Monday, November 20, 2017

Charles Manson

Charles Manson died.

I've read many jeering and cruel comments on media sites celebrating his death and wishing him well in hell.

I grieve.

Sin has destroyed so much, it's sad when it destroys our humanity as well.

As a Christian I am sad to know of anyone's death without Christ.  

I know, from reading scripture, that God grieves as well.

He says,"I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die."

There is a God who rules the heavens and eternity.  There is a judgment coming. There is a heaven and hell.  I don't claim to understand the justice of all of it, but I do know God is good and I trust him to be more than "fair" with each of us.

Charles Manson now faces eternity.  For a few years on earth he destroyed and ridiculed.  Now he faces eternity.

I grieve.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

in 1,000,000 years

Today you worry about so much. You're distracted by fears, worry, anxiety, concerns over money, the economy, the government, the future....

...But in 1,000,000 years what will be your thoughts about these things?  Will you even remember this moment of anxiety and fear?  Will you be embarrassed by your lack of trust in God?  

Moments seem overwhelming, but when you bring God into the moment everything changes.  Yes, it might be hard right now.  Yes, there may be pain, suffering, loss, doubt and sadness....but we aren't done yet.  All of this is part of a grand plan by a glorious God.

You see, the God of creation is in charge and the outcome will surprise you.  Take a moment, yes, this moment you are so worried about and turn it over to the God of eternity.  Did you forget about him?  Did you think he didn't care?

He's waiting to walk with you, to help you, to meet you in this moment, no matter what the pain may be.  God loves you and he is working on something amazing.

Daddy

Jesus did something no one had done before.  No one had dared to do before. He called God his Father.  Actually it was more scandelous than that.  He called God "Daddy."  The original word was Abba.  It's the word small children would use for their fathers.  It's an intimate, personal word.  To call the God of creation "Daddy" must have sounded like blasphemy to the religious of Jesus' day.  It did upset them.

But what does it speak to you?  Here is what Paul wrote, "And because you are sons, God has sen the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" so you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God."

The scandal of the gospel is that the God who made us has adopted us as sons and daughters, children called by his name and a people who call him "Daddy."  He has invited us into an intimacy that few of us dare enjoy.  An intimacy of relationship that is driven by a love few really know. 

Do you know that the God who made you is not mad at you? Do you know that he loves you and wants to be your father?  Do you know that he loves you more than you could ever understand? 

God longs to wrap you in his love, to say to you, "my child."  He has loved you with a love that is bigger than you have ever experienced, more than you will ever understand.  And it's free! 

"For God so loved you that he gave his one and only son that if you would believe in him you will not perish, but will have life forever."

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Never


There are times, if we will listen, when God speaks.  It's never a shout.  At times it sounds like a whisper, a voice that speaks into the moment with clarity that makes you aware this is someone else, this is God.

This morning, as I read the word and worked through several other books I'm reading, these words came clearly to me.  They weren't part of what I was thinking or what I was reading, but they were clear and stopped me.  They were,


"I will never leave you or forsake you."

I grabbed my bible to find that passage. It appears twice, once in Joshua and once in Hebrews.  But the phrase started to tumble in my head over and over.  And with each pass I thought about the days ahead.  The people I know. Others who love God as well.  It became clear to me that these words speak to all of life and bring a comfort no one else can offer. A comfort I badly needed.

When I'm well or when I'm ill he will never leave me or forsake me.

When I'm prosperous or when I can't buy bread he will never leave me or forsake me.

When I have a job or when I'm let go he will never leave me or forsake me.

When my family is healthy and even when one I love dies he will never leave me or forsake me.

When I'm happy or full of fear he will never leave me or forsake me.

When I have friends or stand alone he will never leave me or forsake me.

When you are liked or when you are hated he will never leave me or forsake me.

It seems the more I thought about this the more solidly the mortar of this truth firmed under my feet.  No matter what happens, no matter what my situation he will never leave me or forsake me.

In the moments of the days I live in this gave me a footing I badly needed.  When it seems you have lost things that give you value, identity and security a solid foundation is more important than you realize.  For me today, as my mind swirls around a thousand fears, concerns and worries I'm thrilled to hear him say, "I will never leave you or forsake you."



Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Apathy

I've noticed that some who have walked with Christ, people who I know are Christians, have simply wandered off.....quietly wandered away.  They aren't mad really, they aren't even discouraged....not yet.  They have simply not seen the life of God in the community of faith and have lost interest.  

Life is busy, work is hard, things are crazy, why waste my time with church and church stuff when I get nothing from it?  Why invest my time when no one really knows I'm there or even cares?  I'd rather sleep in.

I think, in these days of craziness, the best weapon of the enemy is apathy.....a slow chilling of faith and interest that leaves us unfeeling and uncaring about the most important thing in life- a walk with God.  Without passion, without a real interest why should I keep going, why should I continue to be part of something that does nothing for me?  

Apathy chills us until we forget what excited us in the first place.....we lose our first love, we get cold.  You need to know this happens to all of us!  We all cool off.  The flames of our faith are something we must fan constantly to keep it fresh.

It means seeking out others for fellowship, time to pray and share our lives.  It means setting aside time to be in the bible, just reading, to hear from God.  Honestly,  it's a lot like paddling upstream!  It's work, it's the narrow road, it's challenging, and it's easier to do nothing....

....but when we do nothing apathy seeps into our very bones and chills us to the point we forget why we were excited about faith in the first place.

It's easy to wander, to become apathetic, to grow cold.  It's a challenge to stay near the flames, to seek out community even when you don't feel like it.  It's important because the greatest weapon of the enemy in our day is not outright sin...it's apathy.



Wednesday, November 01, 2017

You're missing it!



May I tell you something important?

I might offend you, but you need to know it.

You are missing it!

You're missing the moments, 
the breath in, 
the breath out.

You're missing the second that just passed and you were worried about the hour ahead.

You're missing a smile from a child, distracted by your cell phone.

You're missing the breeze that just blew on  your cheek, distracted by the dog barking in the next yard.

You're missing the moments.

We all do.  

We all live beyond the moments 
but there is nothing more important than this very moment in time.  

It will never happen again, you will never see it again, your child's smile will never be the same again, the breeze will never touch you again as it just did.

There is so much we miss without even realizing it.

Recently I was in Israel and had the experience of a lifetime as I toured the holy land.  On the third day we were at the sea of Galilee about to take a boat ride in a boat similar to the one Jesus sailed these waters and I realized I didn't have my cell phone. It wasn't in my pocket, it wasn't in my bag. I didn't know where it was.  I lost it.

We had to board the boat for the trip and all I could think about was that phone, where was it? did I lose it? what happened to it?

And suddenly I caught myself with this thought, "You're missing this! You're missing all of this distracted by something you can't do anything about right now."  I caught myself and set aside the phone to enjoy the moment I would never have again.  It was great.

But then I thought, as we moved through the week, how often I have done this same thing over and over again.  I have missed years of important things by the distractions of other things.  

I've missed much of life with things that really don't matter at all.

The Bible talks of this and gives direction for the solution.  

It demands we realize what is happening, make a decision and change our moments.  If you don't, you will miss it.  Possibly the most important 'it' of your life!

At the end of life you will say just one thing, "I wish I had enjoyed the moments more. I missed so much."


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Never forget


I have to admit....I forget.  I forget some of the most profound things I have ever experienced and am overwhelmed by the trials of today.  I forget what God has done in my life and fret over the trials of today....completely forgetting his love and care every moment of my life!  How do I forget so easily? How do I trust him so little?  It grieves me to know, like the children of Israel in the wilderness, I forget all God has done and find myself worrying, complaining and fretting over the trials of today.

But this morning I watched a portion of a sermon by an old friend as he shared the story of God's touch in his life.  And I remembered when God did that in my life as well....but until I saw his story I had almost forgotten.  How could I forget the most profound thing that has ever happened to me?  But I did!  

Here is the passage my friend shared,


The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.

Zeph. 3:17


He will take great delight in you.

His love will change how he deals with you.

He will sing about you!

Do you realize how amazing this is?

In my own life my encounter with God's love happened nearly 47 years ago, but changed my life forever.  

How could I forget that encounter, that reality, that presence of God's love in a moment?  But I had!  

It's sad how easy it is for us to forget when God parted the Red Sea, fed us with manna and gave us water from the rock....and then, only days later, we complain because we have no meat.

We forget to remember that God loves us, he cares for us, he sees us and will never let us go.  Never forget that you are madly and passionately loved by the God who made you and saved you!  

Never forget!




Monday, October 16, 2017

Choices and Outcomes


You choices change your outcomes

You have heard that in different ways all your life

but

here is the truth...

You can't always control your situation,
what happens or what has happened to you

but you do control your responses to those situations

A young man by the name of Daniel lived all of this out
He was taken into captivity
His parents probably killed
His home destroyed
His life changed
He never saw his home again
He couldn't control any of those things

But what he could control was his choice
about his situation
and
he chose to live for God
in the middle of the worse possible situation

his choices completely changed his outcomes
and
the outcomes of his people
and 
his country of captivity

No matter what happens in your life
never forget you choose your response
you choose how you will deal with the situation
and
that choice will change the outcome in you
and
in the situation you face


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Nothing really matters

This morning I had to take our dog to the veterinarian for a checkup. As I waited with my nervous little dog in the waiting room two old men were visiting and one said to the other, "Well, nothing really matters anyway." 

My first thoughts were of a Queen song, but then I imagined he had to be either a realist, a pragmatist, a fatalist or a Nihilist.  Since he was old I thought him a fatalist resolved to his situation but I wondered.

Why would he believe nothing really matters?  What had brought him to that point?  Did he lose faith somewhere? Did he just give up?  It was such a shocking statement from the lips of an older gentleman that I began to wonder what had brought him to that dark place.

But, as I thought about it I realized it might be a liberating place as well.  If you aren't clinging to anything, aren't expecting anything, then you aren't surprised or disappointed by anything either.  It might be a great defense mechanism for him.  "Well, nothing really matters so who cares that the house burned to the ground."

But we are not left at such a sad place.  God has come and shouted to the world that life has meaning, we are not just animals doomed to death and oblivion, but we are the loved creations of God.  And his love brought him here to tell us, "YOU really matter!"  And then he proved it by giving everything to give us life.

The grand and glorious declaration of a loving God is that there is hope, there is a purpose, we are loved....and it matters!





Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Tragedy

All hell broke loose this week in Las Vegas.  It is a tragedy beyond words.  

Tragedy plagues our planet.  Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, floods, draughts....shall I continue?

Tragedy is a stark and sobering reality for the human race.  After every tragedy where life is lost one of the questions we all ask is "Why?"  

and

"Where is God when these things happen?"

Tragedy leaves us looking for answers that cannot be found easily and sometimes not at all.

We blame the shooter, the guns, the government, we even blame God.  

We want someone to pay.

But rarely will we find an answer, a note, a message in the clouds.  Rarely will we understand.  And what puzzles us even more is that tragedy often takes the best of us and leaves the wretched untouched.

In a vacuum of answers the one thing I hope tragedy does when it knocks on your door is drive you to God.  Don't run to him for answers. I've never found him willing to explain to us children why the boo boo hurts or why he didn't  stop it.  And when we ask, "Why did you allow this?"  we almost always hear silence.  I think the reason for God's silence is our inability to understand what has happened and what he is doing about it.  

In the midst of tragedy don't look up in anger, look up in prayer to a loving God who cares more than you could ever know.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Small graces

They are easy to miss.  Life is so busy. But God provides small graces each day to reveal himself, his love and his presence.  Most rush right past them.  There are meetings to attend, paperwork to do, babies to hold, kids to shuttle.

But be careful.  In the rush of life you will easily miss the small graces of God's presence, the thin places where he makes himself know, where he smiles at you, shows his love.  They are like gentle whispers.  They won't force their way into your attention, but they are all around you.

These sweet graces begin early.  A bird singing.  God took care of that bird through the night and he is singing of God's care and provision.  Did you hear it?

The sun came up.  Without a sound it declared that God is faithful, caring and providing for us.

Hopefully you were able to eat something to begin your day.  It's part of the daily bread thing God talks about.  He provides it for the saint and the sinner.  

Small graces.  Don't rush through your day too quickly.  You will miss them and in doing so you will miss God.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Staying on track


It's easy to get side-tracked, come off the rails and crash.  

It's hard to stay focused on the main things and keep going when the world is constantly trying to detour you.  

For me the tracks that keep me from crashing are two- love God and love people.  It seems these were important to Jesus too.  When asked what was most important these were the only two things on his list so I think I'm safe if these are my #1 and #2.  

The easiest way for me to stay focused is to simply follow Jesus around.  To do this I'm daily walking with him through the gospels...walking with him and the disciples, listening to his words, watching his interactions and learning from his relationships with both the Father and those around him.

One passage I go to often is from a sermon he gave in Luke 6.  These are profound words and force me to deal with life and people in a different way than what I see happening around me.  

Read these words from Jesus and then give me a moment to close with just one thought,


“To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.
 “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”

What if.....

What if this is how we chose to deal with everyone?  What would happen? What would change in our lives?  How would they change?

What if we really believed these words and lived them out?


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

There is more!




"What the resurrection means is... that if it comes to a point in your life where it seems that even death is inevitable and there is no way to escape it, well, death is not the end. There is more. There is hope no matter what."

Monday, September 18, 2017

Choosing sides



Are you old enough you remember the days of "choosing sides?"  Two captains would be chosen and they would take turns picking their teams from all those gathered to play.

It was a terrible experience...especially if you were last to be chosen.  That meant you were the least wanted of all those gathered to play.  What a humiliating experience!  (I say that because I was often the last to be chosen.)  

If you, as captain, were lucky enough to get the right picks then victory was almost certain for your team.  Choosing sides filled the air with anticipation and whispers of "choose me", "choose me..."  None of us wanted to be humiliated by last place but we all wanted to play on a winning team.  

The whole experience was one of emotional scars for life, but if you got the right team, what fun that was!  You were sure to win and usually did.  If only Billy was your pitcher then you had it made.  If you could get Sam for a batter then the game was yours. Getting the right players made a win almost guaranteed.

As I read a passage in Psalms this morning I thought back to those days.  It made me wince and smile all at the same time.

The Psalmist wrote,


"In my distress I prayed to the 
Lord,
    and the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.
    What can mere people do to me?
Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me.
    I will look in triumph at those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
-->
    than to trust in people."

In one version the text reads, "the Lord is on my side." As I read those words my mind flashed back to the days of choosing sides and I imagined being picked to be on God's team, to be on his side and he on mine.  

The Lord is for me, he's on my side!  

What a game this will be!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

What would you give?


Imagine you happen on a treasure beyond imagination.  

No one had found it before, but there it is...yours for the taking...but it's hidden in the field of another.  

You contact the owner and ask if you might buy his field.  At first he's hesitant, but you persist.  The treasure pushing you on as you think about the riches that could be yours.


Finally the owner agrees to sell it but the price is far more than you imagined, far more than the field is worth!  


It would take all you own to pay the price! You take some time and add up your assets.  Sell the house, the car, the TV, all the furniture, sell everything and you will have just enough to buy it.  


Would you do it?  Would you give all you own for a treasure beyond imagination?


Of course you would!  


None of us would hesitate for a moment when given this offer. Where do I sign?  When can I take possession?  All our things, all we own would seem nothing compared to the treasure hidden in that field.  


That's the story Jesus told about another treasure. A treasure more valuable that all the wealth men can accumulate, a treasure more valuable than all we own!  Here are his words,


“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field."

A treasure more valuable that all you own.  Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is that treasure.  A treasure worth a thousand fortunes, a treasure worth all you possess.  A treasure that should excite you to give everything to get it.  

I fear, the way we live, most of us have yet to discover the treasure, we have yet to feel that sense of excitement that comes when we willingly give all we possess to get it.  

Sadly we treat the treasures of this world as more valuable than the treasures of the Kingdom.  It seems our value system is all messed up!  We pursue the gold, the girls and the goodies and miss the real treasure.

What Jesus described was a man on a mission- I must have that treasure, whatever it costs, I must make it mine.  

As I write this I realize that often my own attention is captured by the trinkets of the world and I miss the treasure of the Kingdom. 

Like the little girl clinging to her glass beads when her father wants to give her pearls I cling to the shinny things and often miss the true treasure.

What would you give to possess the most valuable treasure in all the world?  Would you give everything you possess and do it gladly?  Would you be excited to give it all up to have that hidden treasure?

What would you give?