Saturday, May 23, 2015

How little we know

In the car with my two grandsons, one 8 the other 6. The discussion about when a birthday party happened-
V. "It was a month ago."
G. "No, it was a year ago."
V. "No, IT WAS A MONTH AGO!"
G. "IT WAS A YEAR AGO, V."
and on it went. I thought as I listened, they are arguing about concepts neither of them understand.
It suddenly struck me...I wonder how often do we sound like this to God?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Encourage

I've started to do something you won't see. Daily I am sending a personal note of encouragement to someone.  It's a different person each day and in a year I will hopefully encourage 365 people.  (Do I know that many people???  Makes me worried for year two.)  

Anyway, my goal is to intentionally build up, encourage, lift up others around me.  None of us hear encouraging words as we should.  None of us are affirmed as much as we need. All of us wish someone would walk with us, even for a moment, to say, "you're awesome, keep going, I see you...I'm grateful for you."

Encourage.  What a simple idea and yet how rarely do we do it because we all struggle ourselves.  I wonder how a focus on others would encourage us as a side effect?  What would happen to us as we look out towards another?  I think we might discover encouragement ourselves.

And, just maybe, we could start something...so let me invite you to join me to be part of "Encourage."  Let's see what happens.



Monday, May 18, 2015

Imagine....

Have you ever wondered what went wrong with Christianity in America?  Have you ever imagined what could be if we did what Jesus told us?

Somehow we got it wrong and now, for many, we are considered judgmental, critical, narrow-minded.  It seems we have completely missed what Jesus called us to be in our world.

But imagine what could happen if we each, one by one, began to really live out our faith in small and simple ways.  Imagine what could change if we simply lived out one verse.  

1 Corinthians 16:14- "Do everything in love."  NIV translation

Four words. Pretty simple isn't it?  Imagine we just lived out these four words.  What could happen in each of our worlds?  What could God do with obedience to just four words, one verse?

Imagine we actually look for ways to love those we encounter daily, even those who don't know Jesus yet.  Imagine we were kind to them, asked about their kids, asked them how they were feeling and really listened!  Imagine we each send a note to just one person each day to encourage them.  Only one note a day!  In a year you will have touched 365 people!

Imagine giving a bigger tip to a waiter and asking about them as you encounter them.  Imagine actually turning off the TV and visiting with your wife, your husband, your kids.  

"Do everything in love."  What would happen if we lived out these four words?  How would our small part of the world change?

I remember, with a smile, a story (I'm sure it's made up) about a new young pastor in a church.  The first Sunday he preached on loving one another.  It was a good sermon and highly praised.  The next week he preached the same sermon.  The congregation gave him grace because he was young and new to the church.  The third Sunday he preached the same sermon again!  The church began to grumble a bit.  What did we do when we chose this guy for a pastor? On the fourth Sunday, yes, you guessed it, he preached the sermon about loving one another one more time.  After the service the elders pulled him aside and asked,  "Son, we know you are new, but don't you have any other sermons?"  He replied, "Oh, I have a lot of sermons and as soon as you get the first one down we will go to the second one."

I wonder....what could we do in our world if we became others focused and did everything in love?  Imagine what could happen in the kingdom of God.  Let's keep working on this one verse until we get it down.  Don't work on them all, just work on this one!

Here's what I'm going to do, beginning today.  I'm going to intentionally look for ways to share the love of Christ with everyone I meet, to do everything in love.  I'm going to send a note of encouragement to just one person each day.  I'm going to really listen to other people and care about what they are going through.  I'm going to do everything in love....with God's great help and grace.

Imagine what could happen.....


Friday, May 15, 2015

Home

We have been gone to visit family for about two weeks now.  It's been a great trip, but very tiring.  

About an hour ago we finally got home.  What a great word that is.....home.  It's messy, dirty, cluttered, the garage had flooded while we were gone, there's a musty smell in the air.....but it's home.

It's a place where we can be ourselves, relax, let our hair down and close out the world.  It's a place where no one cares about our mess and if they do they don't have to come over.  It's a sanctuary.  A place where you can be you.

I can't tell you the joy of sitting down in my recliner, putting the foot rest up and leaning back.  

Ahhhhh....what a great place.  Home.

I think God knows how much we need a place, a home, so he's planning ahead, construction is already underway for a home we will never have to leave.  A place of rest. A place we belong. A place where we can be ourselves...finally be who God meant us to be.

Home.  What a great place that is, what a great hope we have.




Thursday, May 14, 2015

One thing

It's easy to get confused, isn't it?  We are so busy with so many things.  All around us there is noise and activity trying to grab our attention and time.  

For me, as I think about life and the distractions, it is very difficult to keep my eyes on the most important things.  

As I read the end of the book of Revelation this morning I noticed this same thing happened to John.  He was overwhelmed with visions of future things, words to write down, questions to answer, fears to deal with.  It must have been overwhelming at the least.

At the end of the book is this encounter,


"I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me.  But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!”



With all that was happening around him John got his eyes on the wrong one, the wrong thing, and this angel quickly refocuses him on the one thing he most needed to do....worship God.


There are hundreds of things we can "bow down to" in our days, things to capture our passions, our time, our attention and ultimately our worship, but at the end of the bible one angel, with just two words, refocuses us on the one thing that is most important.


Worship God!


Have you found your passions, your time, your attention focused on the wrong things?  Have you found yourself worshipping, even if unintended, something other than God?  Take some time and brush away all the distractions.  Focus your attentions and time on just one thing- worship God.  



And when you do, everything else will find it's proper place.




Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Quote of the day

"You can't live in this world and expect not to get any of it on you..." -James Hinds

Friday, May 01, 2015

Nature, Nurture, Need

I love the great prayers of the bible.  I am challenged by how others prayed, how they sought God in their times of need.  Thankfully the bible gives many prayers in detail to help us.  When I come to a prayer in a narrative passage I try to slow down and listen carefully to the words of the prayer.  Each one has something to teach me.

One of the great prayers of the bible is woven into my favorite narrative from the Old Testament.  It's a story of fear, faith, trust and deliverance.  

In the passage the king hears that a large army is coming, in fact they are closer than anyone knew.  There wasn't time to prepare weapons or build defenses...the enemy was simply too close!  

The text says the king was scared!  So what did he do?  He turned his attention to seek God in prayer.  In fact he called for a fast and invited everyone to pray with him.  And the people came from everywhere, mothers and fathers with their children to join the king in prayer.

The king's prayer is wonderful in honesty and insight.  It has three parts and they are important for how we pray too.  Here is his prayer,

Part 1- Nature-  Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.” 
In this first part of his prayer the king reflects on the nature of God- “are you not?”  He looks up.  What is God like?  Who is he?  What can I know about him to help me as I pray and seek him?  If I don’t start here both my God and my prayer will be too small and my need will be too great.
Part 2- Nurture- Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’”
In the second part of his prayer the king looks at the nurture of God- “did you not?”  He looks back.  How has God taken care of us in the past?  What has he done for us when we needed him before?  At a time of great need, when my fears are large, I need to look back at the wonderful love and care of God in all my needs in past trials.
Part 3- Need-  “Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
In this third part the king addresses his need- “will you not?”  He looks ahead. Because of who God is and what he has done I can ask for my needs.  In this story the king asks for God to help them.  He falls on the mercy of God and honestly, sometimes, that’s all we can do. 

I love his closing words.  It’s a bold statement for a king.  He says, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  When I come to a prayer like this I’m in awe.  Here is a king, the ruler of Israel, admitting to God and his people he doesn’t know what to do, but in that admission he directs the focus of his listeners in one specific direction- UP…. “but our eyes are on you.”


The end of the story is exciting.  Because of the king’s prayer and trust in God they saw him work once more.  I invite you to read the whole story in 2 Chronicles 20.  It will inspire your faith.  

And, I hope the king’s model of prayer- look up (God’s nature), look back (God’s nurture), and look ahead (my need) will help you in your own prayers.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

The terrible sin

We are becoming a world with its fist in the air to God.  

The anger, resentment, rebellion of our world is growing.  We see it in the wars, the riots of our cities, the parade to demonstrate this or that.

All around us our world is coming apart at the seams.  At the core of it all is one terrible sin.  It's the #1 sin, the worst sin.  Although all sin (a word we rarely use anymore) has the same outcome there is one that is the cause of all others.  The one sin that is #1 on the list and is the cause of most of what we see in the world is pride.

Pride was the cause of satan's rebellion.  It was at the heart of Adam's sin.  It's the driving force for much of what gets me in trouble.


It's my #1 problem!  Pride makes me jealous of someone else's success, envious of what another has, resentful of what another does. At the heart of it all is pride.  

Pride's symbol is "I".  I am the master of my fate, I make my own decisions, it's my right to do this, go there, believe that.  Pride is me trying to be god.  

But it doesn't work....because all around me are other proud little creatures trying to be god as well...and so we fight, squabble, kill, steal and a hundred other things to validate what pride has made me believe about myself.

The number #1 sin?  Pride.  It's the first sin and my biggest enemy.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Letter from Christ

Years ago, before most of us lived, people used to write letters.  (Imagine that!

They would write to another person on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope, attach a stamp, address and send it.  It might take weeks to get to the one receiving it, but the hope was that they might write back.  It was the primary means of communication for many decades.

It was e-mail before the Internet.

Paul wrote about this when he said,

2 Cor. 3:3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

From this passage these words caught my attention and captivated my imagination, "you are a letter from Christ".  Suddenly my thoughts wandered to my encounters with others.  In each of those I bring a letter from Christ telling that person something about him, whether true or false.  If my encounter is angry I'm telling them Christ is mad at them.  If I'm impatient I'm telling them God doesn't have time for them.  My encounters with others mean something because I'm a Christian.  They communicate more than I know, more than I often realize because in each encounter I'm telling the other person something about God.

I'm a letter from Christ to each person I meet.  What are my words and my life telling them about him?  What am I communicating to them about the God I say I worship?  Each encounter isn't just me engaging another person, but it's a letter from Christ to that person as well. I'm the mailman and the letter.

After each encounter with someone what do they know about Christ because of me?  Are they drawn to him because of me or repulsed?  Do they want to "write back?" 

You are a letter from Christ.  What does your letter say?







Thursday, April 23, 2015

Watching trees grow


I was at a staff retreat in East Texas earlier this week. Outside the house where I was staying was this beautiful pine tree.  

I watched it all the time we were there and it didn't do anything!

I was hoping to see it grow, but it didn't move, it didn't change....it didn't do anything!

I'm sure you're thinking, "You're crazy, you can't see a tree grow!" 

That's true, so why do we think we can see a person grow?  

It takes time.  

I could watch someone for months and they may not seem to change at all!  In our Christian world we would quickly conclude they weren't really a Christian in the first place or they weren't really "serious about their faith."

But would you say that about my tree?  Would you tell that tree, if it were really a good tree, you would grow.  But it is growing!  You just can't see it.

Why do we expect the growth of a person to be something we can see and measure?  It's usually not!  
Growth is slow, steady and calmly happening...it takes time....you won't see it but it's happening.

Paul wrote the the Christians  in Ephesus, "Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong." 

I have been a Christian for more than 50 years....most of my life...and I still have so many things that aren't as they should be....but I'm growing.  And one day, perhaps today, I will finish the race and become what God made me to be....until then I'm going to keep growing.