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 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 takes 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.

Monday, April 20, 2015

That's Jesus!

What would the perfect man look like? 

What would you expect God to be like if he became a man and lived across the street?  

What would the person look like who loved you without question, even though they knew everything about you? 

That’s Jesus.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Defining God

Let me start with a statement that will upset some, but will clarify the issue for many,

There are no true atheists.  There are simply people who have created a god they don't believe in. 

Everyone believes in God.  We can't escape him, even though some would wish he didn't exist.  When I meet an atheist (one who calls himself an atheist) and he tells me there is no god I ask him to describe this god he doesn't believe in.  I probably don't believe in him either.

But define the true God, the God of the Bible accurately and we all bow, even if reluctantly, in his presence.  And, in fact, one day we will all bow and worship him.

The real issue is not whether we believe in God or not, but rather how we define the God we deny.

Yesterday afternoon I spent some great time with a man who would have called himself an agnostic.  He's near 70, dying of cancer, months to live and has no idea what's ahead.  

I told him if I were in his place I would be scared to death! 

We visited for an hour and the core issue came down to this- his definition of God made it impossible for him to believe.  I wouldn't believe in his definition of God either!  But when we clarified who the God of the Bible really is his attitude and his eternity changed.

Defining God seems more important than most of us realize.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

God in flesh

 "God in flesh is now his people indwelt 
rather than his son incarnate."

Monday, April 06, 2015

Hello! Is anyone there?

“I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer; 
I stand up, but you merely look at me." 
Job 30:20

Have you ever felt that God has his phone on silent when you call?  

Do you wonder sometimes where God is when you feel you need him most?

A few nights ago, as I prayed in the night, this thought ran through my mind, "Hello!  Hello!  Is anyone there??"  It was a random thought, but it's one that had origin in a sense that my prayers aren't being answered or heard.

We all have those times when it seems heaven is silent.  

I have a pastor friend in Kenya, Winstone, who has been begging God for help with his needs and has, in many ways, finally given up.  His post yesterday was, "Your will be done."  It's a white flag to God.  I give up! I've prayed and you don't answer. I've asked and you do nothing. You know my need....where are you?

Hello!  Is anyone there?

And yet I know God is there, he is listening, he loves us, he cares and he can do what's going on?  Why does it seem that there are times when heaven is silent?

Often we feel like King David, who wrote of his times of silence, 

"Do not hide your face from your servant; 
answer me quickly, for I am in trouble."
Psalm 69


Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. 
Do not hide your face from me 
or I will be like those who go down to the pit. 
Psalm 143

Prayer is a wonderful and confusing part of my life.  
I know God hears, I know he sees, 
I know he understands everything about me, 
my needs, my desires....
honestly he knows everything....
and yet, often, when I pray.....he is silent.

Doesn't he know I need help?

Doesn't he see how bad things are right now?

Doesn't he care?

Ahhh, and that's the core issue isn't it?  
At the heart of all of this is a sense that 
when God is silent he doesn't care.  
He doesn't care about me,
my needs or my situation.

But I know the truth is just the opposite.  
I'm his dearly loved son. 
He knows my needs and is working 
for his glory and my good in everything.  
Nothing is too small for him to care about 
or deal with,
but when heaven is silent I must wait.

I must wait for God.

We don't like to wait and so we try to bully God..."don't you care? Don't you love me?
Can't you see I 'need' this?"

And yet heaven may be silent still.  I find I cannot bully God. I've tried! I really have.  He just smiles, pats me on the head and I wait for him.

Hello!  Is anyone there? 

YES!  The God of glory is there...working for his glory and my good...and often it means I must wait, be still and as David wrote in Psalms, "Hush and know that I am God."

When it seems God isn't taking your calls don't give up. He's working and you will be amazed at what he does.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

He is risen!

The message of Easter

"The message of Easter is that God's new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you're now invited to belong to it.” ― N.T. Wright

Friday, April 03, 2015

The terrible glorious day

It's good Friday.

He was tried.  

He was declared not guilty 

three times.

And yet the crowds cried, 

"Kill him, kill him!" 

The voices of the crowd won. 

The judge gave in.

Lashes to his back.

Mocked by the guards.

Beaten mercilessly.

Spit on.

Executed in the cruelest way possible.  

A slow death for everyone to watch.

There he hung. 



Laughed at. 



The only sinless man

dying for the sins of all.

The perfect Son

obeying the plan of God

for the redemption

of a fallen race.

On that day God 

was satisfied.

The debt was paid.

We were redeemed!

What a terrible glorious day.

Quote of the day

"I have no problem believing in miracles.  

I am one!" -Bono

Thursday, April 02, 2015

His name is Jim

His name is Jim.

I met him at Starbucks a few years ago.

He was there every day I came by, visiting with friends, hanging out.

We connected, exchanged names, and began to visit casually each time we both found ourselves at Starbucks.

Last year, as I sat there with my coffee and computer, Jim came over to visit.  He said, "Can we talk? I just found out I'm dying of cancer."

We talked about death, about God, about salvation, about Christ and eternity. 

Today, Jim left his table and came to see me.  He sat down and said, "It's getting close.  I don't have much time."  

Once more we had talked about faith, Christ, salvation and eternity. 

I asked my friend, "Can I pray for you?" 

He smiled and said, "Please..."  

And we held hands in Starbucks and prayed.

I won't see him for coffee much longer, and will miss our visits but he's ready for eternity.  

His name is Jim. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

The gift of everything

This morning, in a men's group I'm part of, we worked through a chapter of C.S. Lewis' book "The Screwtape Letters."  It was a profound and yet simple idea of how we claim ownership of so time, my car, my house, my job, my wife....and on the list goes.  "Mine!" is probably the most used word in our language as we lay claim to portions of creation.

And yet, as we talked about it, I suddenly realized that nothing is mine!  Everything, literally everything is a gift from the hand of life, my day, my time, my talents, my job, my house....everything comes from him.  Everything belongs to him because he made it all....including me!

When I change the descriptive word "mine" to "his" it changes how I view the things I think are mine to own, to control, to be angry about if lost.  So much of my life is fretting over "mine."

I know this stuff.  Perhaps you do as well. But once more I am made aware that everything, literally everything is a gift from God's wonderful gracious hand.

It creates amazing opportunities to give thanks that I ignored before, when it was "mine."  Now, because it's really his, given as a gift for my use, my time is now free to give away because it's really his time and he can use it as he wishes.  And when I have a moment to sit and think, to rest and relax, I can thank him for that sweet gift.

When I wake up to a new day I can thank him for the gift of the day ahead, the moments to enjoy more of his gracious hand.  When I drive "my" car to work I thank him for the gift of transportation.  But you might say, "but didn't you pay for the car yourself?"  And I have to smile when I tell you, "yes, and who gave me the job and the money to pay for the car?"

Everything is a gift from God's gracious hand.  As you go through your day take moments and thank him for letting you have and use his things, his good blessing, his flowers, his air, his sunshine. Everything is a gift from God.

Being a recipient of the gift of everything takes "mine" out of my vocabulary and actually gives me a freedom I didn't realize I could have.  If it's all his I can open my hands, share his things with others and enjoy the next moment when his grace gives me more to enjoy.

How wonderful to be a recipient of the gift of everything!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lives past

My thoughts this morning wander to lives past.  

I'm reading 1 Chronicles in the Old Testament and in those first 10 chapters are page after page of names.  Names of lives lived, families born, hopes and dreams, smiles and tears.  Here are just a couple verses from the thousands mentioned, 

The descendants of Elkanah:
Amasai, Ahimoth,
Elkanah his son, Zophai his son,
Nahath his son, Eliab his son,
Jeroham his son, Elkanah his son
and Samuel his son.

Page after page the names continue. Names and lives recorder nowhere else.  Families, stories, histories all lost except for their names.  And yet there is one who knows every story, every laugh, every smile, every tear.  The God who recorded their names knows each story, every hope, every dream.

The great God who recorded their names knows my name and yours.  Although we may be lost in the records of history, if history continues on, we are known and remembered by one. 

Our culture talks a lot about significance and legacy, but frankly it's just illusion.  We all will be quickly forgotten after our grandchildren are gone.  And yet, there is one who knows us and loves us. It seems appropriate that we live for his approval and not for an imaginary legacy of men who will quickly forget we ever lived.

As I read these many names I wonder, who were they? What did they do? What did they hope for, worry about? What did they dream of? But all of that is lost to all but one...the one who knows each one of us.

Living for an audience of one, and not for the applause of men seems to be the wisest choice I can make because 15 minutes of fame in a world that will quickly forget me is nothing compared to one who knows and loves me for eternity.