Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Masterpiece

Psalm 138:8The Lord will accomplish what concerns me;

Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting;

Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Scripture gives me great hope because it's clear that I'm not done yet.  When I look at who I am after all these years I can easily admit I'm not making much progress, not growing as I wish, not the man I wanted to be....but I'm not the potter....I'm the clay.

I'm a work in progress and the potter will not stop until his work of art is complete.  He has in mind what he wants this piece of clay to look like.  I have no idea what this work of art is to look like....I'm still being molded, but one day he will finish with a smile and declare that his work of art is finished.  I'm that work of art!  But I'm still on the wheel, still being molded, still finding lumps that the potter must work out so the fire will not crack me.  I'm still being formed into the masterpiece the master plans to make.

What thrills me about this little verse in Psalms is that God will not give up on this little piece of clay until his masterpiece is done!  I might not look like much yet, but just wait....just wait till the potter is done....I will be amazing!

Paul writes about this in Ephesians 2 when he says, 

" For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."  

How exciting....not only am I a masterpiece, but I'm a masterpiece with a purpose!  I have things to do that only this little piece of clay, this masterpiece of the potter, can do.  

"The Lord will accomplish what concerns me." In other words he won't quit working in my life until he has finished his masterpiece and signed his work.  I love that artists sign their work.  They want the world to know who made it.  They are proud of what they accomplished.  And like the artists of the world, God says one day he will write his name on me....a finished masterpiece designed by the creator of the universe with works for me to do.  

I'm so encouraged that the great potter plans to make a masterpiece and won't stop until it's done, until I'm done.  I can't wait to be that finished product....that masterpiece that glorifies Him....and even now I pray that he will be glorified in my life....even while I'm still a work in progress.  

God's working in my life, in your life.  Celebrate that today because one day we will say, as we look at our lives and what God has done, "God, you made me a masterpiece!  Thank you!"


Reposting

I wanted to take a moment and offer these posts to those who would like to use them.  You are welcome to copy any of my posts and use them to encourage others.  The only thing I ask is that you leave them as they were written and include an author credit and link here.  Other than that copy away!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Failure


I don't know if you have ever felt it, that feeling of complete and total failure.  It's one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced. 

Many struggle with it.  Jobs lost, marriages ruined, relationships destroyed, children alienated.  All of these make us aware of our weakness and failure to do those things well, to be a success at something...at anything. 

There is a partner to failure, it's depression.  It may be, at times, that the depression arrives first and failures are then unavoidable, but that's just a thought I've been dwelling on for a while.  I've noticed as well that I find myself feeling an overwhelming sense of failure when there is really nothing wrong at all.  It's a terrible cloud, but one that plagues us all at times if we are honest.

We each struggle with failure.  We don't think we are pretty enough, happy enough, successful enough, good enough, that we don't have enough friends, enough money, that we don't do anything "important".  On the list goes, but in the midst of whatever we do many of us feel the tug of failure pulling us down constantly whispering in our ears..."you're not good enough, you won't make it, you don't fit in, you won't get that job."

Knowing that this cloud hangs over us all at times makes it clear why we so desperately need God.  Our expectations and goals are far above our abilities and so we live with the high jump bar at 20' knowing the highest we have ever jumped is 5'.  Failure is sure. Doom is near.

At least that's the way it feels.

Then comes Jesus to deal with all of this in the gospels.   In those amazing encounters with failures he embraces them, loves them, forgives them.  He tells them he really likes them!  He loved eating with "sinners" and they loved him.  Why?  Because as bad as the world considered them to be and as bad as they felt about themselves there was one person who loved them and really liked them....Jesus.

The rich young ruler, the woman caught in adultery, the leper begging for help, the tax collectors, the foreign mother with a sick child and so many more.  All of them, if they could tell us their stories, would admit they felt like failures, but there was one who didn't see them that way.  He really loved them....even in their mess.  He enjoyed their company...even when the "religious people" wouldn't even look at them.

Jesus loves failures because failures know they need Jesus!  

I'm really glad that the story of Jesus is the story of God loving broken, struggling, failing people.  People like you and me.

Here's what God says about people like us, the failures of the world,


1 Cor. 1:26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose those the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose people that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.28 God chose the ones who are despised by the world, some of us considered as nothing at all, and used us all to bring to nothing people the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”

So, if you find yourself struggling with self-doubt, the cloud of failure, failing at everything, failing at anything....know there is a God who loves people like you and me.  Isn't that great?

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Update on a crazy life

Once more I find life capturing every moment.  I am sorry I have not been here in a week.  It's often best to refrain from writing when you have nothing to say and that has been my situation of late.  I will be back.....life has simply kept me wrapped in "busy" and I haven't had time for even a moment of silence and contemplation.  Perhaps today I can escape for a bit and recapture my time with God.  Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

They will know....

In the book of Ezekiel there is one theme.  It repeats itself over and over again.  In the midst of captivity, at a time when the Jewish people are scattered, when all hope of a future seems lost this theme is repeated more than 60 times in this book....it's the passion of God.

"They will know that I am Lord" is the resounding words of God to the prophet.  He repeats them over and over with a clarity you can't miss.  God wants his people, all people to know that HE is Lord.  

When men declare that evidence for God is minimal at best God declares that one day all men will know that he is Lord of heaven and earth.  It's his desire for each one of us to know him.  

I've often heard the argument, "but what about the African who has never heard?"  God will make sure he hears.  Don't worry about him, but realize you have heard...now what are you going to do?


They will know that I am Lord.

One day everyone will know that the God of the bible is Lord of heaven and earth, creator of the earth and heavens, savior of whoever will come.  One day we all will know.  

Monday, September 01, 2014

A world without God

If there is no God then life is a tragedy lived by madmen.

Quote of the day

"The way we are with each other is the truest test of our faith. How I treat a brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the antiabortion sticker on the bumper of my car." -Brennan Manning

Our job


Friday, August 29, 2014

When I am afraid

1O God, have mercy on me,
for people are hounding me.
My foes attack me all day long.
2I am constantly hounded by those who slander me,
and many are boldly attacking me.
3But when I am afraid,
I will put my trust in you.
4I praise God for what he has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?
Psalm 56

I've only lived 6 decades, but I've never seen a time when fear is so dominant in our lives.  This week I've watched as radical Muslims have killed hundreds in Iraq.  I've watched as fear begins to rise in the cultures of the world....fear of man, fear of economic crisis, fear of disease.  Fear is in the very air we breathe.

No one is immune to the temptation to fear.  We are surrounded by the opportunities to fear.  Companies downsizing, layoffs all around, economies is crisis, ebola spreading.....shall I go on?  Fears are abundant!

David lived in days when his very life was often on the line.  He found himself, more than once, running for his life.  Fear was part of his reality too, but he made choices to deal with the fears. This Psalm is one of them.

In verse 3 he writes, "but when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you."  He never said he didn't fear or that fear wasn't real for him.  He gave us his choice when fears arive.  When I am afraid I will put my trust in you.  What profound and rich statement of faith.  When all I see around me is an opportunity to fear I will choose to trust the God who loves me.  

So what is your choice when fear comes, because it will.  

What do you do?  

Do you fret, get anxious, drink too much, pace the floor, take a sedative, panic!  What do you do?  It's a choice you know.

Fear will come, what will you do when it arrives?

David said, "When I am afraid I will put my trust in YOU!"  

What will you choose?





Saturday, August 23, 2014

Who am I?


The great challenge we each face is discovering who we are, finding our identity.  Many get lost in the quest and sink into depression not knowing how to answer this critical question, "Who am I?"

I'm thinking about this today and like many of you have thought about identity and purpose most of my life, trying to discover who I am. What am I here for? What's my value and purpose in this world?  It's a quest we all begin, but along the road to the answer many have simply given up.  This morning may I offer a few thoughts for you to consider on your quest for the answer?

I am a nobody to the world around me, BUT the creator of the universe knows my name and loves me. In fact he wrote my name in a book before he made the universe!  Isn't that amazing?

I am mortal, dying a bit each day, BUT eternal life awaits my departure from this shadow of life.

I am fallen, a sinner by nature and really good at it, BUT the God who made me has forgiven ALL my sins because I have trusted Christ and what he did on the cross.  In fact, he has chosen to forget all my sins and faults! 

I am often depressed, discouraged, frustrated, angry, BUT all that causes those emotions will be swept away with an eternal joy that will make them a forgotten memory of days long ago.

I am not handsome or good looking....most of us aren't according to the world's standards, BUT the creator of the universe designed me and he really likes what he made!

I am weak and often fearful BUT I stand on a rock that can never be shaken, Jesus Christ, and my fears will seem like childish nightmares as I trust him more.

This contrast could go on for volumes.  There is so much to say on this topic, but let me challenge you to find the answer for this question in God's word.  Most of us look to the world for our answers and they have none, but God has answered the question, "who am I?" with a clarity that will make you smile each time you discover another thread of the tapestry that describes you in his eyes.

I am HIS child, an eternal son of God, an heir to all that Christ is promised.  I am part of an eternal kingdom and have the great joy of approaching the creator of the universe anytime I wish simply to talk.  I am loved, watched and cared for every moment by God. I am constantly prayed for by Jesus himself. I am in-dwelt by God's Spirit who guides and guarantees his promises.  

Who am I?  I am richly blessed and owned by the God of creation! 

That's who I am.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Barbarians at the gate


I'm sure no one has escaped the ever present news this week about the execution of an American journalist, James Foley.  I don't need to go into detail, it's simply too graphic, but sadly far too common in our world today.  

The barbarians are at the gate and they are knocking, rather....they are blowing up the gate to take over the world by fear, force and total inhumanity.  So, let's call this what it is.  It's far too easy to use nice words, play it safe and hope not to offend, but let's be honest about what is happening in Iraq and many other parts of the world.

These barbaric Muslims are inhuman, evil, demonic, wicked, heartless, satanic animals.  They are cowards, bullies and brutal.  If they were ever humans in the past they abandoned their humanity to become barbaric animals.  They are without hope, without God, filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed and evil.  They are full of envy, murder and strife. They are arrogant, unloving and  unmerciful evil beasts.

Their father is the source of evil and their fate is damnation.  They are wicked men who have no fear of God.  Yes, the barbarians are at the gate and they are coming in whether we are ready or not.

How do we respond?  How do we live in light of brutal evil filming and flaunting their evil around the world?  

First, in spite of our temptation to fear we must choose to trust God.  

Second, we need to clearly call evil what it is and not be fearful of the enemies attacks.  

We worship the sovereign of the Universe, the only God.  He is Lord of all and in the end we will see his victory, but as we approach the last days evil will grow and proudly boast of its victory.  And yes, for a moment evil will seem to be winning, but those who trust in God will be the final victors!

What is it that overcomes the world?  Our faith in Him!  He is Lord of all!

What happened?

It's been 10 days since I wrote anything.  What happened?  How did the days escape me so quickly?  I apologize to you, if you have stopped to check, but it's been a strange time.  Like many around me life has been a bit out of control.  I'm sure that's my fault.  I will be back later today with a few thoughts that have been nagging me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The dark clouds of depression

The choices this week of a dearly loved comedian, Robin Williams, bring to light a struggle many people live with and battle most of their lives. It's far too common.  Just last year my niece, Dez, committed suicide in a similar way to Robin.  It's sad, tragic, and shocking for many of us who know them and don't often see the dark clouds they live with, the depression they can't seem to escape.

Like many of you, I have struggled with depression most of my life.  It's a family burden and one my mother deals with as well so I'm not simply writing thoughts as a casual observer, but as an unwilling participant.  Over the years my own struggles have made me aware of how difficult depression is to battle.  There are days that begin with the dread of what's ahead.  It demands, for me, an ongoing battle against the darkness.


As my wife wrote recently, "depression brings a hopelessness that makes life feel like a dirty trick."  I get that and if you have battled depression you understand it as well.

Some would say that if you are a Christian you shouldn't have problems with depression. They would then try to help by giving you some bible verses and tell you to "just get over it!"  But it's really more insidious than that.  It weaves its dark shadows through a life and shows up at the most unexpected times.  For my sweet niece it was the middle of the night and she could no longer live with her dark moments.  She made a permanent choice for a temporary problem and we, her family, are left devastated.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, you need to know it's a common human malady we all battle at times. You are not alone even in the dark moments when you think no one cares. The morning sun will come and the dark clouds will lift.  

Some may struggle with depression on a regular basis and come to a point where they just don't think they can go on another day.  If that is you, don't give up.  Talk to someone. Get help. See a doctor. Call a friend. Talk to your pastor.  The dark clouds of the moment will pass. The sun will shine again.  There are people who love you, you are not alone.  

When you see someone going through a time of depression pray for them, listen to them and be there for them.  If they threaten suicide call for help immediately! Don't wait!!  Any threat of suicide should be taken seriously.

Years ago, in my first church, one of our dear members took his own life in the bedroom of his five year old daughter on her birthday.  It was a tragedy magnified by the situation and the day.  But once he made the choice the lives of everyone around him were changed forever!

For those of you living with depression get help, tell someone, ask God for his help.  He is there and he will come to your rescue in that dark place.  There is help!  Ann Voscamp wrote about depression in her recent blog.  Her words are helpful on this topic. I encourage you to read her August 12th post at http://www.aholyexperience.com/.

One of my favorite bible authors is David, a man who battled depression in his own life.  In one of his journals (Psalms 40) he talked about being in a miry pit of despair and unable to get out.  It was a dark place for him, a time of real depression.  What he describes in these words is what everyone battling depression needs- HOPE!  There is hope and it comes from God. These are encouraging words from someone who struggled with depression and found help in God, 

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
    and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the Lord.
Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord.”


Thursday, August 07, 2014

How do you know....?

Last night, as I wrote a few thoughts online, a young friend of mine who has become an atheist sent me a message with a question.  He's working through the issues of faith and his loss of it.  He is still talking to me so I'm encouraged, but his influence from the atheist crowds of our world and the Internet have obviously affected him and made him abandon his faith.

Last night he asked a simple question. He asked, "How do you know that God knows everything?"  This is an obvious point of theology for any pastor and something I have always believed, but he was more pointed in his question...he asked, "how do YOU know that?"  And with his question I had to admit....I've simply believed it because that is part of God's job description.  If he didn't know everything he wouldn't be God!

But I had to tell my young friend that I have never really searched out the knowing of this....I've simply believed it.  I asked him for time to work on it and I would get back to him.  But it's a perfect opportunity to discuss the question as a community.  How do YOU know that God knows everything?

Ready, discuss....