Saturday, October 31, 2015

Divine encounters

I had a 10:00am coffee this morning with an old friend in town for a few days.  He called a bit ago and said he would be late.  

It struck me that I had enough time to run to the store for a few things before I met him. I got the items I needed, got in line for the cashier to check me out when she discovered she didn't have enough cash for my refund.

She paged the manager for some help and we wait.  In a few minutes Jodi showed up to take care of it.  

(Just so you know I always look at faces and I saw hers.  She was not doing well!)  

I asked, "Are you ok?"  Jodi replied, "No, my dad's in the hospital."

She finished her paperwork with the cashier and I waited.  

Then we talked. Her dad had an accident and had a bad back injury.  They found out yesterday he would be paralyzed.  And then her tears came.  

I listened. 

I asked, "Can I pray for you?" She nodded.  

And before we parted I asked, "Can I give you a hug?"  She nodded. 

And we parted.

Do you realize that each day there are divine encounters all around you?  Do you know God has a work for you to do at the grocery store, at the coffee shop, in every place where people gather?  Do you see the opportunities?  Do you see those around you hurting, struggling, facing life head on?  

Divine encounters are all around.  Don't miss them.  God is in the midst of your life for a reason....to care for, love and touch the lives of others....to be part of his work....to be Jesus in your place, in your day.

"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10



Friday, October 30, 2015

The key to everything

Christ is the key that unlocks the mystery of history.  

Poetic, isn't it? The quote above, in part, is from a German theologian.  After writing more than 17,000 pages on the Bible and Christ these are his concluding thoughts. 

The key to everything is Jesus Christ.  If you leave him out the box remains locked, the mystery still a mystery, the reason for our existence still uncertain.

Jesus himself told the religious leaders, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in theyou have eternal life; it is these that testify 
about Me;" That's either the most arrogant thing ever said or the most profound truth ever revealed.  

Your response to Christ is the most important decision you will ever make. 

Years ago I spent some time with the great Major Ian Thomas.  He was a wonderful man of God, crusty to be sure, but he loved the Lord.  Once, before he spoke, I made the mistake of asking him, "What are you going to talk about tonight?"

He replied, with a bit of irritation, "I'm going to talk about Jesus, what else is there to talk about?"

And he's right.  

In the last book of the bible these words begin the text, "The revelation of Jesus Christ."  In five words we get a hint to the theme of this last book, to the entire bible, and in this book revelations about Jesus are in nearly every chapter.  It's about him.  He's the key to everything!

Without Christ, without knowing him, life remains a mystery. Without him we have no purpose, no meaning, no reason for being.

Jesus Christ is the key to everything. Do you know him?


Thursday, October 29, 2015

A kind word


There is a story I remember from years ago that I think of often and try to live out.  Whether it's true or not it speaks to the heart need of each of us.  The story was told that a first grade teacher had each student take out a piece of paper, write their name on the top and pass it around.  The assignment was for each student to write one nice thing about the person whose name was on the paper. Then the papers were returned to the children for them to keep.

The story goes that many years later they tracked down some of those students to see if they still had the paper and all of them still had them!  A man had his in his wallet, tattered and torn.  A woman had hers in her purse....even after all those years this piece of paper was important.

We are all needy, insecure, unsure of ourselves and in need of affirmation.  

We need a kind word!  

We need others to "see us," to affirm us, to encourage us.  In many ways we are like a growing plant that needs water and a bit of fertilizer once in a while.

As I watch people around me I have found that one of the best things I can do is leave them with a kind word from our encounter...to tell them they are important, that God loves them, that I see them and care about them.

It was one of the things that made Jesus so magnetic.  He affirmed each one as being important to God.  He saw them. It's a small thing to do and most don't even try, but when we do...when we water the life of another they bloom!

Paul described it in this way,

Ephesians 4:29 Let no rotten word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

We all need encouragement, we all need grace.  Make it your goal to water the lives of everyone you meet with a small, simple, kind word.  You will be surprised at the response.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

He is there

"We are surrounded by a generation that can find 'no one home' in the universe. If anything marks our generation it is this. In contrast to this, as a Christian I know who I am; and I know the personal God who is there. I speak, and He hears. I am not surrounded by mere mass, nor energy particles, but He is there. And if I have accepted Christ as my Savior, then though it will not be perfect in this life, yet moment by moment, on the basis of the finished work of Christ, this person-to-person relationship with the God who is there can have reality in me."
Francis Schaeffer
The God Who Is There

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Impact

Do you realize your life impacts others every day?

Do you know that others watch you, listen to you, respond to you in some way?

Do you know that even a seemingly small life makes ripples in time?

You impact the lives of others.  What will it do to them?  How will they look back at the impact you made?  Will it be for good or...?

Every day, every encounter changes you and the one you encounter in some way.  

That is why, at the end of time, we get to see what our lives did...the lives that were changed or destroyed by us....the things we did that brought others closer to God or drove them away.

God has placed you in this time, in the country you were born in, in the exact time he wanted you to live to make a difference, to impact the lives of those who were also destined for this time, for an encounter with YOU. 

Here are Paul's simple instructions for the most effective life ever lived,  "Do everything in love." 1 Corinthians 16:14.

Nothing will make an impact like those four words if you will live them out.



Saturday, October 24, 2015

The necessity of God

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” A.W. Tozer

What Tozer describes is profound. Without God we find we have no identity, no origin, no purpose, no worth. 

God is not only necessary for man to exist, but he's necessary for our sanity.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Different


"Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.  Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.  For the Scriptures say,
“If you want to enjoy life
    and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
Turn away from evil and do good.
    Search for peace, and work to maintain it. 
The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
    and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face
    against those who do evil.”"  
1 Peter 3


What does a Christian look like?  

How do you know when you have encountered one?

What should mark us from those around us?

The things that should be different are the ways we react to and respond to others no matter how they treat us.  

We should be different!  

The difference isn't physical, we don't dress differently, look strange to the world, stand out in the crowd, but once we encounter another human being at a personal level we should be different.  

The difference comes in how we respond to them....it's based on the love of Christ given to us and lived through us. 

It shows up as we show a stranger kindness, share what we have with a needy person, help the broken.

We should be different in this way.....we show the world the love of God in how we treat them.  We show them they are priceless to God and to us.  We demonstrate their worth by giving them our time, our attention.  

We are not creatures of evolution, we are creations of a loving God and because of that we each have great worth...great value to the one who made us.

When we are different from the world, when we really care for one another, we show them the love of God....

....and they see it!  

They are drawn to it....

...they want this love because they can get it nowhere else.

We are different because we have experienced the love of God and when we love those around us as God has loved us they are drawn to it.....they want it.  

What Peter describes in the passage I quoted is how we interact with each other and as we do that the world sees it...they want it.

Does the world see you as different?  Do you stand out because of God's love?  Are you sharing with those around you what you have received?  

Jesus described us in this strange way when he said,

“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father."
Let your light shine....it's dark out there.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Worthy

"I deserve!"

You've heard it, haven't you?  Someone is talking about  the unfairness of life, of marriage, of their work and the words, "I deserve....." come out of their mouths.

This declaration is imbedded in each of us.  We all feel a sense of worth, feelings of value and somehow, somewhere in our lives we have learned we should get certain things from life, from our partners, from others....and when it doesn't happen we proclaim our worth. 

But where did we get this perceived worth that gives us the right to claim we deserve anything?  How did that happen?

Worth, that sense of deserving something in this life could not come from evolution.  If evolution is our origin we deserve nothing.  Evolution gives us no source of worth, purpose, meaning or value.  To be honest, evolution is the most demeaning explanation for the origin of the grand creatures we are.  It leaves us as no more than animals and so we act like animals.  

I see it every day in my counseling office.

Where does this sense of worth come from? How did we get it?  It came from a grand designer who built into us an awareness of three things-  we were made for a purpose, we are loved by the one who made us, and finally, because of his love we have value, we have worth.

The most familiar verse in the bible describes it best, but let me paraphrase it a bit,

God loves you so much that he gave the most important thing he had to purchase you back from death. He gave his only son to die and pay the price for you.  Because of that alone you have more worth than you will ever know to the one who made you.  

How do I know I have worth?  God showed me...with blood, tears, pain, suffering and death that I'm valuable to him.  I have worth because of his love for me. I have worth because of him.  It's his love that set my value.



If you take God out of the picture, if there is no God, then my worth is only self-proclaimed and must be fought for..."I deserve!", but if I'm loved by my maker then I have worth because he gave it to me.  He showed me that he would do anything to save me....

....and he did!



Monday, October 19, 2015

Is your God big enough?

Is your God big enough for the problems of your life?  Can he take care of you or not?  Is he big enough for your financial concerns, your health worries, your daily needs?  Is your God big enough?

This brief insight into only a part of the Universe God has made may help a bit.....




"Since God is the Creator and can create such magnificent wonders, is there a possibility that He might be able to deal with my issues; maybe I could trust Him. Proverbs 3:5-6."  -Jim Burkett

Could it be that the God who made all of this could meet your needs too?  Is that the God you worship?  Is your God big enough?


In Matthew 6 Jesus said,   


25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Is this the God you worship? This God, the God of the Bible, is big enough for any need you have.  This is the God who loves you.  

Have you trusted Him?




Saturday, October 17, 2015

Saturday morning


It's Saturday morning. 

I had to take my car in for tire repair and had a few moments to enjoy the morning sky.  I took this photo as the sun began to rise.  

It fascinates me that the brightness and tone of the morning sun affects the entire morning sky.  I know the sky has a blue tint to it, but with the brightness of the morning sun the entire sunrise is affected.

Often my life is like that as well.  When something overwhelms my attention...a problem, a pain, a trial...it changes the hue of everything I see.  Everything is affected by this one overwhelming problem, pain or situation.  I know, if I thought about it, that the sky really is blue, but all I can see are shades of yellow.  

The brightness of my problem affects how  I see everything.

It's important to know that what dominates my focus and colors my day does not mean things are really that way.  

Even in the morning sky I see God teaching, working, glorifying his name and giving me insight into my life and walk with him.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Why?


                          

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A difficult life lived well

Most of us have rather easy lives.  Yes, we all complain about this or that, but honestly...if we were really honest...we would have to admit we have had very easy lives.

Today is Joni Eareckson Tada's birthday. Because of an accident at a young age she has lived a handicapped life and lived it well....a difficult life lived well.

As I thought about her I remember my brother, Marty, as well.  He had a rare form of MD and lived with physical handicaps, pain and constant surgeries his entire life.  And yet he never verbalized the pain.  He loved life and lived as well as he was able.  But at 49 he left us and leaves behind a legacy of a difficult life lived well.

How many choose to live well, leaning into God even in the midst of trials, pain, handicap?  How many trust God when it appears he's nowhere to be seen?  How many around us live out a difficult life and do it for the glory of God?

The brother of Jesus wrote, "Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials..."  Honestly, I don't do that well.  For me (totally honest here) I whine, complain and argue with God when trials come.  "WHY ME?" I ask.  "But God, I thought you loved me...." 

And then I think of those, like Joni...like my brother Marty who trusted God with no hope of relief, no sign God even noticed them...rejoicing in the love of a good God.

Lord, as I encounter the trials you have for me, as I face the difficult day may I do it with joy trusting in your kind and wonderful hand to walk with me through the dark places.  When I encounter the difficult days may I live them well for your glory trusting your wonderful loving care for each moment.  And thank you for Joni, for Marty and for so many more who have lived difficult lives well.



Wednesday, October 14, 2015

One man


One man or woman can change everything!

The impact of one life, for good or bad, is profound.  

One life can act out of good intentions and kindness or out of anger and fear.  No matter what the reason one person can change everything....

....for a church, a community or a nation.

If you are like me you don't think your life makes much difference, but I'm always surprised to discover what one simple life can do in the world.

One man in the Bible did make a profound impact on his culture. His name was mentioned dozens of times in the bible and not once for any good he did, but always for the one thing he did out of fear that caused every generation after him to follow his bad choices.

His name was Jeroboam, son of Nebat.  

I won't go into his story here, but I encourage you to read it in 1 Kings 12:25 and following.  It's a sad story of a man who acted out of fear and caused generations after him to sin.

I wonder, as I watch the lives of those around me, do they realize they impact others with their choices?  

Do we know that others are watching, and modeling their lives after ours?

One man makes a big difference. One woman can change everything.

One life can impact an entire country.  

How will our lives impact those around us?  How will they live out what they see in us?

What story will be told because of the choices we made?


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Where are you?

This morning, as usual for a Saturday morning with a house full of grandkids on the weekend, I'm at Starbucks for some time to read, pray and be alone.  

I've been thinking this morning about where I am in my walk with God.  The question is something like this,  where are you?  (I'm not speaking to God when I ask this, this question is for me.)

I know what I want.  I want and desire a close and personal relationship with God, with Jesus, but I struggle to know what that looks like, what that feels like.  What does a personal relationship with God look like? What happens when I have it?  I think this is where the mystic will jump in and tell me, but I don't find scripture making it that simple.

I can't make anything happen.  It seems all I can do is make myself available for God to speak, to do, to be with me.  For me that means some time alone, time in the word, some quiet where I can just be still.  I can't tell you I've heard any word from God because I really haven't.  I'm quite content to find his words to me in scripture (as I should).  But that sense of nearness still somehow eludes me.

I don't write this asking for you to help me, to give me answers.  That's not how all of this works.  It's very much like any relationship...it just takes time and fellowship together and soon we begin to be comfortable with each other, close in a way we don't realize is happening.

My sweet wife and I are coming up on our 42nd anniversary.  It's hard to believe we have been married that long.  She's still so young, but in these years there have been times when we are in the same room together with no words being exchanged and one or both of us have said, "it's so nice being with you."  

I think that is a bit like a relationship with God.  It's that presence that is so life giving....even if no words are exchanged.  I'm available for him to speak, but even if he doesn't....it's so nice being with him.



Friday, October 09, 2015

The end


The news is rich with prophecies of the last days.  In the last month we have passed two dates set by different groups. They said "THE END OF THE WORLD" would happen on the date they set.  One of those dates was this week, October 7th. 

Did you miss it?  Did you know that was the end of the world?  

Oh, wait, we are still here and it's the 9th.  

What happened?  

Why are so many predicting the end?  

Is anyone even listening anymore to the doom merchants?

It seems to me that we have become immune to the chicken littles of the world, the cries that all is ending on a certain date.  Now we simply yawn, smile and go about our day.  

But Jesus told us to be ready, to be dressed, to look up with anticipation, not with dread and gloom, but with excitement.  Yes, the day of the Lord will be a dreadful day, but God's kids don't live in fear of that day.  We live with excitement, waiting for another day, the day when the groom comes for his bride.  The day when we meet the one we love and worship for the first time.  


"Perhaps today" we say to one another with a hope for the days ahead.  For us the end is not a dreaded day of doom, but simply a new beginning...the beginning of eternity.  

Look up with excitement, with anticipation.  Perhaps today he will come for his bride.

The end?  Not really, it's actually just the beginning.  How exciting!




Saturday, October 03, 2015

What will we do?


Panic.

You've felt it, haven't you?

That sudden sense that everything is out of control...

...that the world and the problems you face are overwhelming, too big, too much!

You may have actually said it at one time, "What will I do?!"

It was a question one man asked one morning when he realized what had happened in the night.  Here is the short story from 2 Kings 6,

15 When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.
16 “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” 17 Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.

When all we see is what we know we miss what God is doing around us.  

This servant was in a complete panic because of what he saw, but 
Elisha was sipping his coffee quite calmly.  

He saw something completely different.  

He saw what God was doing.

When panic comes, when fears rise, when the situations you see are overwhelming don't forget that what you see is not all there is.
Unseen is a sovereign God guiding, protecting, watching.
And around us are heavens armies watching over his people.

As God said to the prophet Isaiah he says to us,

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you."