Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Meeting a need


I wonder what some people are thinking! They use the strangest things to meet their needs. We use other people to fix loneliness, alcohol to forget our problems, illegal drugs to deal with depression, and a hundred other misused tools to fix the problems of our lives. I think many of our solutions to the problems we face look like this to God. He has to be saying, just like you are right now, "Huh? What are they thinking? That won't work!" But we try it anyway...and discover the hard way that our solutions don't work. It's only when we do things God's way that we get the right tools for the right problems.

Accidental truth


Sometimes we stumble upon truth without meaning to. This t-shirt, badly translated, actually has a great message- "Time goes. That's it!" And then at the bottom this fascinating statement- "Marriage is for when life is not so good."
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I don't know what the intended message was, but this one works for me. Two true statements that, although not connected, actually seems well thought out. Time goes. That's it!....You only go through life once, so don't whine about it...time goes for all of us, but the second part caught my eye- "Marriage is for when life is not so good." I do wish I knew what they meant to say, but this badly worded statement works well- marriage is the best place to be when life is not so good. During tough days, difficult times, it's great to have someone go with you through those times. Now, I don't mean to suggest that if you are going through a tough time that marriage will make it better. You may actually make things worse, but to have a partner to walk with you through the difficult days is wonderful. When one stumbles the other can hold them up. When two walk together even dark days seem bearable. Accidental truth, isn't it great?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Caged


It's interesting to me to see what keeps so many captive when freedom is all around. Often what we think is freedom is simply a new kind of cage that keeps us from enjoying what God calls true freedom.
Unforgiveness of another is an obvious cage to most of us, but from the one holding the grudge you would hear, "I have every right to hold a grudge. Look what they did to me and they haven't asked forgiveness!" This person believes their freedom gives them the right to hold someone else in bondage to their unforgiveness, but they are the one who is caged with a full view of freedom all around.
For another it sounds like this, "I just want to be happy." This is a most deceptive cage. The cage is the illusion that happiness is "out there", with someone else, or doing what "I want". But the cage called "I just want to be happy" makes them choose bondage. It's a most cruel kind of cage because the very thing they most want eludes them and teases them still with the promise just out of reach of their bondage.
What's tragic, as I watch the lives of those who come to talk to me, is that they hold the keys to their own cages, but simply don't want to open the door. It's sad to watch someone, who is caged in full view of open skies, refuse to open the door. What a tragedy. But, sadly, there are cages hanging from every tree with people we know claiming their right to do as they choose. What most miss is that freedom comes only when we pursue what God wants in our lives. When we obey him true freedom forces open the door of the cage and we are free for the first time. It's strange, but true freedom comes when we obey God. When we insist on our own way we lived caged lives with freedom all around.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Coming soon...

I'm working on a new post I hope to have up soon. I would love your feedback on the title alone. Let me know what the title provokes in your thoughts and ideas it brings to mind.

Ok, ready...here's the title- "Band-aids and bullet holes."

Coming soon....

Friday, September 25, 2009

Talking to God



Prayer is an amazing thing. In a moment of time, with a whisper, a word, a plea...I can come into the presence of the creator of the universe and appeal for help, unload my heart, ask for provision, or simply sit in his presence. What an amazing thing...talking to the creator of the universe. But beyond that...even more amazing....he listens when I call. In a moment, with no one else aware of my heart, I can pray, "Oh Lord, help! Please...." And in that moment he listens to my request. He's there! He hears! He cares about me!
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I love the prayers of David. He's a man who knew how to pray. David is a "dump the truck" man of prayer. When he prays he puts it all out there. Over the centuries David has been mankind's best teacher on the topic of prayer. No one ever came to God so openly, boldly, or so passionately as David did. Here is part of one of the prayers of David and a few thoughts about talking to God...
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Psalm 86
A prayer of David.
1 Hear, O LORD, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
2 Guard my life, for I am devoted to you.
You are my God; save your servant
who trusts in you.
3 Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for I call to you all day long.
4 Bring joy to your servant,
for to you, O Lord,
I lift up my soul.
5 You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
abounding in love to all who call to you.
6 Hear my prayer, O LORD;
listen to my cry for mercy.
7 In the day of my trouble I will call to you,
for you will answer me.
8 Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord;
no deeds can compare with yours.
9 All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, O Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.
10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
you alone are God.
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What an amazing prayer. You can feel David's anguish as he prays. You can almost see his pain, but at the same time there is a confidence, an assurance that he's not just talking to the wind. He's talking to God and he knows God will answer.
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The author of Hebrews invites us to prayer with these words from his book, "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." As I've read that verse over the years I imagine this picture in my mind....in that quiet moment when I come into God's presence to ask for his help I'm surrounded by millions of others who have come at God's invitation as well to ask for help in their own lives. As I begin to pray, with that first word, "Father..." I'm keenly aware that the ear of the Lord is fully attentive to MY request. He is listening to ME! He hears my prayer and knows my need intimately. He cares about ME. And, in that moment of vivid awareness that I'm his sole focus, I am also aware that he is listening in the same way to each one who has come to ask for his help. It's wonderful and amazing that the God of the universe listens when I pray! With just one word, "Lord...." I am suddenly in his presence, before his throne, and his ear is open to my prayer, my need, my request. He cares about me. In that short verse in Hebrews the author makes it clear that I can come with confidence because he cares about me. His grace has made the way for me. In that time of prayer I find two things I most need...mercy and grace to help. So, in these wee hours of the morning, as I talk about this amazing God and the opportunity we have to talk to him, I'm going to leave you now and spend some time in his presence. We have some things to talk about.....I hope to see you there, in front of his throne, talking to the one who hears when we call....
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Quote of the day

Some quotes, although political in nature, are just too good not to share. This quote is from a Jerusalem Post article about President Obama's speech at the United Nations. It's part of an article by MICHAEL FREUND, here are a few of his words from the article,

"...sounding like a scorned substitute teacher being ignored by his pupils,"
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It's amazing how well some writers can paint pictures with words. Michael is one of those authors. I just loved the imagery of these few words and wanted to share them with you.
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(Disclaimer- this is NOT a political comment on my part, simply a fascination with words.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Perceptions


Australia is going through an amazing storm right now. Not rain, but dust. The skies over Sydney are orange with the dust from the outback in the air. Apparently winds from the central part of the country have blown eastward and the dust from the outback has colored the sky over most of the eastern coast.
Now, if you have read my blog long enough you know I'm going to try to make something spiritual out of this....and I am. I'm sorry, I can't help it. A normally blue sky is now a dusty orange in Sydney because of something that has happened to them. It wasn't their fault, but it's affected them anyway. Now, all they see are orange skies. It's reality in nature, but it happens to us in different ways. It is literally true that what others around us do impacts us. Our perceptions and how we see things are changed by the lives of others. An alcoholic father changes the colors of life for a child. An abusive mother distorts reality for her children. A cruel or unloving mate changes how we view ourselves. Our peers at school can turn against us and make us feel fat, unloved, or outcast. Our perceptions of our world are changed by what others do. Our skies go from blue to orange and we lose sight of how the skies of our lives should really look.
What we see because of these influences is real to us, but it's not the way it should be. We see orange skies, but they are supposed to be blue. How can these changes in our reality be put right? How can we get our vision of things set back to a correct view of life? As I talk to people and help many with their life issues it's clear to me that the influence of others affects the perception of all of us. We see things differently than we should because of abuse, anger, loss of love, perception of what things should be like. Our vision of reality is messed up and now we see orange when we should see blue.
How can we correct our perceptions? How can we get a "blue sky view" again? It comes from time in God's word. My question to people who are seeing orange is first to ask them, "Are you reading God's word?" I know their answer, it's always the same, "No, but I know I need to be...." And their voice fades off to a whisper. Let me share with you the way to correct your wrong perceptions on reality. The way to change your orange skies to blue again- Read God's word! Get in it daily, absorb yourself in it. Memorize scriptures, make it part of your life. It will clear the dust from your eyes, it will correct your wrong perspectives, it will make your skies blue again. Perceptions can become reality unless we have a way to see clearly. God's word is the corrective lens for a world gone orange.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday's cartoon

(click on image to enlarge)

Life and weather




As you can tell from my recent weeks of posting I have been very short on devotional thoughts, spiritual insights and inspiration. Truthfully, it comes as rain often does...it may be a very dry time in a life, but a cloud will pass over and unload its bounty on the dry ground reviving life and inspiring hope. Life is often like the weather (not at all like a box of chocolates.) There are times of storm, wonderful times of calm healing rains, dry difficult times and there are days when it appears that everyone around you is blessed with a cloud full of rain, but your sky is hauntingly empty and your draught continues. As the ground cracks under your feet it makes you more keenly aware of the bounty being harvested in the life next door. The challenge for us is to keep our eyes on the Lord and trust him whether we are in a flood or a draught. Inspiration, for me, doesn't always come from the blessings of rain alone. Often inspiration comes from the empty sky above when it appears God is not only silent, but seems to be absent as well. And yet, I know he's there. I know he loves me. I know that he is working in my life. I know because I know him. He has cared for me my entire life and proven himself over and over again. Like the weather, the circumstances of our lives changes. We will all have difficult days to deal with. Most of us will also have days of bounty. We get in trouble when we think the days of bounty should be our norm. Normal for a Christian is an intimate relationship with God regardless of the weather. When the relationship is missing then our circumstances become our focus. If you ever begin to depend on circumstances for your joy and happiness you are in for a difficult life. It's my relationship with God that will carry me through every weather condition. It's my walk with him that will bring joy and peace even when the ground cracks under my feet, even if I'm up to my knees in the flood. I've tried to describe this in a hundred different ways as I've written about the Christian life. The focus of it all is a relationship with God. The goal of it all is a relationship with God. The desire of God's heart is a relationship with him, and yet we so easily focus on the weather...the circumstances around us. Here's a wonderful example of this in the life of another man...
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Mat. 14:25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
28 "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
29 "Come," he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

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Like all of us Peter got his eyes on the weather, his circumstances, and took his eyes off of the Lord. Notice verse 30, "But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"" Now really, can anyone see the wind? Didn't he already know that what he was doing was impossible? Why was he worried about the wind? But it was just enough to take his eyes off of the Lord and then his circumstances got the best of him. And they do the same for us. When you begin to focus on your circumstances you will begin to sink, and hopefully, you will cry out, "Lord, help me!" as Peter did. What fascinated me in this passage is that Jesus was not far away, he didn't have to run to Peter to catch him. Before Peter even got wet it says, "Jesus reached out his hand and caught him." He was that close and yet Peter lost his focus. We do the same thing, but when the weather of your life catches your attention remember that God is right there with you to help you through your difficult days. The appeal is simple, "Lord, help me!" and he will reach out and catch you.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lucy is 9!



We have 5 awesome grandchildren, but the oldest, Lucy, is 9 years old today! Joye and Lucy just got back from shopping and Lucy said she was rich for a day. She unpacked all her loot and showed all she had purchased for her birthday. We are blessed! Happy Birthday, Lucy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Warnings


I wish all the warnings of life were this clear. I wish this sign had been posted for me a year and a half ago. Signs like this are funny to us because you can't warn people not to have an accident, they just happen. But scripture does give us warnings we can heed, things we can avoid. The book of Proverbs is full of these kind of warnings and wisdom. It is a book that a grandfather might write to his grandchildren to tell them about the things he has learned in a lifetime, things to watch for, things to avoid. But most ignore the signs anyway because "it won't happen to us"....but when it does our first response is, "I wish I had seen that sign." The signs are everywhere and easy to read. Let me invite you on an odyssey I have been on for quite a while. Each day, first thing, I look at the calendar to see the date and then read that chapter in Proverbs. That way I literally read through the book of Proverbs once a month. It's a great way to become familiar with all the wisdom signs I will need as I go through my days. When you see the signs others have posted you can avoid the falls.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Quote of the day

I read this line in an article about the largest churches in America today. This one line popped out of the text and caught my attention. If you want to read the whole article you can find it here, but this is the quote I wanted to share with you-


"The best churches have very intentional systems to move people from sitting in rows to sitting in circles (in small groups) to going out and making a difference in the world."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Awestruck


I'm preparing to dig into our study in Hebrews tonight. I'm starting in chapter one (makes sense, doesn't it?), but I'm only working through the first three verses! As I looked at the outline I wondered....how can I fill an hour and a half with only three verses? As I have begun to prepare, these verses begin to unpack themselves and suddenly I am in awe of Jesus Christ, who he is and what he has done, more than I have ever been. And now I'm wondering...how can I get through these three verses in only an hour and a half? I think that's truly the way it is with God. As we begin to look at him more closely our eyes are opened, our ears hear and our minds are overwhelmed with this amazing God we worship. He begins to open our eyes to who he is and the depth of it takes our breath away. We cannot comprehend this amazing one who loves us so wonderfully. I really think I might need another class session for these three verses....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Now for something really amazing!

Thoughts on my studies...


I'm in the beginning of the study of the book of Hebrews as I prepare to teach through the book. We are working through it at church. It will take about 24 weeks to work through these 13 chapters and even at this pace I feel like I'm moving through the text too quickly. I love teaching because it helps me. (Yes, it is all about me!) But really, studying to teach makes me dig into a book much deeper than I normally would. Hebrews begins with this simple, but amazing declaration-
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God has spoken!
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In our world today this is big. Francis Schaeffer wrote a book titled, "He is there and he is not silent," but in our world today many protest and declare very boldly, "No one is there, so there's nothing to hear." But, like Schaeffer and millions of others, I believe God is there and has spoken. His final word to man on planet earth came through the voice of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Hebrews declares that he is the final prophet and there will be none after him. In this book he is declared the final word from God, the final high priest for the human race, and now the king seated on the throne. Through this one, Jesus Christ, God has spoken to us. I think that's why he is such an unforgettable figure for our world. When God shows up he's hard to forget!
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So, I'm thinking through this "God has spoken" theme and working through why this is so important. Here's just a few of the reasons I've come up with....if God has spoken it means: 1. There really is a god! 2. If he has spoken to us then he's intelligent, 3. He's interested in us, 4. He wants to communicate with us, 5. He has something to say, 6. I need to listen, 7. He doesn't leave me without direction, 8. We are important to him....I know there's more, I'm still working on this list.
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God has spoken...I'm still thinking about those amazing words.
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Monday, September 14, 2009

Preparing for the return of the Savior

This short story caught my eye as I read news articles today. Some brief thoughts to follow-


Iran’s Supreme Leader Calls Muslims To Prepare For ‘Savior’
Friday, August 28, 2009 (2:12 am)
By George Whitten, Worthy News Jerusalem Bureau Chief

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (Worthy News) – Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called on Muslims around the world to mobilize their troops alongside Iran against Israel and the United States to prepare for the coming of the "Mahdi" seen as "the savior of Islam". Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged all Islamic countries to unite in anticipation of al-Mahdi al-Montazar, Arabic for the “awaited one”, according to statements obtained by Worthy News Friday, August 28. “We still have a long way to go in order to achieve this. We have to train honest forces that can stop the obstacles that may hinder the coming of the Mahdi like the United States and Israel,” said Ali Saeedi, a spokesman for the Iranian leader in statements distributed by Arabic media. He described Iran's supreme leader as "a direct representative" of the Mahdi and said following his orders is like "obeying the guided one.”

ARMED FORCES "Since the armed forces are commanded by the Supreme Leader, they are thus obeying the orders of the awaited Mahdi," Saeedi explained. He said Iran's Revolutionary Guards and armed forces "hold religious authority to prepare for the appearance of the Mahdi.” The Mahdi is believed by Muslims to be arriving before Judgment Day to rid the world of injustice.

Mike- Isn't it amazing that all the world awaits a Savior? We all await someone to come to the rescue and put right all the wrongs of our sad, fallen world. That someone is coming, just as he promised, and he will make all things right. It's so interesting to me that those who are against the Savior and his people are the very ones who claim to await him. What's going on here? The enemy has done a great job of taking the stories of the bible and changing all the characters and message so that now those who are actually against the Savior are excited about his coming and anticipate his good pleasure at their deeds when he does arrive. Everything has been turned upside down and turned inside out. It almost makes your head spin, doesn't it? Well, I must admit, I agree with the president of Iran, the Savior is soon to come. I also agree that he will come before Judgment Day. How different his arrival will be for those who aren't ready for him. He is coming....His name is Jesus...He is coming a second time to claim his bride and judge the world. How strange to realize that those who do not trust him as savior await a savior who will lead them against the nation of Israel and set up a world under Islam. It's easy to see how everything is lining up for the arrival of what the bible calls the "anti-Christ". Many already have a name for him, Mahdi.
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Monday's cartoon


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Perspective

There are days for all of us when we feel sorry for our lot in life...we feel sorry for ourselves. We see our lives as a modern day equivalent of a Job. Truthfully, I've been feeling a little beat up in the last few weeks. A lot is going on and I could, if I let it happen, get really down about "my lot in life" as I've heard it described. I could tell you why I feel this way and I might get a few pats on the back, and an "I'm sorry", but honestly I am most blessed. Yes, I've got a lot to deal with and it's often hard, but then I come to church to care for and love people and I hear from one whose son was just diagnosed with mental illness. I see another struggling with cancer. Others wave to me across the lobby and smile although they are out of work and don't see any hope on the horizon.

When my focus is taken off of me and I look at others then my little world of woe is dwarfed in the real needs of people I care about. I wish I could fix everything and solve all of these problems, but first of all, I can't and second, it's not my job. God's working in each of these lives and situations in ways I can't even imagine to bring about His glory and our good. It's hard to see how bad things can work out for good, but God promises to make that happen. Even when I see no way for Him to look good from a problem ultimately he will turn it all around and we will be amazed at what he did.

Perspective...it's great to realize that two things are true- 1. God is sovereign and working his wonderful plan out in our world of problems, and 2. He will take care of us and amaze us by what he does. I have seen him do this hundreds of times before and I know he will do it again. So, if you hear me whine, which happens to all of us if someone will listen, then just remind me of truth with this simple question, "Is God in charge or not?"

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering...



Eight years ago today our country experienced a tragedy that had not happened since Pearl Harbor- we were attacked! Thousands died and our nation was changed forever. On that horrible morning, for some reason, I was home watching the morning news. What the news media thought was an accident when the first plane crashed into one of the world trade towers clearly became much more when a second plane crashed into the other tower. I watched in unbelief as the news commentators tried to put the pieces together. Soon the realization came that we were under attack! I still remember the days that followed. Strange days, quiet days. Quiet for us because we live under the flight path of the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and hear a hundred planes a day fly overhead, but in the weeks that followed this attack it was completely silent. These were very strange days...this was a very fearful nation. I think it has changed our nation forever. Somehow we believed that nothing like this would ever happen here and when it did our veneer of safety was suddenly stripped away. It changed something at the very heart of this nation and its people. As I watch the years that have followed that day I see a different country emerging from this disaster. Tragedy does that...it changes you, it has changed us as a nation. Now, there is nowhere safe. I pray it will be an ongoing challenge for us to trust in God and not in man.....

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

New Hubble photos

Butterfly Emerges from Stellar Demise in Planetary Nebula NGC 6302

This celestial object looks like a delicate butterfly. But it is far from serene. What resemble dainty butterfly wings are actually roiling cauldrons of gas heated to more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The gas is tearing across space at more than 600,000 miles an hour -- fast enough to travel from Earth to the moon in 24 minutes!
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Here's one of the photos from the refurbished Hubble satelite. It's beautiful and amazing. I'm fascinated to see these amazing photos. Behind it all I believe that God made all of this and made it out of nothing. What an awesome God!

Amazing times!


We are in amazing times! All around me I see people drowning. Drowning from the loss of a job, the failure of their marriage, the fears of our days, the depression that comes when things get really tough. A large church in our area is focusing all of their attention on marriages right now because they have seen so many fail. We are not near anarchy yet, but many feel that anarchy has hit their lives. With the troubling economy, world events, fears of being homeless, marriages in trouble and whatever you might add to this list there are a lot of people drowning. The church of Jesus Christ is the solution God has put in place for these outstretched hands. Reach out to the one nearest you and grab it. Pull them into your boat, help them with encouragement, prayer, friendship and someone to listen to. There are outstretched hands everywhere, reach out and grab one....

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Enjoying life


We had breakfast at a great New York deli in Dallas yesterday morning. The food was wonderful. I stepped away from the table to go the restroom and on my way I overheard a man at a nearby table tell his friend, "I just want to enjoy my life." I wasn't listening in on purpose, but I overheard his words and it made me think....always a dangerous thing, but here I go.

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Why would someone say that? Why would he have to say to a friend, "I just want to enjoy my life?" The only reason that would come up is if, in fact, he wasn't enjoying it right now. And, so I ask, why isn't he enjoying his life? What's wrong that he has to make this statement? What would it take for this to be reality for him? What would it take for this man to enjoy his life right now?

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What would it take for us to enjoy our lives right now? Why is the enjoyment of my life out there somewhere instead of in this very moment? Part of it, I think, is the reality that we have expectations of what our lives should be. If things don't work out as we think they should then joy still awaits me when all the stars align to meet my expectations, but honestly that doesn't happen for anyone. Enjoyment doesn't come from realized expectations, but from the sheer joy of the moment as I live in relationship with God. Enjoyment of my life shouldn't be linked to what my expectations are, but sadly it is. I, like you, wait for all my expectations to be fulfilled, then I will enjoy my life, but until then I'm just existing. This is more true than most of us want to admit.

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I looked up the word "enjoy" to find its root meaning. Here it is-

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enjoy- c.1380, from O.Fr. enjoir "to give joy, rejoice," from en- "make" + joir "enjoy," from L. gaudere "rejoice." Sense of "have the use or benefit of" first recorded c.1430. Replaced O.E. brucan. Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2001 Douglas Harper

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Our modern English has distanced us from the real meaning of this word we use to describe happiness, a state of being, instead of describing the word rejoice, a way of responding to our situation. We use the word "enjoy" to explain an experience when it was meant to describe a decision. Suddenly a verse in Philippians looks completely different. Paul writes these words, "Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice." With one small word change we would literally be saying the same thing, but it would mean something completely different to us. How would you respond to this verse if it said, "Enjoy the Lord always and again I say enjoy." It means the same thing, but suddenly the focus is no longer on my situation, but is now on a relationship. I'm thinking all around this relationship with God idea, but it keeps coming up in my thoughts. So, today, change how you view this simple statement, "I want to enjoy my life" which describes a present reality to a new statement, "I so enjoy the Lord and all that means in my life." With just a change in focus you have moved from your perceived reality to a focus on a relationship. You can enjoy the Lord regardless of what's going on in your life! How exciting is that?

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The results of faith


This afternoon I am reading Hebrews 11...the chapter that talks about faith. I read this portion of the chapter and then thought about the faith teachings in our day. Here's the verses that caught my attention and then let's talk...

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11:32-40 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

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Clearly, all of those listed were men and women of faith, but what caught my attention is that many of these people, who were credited with faith, did not see good results from their faith. Faith, God's kind of faith, did not deliver them from chains, flogging, jeers, stoning and the sword. These are not good things, but they all made the list of those who had the kind of faith that pleases God. It's clear that God's not focused on the results of our faith, but with the object of our faith. It's our faith in God, regardless of the results, that pleases him. It's also interesting to me that we, in our time, would consider them faith failures, but God gave them an A+ on the faith report card. It's not the results of our faith that pleases God, but the object. Trusting God is the theme of this chapter. Results are secondary in God's mind. What he's looking for is faith in him, not to get something, but to trust him no matter what I get out of it. I'm fascinated that men and women who are pleasing to God because of their faith would be considered faith failures in our Christian world today. Many very sincere Christians would have told them, "if you only had enough faith...." But in their apparent failure they won God's A+. Maybe there is something wrong with how we are viewing the faith that pleases God.


Friday, September 04, 2009

Real prosperity




Friday morning is my men's group. We have only been meeting for 3 weeks, but I can already tell this will be a great group of guys. We are studying Steve Farrar's new book, "God built". It's a book that uses the story of Joseph to talk about how God works in our lives. The discussion today turned to this question, what is real prosperity? What does being blessed by God really look like? We talked about our culture and the world around us. We talked about money, houses, cars and stuff. We talked about Joseph and our own lives. As the discussion bounced around the table I thought about what the bible teaches about blessing and prosperity. It's a lingering thought for me because there is such an emphasis in our day, in our culture, on God's desire to bless us financially. This has always bothered me because I have never seen that in the bible although I have read it many times and studied it for years. Blessing and prosperity from God's point of view is never focused on stuff, but is always focused on relationship...relationship with him. All through the bible God describes blessing and it's all about a relationship with him. That very relationship is blessing and prosperity apart from all the stuff of the world. I have met people with nothing who are wealthy beyond measure because of their relationship with God. I have met wealthy people, very wealthy people, who are poorer than those with nothing. It's never been about WHAT you have, but always been about WHO you have....and that who is God himself. Having him makes us the richest of all men regardless of what material stuff we might have. All the stuff will be burned up, but a relationship with God and the results of that relationship will last forever. Wealth, blessing and prosperity is all contained in a person, God himself. If you have him you have it all...you are blessed indeed! That's real prosperity!
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Psalm 84:12 O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Quotes of the day


"If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him." -C.T. Studd

"Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell." -C.T. Studd
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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Reaching out


Do you know your neighbors? Do you know their names? Have you talked to them? Do they know you are a Christian? If you interact with them at all can they see Christ in your life? If they need help would they call you? One of the losses of affluence is the loss of connection with others around us...we don't really need others so we don't connect, we don't talk to them, we don't know them. It's a loss for us, a loss for our neighbors and a loss for the kingdom of God. Imagine seeing your neighbor at the judgment saying, "but no one ever told me..." and you live next door to them! As Penn Jillette, the magician says, "If you really believe this stuff (that there is a hell and that this is eternal) then you must really hate me to not tell me about Jesus." Let me encourage you to reach out to those around you, first by praying for them, then by talking to them and finally by helping them if the opportunity arises...because it's true that we must really hate them if we believe this stuff is true and don't tell them.