Friday, December 30, 2011

Time for a Fresh Start...

Christmas is over...it's time to take the tree down, put the lights away, find a new home for those gifts, and settle in for the winter. So what's to look forward to, you ask? Lots. It's time for a fresh start. I love the new year because it feels like a chance for a "do over" or a "mulligan" as it were. It's a time to set new goals, dream new dreams, and re-evaluate. One of the things I'm most thankful for is that God is full of grace for His children.

22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Many years ago I worked through a process laying a "Life-Plan." It's simply a plan I created to help make sure I'm prioritizing things correctly and living the life I feel God has called me to live. I came up with about 7 areas I wanted to be intentional about, and at the very top of the list was my relationship with Christ. How am I doing? Not as good as I'd like. My "vine-time" has suffered as life got increasingly busy this past year. So not surprisingly, most (if not all) of my "resoluting" this year will be centered around growing my relationship with Christ. It's not complicated, but it will take discipline.

Growth doesn't just happen.

My wife has a garden and I've noticed something...growth doesn't just happen. First the soil must be turned over and prepared. Then seeds must be planted. And seeds only grow with sunlight and water. Too much of one without enough of the other means poor growth and the harvest ends up being wasteful.

If I want my relationship with Christ to grow this year, I have to prepare the soil (my heart), plant the seed (His Word), and make sure it gets sunlight (prayer) and water (deeds). My goal is simple...intentional growth.

How about you? What's your "resolution" for year 2012?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Anticipation...

This time of year there is so much build up, so much anticipation, for Christmas. You can sense it everywhere you go. The music, the lights, the gatherings, it's a time of year that is anticipated for weeks, even months.

I often wonder about the anticipation felt during the days leading up to the first Christmas. I have a feeling that most of earth and its inhabitants didn't really grasp the situation. I wonder if even Mary and Joseph fully understood who they were about to bring into the world. All of history prior to Christ's birth, points to His birth...the promised Messiah, the Light, the Prince of Peace, the Righteous One was coming.

And then there's the anticipation in heaven. I usually ponder and think about Christmas from my perspective or earth's perspective; but think about it from heaven's perspective. Did all the angels and heavenly creatures know what was about to happen? I think they did. And if they did know, they certainly understood just who Jesus was/is. Jesus was there at the beginning...He has always existed. He is the one they worship. He is the one that all things were created through and created for. And here He is, Jesus, the one and only Son of God, about to willfully enter into human flesh...and once He was conceived in Mary's womb, there would be no going back. What were the angels thinking?

They did there best to let us know...the heavenly host that came to the shepherds point-blank told them exactly what had just happened. They announced the birth of the Messiah, the Son of God. And yet for them, the whole event must have seemed so under-whelming. The entire planet should have stopped to gather and worship...but instead, only a handful of shepherd's showed up.

What's the point? I wonder if in the midst of Christmas, knowing what we know now, I wonder if we too don't miss the birth of Christ at Christmas. I know I do. The busyness, shopping, preparations, gifts, lights, trees, food, all of it...none of it bad. But it makes it all too easy to forget that Christmas is about Jesus. After all, it's His birthday we are celebrating.

This weekend, make sure you take time to honor, worship, celebrate, and maybe even sing to Him.

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.
(Isaiah 9:2, 6-7)

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Perfect Gift

In my family a few years ago we started doing our Christmas Gift Giving in a slightly different way. We used to buy gifts for everyone, but that got too expensive. Then we started drawing names and making lists, but some complained that you always knew what you were getting and what if you found the perfect gift for someone who wasn't on your list? So what do we do now? We call it "miscellaneous gifts." You buy whatever you want, bring it, wrap it, put a clue on it, and then we draw numbers for the opening order and away we go!

Personally, it makes it very hard to shop. It's much easier to shop when you know who you're buying for; but when you're supposed to find some "random" or misc. gift that a majority of people in your family might like, it makes it a real challenge. You might find something that 1 person would like, but nobody else. Each year that goes by makes it harder as well; as we've kind of exhausted the flashlights, pocket knives and gadgets category (for the guys).

But what if you could find the perfect gift for someone? What if you were able to know exactly what someone really wanted...maybe they didn't even know they wanted it, but then they open the gift and they are overcome that someone would know them so well as to find the perfect present, one they had never thought of but now that they see it wonder how they could ever survive without it?

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.
(Isaiah 9:2, 6-7)

Hmmm...the perfect gift, indeed.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Where's Your Allegiance?

A few weeks ago I was out walking with my wife when I observed a funny thing. It was a teenage boy whom I will call a "confused sports fan." He was wearing a Boston Red Sox shirt, a St Louis Cardinals hat, and a Seattle Sounders scarf...all at the same time. This struck me as quite humorous for obvious reasons...my immediate question was "who are you following?"

It seems that many people are, like this boy, confused. We are quick to follow the latest fad, or allow pop culture to dictate to us our morality, and we often don't really understand why we believe what we believe, leaving us vulnerable to a world that doesn't exactly embrace absolute truth. We often end up looking like that boy; picking and choosing from different belief systems or religions, which often leads to a sort of hypocrisy. Our words say one thing, while our actions say something else.

I wonder when people see me, what they see? Do they see someone sold out to Christ; one team, one uniform, one hat/shirt/scarf...do they see someone who's words and actions "alibi" each other? Or do people see in me something like that boy, not quite sure who I'm following or what I stand for?

The key to the whole thing lies in building a passionate and committed relationship with Christ. Build your life around the catalysts that lead you to this relationship; Bible, Prayer, Community, Service, and Worship...and allow God to lead you closer to Him.

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

Friday, December 9, 2011

It Bears Repeating

This past Sunday Pastor Jeff preached on contentment; a challenging message that bears repeating (if you missed it, click here to download or listen online).

One of the key verses in the whole Bible on contentment is found in Philippians; "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13). What things? What can I do? Can I really do anything and everything?

Pastor Jeff reminded us that this verse was not a blank promise that God will enable us to do whatever we want; rather, it is Paul's reminder that because of God's power in our lives, we have the ability to be content in any and every situation; (remember that Paul wrote this letter in prison).

Pastor Jeff closed by challenging us with the "three G's" as the secret to contentment.

Godliness: We can only be content as we develop and grow in our relationship with Christ. Time in His Word, time in Prayer, time in Worship, Community and Service - all of these are catalysts to help us grow in godliness...remembering that "godliness with contentment is great gain." (1 Timothy 6:6)

Gratitude: We have also been reminded throughout Philippians (especially chapter 4), that thankfulness and gratitude are a safeguard for our heart and a key component of contentment.

Giving: Giving then becomes the application of our contentment. As we grow in godliness, living life with gratitude, the outcome should be a life marked by being a great giver.

How are you doing on the three G's?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Are you "All In?"

This past Monday I was able to attend Sting's "Back to Bass" concert in Seattle. It was a great show with great musicians singing some great music. Now to be clear, I don't think Sting is a believer or follower of Christ; but one thing he said caused me to stop and consider my relationship with Jesus, and my relationships with others.

It was in the context of him bragging on his wife. He talked about how much she completed him, filled in all his gaps, and how their love for each other had endured. He then mentioned something you don't hear often when couples speak of love; he said that "she also has the power to completely ruin me." In other words, he has so fully given his heart and himself to his wife, Trudy, that she now has a power that could utterly leave him wrecked.

The point is simple; he has moved "all in" in this relationship. And that's the thing about relationships; if you hold back, you risk less, but you also have less rewards. It seems that many relationships today are just that; risk management, almost like (as Sting put it), that people get married with an "emotional pre-nup" not willing to risk certain parts of their heart of life.

Question; are you "all in" in your relationship with Christ, to the point that He could utterly ruin you? Have you risked all your emotions, all your heart and longings? Or are you holding back, simply "managing" your relationship with Him? And for us married types, how about our relationships with our spouses? Are we "all in" or have we bought into the "emotional pre-nup?"

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30)

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