Sunday, May 29, 2011
Thank you for your encouragement and comments over the last year, but it's time for a break. I'm going to take a couple weeks off to rest, read, and get away. I hope to come back refreshed and inspired, but for today....I'm going on vacation.
This short verse is in the middle of Paul's closing instructions in this amazing book. The last few verses are all about intentional choices in the midst of a world that doesn't always do the right things. Paul's directions are for us to live with purpose, live intentionally and not live for ourselves. I love the last part of this verse, "but always seek to do good for one another and to everyone." Imagine if this were part of how we lived as Christians on a daily basis...living for the good of others. This kind of living puts a sword through the heart of selfishness. It's an intentional others focused life.
One phrase I hear far too often in my visits with people is, "I know God wants me to be happy..." And so they justify their actions to hurt, destroy and tear down someone else. I wonder how our decisions would change if we thought about our choices in this way, "I know God wants YOU to be happy, so I'm going to...." A focus on another, for their good is the very picture Paul is painting here. It's the very picture of a life lived to imitate Christ.
"But, ALWAYS seek to do GOOD for one another and to EVERYONE." It would change the church and the world around us if people saw us focused on one another and not on ourselves. I can hear it now, "The music is too loud in church, but I know it helps others to worship God, so I'm fine with it." If this were part of our lives as we live life together it would change everything! My job, as a pastor, would suddenly become easy! I can hear it now, "Pastor, I am really having problems right now and need some help, but there are others in much greater need, is there someone I can help, someone in need. It will help me see my problems in a different light."
I think I could write pages about this short passage, it is so revolutionary, but let me simply invite you to dream about a church, a community affected by a few who would live out these brief instructions from Paul, what would change in your world if this were true of you? How would your church change if we all did it? I wonder.....what if you and I started to do this right now. Let's see what would happen.
Friday, May 27, 2011
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
2 Corinthians 12:9 (New Living Translation)
9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
As I thought about all of this I thought about a video I saw yesterday by Francis Chan. I really love his heart. He's got a heart and thought process that challenges me. He makes me think and that's always a good thing. I have heard so many sermons, so many speakers through the years that's it often hard to hear something I haven't heard or taught myself. To be challenged is always a surprise and a good thing. This video did that for me....made me think....about heart, passion, the world around me. It's not all sorted as we would often like to think in Christian circles. I know that some I listen to "have it all figured out" and others admit they really don't know as much as they think they do. I like the guy who is honest and realizes he doesn't have it all figured out. I love the guy who is still content with mystery, questions...often unanswered questions. I love the guy who can live with a little uneasiness and admit "I don't really know." I love those guys because they are men and women I can relate to. I KNOW I don't know. This whole thing about God, creation and everything else is much more than our tiny little brains can sort out.
I think that's why I get frustrated by atheists. They are, in my opinion, arrogant and pompous in their declaration, "There is no god!" And I think, how do they know that? Have they traveled to every dimension of time and reality, to every corner of the universe, to realms they can't even know about now and say, with great authority, "There is no God!" I don't think so. If they were honest they would simply say, "You know, I don't see evidence right now for God, but I'm open, I just don't know." Now that's a guy I respect!
Well, as you can tell, this is a post about nothing, just thinking a bit about my weekend, a wedding, a group of men I want to talk to honestly and a video by Francis Chan. My life and head are like that....a hundred scrambled things all swirling around at the same time. In a way I look forward to vacation next week....a time when I can get away and not think at all, but actually just the opposite will happen. It will be a time to spend with my sweet wife and God and let them drive the direction of my thoughts. I can't wait. Well, enough rambling for now. On to other things. I may be back with some thoughts this afternoon. Working through some passages now. I am trying the ESV version for a bit. I really don't care for it. It's awkward, choppy and not that well written. Maybe 40 years in the NASB and more than 20 in the NIV has me comfortable with a certain word order, certain way of saying something. I'm just not enjoying the ESV, but plan to spend a year in it and see what I see.
Ok, enough rambling, have a great day.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
"They forgot to remember." This was a problem for Israel as they walked with God. It's our problem too. We forget to remember what God has done. We forget how faithful he has been and each crisis is then an urgent one because we seem to have amnesia when it comes to God's work in our lives.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Stephen Hawking -- "the world-renowned theoretical physicist -- finds no room for heaven in his vision of the cosmos.
In an interview published Monday in The Guardian newspaper, the 69-year-old says the human brain is like a that will stop working when its components fail.
"There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark," Hawking told the paper." (you can read the full article here.)
I'm not surprised by Stephen's announcement. When you have dismissed God from "your universe" then heaven cannot be an option either. It's the logical next step for a man who finds no place for God. It is very sad that such a brilliant man on many levels would dismiss what is so obvious to anyone who is looking.
But I imagine Stephen's declaration in this way- with his face turned to the rear of the cave, refusing to turn around and see the sun coming up over the horizon, he declares boldly, "there is no sun! there is no sun!" For those of us who see it so clearly, feel its warmth and know its reality it is amazing to see him sadly declare that the God who made him doesn't exist. Those of us who know God simply shake our heads in disbelief and sadness. Stephen's declaration doesn't shake my faith, in fact I just feel sad for him. He knows so much and yet understands so little.
I can see why King David wrote these revealing words for us to understand the heart of any man or woman who, like Stephen, would claim a knowledge contrary to reality. Here's David's thoughts on those around him,
Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
Monday, May 16, 2011
Friday, May 13, 2011
Thursday, May 12, 2011
I just started reading David Crowder's book, "Praise Habit." His writing is as interesting as his music, but one thing I notice is that he understands praise, worship, and seeking God. It's interesting that our passions mold us. We are driven, molded, changed and challenged by our passions. For David it's clear that worship, and music as its outlet, is important to him. In the early pages he describes his quest to discover "the Giver of good." It struck me as I read those words that from the very beginning God was all about giving and making good things. If we are to find any good at all we have to find it in God. As C.S. Lewis writes, praise speaks to what "the Giver of good" has provided.
I wonder...and so I ask....what do you have today that "the Giver of good" has provided? What would you praise him for today? I invite you to praise this wonderful Giver for the good things he has given you. What would you praise him for today?
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Yesterday I wrote about relationships. I wrote, "ALL of life is about relationship."
Today, may I take that idea a little further. As I thought about it through the day yesterday it struck me that all of eternity is about relationship! We were designed by God for relationship, first with him and then with others. Eternally we will be in relationship with him and with those who follow him. It seems that much of life here is about learning how to simply get along with other people.
There is another aspect to this as well. The only eternal things on this entire planet are the people who live here. All the material things we work so hard for will rot, decay or fall apart, but the people are eternal! Somehow we have valued the temporary and devalued the eternal. As I watch those around me (I include myself here, so don't assume an arrogance on my part) I notice we put high value on the stuff and a low value on the people around us. We will hoard the temporary and throw away the eternal. How confused we are!
It appears we need a values adjustment. God values people and will finally burn up all the stuff. We value the stuff and will burn relationships and people to get the stuff. I wonder how we got so confused. Here's the one thing I want you to take away from this- the only eternal things on this planet are the people. If we ever got that it would dramatically change how we interact with each other, wouldn't it?
My thoughts go to Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 13, where he describes love. Here is a portion of this passage,
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.8 Love never fails.
Do you realize that love only works when it's focus is another person? Imagine me inserting into these verses, love is patient with my stuff, love is kind to my car, it just doesn't work. It doesn't make any sense. God did place eternal things on this planet and they are not the things that will break, rust or fall apart. The only eternal things around you are the people. If we suddenly changed our value system to love the eternal things and use the temporary ones how would our days change? How would our thoughts adjust? How would our words be different?
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
As I work my way through life, through marriage, through parenting, and through God's word I am keenly aware of one thing....
Sunday, May 08, 2011
One day, a poor boy who was selling goods from door to door to pay his way through school, found he had only one thin dime left, and he was hungry.
He decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost his nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door.
Instead of a meal he asked for a drink of water! . She thought he looked hungry so brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it so slowly, and then asked, How much do I owe you?"
You don't owe me anything," she replied. "Mother has taught us never to accept pay for a kindness."
He said .. "Then I thank you from my heart."
As Howard Kelly left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and man was strong also. He had been ready to give up and quit.
Many year's later that same young woman became critically ill. The local doctors were baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where they called in specialists to study her rare disease.
Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town she came from, a strange light filled his eyes.
Immediately he rose and went down the hall of the hospital to her room. Dressed in his doctor's gown he went in to see her. He recognized her at once.
He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to save her life. From that day he gave special attention to her case.
After a long struggle, the battle was won.
Dr. Kelly requested the business office to pass the final bill to him for approval. He looked at it, then wrote something on the edge and the bill was sent to her room. She feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the rest of her life to pay for it all. Finally she looked, and something caught her attention on the side of the bill. She read these words:
Dr. Howard Kelly
Tears of joy flooded her eyes as her happy heart prayed: "Thank You, God, that Your love has spread broad through human hearts and hands."
There's a saying which goes something like this: Bread cast on the waters comes back to you. The good deed you do today may benefit you or someone you love at the least expected time. If you never see the deed again at least you will have made the world a better place.
Note: Dr. Howard Kelly was a distinguished physician who, in 1895, founded the Johns Hopkins Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Johns Hopkins University. The story is true.
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Ephesians 5:1 says, "Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children."
Q: What are the two things, two behaviors, that would best demonstrate this imitation lifestyle to the world around us?
(hint- the verses before and after this amazing invitation give the answers.)
Why a quiz? This verse has been bouncing around in my head for weeks now and I can't think of anything better than that I make it part of your "brain worms" as well. It's such an amazing invitation, such a bold one, that I have been stuck on these 8 words for weeks now. It is the pinnacle of the book of Ephesians, it is the high calling for any Christian, it does give us the answers to whether our choices are right or not...it has huge content for our lives and how we live them out in the world around us.
The question for me now becomes, "does this choice, these words, this action imitate God?" With that simple question I have a filter for anything I face. Now someone might say, "Well how do I know what God would choose? How do I know what he would do?" The answer is surprisingly simple....just watch Jesus in the gospels. As he invited the first disciples he also invites us, "follow me." And with that invitation he shows up in real time what God would do in almost any situation. The bracelet that was popular a few years ago was not far from our goal, WWJD? The question was simple, what would Jesus do? With that question we find the guide for living out lives which imitate the Father.
Now, back to the quiz....what two things, two behaviors, best demonstrate this imitation lifestyle to the world around us?