Friday, October 10, 2014

Sleep & Jesus

Ok, the sole purpose of that title was to catch your attention. What in the world do sleep and Jesus have to do with each other?

This week has been a little rough for me, although today is going better. I've had a number of little things...I got over a cold but developed some kind of inner-ear thing which caused a lot of dizziness. I also had a day where work stuff got super busy and I (temporarily) felt quite overwhelmed. Add to that a couple of good but long days, and I was running a little ragged.

However, there was one thing that was the main thing that caused my week to be rough - Sleeplessness. Wednesday I woke up at 3:30 AM and never got back to sleep. Thursday I woke up at 5:15 AM and never got back to sleep. Those two days of bad sleep affected everything else.

  • I was more "snippy" then usual
  • I was not patient in parenting my son
  • I couldn't focus at work
  • My heart was racing
  • I had super bad congestion and itchy eyes (don't ask why, but sleeplessness always causes this symptom in my body).

To put it another way, if I had slept better those nights, EVERYTHING else would have been much easier to deal with. Sleep is a HUGE part of our overall well-being and a lack of sleep shows itself everywhere.

This got me thinking - is there something in the spiritual realm which is comparable to sleep? I think there is...

"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (John 15:5-7)

Hmmm - did you see that? There's a word in there, one little word that carries so much promise for us. It's the word "abide." What does abide mean? The word abide literally means "continue without fading or being lost." So put that definition into the verse and read it again...

"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who [continues] in me [without fading or being lost] bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing..."

We can do many things that will amount to little fruit...we do this when we "fade away" from Christ. Or, we can make sure our lives count and bear much fruit...we do this by abiding in Him. If this is true and I believe it is, then our #1 goal in life should be to maintain this "abiding" relationship with Jesus. Let's do it!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Mission, Strategies, Goals

If you have been around a successful business, you've probably heard these terms before - Mission, Strategies, Goals, Values. Almost all businesses have these statements...the successful ones use their Mission to provide clarity and direction for their entire organization. Not only that, but a really good Mission Statement becomes a filter for making decisions about goals, strategies, values, and the culture within that organization.

This got me thinking...what if people like you and me had a Mission Statement for our lives, something that would help us have clarity and direction for our entire existance? Something that would help us decide which "things" (strategies) to pursue, and which "things" not to pursue?

I think I just stumbled on a good starting point for this discussion...

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:9)

Let's look at what this one verse says;
  1. You are chosen - God chose you and adopted you into His family...
  2. You are a priest - The main duties of priests in the O.T. was to offer up sacrifices to God, and so it is with us as we will soon see...
  3. You are a holy nation - As believers chosen by God, we have been adopted into His family and are "holy" - literally means "set apart" or "different."
  4. You are "God's special possession" - This is an AMAZING truth...that God has chosen us, made us to be priests, set us apart to be different, because we are His "special possession,"  
  5. Therefore, your mission: "to declare the praises of Him who called you..."
To Sum: you are set aside as a holy priest, chosen by God for a purpose...to "declare His praise."

And just in case you missed, let's put it another way;

Mission Statement: I exist to declare the praises of God.

Think about that for a moment...what if you and I really believed this? What if, to our core, we believed that the mission of the totality of our lives was to "declare God's praise?" If we were a business and really believed this, then the next step would be to establish some goals that would accomplish help us reach for that mission, and then we'd make sure our strategies were actually working to get us there. We would want to establish "Core Values" that would dictate the "culture" of our lives, all in order that our mission would be accomplished.

Hmmm...makes me wonder if my life is aligned for this mission? I'm tempted to keep going down this track in future posts...I've got some great strategic ideas here! But I think this is enough to chew on for now...

Here's the million dollar question - do you know what your mission is? Why you were created...more then created, why you were saved? What your purpose is in life? I think we can start by taking our cue from Peter.

More to come...

Friday, September 26, 2014

Wow...blow me away

Ever read something in Scripture and feel like God just opened your eyes to see it in a whole new light? I had that experience this morning and wanted to share. It comes from 1 Peter chapter 1. Now this chapter is full of some incredible promises and truths and I am guessing that. If you read this chapter, much of that would be somewhat familiar to you. What struck me this morning came from some of those "other verses"..you know, the ones I normally skim a little to get to the "good stuff." Take a moment and read this:

"Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look." (1 Peter 1:10-12, ESV)

My morning was hectic...I slept a little later then usual and my 4-year old son kept interrupting me with requests...(juice, breakfast, you know...stuff that every good father should be providing). It was during one of my 5-minute spells in between requests for food and drink that I read these three verses and immediately, it was like God unveiled my eyes to see at least 6 things that kind of blew me away.

1. These were prophesies about grace
2. I am, we are the recipients of these prophecies...namely, God's grace
3. They, the prophets and Jesus, suffered greatly to bring us this news and this gift, and in so doing, they were serving us, the recipients
4. We all got this news from someone who "preached" it, but...
5. Ultimately we got this from the Holy Spirit, which was sent to us and sent into us directly from heaven
6. There are angels in heaven who long to experience this grace

"So what" you ask? So what indeed. Let say this again, but make it personal.

Even while we were bound by the law, pre-cross, God had a plan to deliver His grace to you. His chosen prophets prophesied about it, and Jesus brought it with His blood and hand delivered this gift to you. He suffered greatly, and so did all those other prophets, but they realized that in so doing, they themselves would not see it...they were serving you. This grace and the news of it was brought by the Holy Spirit, sent directly from heaven, to you. A gift that not even angels fully understand, has been given to you.

What's the "blow me away" part of all this? Simply put, I should never, ever doubt God's complete and total and unconditional love for me. Yes, I may doubt His methods in my life, yes it may hurt when He seems distant, yes I may question the pain that at times seems to overwhelm me or those I love...but never should I doubt His love. Grace. It is the greatest word that we could ever know...prophesied so long ago, longed for by angels, delivered by Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, for us.

Amen.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Comfort on a Cloudy Day

"You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?" Psalm 56:8

Have you ever had one of those days? A day of tears, sadness, maybe even depression? Sometimes there are obvious reasons; a relational conflict, a family member who is hurting or ill, a job loss, a child who is struggling...the list could go on and on. At other times there aren't such obvious reasons. Sometimes we just feel weepy. This morning I was reminded of something simple for times like this...

God, apparently, is no stranger to our tears and longings and pains. He loves us as a Good Father loves his children...His heart aches when ours does. He knows your pain. He sees your no sleepless nights when you toss and turn, and he puts your tears in a bottle.

Why would anyone put tears in a bottle or keep them in a book? You would only do that if they were precious to you, something you treasured and wanted to keep. Hmmm.

God doesn't always choose to jump in and miraculously change our circumstances to take our pain away, but He does promise to walk with us in and through those moments.

So take heart - even when you seem at the end of your rope, always remember the most basic of Christian beliefs...that God loves you. The cross is proof. And when you are hurting, He has not abandoned you...He is with you.

See - told you it was "comfort" on a cloudy day.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Lessons from Rest: Shhhhhhhhh

"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." (Luke 5:16)

Friend, I want to challenge you with a single statement:
"Silence and Solitude are non-negotiables for a healthy soul."

I have come to believe the above statement. I simply don't believe it's possible for anyone to have a healthy soul without having a regular time of silence and solitude. I know we don't all encounter God the same ways; (author Gary Thomas wrote a great book called Sacred Pathways about this), but there are a few spiritual disciplines that regardless of how we're wired, we simply must practice to stay healthy. Among them are prayer, Bible study & application, sabbath, silence, and solitude. The first two on this list are talked about and preached about often, and rightly so. The last three, the three S's are often neglected a little...and this to our own detriment. The only case I need to make is found everywhere in Scripture. Jesus, of course, modeled all of these...but so did many others. A model for us to follow.

During my sabbatical I had extended time to quiet my heart, quiet my surroundings, and just "be." It was amazing how difficult this was. About 4 weeks into my time, I was able to get away by myself for 3 full days and 2 nights to Lopez Island. I remember vividly the feeling I had as I stepped onto the ferry boat and began to depart. It was a feeling of release, and I had this distinct sense that God was near me, breathing into my soul.

It's only when we are quiet that we can tune our minds and ears to the voice of God. It's also only in these times where we can rightly name and identify the voices of our enemy, and do battle with them.

Some of us are afraid of silence, afraid of solitude. Sometimes I am. And yet that is even more reason why we need to enter that time. Intimacy with God is not just something He desires, it is something you and I desperately need. Without slowing down and having times of silence and solitude, it is easier for our enemy to get his message across, and harder for God to get His across. I think that in the midst of our noise-riddled, busy, fast-paced lives, it is easier for Satan to get us to believe in his lies then it is for God to get us to believe His truths.

Let me say this to you - if you believe that God loves you unconditionally, then there is no reason to fear intimacy with Him, anymore then you'd fear going to the doctor for a broken arm. God has already dealt with the only real reason you should fear intimacy - your sin. If you stand on the blood of Jesus Christ and claim Him as your king, then your sin is dealt with now and forever. So why do you fear hearing His voice? All He wants is what's best for you.

You can have solitude without silence...but you cannot have silence without solitude.

So where in your life to have a regular pattern of silence and solitude? If you don't, not to worry...God built one in for you. In fact, it's so important to Him that it made His top-10 list. It's called Sabbath...a 24-hour period set aside just for you and I to re-charge, replenish, rest, delight, and be with Him. But that's for another post...

Friday, September 5, 2014

Lessons from Rest: Simplify (3) - PASSION

If you haven't read my previous two posts on Simplicity, stop. You're going out of order. If you have, read on.

This idea of living simply goes deeper then just sitting down, re-aligning your schedule, or putting some stuff on craigslist. Yes, you have to want it, and understand why you need it, and commit to pursuing it, but ultimately what this discussion really boils down to is the word "values." What are your values? What drives you? What do you want your life to mean? Who do you live for? Before you can simplify your life, you need to know what drives you...or to put it another way, what are you passionate about?

Pastor Louie Giglio defines passion as this; "the degree of difficulty we are willing to endure to accomplish the goal." What is your goal, and how passionate are you for it?

Jesus had a goal...His goal was to glorify His Father, Jahweh, and to complete the work that God had set before Him. How passionate was He for that goal? The cross answers that question. The cross of Christ is the passion of Christ...it is the amount of pain and difficulty He was willing to endure to accomplish His goal.

So what about you and me? If we are believers, our goal must be to do as the apostle Paul said;
"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

The cross of Christ is, how John Piper puts it, "the blazing center of the Glory of God." We magnify God when the cross of Jesus Christ becomes our only boast. Piper goes on to say this;

"Every good thing - indeed every bad thing that God turns for good - was obtained for us by the cross of Christ...everything that you enjoy in Christ - as a Christian, as a person who trusts Christ - is owing to the death of Christ." (John Piper - Passion, page 20)

To live a simple life, starts with knowing what the goal is. Our goal should be nothing short then magnifying and glorifying God in everything. We do this by making much, boasting, in the cross of Jesus Christ. The more we recognize that everything good we enjoy - indeed, even bad things that God uses and turns for good - all of these are gifts from God to us, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ...the more we recognize this, the more passion we will have for Him.

To live a simple life starts with having a single goal...what is the goal of your life?

"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14)

Make it your aim to live for nothing less than the glory of God. Learn to view your life differently. Everything you receive, every breath, as a gift obtained for you by the cross. Everything you give and do, with the goal of magnifying Christ and in so doing, glorifying the Christ. With his mindset, there will soon be no more "mundane" tasks...for the mundane task becomes a gift...either one you receive because of the cross, or one you give to magnify Jesus.

"And all boasting - all exultation - should be boasting in the cross...[let] Christ get glory and thanks and honor for every good thing in our lives and every bad thing that God turns for good." (Piper)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lessons from Rest: Simplify (2) - How

In my previous post I made an appeal to simplify our lives, focusing on the "why." This post puts some meat to that, and seeks to answer the "how."

At least two things are required to live simply and I have found out the hard way just how hard this is going to be. 1) Contentment, and 2) Discipline.

Contentment: "an internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances." (Holman Bible Dictionary). A person who is content has a far easier time living a simple life. Why? Simple - their minds are not pre-occupied with whatever it is they're not content with. People who aren't content are always thinking and working towards the next thing. Contrast that with someone who has an "internal satisfaction" for where they are and what they have, even if nothing changes.

Self Discipline: "the ability to control one's feelings and overcome one's weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it." If you want to live a simple life, you have to have self-discipline. You have to be willing to deny your flesh in order to feed your spirit. Take my closet for example; I have a closet full of clothes and if you look deep enough, you will find things that I haven't worn in years. It takes both contentment and discipline to simplify my closet and purge the things I don't need or don't use, and also not replace them with others. Am I content with what I have, and am I disciplined enough to keep it simple once I have purged?

The closet is the easy part - how about living a simplified schedule? Resisting the urge to run off on a camping trip when I know very well that my soul and body need a weekend at home to rest instead? Saying "no" to the invitation to hang with friends because I've been out three nights in a row already and really need some down time?

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:12-13)

See that? Philippians 4:13 is one of the most claimed verses in the Bible - do you see the context which Paul wrote those words? He was talking about contentment...the secret of being content is Jesus. His strength and power will give us what we need to be content whether you have a house, two cars, three kids and a boat, or whether you live in a studio apartment and bike to work.

I have seen this principle at work - "the more I have, the more I worry about what I have." I think there is a better way...enjoy what you have, but live simply.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Lessons from Rest: Simplify...Why?

Life is complex, fast-paced, and not slowing down anytime soon. We work hard, play hard, travel, hike, bike, run, swim, boat, golf, and so much more. Our days off are as exhausting as our work days - as we fill them with all these things and more. I think for too many of us, our lives look like our garages...full of too much clutter.

" 'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.' " (Luke 10:41)

What is that one thing that Mary chose? Jesus. I like how pastor Louie Giglio puts it...to paraphrase him, "life is all about living for the fame and glory of Jesus."

One of the things I was reminded during my sabbatical was the need to simplify my life, and to live a simple life. I want to re-align my life with the most important thing, Jesus. Beyond that, I want to de-clutter what I fill my time with. But here's the secret - living simply is not easy. In fact, it is likely going to be a life-long battle. Why? Because it's 100% counter culturual - at least counter to the culture I live in (here in the NW part of the USA). Counter cultural is just a fancy way of saying that everything around me is pushing me towards a busy, cluttered life...everything. To live simple will be to push against this culture, but it is necessary if we are to experience the life Christ calls us to.

A man named Elijah once experienced something that we would do well to remember...he got to hear the voice of God. But that voice didn't come as he expected; first came a strong wind, then an earthquake, and then a fire...but God's voice was not heard in any of those. Finally came a "gentle whisper" - the voice of God.

It is quite possible for us to go through this life and rarely hear God's voice. Oswald Chambers remarked that even our service for God can get in the way of our relationship with God.

Why do we need to simplify? So we can hear God...so we can experience His power in us and achieve the mission He called us to. He has a plan for you but you can't do it on your own. So if you find your life spinning too crazily, then stop - re-prioritize.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lessons from Rest: Soul-Care (I)

Warning: ignore your soul at your own risk.

If there was one over-arching thing that encompasses everything from my time away, it's this: we are not super-human. We are not supermen or superwomen. We are not immune from growing weary and tired. We are not "plug and play" devices, nor are we "solar-powered" or "battery-powered." What we are is human, and as such, we are prone to many things. And the "thing" that fuels everything is our soul. What is our "soul" you ask? I looked it up to see what the world has to say...and I think that if you combine these definitions, we get close to a good definition...

Soul - the spiritual part of a person that is believed to give life to the body...a person's total self.

Now don't get hung up on what the proper definition of the word "soul" is, or the history of the word. When I refer to your "soul," the simple definition above works. Soul is your "total self" - that part of you that gives life to everything else. Ignore it at your own peril.

I am writing from the perspective of hindsight. I didn't know it at the time, but when I started my sabbatical, I was tired. Physically tired, yes, but even more alarming, I was "soul" tired. I was weary. I was juggling too many plates, taking on too many challenges, making too many sacrifices, and relying too much on my own strength. I have learned...ignoring your soul will have the effect of depleting you. Get depleted too much and you get on a very slippery slope.

So what are you doing to care for your soul? What are you doing to insure you stay fresh? What are you doing to make sure that you are not already on that slope? The whole point of this first post is simple; caring for your soul is a must for a healthy, happy life.

I close with this quote from Oswald Chambers;

"Jealously guard your relationship with God. Jesus prayed 'that they may be one just as We are one'—with nothing in between (John 17:22). Keep your whole life continually open to Jesus Christ. Don’t pretend to be open with Him. Are you drawing your life from any source other than God Himself? If you are depending on something else as your source of freshness and strength, you will not realize when His power is gone."

Friday, August 1, 2014

Lessons from Rest: Intro

Sunset at Snug Harbor, San Juan Island
I have just returned to work from a 10-week Sabbatical. It was the best thing for me, and difficult. It was idyllic, and challenging. It was restful, and yet that rest was hard to enter. It was peaceful and playful, and yet I found myself doing battle almost daily to enjoy the peace and the play.

One of the most important things for me coming back out of this time of sabbatical is to remember the lessons I learned during that time and to implement them, lest I fall into that category of those who are doomed to repeat their history because they have forgotten it.

Most, if not all of what I experienced during those 10 weeks was deeply personal. And yet I am willing to share some of what I learned with you. And of course, as I write, it helps me immensely to cement my thoughts, experiences, and lessons learned.

What will follow over the coming weeks (or more) are a series of blogs that reflect things I've learned during this time. You're invited to journey with me. I don't know how many I will write, and I'm sure there will be overlap in what I write, but nevertheless I press on. Join me if you will! And if you're one of those who attend and support the church I work for, thank you. Thank you for the time away. I will cherish the memories and experiences of that time forever.

For those who are interested in what I read during this time, I have recently updated the "What I'm Reading" list and you can find them there, including a "fun reading" book or two.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Passion...

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the day that kicks off "Passion week." Who's Passion? Jesus' Passion.
What Passion? The Passionate love He has for His Father, the Passionate hatred He has for sin, and the Passionate love He has for us.

I have many thoughts as this week approaches, all of them driving me to meditate and remember the incredible, unconditional, amazing grace and love that are so undeservedly poured out on all who believe.

Too often I think I fall short of grasping exactly what Jesus saved us from. Yes He loves us, but to understand that love we must understand something else. This week I have been struck again by what Jesus has saved us from. In short, He has saved us from His Father.

Here's what I mean...

God hates sin. I mean He really, really hates sin. So much so, in fact, that God's wrath and fury against all the sin and wickedness of mankind is somehow stored up. Jesus, in the garden, is in agony and torment, so much so that He is sweating drops of blood. Why is He in so much agony? Because Jesus, and only Jesus knows what He is about to do. He is about to drink the cup of the wrath of God...all of it. Every single sin that will ever be committed is like a drop, slowly filling that cup. And Jesus is about to drink it all.

Who but Jesus has been in the presence of God's wrath? Who but Jesus is qualified to drink this cup? It brings a whole new level of understanding to Jesus' words, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Truly, we have no clue.

You want to see Passion? Read this...

" 'Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.' An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground." (Luke 22:42-44)

Here, at the cross, we see God on full display - His holiness, His hatred of sin, His wrath poured out on Jesus, His love for us. Here, at the cross, we see Passion. 

What does God's wrath look like? Not good.

"...they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever." (Revelation 14:9-10)

This should freak you out! Who is the "they?" It is Satan, all his demons, and anyone who has the mark of the beast - or put another way, anyone who rejects Jesus. Reject Christ and you too will drink the cup of God's wrath.

There is another way. On the cross Jesus drank every last drop of the cup of God's wrath for those who believe and follow Him. Every, last drop. In drinking this cup, Jesus took on a kind of physical, spiritual, and emotional suffering that we can never know. It was torment. Seem unfair? Yep, it is. Seem over the top? It is. The whole scene should appall us.

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Make no mistake...God loves His Son, Jesus. So much so, that as "reward" for His Son's obedience...

"...God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11)

It's like God says to Jesus, "Jesus, my Son, my heart broke as my wrath against the sin of this world was poured out on You. You did not deserve it, and yet it had to be done, and only You could do it. And now, it is finished. I now elevate you to the highest place that everyone and everything is now subject to you. Nobody will get to me, without going through You. You, Jesus, my Son, I exalt to the highest place."

Now I hope you're with me still because here is the real kicker...this is the thought that has overpowered me this week. This whole plan I've just written about, God's plan for our redemption, namely the death of Jesus, this was God's plan before the world was created.

"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world..." (1 Peter 1:18-20).

STOP for a minute, and let this single truth land on you hard. Before God created us, before Adam and Eve, before the Garden, before the world was created, He knew. He knew it all. He knew that Satan would bend all his powers to take us away from Him. He knew how weak we are. He knew that He would have to give up His one and only Son, Jesus. He knew that Jesus would have to take our punishment on Himself. He knew it all. And He still went forward with the plan...He created you, He created me, and provided the way for us to know Him and to love Him.

Passion.

You see, before you can understand the love of God, you first must come face to face with the justice of God, which leads you to the wrath of God. It is when you see the wrath of God that you meet Jesus, standing in your place. And then if it hits you just right, you'll say something like "it can't be. That's not possible. What's in it for Him?" Or maybe you'll just stop and say nothing. But then God lifts the veil and you begin to understand the depth of His love.

Passion.

This week, as Palm Sunday leads to Good Friday which leads to Easter, get a moment away with your Savior and remember it all. His sacrifice, His blood, His Passion.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Words...

According to researchers, the average person uses about 7,000 (men) or 20,000 (women) words per day. Whether you're closer to 7,000 or 20,000, that's a lot of words. Here in our social media age, we use words differently too. Sure we talk, but we also text, tweet, and email. In many cases, we have grown careless with our words, losing their meaning.

Read the following 

103 
"Bless the Lord, O my soul,
     and all that is within me,
     bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
     and forget not all his benefits,
     who forgives all your iniquity..."
     (Psalm 103:1-3a)


Stop for a minute, on that word "iniquity." This a word that has lost it's meaning. Let's refresh ourselves...

in·iq·ui·ty
1. Gross immorality or injustice; wickedness.
2. A grossly immoral act; a sin.

Those are strong words - grossly immoral, unjust, wicked, an immoral act, a sin. These are very strong words, and they are exactly what we are guilty of. They are also exactly what God, through Jesus, forgives us of. It's only when we come to grips with how depraved we are, how no amount of good works and deeds can out-weigh our wickedness, that we can have a proper response to God's love. 

You and I are guilty of grossly immoral acts and wickedness...and God has offered up His Son, Jesus Christ, as the payment for our sin. This brings me to another one of our words that has been used and abused; the word "awesome."

awe·some
1. inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear, causing or inducing awe.
2. showing or characterized by reverence, admiration, or fear; exhibiting or marked by awe.

That God has forgiven all our iniquity, is awesome. As you read God's Word, go a little slower, and look at the words used...think about them, and respond. Psalm 103 ends the way it begins, with a call to worship...a fitting end to this post.

"Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
     you mighty ones who do his word,
     obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
     his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the Lord, all his works,
     in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!"
(Psalm 103:20-22)

Friday, January 3, 2014

2014: A Path to Live By

Greetings and welcome to 2014. I should probably say something about how long it's been since my last post, and how I have resolved to post more frequently this year, but I'm going to skip all of that and jump straight into my "resolution" for 2014. It comes from two women who displayed two traits I want to emulate; Faith and Courage.

The first woman is one you know very well. She is a teenage girl who loves God, and loves her soon-to-be husband. Her life is on a good path, one probably similar to many of her friends and family. Love God, find a good husband, raise a good family, and serve others. However, one day her life was dramatically, and I say it again, DRAMATICALLY altered forever. Her name is Mary, the mother of Jesus.

The other girl also loves God. She is a Jew, living in the land of Persia, named Esther. Her life too took a dramatic turn when she was selected above all others to be the next Queen. Esther has an uncle, Mordecai, also a Jew and servant of God. Mordecai, and all the Jews living in Persia for that matter, have enemies...especially one powerful enemy named Haman. Haman was the King's right-hand man and he tricked the king into signing a law that would have Mordecai and all the Jews (including the new Queen) murdered. Mordecai challenges Esther to do something that is punishable by death...he challenges her to enter the King's chambers, un-bidden, and unveil the entire plot to the King in order to save the Jews. (For a fuller summary of this amazing story, click here).

Both of these women's stories are amazing and worth much more than I've said, but for the purposes of this post, I want to laser in on one thing...how these women responded to the unexpected turns in their lives.

Mary gets her interruption via an angel of God. The angel informs her that she is favored by God, about to become pregnant (even though she's a virgin), and is going to be the mother of the Son of God. This news has huge consequences and implications...most not very pleasant. Her response is amazing;

" 'I am the Lord’s servant,' Mary answered. 'May your word to me be fulfilled.' Then the angel left her." (Luke 1:38)
Esther gets her interruption and challenge from Mordecai, who informs her of the plot against the Jews. His words to Esther...

" 'For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?' 

And Esther's reply to Mordecai: " 'Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.' " (Esther 4:14-16)

The Bible is filled with examples of people who God used, who were at first very reluctant to do what He had asked of them, some even asking for special signs (see Gideon). And yet here we have two women who showed incredible courage and faith in the midst of life-altering news. 

The Path to Live By is this: When God asks, I act; quickly, immediately, with courage and faith. That's what I see these two women doing, and that's what I want my life to be marked by.

This is what I want for my life in 2014. I want to look back at 2014 and see a pattern of quick and immediate obedience to whatever God asks of me; in small things, and big. I'm not there yet...not even close. I am in the camp of those who question and hesitate...but I want to change that trend, and move to the camp of the faithful and courageous.

I look at it like this graph I put together...sometimes God makes small requests of me, sometimes big. I need to "train" myself with the small asks, so I'm ready for the big ones. I want it "Up and to the Right." It starts today! What is He asking of you?

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