I don’t think the Queen will be stopping by, either.

What does matter is that everyday we confess our sins in thought, word, and deed.

Then, we know that our sins are forgiven, for God’s mercies are new every morning.

First thing in the morning, make your bed, and then kneel by it and pray to God for a good day, for everyday is a day of salvation that gives reason for rejoicing.

Then, go rejoicing out into your life and see what happens.

Or, don’t make your bed, but still kneel by it and pray for a good day in Christ and live out that life with all that Jesus has for you.

Your housekeeping habits don’t matter too much, but knowing how God wants to straighten out your life by His Grace in Christ makes all the difference for yourself, so you can have a good life that can affect your family, your neighborhood, your place of work, your school, and just maybe the rest of the world, too.

After all, God’s grace is so big, let’s see how one good thing can lead to another by that grace of God in Christ.


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