Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Main Thing

Excerpts from 1 John chapters 3 & 4 - See if you can catch on to the "Main Thing"

(1)How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
(11)This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another
(14)We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.
(16)This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us

(7)Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
(8)Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
(9)This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
(10)This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
(11)Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
(16)God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him

As Steven Curtis Chapman wrote in a song, "It's All About Love."

These verses came into sharp focus for me this morning.  You see, a situation came up in our family and I failed to show this kind of love in that situation.  All of a sudden, these verses, which I have been reading the last two days began to do their convicting work in my life. 

You know that certain groups, clubs, clicks have some kind of i.d. marker - our police, secret service, CIA etc. all have badges or identification to show who they are.  Love is the i.d. of a Christian.  This makes me wonder; how's my "identification?"

As we celebrate Christmas this year, let us never forget what brought Christ to this planet in the first place; Love.  His love for His Father, first, and His love for us, second.  Therefore, let us seek to love each other.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Light Has Dawned...

Re-Post from last year - I wrote this post last year, but God's word is timeless.  If you haven't paused to read through these passages, pause to do so now...and let your mind wander to the first Christmas.

Christmas is my favorite time of year, for many reasons.  Among them is the impact I feel spiritually as again, it sinks in the amazing gift of Jesus Christ...fully God, made Himself to become fully human.  Amazing.  One thing that is often over-looked are all of the prophecies that fore-told the coming of Messiah, Emmanuel.  If you haven't already, take some time to mediate on the following Scriptures...

Excerpts from Isaiah:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace...Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling:

In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

"Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his law the islands will put their hope."

"Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.
The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the desert
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise."


The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

"See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
so will he sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand."

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

"Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost."


Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor."

"And you will be called priests of the LORD,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.
Instead of their shame
my people will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
they will rejoice in their inheritance;
and so they will inherit a double portion in their land,
and everlasting joy will be theirs."

"Behold, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more."

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Good Reminder

Our church is reading a series of verses together now leading up through Christmas; Tuesday's reading was from Ephesians 4:11-13 -

"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."

When you simply break down these three verses you arrive at some often missed or overlooked Spiritual Truths.

Truth #1: the Goal is unity!  While this section of Scripture starts with describing our differences; some as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, the point is what follows that list - Unity.  Unity in Faith, Unity in Knowledge of Jesus Christ, Unity in Maturity, which results in "attaining the fullness of Christ."  Put simply, to "be like Him."

Truth #2: the reason for the gifts - "to prepare God's people for works of service."  The purpose of the gifts are to help equip and prepare God's flock for service.  To be a Christian is to be a servant.  Jesus modeled this for us when he washed his disciples feast, making it clear once and for all - He set the example for us of a life of service.  Good works that result in thankfulness towards God.  Paul alludes to this in 2 Corinthians 9:11 - "You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God."

"So what?" you might ask...what's the point?  The point is this - as people, humans, our natural tendancy is to focus inward.  Unless we make a conscience choice to think and live outwardly, putting others first in a life of service, we will naturally fall back to our default mindset...a self-centered one.  And yet, God gives us gifts so we can serve others.  This begs the question, what kind of life are you living...am I living?  Strive to use your gift for works of service.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Perspective


I love to take pictures and while I was out today, I was simply observing life, looking for a shot, when I took these two photos.  People often ask me about photography and while there are a number of technical aspects, most of which I don't think about as much as I ought, I find that the most important thing about taking a good picture is seeing it - observing.  And then, framing the shot in just the right way.  Quite often the difference between a good photo and a great photo might be the difference in moving your body 3' one way or the other.  In other words, perspective.  While neither of these two pictures is going to make National Geographic or anything, I simply use them to illustrate the point...changing your perspective can dramatically change a picture.

Now take life for a moment; in another week I'll be preaching on Thankfulness and while I don't want to give away my message, I do want to make the simple point; thankfulness is ALL about perspective...how you choose to look at life or a certain situation.

For example, my health;

On the one hand...
- I have chronic back pain in my lower right side
- I have a fairly stiff neck most days
- I have daily sinus and allergy problems and can't remember the last time I took a clean breath in through my nose
- I have to wear glasses

On the other hand...
- I'm younger than my years
- I have no major medical problems; heart, lungs, limbs, etc. all work
- I am active and athletic, playing soccer once a week, hiking, and enjoying life
- I have never broken a bone in my life

Thankfulness...it's all about perspective.  Both lists are factual...focus on the first list, though, and I become resentful and frustrated, ultimately leading to a self-centered perspective.  Focus on the 2nd list, and I become thankful, worshipful, and focused on the Giver of all those gifts.

Thankfulness is the Foundation for Worship.

CHOOSE THANKFULNESS...

Monday, November 9, 2009

So Big...

3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,

4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:3-5)

Do you ever stop to consider how BIG God is?  The other day I was driving around thinking about Him and was struck by how Big He is and how small I am.  Specifically, what hit me were these thoughts;
- God created from nothing...man can create things and be creative, but we create from what is...God created from nothing...a vast, empty void
- God is bigger than earth.  Duh, you say, and you'd be right...but consider...He sees all, hears all, knows all.
- Not only is He bigger than earth, He is bigger than our entire known universe.  Whatever marks the "edge" of the universe, He is beyond that.

How small I am.  And yet...and yet, every hair on my head is numbered; and nothing escapes His notice.  What is man, that He is mindful of us indeed?  Who am I?  A speck?  A mist that is here and then gone?  What is my life?

If you dwell on these things too long, you run the risk of your mind imploding...however, the point is this; Perspective.  Perspective of who God is, How great He is, How loving and merciful He is, and the life He's called you too - these things lead to a life of peace.

The point?  He has crowned us with glory and honor; even Jesus says "the glory you gave me, I have given them."  It's amazing, isn't it?  Worthy of Worship and Awe.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Beginning of Thanksgiving


3"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice..." (1 Peter 1:3-6a)

In a few weeks, I'll be preaching a message on Thanksgiving.  This past Sunday, I taught on "Weathering the Storm" - one of the keys to weathering any storm; in fact, one of the keys to a happy life in general is having a default mind-set of Thanksgiving.  And to put it simply, Thanksgiving starts with the gospel.  Read the above passage carefully...and consider, Peter is writing to a church that is experiencing persecution and trials.

Thanksgiving starts with the gospel...and what is that gospel?
- Praise be to God...Thanksgiving starts with praising God
- In His great mercy...It's recognizing that God made the 1st move...in HIS great mercy...
- New birth into a living hope...It's remembering what we were saved from...and what we were saved to
- Through the resurrection of Christ...Our new hope is made possible ONLY because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  If Christ is still in the tomb, our faith is dead...but He's not.
- Into an inheritance...This is incredible news.  We, Gentiles, have been grafted into the vine, adopted as sons and daughters with the full rights.  What rights?  The right to inherit the kingdom of God
- Who through faith are shielded by God's power...When you walk into that inheritance, you also walk into the protection of God.  His power shields us...
- In this you greatly rejoice...The book-end.  We start with praise, we end with praise.

Thanksgiving starts with the "good news" of the kingdom of God and His rescue of all of us.  When is the last time you pondered that message?

Take a moment and quiet your heart, and "be thankful."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Where Have I Been?





Resting...

"When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place." (Matthew 14:13)

Life has come at me pretty hard lately, and necessitated some time of rest.  Even Jesus needed to rest...and so I've taken some time the past 3 weeks to rest.

That short passage above comes right on the heels of Jesus hearing about the beheading of John the Baptist.  It has struck me a bit, lately, and comforted me...to see the example of Jesus...when things got heavy, he would get away and rest.

Resting encompasses a lot of things; it's both saying "no" and saying "yes."  It's saying "no" to the things that drain you, to the things that aren't quite so important, and saying "yes" to things that bring life, to things that bring you closer to Christ.

Resting is a discipline...it is hard to do...especially in our "works based" American model of living which goes something like this; work hard = success.  Rest is not a priority in our culture...

But rest IS a priority in God's Culture.  6 days He created, and on the 7th, He rested.  And so God set aside the 7th day and made it holy.

I encourage you, friend, take some time to "rest" - say "no" and say "yes."  You'll be amazed at what happens.


"Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. " (Isaiah 40:31 NASV)

Friday, September 18, 2009

When you're in the muck...

Life tends to come at you in waves; as one very wise person said, "the rain falls on the righteous and the un-righteous."  Lately, I've gone through and am going through a season of loss...the rain has been falling.  To pick up where my last post left off, my dear grandmother went home to be with the Lord on August 28th.  Her loss leaves a big hole in our family, and in my heart...magnified by the unexpected loss of my Mother nearly 2 years prior to the day.  So yes, I'm in a bit of a season of loss...and much of what I write on this blog is therapeutic for me...However, I want to be clear...it is to the Lord that I turn to find comfort in His Word.  In particular, three specific Scriptures have helped me during a difficult time

2 Chronicles 16:9: "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him."

From Psalm 34:
"The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and
his ears are attentive to their cry...
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

From Psalm 42:
"Why are you downcast, O my soul?

Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God."

How do you respond when life begins to overwhelm you?  While I don't claim to have all the answers...or even any of the answers, I do know this; God's Word, His promises will stand the test of time.  And it is there that I find Words of comfort, Words of strength, Words of compassion and empathy, and Words of hope.  I don't have much to write today, but I can point you to those same Words...Words of Life.

These three Scriptures have brought me Hope in the midst of pain...where do you turn when you are empty?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hope in the Midst of Sorrow...

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." (James 1:2-4).

Grief...2 years ago, August 23, my mother unexpectadly and abruptly left this earth.  Last year, my wife and I lost our first "un-born" child (a mis-carriage)...this year, my grandmother is about to join them in heaven.  I expect the call any minute, any hour, that she has left this planet.  Some people have grandparents who live in another state and visit on the holidays...not so for me.  I only knew one set of grandparents; (My Mom's parents were dead before I was gorn).  "Boomp and Grammie" have been a huge part of my life since the day I was born...and my life is full of memories with both of them.  I am not ready for her to leave...

It was with a heavy heart that my reading took me to James this morning.  While I realize that James is referring to trials and tests in the context of the church being persecuted, I also realize that I am in a time of "pressure" in another way.  What stuck out to me about my reading this morning were these words; "under pressure, your faith-life is forced out into the open and shows its true colors..."

In a few days, maybe a week, I will be officiating the memorial service for my dear grandmother.  Not all of my family are believers...and so I pray that during this time, my "faith-life" shows its true colors and that I am able to convey hope in the midst of sorrow.

I write all of this because it helps me process...and because I know that some who read this are grieving as well.  Jesus was a man familiar with suffering, sadness and grief...I take comfort in that.  My goal is not to be "fake" or pretend that I'm ok...I'm not.  I'm close to tears 24 hours a day.  However, beneath the grief, beneath the sorrow, beneath the sadness, I have a firm foundation...a hope called Jesus Christ.  And in times like this, I cling to this hope...the hope of a new life to come, a new earth, a new body, and being reunited with my Mom, my grandparents, my child, and most of all, my Savior.

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." - Jesus (John 16:33)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Been awhile...

Ok, so its been awhile since I've posted...what can I say?  :-)

Actually, I've been busy (like everyone) and also a little down.  It seems that life has taken a turn for the "harder" lately, and so it was on one rainy morning, (the only rainy morning we've had lately), that the Holy Spirit brought to mind this Scripture...

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
       Why so disturbed within me?
       Put your hope in God,
       for I will yet praise him,
       my Savior and 6 my God. (Ps 42:5-6)

I have taken those words to heart...literally, to my heart.

When life gets hard, the answer is never to just "try harder" - the answer is to rest in the Sovereignty and Love of God...and I chose those words intentionally.

Sovereignty: God is all seeing, all knowing, all present, and always in control...
Love: He describes Himself as a God of Love.

Put those two things together, and you have a God that you can trust and rest in.

So if you're in that place, then I encourage you to do as I have done lately; rest, wait patiently on the Lord, and put your hope and trust in Him...He will never fail you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Faith and Works?


"I keep hearing of the love and faith you have for the Master Jesus, which brims over to other believers. And I keep praying that this faith we hold in common keeps showing up in the good things we do, and that people recognize Christ in all of it." (Philemon 1:5-6)

A common western approach to Christianity is to pit two seemingly contradictory thoughts or ideas against each other and try to decide which one is true.  The problem with this approach is that more often than not, the truth lies in both.  As I mature in faith (I hope), I seem more able to accept some things as true, even if I don't fully understand them in my mind.

For example, Faith or Works?  Paul makes it very clear in his letters that we are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus.  James makes it clear that true faith shows up in our actions.  So which is it?  Faith or Works?  The answer is "yes" - both.  In a perfect world, our faith in Jesus results in a constant overflow into doing the things He calls us to do; (which is, incidentally, what being a disciple is).  However, there are times when I simply must "obey" or "do the right thing" simply because God has called me to.  Likewise, there are times when I absolutely blow it or "ignore" God and in these moments, I must rely on His grace and forgiveness and know that I'm not saved by what I do.

Avoid the extremes - on one extreme, you have a life insurance policy - say the prayer, get into the kingdom, and then do whatever the heck you want.  On the other extreme, you have Phariseeism; a works based "check-box" type of Christianity. So which is it?

Embrace both - wholeheartedly.  It's not a matter of balance: balance would say %50 of one and %50 of the other.  Instead, picture being sold out %100 to both.
- Embrace the free gift of ever-living and ever-lasting life, soaking in the fact that no matter what you do or how bad you are, you can never wander far enough that God will not pull you back.  Grace.
- Equally, embrace the fact that God saved you in order for you to do good works; good works that He prepared for you to do.  It's not enough to sit on the sidelines and spectate...there is work to be done (see Ephesians 2:10).

When we live sold out like this, then Philemon's prayer is answered; our faith "shows up" in the good things we do and people will see Jesus in us.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

God of second chances

Wednesday morning I sat at an IHOP, there for a very early meeting.  One of our elders shared out of the book of Jonah; a little nugget that I might have glossed over.  It is found in chapter 3, verse 1;

"Then the Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time."  (Jonah 3:1)

You know the story - Jonah is called to go to Ninevah; he doesn't like the idea and thinks God is being too kind so he pouts, argues, and refuses to go.  Unfortunately for him, he couldn't outrun God, who found him on a boat...and from there, big storm, draw straws, overboard, big fish, repentant prayer, vomitted out on the beach, and...beautifully, a second chance.

"The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time."

Those words must have been "life" to Jonah...he got a second chance.

Here's the interesting thing; when I look back on my life, how many times have I been a "Jonah?"  Hearing God's voice, knowing what to do or knowing the "right" thing to do, and yet turning the other way?  And yet, the moment you repent and turn back to God, there He is ready to give you a second chance...and a third chance...and a fourth chance.

Many times I have prayed; "God, forgive me for...for not speaking to that person you told me to speak to, for not giving to that person you told me to give, for acting out of fear and shrinking back when you told me to forth in courage, for saying that unkind thing to my wife when you warned me not to say it, for so many things...forgive me, and please, Lord, give me a second chance."  You know what's funny?  God loves to answer that prayer.  And don't miss an important thing here - the 2nd chance came after Jonah's prayer of repentance.

How about you?  Have you reflected on all of the 2nd chances you've been given?  Thank you Lord.

Let us strive together, however, to listen to God and obey the first time - to live by the power of the Holy Spirit, to heed His voice and to follow.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Glorious...and mysterious

"You make everything glorious, and I am Yours, so what does that make me?"

This rhetorical question, asked by David Crowder in a song he wrote (called "Glorious") is a song rooted both in Scripture and in mystery.

First, let me start by saying that I tend to pull away from people who seem to have all the answers.  More and more, I find myself serving a God of mystery, a God that I can't understand.  Those that have all of their doctrine and theology perfected, where everything is answerable, well, I just don't buy it.  God is too big for my mind, at least, to comprehend...and yet, at the same time, He is knowable, personal, and reachable.  His gospel is mysterious for a lifetime of study, and simple enough for a child to understand.

For example, read these Scriptures and meditate on them for a minutes;

[Jesus praying to God] "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me." (John 17:20-23).

[Paul writing] "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Cor 3:18).

Now stop for a minute and consider - as a believer we are taught from a very young age about God's holiness, His awesome power, His purity; we read in Scripture that He is jealous, and that every time a human encounters God the response is the same - face down, and worship...or as Isaiah said, "woe is me."  We do everything to bring glory to God.  And yet, here we read that Jesus has given us His glory.  And yet we read Paul saying that we are in this constant process of being transformed into His glory.  Could it be true?  What does it mean?  I am so awful, so sinful, so dirty, and yet, I read things like that in the Bible...it is a mystery to me. 

And here's the real kicker - I'm sure I could sit down with someone smarter than me, and there are plenty of options, and they could explain from a theological or hermanuetical perspective exactly what this means...but I'm not sure I want to.  I like mystery...worship, in a sense, starts with mystery...and wonder.

This is why that song has gripped my heart.

"You make everything glorious, and I am Yours, so what does that make me?"

Want to hear/see this song?  Click here.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Mocha Ministry


"See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."  (Heb 3:12-13)

Encourage one another...daily.  Have you ever stopped to consider the power of encouragement?  All of us, at one time or another, have been on the receiving end of encouragement...maybe a note, a free lunch, an unexpected comment, some form of public recognition, a raise or bonus, or some other form of encouragement.  Regardless of the form, I'm guessing that when you received that encouragement it was a highlight of your day/week...maybe the highlight of your year.  And yet, encouragement is something that we simply forget to do, or have a hard time doing.

Look at that Scripture above, again - do you realize that encouraging one another DAILY, has the effect of keeping sin from hardening us?  And we all know what a hard heart leads to...

In a recent message, Jaime Collins, one of our elders referred to something he called the "ministry of a mocha."  Jaime had been going through a very difficult time with his son, Kyle, in the hospital.  Every day a gentleman would come and bring Jaime a mocha; then he would simply sit, listen, and encourage him.  This had a profound impact on Jaime.

I remember another time when a friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer.  At the time, I was working evenings...so I made it a point of visiting him every single day for a few weeks.  I didn't really know what to say, and I didn't stay very long on my visits, I just showed up.  I remember being shocked after his recovery, at how often he spoke of those visits I made and how much it meant to him.  I only wish I took the time more often for this type of ministry...

So how about you and I?  Are we practicing the "mocha ministry?"  When we know someone needs encouragement, do we pause and write the note?  Or take them to lunch?  Or simply buy them a mocha and listen?  I strongly "encourage" you (pun intended) to make a regular part of your life to practice the ministry of the mocha.

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."  (Heb 10:23-25)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Character that counts...

Character, Integrity, Humility - these are three of the big ones...things that define a man, a woman, and a life.  I've been in the book of Titus lately, and wanted to make some observations of Chapter 2:1-10 (read below).

     "Your job is to speak out on the things that make for solid doctrine. Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don't want anyone looking down on God's Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives.
     But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, incorruptible in your teaching, your words solid and sane. Then anyone who is dead set against us, when he finds nothing weird or misguided, might eventually come around.
     Guide slaves into being loyal workers, a bonus to their masters—no back talk, no petty thievery. Then their good character will shine through their actions, adding luster to the teaching of our Savior God."


This section starts innocently enough; instructions to Titus on teaching doctrine and guiding men/women; however, when you look closer, there's a few things that stick out.

1) The key verse, or at least the one that jumped off of the page at me?  "But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself..."  It is one thing to teach and guide, and a whole other thing to teach, guide and model.  Teaching apart from modeling is often just empty words.  This reminds me of Paul's similar admonition to Timothy about not letting people look down on him, but to what...to set an example for them - to model.  This, simply put, is character.

2) Look at the outcome - in the last section, "Then their character will shine through their actions..." - it is often said that "actions speak louder than words;" and we might add, "character speaks loudest of all."  And what happens when believers "marry" good works and character together?  We "add luster" to the teachings of Christ...or simply put, we model Christ to the world around us.  And what does bad character do?  Look earlier in this passage - "We don't want anyone looking down on God's message because of their behavior..."  Bad character can smear the name of Christ.

3) Humility: Although this word doesn't appear here explicity, it is certainly implied as only a humble person will take the call to "model" as well as teach.  It is the humble person who says to his pupil, "follow me, do as I do and together we will live for Christ."  The opposite?  "Don't do what I do, do what I say."  A humble person seeks to bring glory to God.

So what is good character?  What does integrity look like?  I once heard it put this way; "character is defined by what you do when nobody is watching."

Join with me in striving to be men/women of the highest character!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Looking Forward...

Last week was a great week.  Why?  Because of Friday night.  Friday night was a dinner that my wife and I had been long anticipating.  It was a night for celebrating something that God had blessed us with.  We picked our favorite restaurant and even invited another couple to join our celebration.  It was one of those nights when you order appetizers, drinks and dessert - we stayed there for 3 hours, enjoying every second of it.  This one event made the whole week great as it served as that "carrot" to work forward to...it made all of the difficult times of the week easier to bear, knowing what was coming Friday night.

As I was grabbing my jacket to go to this dinner, I was struck by this thought; what if my entire life was spent anticipating the life to come?  Or, in other words, do I ever spend anytime looking forward to Heaven?  Do I even believe in heaven?  If such a small thing as a great dinner can change my outlook on a work week, how much more would a glimpse of heaven change my outlook on my life on earth?

Looking forward takes time...time to dream, to imagine, to taste.  Imagine...

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." (John 14:1-2)


"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'  He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' " (Rev 21:1-5)

I've been thinking about heaven recently, as I heard a new song that I love called "You Hold me Now" by Hillsong.  Take a moment, check it out, read these Scriptures, and start dreaming about the life to come...it will inspire you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ever stop and "wonder?"

Psalm 40:5: "Many, O Lord my God, are the wonderful works which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; no one can compare with You! If I should declare and speak of them, they are too many to be numbered."

Do you ever stop and just "wonder?"  Wonder about God?  About how big He is?  About how incredibly creative He is?  I have heard it said that "worship begins with Wonder."  The point being, that to truly worship something, it must be bigger than you.  If you understand it, you won't worship.

This brings me to "Jahweh" - the God of the Bible, and the one true God in all the universe.  Do you ever stop and just "think" and "wonder" about Him? 

- For instance, our universe, which He created, is constantly expanding.  In fact, it is expanding at the rate of approximately 48 miles per second...and God has every hair on your head numbered.
- For instance, I was looking at our japanese maple tree this afternoon trying to count the number of shades of green in that one tree.  And He, the Creator, made it all...
- For instance, yesterday, I was eating dinner and a hummingbird swooped in to drink from our feeder...her wings flapping at 60-80 times per second.  The hummingbird is the only bird that can "hover" (like a helicopter).
- For instance, have you ever stopped at night and looked up at the milky way galaxy?  Seen its vastness?  Granted, you have to be in a good spot and it has to be a clear night...but sometimes, when conditions are just right, you catch a glimpse of this immense galaxy.  Now think about this;
    - The milky way galaxy is made up of at least 200 billion other stars; that's 200,000,000,000
    - The milky way galaxy is only ONE of hundreds of billions of galaxies in the known universe.

- For instance, have you ever stopped to wonder just why in the world God chose to save and redeem mankind, when we are so small, and He is so big, and it seems all we do is rebel, sin and mess up and do stupid things?  Why does a God who is so big, who made so many things, put up with us?  I don't know, but I do know that He does love me, and He likes me, and this is a beautiful thing and leads me to a life of worship.

Now I challenge you - make sure "Wonder" is a part of your life.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Three Nuggets from I Timothy 4, part three

First things first - read I Timothy chapter 4 (click here) and if you haven't done so, read my previous two posts (part 1 and II).  The third nugget is a very familiar passage found in I Timothy 4; however, in my experience, the emphasis of this passage is often mis-directed.  I'm speaking, of course, of verses 11-14 - the "don't let anyone put you down because of your youth..." passage.

Often this verse is used to encourage young people to assert themselves and to not be discouraged or de-railed by critics...and to be sure, this is true.  However, if we stop there, we've missed the point of these verses.  And what is the point, you ask?  The point is to "set an example" by the way you live your life.  Or, as Eugene put it in the Message translation, to "teach believers" with your life; by words, demeanor, love, faith [or faithfulness], and integrity...

Let's make this personal; it would be easy for me, a young leader and a young pastor to "flaunt" this verse in people's faces when I get criticized or feel marginalized; and yet, that is not the point.  I am instead to use my life as a way to "teach" or "model" to believers the way of discipleship.  A devoted life to Christ speaks louder than any words that could ever be uttered.  In other words, when people look at me, a young leader, do they see Christ?  This is the challenge.

Paul's ends this section with these words, which is how I'll end this post;
"Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching..." - remembering the words of St. Francis - "preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Three nuggets from I Timothy 4, part 2

First things first - read I Timothy chapter 4 (click  here) and if you haven't done so, read my previous post (part 1).  Now, on to the second nugget...and remember, these are just things that God impresses on my heart as I read...(and by the way, the picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post...it's just a cool picture I took).

The 2nd nugget that jumped off the page at me is this secion; "stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion.  Exercise daily in God - no spiritual flabbiness, please...a disiplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever."  This passage is so straightforward, it really doesn't need me to explain or write anything further...it's that clear.  However, I will share what hit me...

First, stay clear of silly stories...it seems that right now, there are multiple places where I'm hearing some version of "major on the majors, minor on the minors."  As a pastor, and a worship pastor noless, I am constantly hearing "ideas" [read "complaints"] about how we could or should be doing things.  Too light, too dark, too many trees on stage, not enough trees on stage, too many hymns, not enough hymns - that it's easy for me to get pulled away from the things that are truly important; namely, helping people grow spiritually into being disciples of Christ.  This exhortation about avoiding and staying clear of silly stories is a reminder for all of us; focus on the things that matter in life, the things that last.

Which leads right into the 2nd part of this section - to exercise daily in God w/a disciplined life.  Elsewhere in the NT, Paul refers to the Christian life as a race, a race we should run to win.  In order to win a race, you need to train, and to discipline your life in a way for that training to be a regular staple...which brings us right back to I Tim 4; no spiritual flabbiness!  I confess, I am not the most disiplined person and this is something I have to work at...but the more I do discipline myself to "exercise daily in God," the more I see myself be the person God designed me to be...a disciple.

The challenges are two-fold for us; first, avoid silly arguments and don't allow others to bring you into them...they're a waste of time...major on the majors, and minor on the minors.  Second, discipline your life to be exercising daily in God.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Three nuggets from I Timothy 4, part I

First things first - read I Timothy chapter 4 (click  here).  A familiar chapter, for sure, but perhaps you haven't read this version before?  I want to highlight three things in my next couple of blog posts that immediately jumped out at me...

1) Freedom in Christ.  One of the hot topics of the early church was regarding these laws about what they could and couldn't eat.  Then in the book of Acts we read about Peter's vision with the food coming down from heaven and the voice telling him to eat.  The point?  Well in that case, there were two points; 1) all food is made holy by God and is ok for eating and 2) the gospel of Christ was not just for Jews, but for all the world, Gentiles as well.  Here we read in Timothy that they're still dealing with this issue of freedom.  Paul warns Timothy not to sucumb to the pressures of the "false teachers" (or "liars") but to stay true to sound teaching.

All of this made me stop and think and ask, what are the issues that we face today?  What are the things that the "false teachers" of our time are trying to get us to do (or not to do)?

We started a sermon series through the book of Habakkuk and one of the themes from the first part of this book is this idea of letter of the law vs spirit of the law; or, put another way, focusing and enforcing the minor points of the law while ignoring the more important major points of mercy and justice.  The law always points to justice.  "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" the Lord says (Hosea 6:6).

Now tie this idea back to this chunk of I Timothy 4, and it makes me wonder, how many times in my life have I focused on the proper "truth" or understanding or theological point, while ignoring the weightier issues of justice and mercy?  Loving the poor, sharing the gospel, reaching out to those in need?  This is where my conviction lies; not that understanding, theology and doctrine are not important...they are.  However, even more important is what I do with that...the application of my knowledge.  In other words, as Pastor Dave once put it, my "orthopraxy."

The greatest challenge remains for us; as a disciple of Christ, we are to follow His lead.  Go therefore, and do likewise...

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Tough Day

It's Mother's Day today...a tough day for me.  I lost my Mother unexpectedly almost 2 years ago.  It still hurts.  I remember all of the Mother's Days past, when I was younger...typically she'd get some flowers from us, maybe a hand-made card...it really didn't matter though.  Anything we would give her was huge.  She was an amazing woman, and someone I still miss.  I have a part of my website devoted to her life (which you can see here ).

All of this rambling to simply say, it's a tough day today.  I shared a little about this in our church services this morning; and then, for special music, we sang this song called "Still."  If you're like me and having a tough day today for whatever reason, let the words to this song soothe your soul a little bit...but also, don't shy away from the pain, embrace it.  Let the memories flow and if tears come too, so be it.

"Still" (by Reuben Morgan) - You can hear/see this song by clicking here .


Hide me now
Under your wings
Cover me
within your mighty hand

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with you above the storm
Father you are king over the flood
I will be still and know you are God

Find rest my soul
In Christ alone
Know his power
In quietness and trust

Not enough just to be "right"


So I'm reading in 1 Timothy (in the Message) and came across these words yesterday;

"It's true that moral guidance and counsel need to be given, but the way you say it and to whom you say it are as important as what you say." (I Timothy 1:8)

This is key advice for all of us, that basically says, "even when you're right, it's not enough to just be right."  In other words, when/if we are ever in the position of needing to correct someone or point out the error of their ways, or simply to give some sound moral advice, it is very important to consider not just what you say, but how you say it.

Really, this is just good, sound advice for all of us for many different situations.  How often we mis-understand each other or have conversations that escalate unnecessarily not because of what was said, but because of how it was said or to whom it was said.

As a pastor, this is a skill that is crucial.  I'm constantly having conversations with all sorts of people about all sorts of things.  It's important to know who I'm talking to, how they will receive what's being said, and to choose my words in a way that the message is heard.  I don't always do this well...it is something I'm constantly working on.

So how about you?  Do you choose your words carefully?

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Eph 4:29, NIV)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Humility...so important

I came across this little verse today which has more to say than first meets the eye...

"Even though we had some standing as Christ's apostles, we never threw our weight around or tried to come across as important, with you or anyone else." (I Thes 2:6)

It's easy to read over verses like this without pausing to ask, "do I measure up?"  Think about it; Paul and the apostles had all kinds of reasons to ask for, and expect a certain amount of respect based solely on their standing, "positional authority."  Yet we read here that they didn't go about things this way...insteady, they poured themselves into those they were leading and working with, never throwing their "weight around," or "pulling rank."  In a word, this is called "humility"...in two words, it's called "servant leadership."

Of course, they were simply following the example of another...

"Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion." (Philippians 2:5-7).

Talk about humility - and yet, this is the very call that Christ has placed on us.  How many times have I tried to hold onto some authority, never considering all along how much Christ gave up and His call for me to do likewise?  Remember the foot-washing?

All of this can seem very over-whelming, and yet, the call remains...

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up." (James 4:10)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spring...a time for Growth

Spring is a time for growth.  Everywhere you look, you can see it; cherry blossoms, flowers, trees, the deer are back, birds are flying, hummingbirds buzzing, the grass is growing (and needs mowing) and even the dandelions are peeking up.  So what about you?

If you're like me, the memories of New Years Resolutions are long forgotten and the goals set earlier in the year are perhaps, also long gone.  Not to worry - our God is a God of second chances.  So how about it?  Spring is a great time for a fresh start, and for GROWTH.  Are you growing?

Recently, I made a re-commitment to my "vine-time"...time I spend in the Word and with my God.  This time is in-valuable to me, and I've noticed it making a difference in my life again.  In some ways, I'm re-discovering the joy of walking with God, DAILY.  In short, I'm growing again...and it feels great.  Is it a magic bullet that has solved all my problems?  Of course not.  However, the Bible is filled with every answer I'll even need, and God just happens to be the only one who can lead me through this thing called life.

So my challenge for you is this; GROW - take the Spring time to re-commit to growing in your life, your faith, and your spiritual journey.

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love." (John 15:9)

Monday, April 20, 2009

More from Philippians

As I said in my previous post, I've been in the book of Philippians and there are a lot of nuggets...in fact, have you noticed the Scripture is packed with nuggets?  Not just nuggets, but life itself?  (yes, that is said with a bit of "no duh" in it).

So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11, Message)

Question - is there a difference between loving much and loving well?  We have to conclude, "yes."  Reading this passage Paul seems to be talking about the difference between an "emotional" type of love, "sentimental gush," and contrasting that with an "educated" type of love, something that requires knowledge and your brain.  Look at it this way; what means more to you...going on 1 date and having that person tell "I love you," or hearing that same thing from someone who knows you inside and out, who actually has knowledge of you?  The difference is the former would be uttered out of emotion and "sentimental gush" while the latter would be an educated proclomation.  Paul here is praying that the love the believer's show is the latter - a knowledgeable love of God and depth of insight into His ways.

So how does this apply to us?  The idea is quite simple, really...don't coast!  What I mean is this - it's easy to worship God, sing songs to Him, tell Him you love Him, but never really seek to KNOW Him.  It is much harder to invest in the relationship, to know God, to seek Him, to study Him and learn Him...but how much more powerful the love we show Him would be if it came from a depth of knowledge?  This is Pauls prayer for the Philippian believers, and I believe, his prayer for us as well.  That our love and worship of Christ would be one that comes from a deep relationship with Him; an understanding of who He is, His ways, His desires, His priorities.

So my encouragment for you, is "don't coast" - put in the time to learn God...to know Him.  If you don't know where to start, try studying the names of God (click here).  Go deep!  Run hard!  Run to win...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tired...time to focus

I'm tired.  Yep...not the "physical tired," more of the emotional/spiritual kind of tiredness.  It always hits me the week after Easter.  When you do what I do for a living, there's always a huge push and lead up to Easter weekend...which naturally leads to little bit of a let-down after Easter.  So how do I deal with it?  Sometimes well, sometimes poorly...but I have been in Philippians this week and it has encouraged me and challenged me.  I'll write a couple or three posts on some of these things.

First: "There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears." (Phil 1:6).

This verse is a tremendous encouragement to me, and to all believers.  Put simply, Christ has begun a work and He will finish it.  That work is something that is happening to all of us...the work of us being conformed and conforming to like Christ.  It is encouraging to me for this simple reason; I know that Christ, through the Holy Spirit, is alive in me, even when I feel dead.  In fact, as Paul writes elsewhere, it's precisely when I'm at my weakest that Christs's strength is strongest in me. 

The reason this Scriptural truth is so encouraging is that it reminds me and us that we are not alone in this work.  God is doing His part in us.  Quite simply, we work in co-operation with the Holy Spirit (or, at least I try to work in co-operation with Him).

Have you ever had a boss tell you to do something, only to find out you didn't really know how?  Then when you asked them how, they said something along the lines of "go figure it out for yourself?"  That can be quite discouraging...and it is precisely the opposite of how God works.  Instead of saying "go figure it out," He says, "follow me...like this...and oh, by the way, I'll give you my Holy Spirit and through Him, I myself will ive inside of you to help you."  That is encouraging!

See that picture at the top?  I think it's a perfect picture of where I'm at today.  There are clouds and darkenss, signifying the simple fact that I'm tired, but yet there is a rainbow - a promise of God that the clouds will pass, and that most of all, He is at work in me and will finish the work he began.  Praise be to Him!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Happy Easter...but never forget...

"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand
double for all her sins...

Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.


And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.

For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."







Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Are you Being YOU?

I've had recently a couple of thoughts collide which have drawn me into this encouragement for you -read below...

"He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ's followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ."  (Ephesians 2:12-13)

Conclusion: All of us, believers, have a gift from God.  His Spirit gives us all gifts for the purpose of being fully alive.  God has gifted you in ways He hasn't gifted me, and vice versa.  There's only one you on this planet - combine your Spiritual gift with the other ways he's made you - your personality, your emotions and passions, your desires, your experiences, your values and motivations - all of that combined comes together to be the miracle that is YOU.

I'm reading a book called True North by Bill George and in this book one of the main points he makes is that for leaders to lead well, they must be authentic.  Read this quote from CEO Lynn Foreser de Rothschild;

"Being trut to yourself is the most important thing.  If you're ambitous, that's great; if not, that's also fine.  Just be true to what you want...Know who you are, and you can achieve anything in life."

Now as believers, it's important we know who we are in two ways; 1) we must always remember who we are in Christ - He has changed our identity forever...the old has gone, the new has come; but 2) we must learn about ourselves and our gifts so that we can run fast and run free.  We need you, believer, to run fast and free.

So how about it?  How has God wired you?  Do you know yourself?  Ask/answer these questions and it will help you get started...
- When do you feel most alive?
- When you fell most alive, where are you, what are you doing, and who are you with?
- If you asked others about how you're gifted and wired, what would they say?
- Do you have a passion, something that gets you fired up every time you think about it?

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Cor 5:17)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Help! When life throws you a curveball...

This morning I read Psalm 121...perfect.

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
       where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,
       the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
       he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
       will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you—
       the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
       nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm—
       he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
       both now and forevermore.

"Perspective" is something that is so important, yet so easy to lose...and yet when you have it, the gift is priceless.  It is the gift of looking at life through the eyes of God, and not through the eyes of man.  When life gets confusing, or disappointing, or difficult, perspective is usually the first thing that gets chucked out the window.  It's at those moments that it is imperative we focus on the truths of God...

The truth?  God has not lost control, not even for a second.
The truth?  God's promises hold true, regardless of our circumstances.
The truth?  Our enemy prowls around like a lion looking to devour us...ever see a lion prowl?  Not a pretty picture.
The truth?  The only life insurance is trusting in Christ and His promises.
The truth?  If there were such a thing as "foolishness of God," indeed it would be and is wiser than the wisest wisdom of man.
The truth?  God is TRUSTWORTHY (see Prov. 3:5-6).

When life throws you a curveball the single most important thing is to immerse yourself in the truths of God; His promises, His eternal life, His salvation, His love, His grace, His mercy, His substitutionary death, His deliverance, His faithfulness, His Word, His Words...Him...  When you are able to see life through the eyes of God, the problems of this world grow quite dim.  It takes focus on our part to listen...


I lift up my eyes to the hills—
       where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
       the Maker of heaven and earth.

Friday, March 27, 2009

We have the Power - (2 Cor 12:1-10)

Ok - first, I admit, been really swamped lately which led me to two things -  1) It led me to find and re-read this older devotional that I wrote a few years ago...but this also led me to 2) re-post here on my blog...the devotional hit me again this morning as I'm in a time where I feel "weak."  I pray it encourages you as well...

First things first - read 2 Cor 12:1-10 (click here).  Then read on...

Have you have ever felt overwhelmed, beaten down, or forgotten? by God? Or perhaps you wake up some morning and you just can't fathom facing another day. If so, don't worry, you are in good company.

1 Peter 1:3 tells us that "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness..." That's an incredible promise. The very power of God is working in us, empowering us to live the life that God has called us to live. However, for many of us, we often feel like we don't have that power and/or cannot access it. So how do we access that power in our lives? I believe that part of the answer is found in the words that the Lord told Paul when He said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." How can God's power be made perfect in our weaknesses? The answer is found earlier in this passage.

In verses 1-6 Paul writes about some incredible revelations that the Lord allowed him to see and experience. In fact, they were so great that there was a chance that Paul would grow prideful or become "conceited" as a result. Therefore, as Paul himself writes, God allowed a "thorn in the flesh" which tormented him. Paul, as most of us would have done, prayed for God to remove this thorn. However, God had other plans (vs. 9). In other words, one of the biggest barriers to God's power having full reign in our lives is pride or conceit. Pride takes many forms; some outward, some inward, some very damaging to others, while other forms of pride only hinder ourselves. Whatever the cause though, it is clear that God's power is most at work in our lives when we are most relying on him.

The opposite of relying on him is the many times when we choose to go it alone, also called "pride." In these times we almost forget to inquire of the Lord and draw on His strength and power. We instead get overcome with busyness and stop spending time with him. It is in these times that God often places things in our lives to bring us back to him. While we often feel weak in these times, for we may not be "doing" all that we feel we need to be, we are in fact strongest in these times. In other words, "...when I am weak, then I am strong."

I have personally found this to be true on many Sunday mornings as I lead what I think is a "mediocre worship set," only to find that God has used something to touch someone. It constantly reminds me two things; 1) It's God's Spirit that does the work in someone's heart, and 2) when I feel the weakest, that is often when God does His best work. In fact, I have learned to be wary of myself when I feel "strong" and often, those are the times when I usually spend more time in prayer, being "wary" of my strength.

So if you're in that place of brokenness, don't be too quick to get out of it - instead, take heart that God's power is strongest in you when you feel weak.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Heaven...

"I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven...And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell..." (2 Cor 12:2, 4)

Imagine...

We are in the midst of a sermon series titled "Heaven; Realizing your Destiny."  I am convinced that if we, Christians, were all momentarily raptured to heaven and then placed back on earth, it would absolutely change the way we live.  Our images and thoughts of heaven are often filled with harps, clouds, non-stop singing and and endless, boring church service.  We rarely give thought to how Scripture describes heaven.  And yet, here was a man, Paul, who was raptured into heaven and then placed back on earth...and it changed him.  Check this out...

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Cor 4:16-18)

Those are the words of someone who has been to the "third heaven" (third heaven simply refers to the place where Christ and his saints dwell) and returned to earth.  I have to imagine that part of what helped Paul endure all the things he did was this very fact - he had seen a glimpse of heaven, which gave him a perspective to face even the most trying of circumstances here on earth.

So what about you and I?  Do we spend anytime thinking, dreaming about heaven?  About a new, "resurrection" body?  A place that Jesus referred to as "paradise?"  A place with no more crying or pain?  A "perfect" and renewed creation?  Will we see new colors, taste new tastes?  Be able to explore parts of the earth that have remained hidden from man?  And most of all, can you imagine meeting Christ, face to face? 

Spend a few moments this morning dreaming about what is to come...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Back...

I'm back.  No more "lessons from running" for awhile - instead, I've got a series titled "Lessons from Snorkeling."  Lesson #1: when it's cold and raining and windy, and you go snorkeling, you will be very cold when you get out of the water.  Where's the spiritual implication?  I haven't the foggiest...

Just got back a day ago from 10 days in paradise...at least it was supposed to be paradise.  We were in Maui; just my wife and I.  We had anticipated this vacation for months.  It was both everything we were hoping, and frustrating both at the same time.  We shared new experiences, new things, did plenty of snorkeling, eating, walking, escaping - and yet, it was some of the worst weather in Maui in recent history, combined with the fact I got sick the 2nd day we were there, and didn't get "well" for about 5 days thereafter.  It was a challenge for me, to not give in to the "frustrations" but instead to focus on the positives.  Both Julie and I made a commitment that we were not going to let weather or sickness mandate our vacation - and we didn't.

Reminds me of a Scripture passage - "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." (Colossians 3:1-2)


I know I'm taking a little bit of liberty with the context of this passage, but it really is true - where you dwell in your mind is often where your heart will follow.  We had many times where we almost gave in to the frustrating aspects of our vacation, but usually we caught ourselves, and would turn our "minds" and "thoughts" to the blessings. The facts were, we were in Maui, together, and anyone in Bellingham would have gladly traded places with us.  The weather also inspired us to do new things, which we did.

So it is in life - when the trials and hits are coming hard and fast, when sickness or stress seems about to overwhelm you, it is even more imperative that you take control of your thoughts and turn them upwards.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Taking a Sabbath

I have the wonderful opportunity to take a break; a rest, with my wonderful wife.  I will be gone until March 11th so maybe take some time to read some previous posts.

I will be back...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lesson from Nature

Today was pruning day.  Namely, we have a couple of ornamental cherry trees that I pruned today...really, pruning isn't an accurate term; more like "chop-job."  I decimated the trees today, cutting off about 80% of the branches.  Funny thing is, but about May/June, the two trees will be blossoming like always.  You see, the pruning "stimulates growth."  The act of pruning a tree, a rose bush, a shrub, a rhodendrun...the very act of pruning actually helps to cause the growth.  If you never pruned, the branches (and thus, the entire tree) would begin to look dead.  By pruning regularly, you stimluate the growth that helps the tree look its best.

You know where I'm going with this...
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."

Sometimes God has to prune us.  That pruning is usually painful...but yet, the pruning is also necessary for our growth, and to help us be who He created us to be.  Pruning is necessary and can take many forms.  Sometimes God might cause a trial or "pruning season;" other times He might simply take a situation and use it to prune us.

The point?  I read this short little passage today, right in the middle of 2 Corinthians, which helped me in light of these times of pruning;

"It's what we trust in but don't yet see that keeps us going."

If/when you face those times of pruning, it's time to remember that our hope, our trust is based on the things we can't yet see.  We know that this life is a shadow, a mist; it is here today, and gone tomorrow...yet God's truth remains.

If you're in a time of pruning, hang in there, and remember what happens after a season of pruning - the blossoms grow and a new beauty is just around the corner.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Post Worth Reading

This is a post worth reading!  Let's just say I was challenged, convicted, and also, as a pastor, saying a heart "amen."  Check it out...

http://www.koinoniablog.net/2009/02/eph-429-and-blogs.html

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Another Running Lesson

Here's another running lesson - "work from rest."

So I have a loop I run - usually takes me about 17-18 minutes.  On one particular day I stopped mid-way through my run for about 1 minute exactly, just to say "hi" to someone I know that I was passing on the road.  I figured that with the stop, two things would happen; 1) I'd have a slower time and 2) I'd have a tough time getting going again.  I was wrong on both counts - even though I stopped, I still turned in a 17 minute run and in fact, the 2nd half was much easier than usual.

Here's the principal: "work from rest."  Most of us work hard and then, after the work is done, we try and rest.  Rest is always taken only if there's time leftover at the end.  However, I want to proposed that the best work is done "from rest" not "before rest."  Just as the short rest I took on the run fueled me to go faster for the 2nd half, so a "rest" spiritually and physically can fill us to run harder and faster in the work before us.

Application:
1) Sabbath rest is SO important.  6 days you work, 1 you rest.  Simple.  I have much more to say on the Sabbath here.
 2) Even in the middle of a day, "cat-naps" can give you that extra boost you need to keep going.  Don't "work SO you can rest," but "work out of your rest."

Now if only I can implement what I just wrote...as Paul said, "I am the worst of [offenders]" - but I challenge you to endeavor to put this principle into practice.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Joshua Bell

So I just heard about this story about Joshua Bell; ever hear of him?  The story is almost two years old but bears repeating.  Joshua Bell is arguably the most famous concert violinist in the world, currently - he is world renowned!  So the article talks about an experiment that the Washington Post did; read below...or read the full article by clicking here.

HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L'ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.

After playing some of the hardest and most famous violin pieces ever written, 43 minutes straight, one of the best violinists in the world made a grand total of $32.17.  Not one person stopped and lingered for any period of time, and not one person recognized him or the "genius" of his playing.

The Point: This story brings me back to one of the Sabbath Principles: SLOW DOWN!  Do you ever take time in your day to slow down?  To breathe?  To observe?  To listen?  To read?  To see?  To walk?  To notice the lines in a leaf, the beauty in a sunset, the sound of nature?  Slowing down is essential to worship, and essential to life.

I confess: slowing down is terribly difficult for me...but it is so necessary.  Whenever I manage to slow down I find out how much I need it, and how much it does breathe life back in to me - and most importantly, I hear God.

So let this story be a reminder to you for the need to slow down, and observe.  I hope if I ever come across a scene like Joshua Bell playing the violin, I'm not moving so fast that I skip right by.

Again, full article here.

"For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD." (Exodus 31:15)

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