Thursday, December 31, 2015

The End


Another year is nearly over.  It's been a year of chaos around the world.  Storms brewing in the weather and in governments.  Things are quickly changing.  Fears are rising.  

It seems our world is beginning to unravel at nearly every level.  And yet, this year offers a new excitement for the Christian.  Each day tells us Christ is coming...it may be today.  

Yes, it's the end of a year, but a new one begins tomorrow.  2015 will be remembered in different ways, each of us celebrating high points or glad to be done with the low points.  Babies born, friends dying.  Marriages begun, others ending.  As Solomon said, "There is nothing new under the sun."

Another year is past.  The end has come.  Tomorrow we begin anew.  I look forward to the day when eternity begins and the years of sorrow are over.  Soon, history as we know it will end and eternity will begin.  But until then we have another day to live for the God who made us.

May we live to glorify him.  There is no better way to begin a new year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Back to basics


At the end of each year I go back to basics to make sure I haven't wandered from the truth of what I believe.  Part of the basics for me is reading certain passages of scripture to recalibrate, to focus once more on what is essential.

Years ago Vince Lombardi did the same thing after a bad loss to an opponent.  He began his speech to his team with these famous words, "Gentlemen, this is a football."


We have to constantly revisit basics because, without meaning to do so, we wander from truth and the main messages of scripture. Back to basics for me involve rereading Ecclesiastes, Romans, Philippians, a passage from Mark 12 and a passage in Luke 6.  There is much more that will refocus me, but these are the essentials.


This morning let me focus on the passage in Mark because it is the most important, the essential truth of living in this world.  Here it is,



Mark 12:28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

This is the heart of the Christian life.  If I don't get this right then nothing else will work as it should either.  First, love God.  Next, love others.  If this was all I did (and did it well) I would live out the Christian life well.

There is no other faith on planet earth that has this as its starting place....a God of love inviting that lifestyle as the way to please him.  Imagine that.  Loving God and loving others is the core of the Christian faith.  If you do those well then you have got the basics.

In a world where war, fear, death and anger rage there is a people who live out a message of love.  

Although it isn't flashy or news worthy it is the only thing that will change lives, that will change the world.  


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas eve

I just watched the sun rise.
Each new day shows God's love,
his faithfulness,
his power.
But this morning is special.
Today, the day before Christmas,
I think about a God
who loves us,
who cares.
The God who made the Universe
stepped out of eternity
and became a baby.
Do you realize how unbelievable that is?
Do you know how amazing that is?
That God,
the only God
became man
to
save us,
love us,
tell us about him,
show us grace,
hold us,
cry with us,
pray for us,
laugh with us,
heal us,
and die for us.
Do you realize this is,
without exception,
the most 
exciting,
outrageous
thing to ever happen
on planet earth?

God became man. 
His name is Jesus.
Emmanuel,
God is with us!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Just thinking....

It's Wednesday.  I have been studying, praying, preparing for Sunday.  It seems, no matter the topic, when I prepare to preach or teach I am challenged in my own faith.  My own life and heart are changed.  

I'm fascinated that God would use me at all, but then, as he does he changes me too.  It's quite overwhelming for me to know the God who made me.  How is that possible?  How can my creator take time or even be interested in me?  But he does, he is!  

I don't know how to respond to that....it's beyond words for me that God sees me! He loves me.  He values me.  He listens when I call. He actually likes to hang out with me.  How is that possible?

What kind of God is this that cares so much?  If you really think about it, if you really understand it....you will be overwhelmed, humbled, surprised and relieved....God loves you.

Do you know how big that is?  Do you know that he loves you? That he cares about you? Do you know him?  

I know, these thoughts are rambling a bit, but the thoughts I'm working through now are speeding by at 100 mph.  It's amazing to know that the one who made me, the one who made you loves us and cares about us.  Isn't that wonderful?


Monday, December 21, 2015

Come, let us adore him

This morning I'm having coffee at a restaurant and reading 

the word. In the background the music playing is "Come let 

us adore him" with the words clearly sung, "COME LET US 

ADORE HIM, CHRIST THE LORD....." 


It's fascinating that all around us at this time of year the 

praise of God is being sung and the world is missing him. 

For them it's nice seasonal music, but for me it's praise to 

my wonderful savior. "Come, let us adore him"....what a 

glorious invitation that most ignore as background noise. 


am so thankful that the baby born is Christ, THE LORD!



Thursday, December 17, 2015

Empty people


We are in a world of empty people 
looking for something to fill them

All of us are aware of the emptiness  

We all feel it

and we try to fill it with noise
with activity
with people
with entertainment
with anything....

....so we don't feel the emptiness.

But it's still there

It doesn't go away
because our souls aren't satisfied
with the things we fill it with.

Things don't satisfy
they don't fill the emptiness
It doesn't last...

The emptiness rages on

So we add new things to fill it...
alcohol, drugs, movies, anything!

But we are empty still

And so depression, resignation sets in

We give up because nothing we try works

Nothing fills the emptiness

Nothing.....


....and then, somehow we discover
that the one who made us 
made the emptiness for Him to fill

The emptiness is only filled by the maker

by God

He designed us with the emptiness and filled it himself
but we decided we wanted to fill it with something else...

...but nothing else works

There is only one thing that will fill the emptiness in us....

....GOD.

When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement—that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ—and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:19 (J.B. Phillips)



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

An uncomfortable contentment


A friend of mine has posted a series of photos on Facebook of homeless people, refugees, distressed people, troubled lives. They are disturbing and I know he meant them to disturb our self-focused lives.

When we see what others struggle with it should make us uncomfortable with our easy lives and lack of contentment in all we have.  The luxury of excess often makes us numb to the pain of lack.

Paul tells us in Philippians to be content. It's not a contentment of comfort, but a contentment with God's provision whether little or much.  And yet, around me and in me is a culture of discontent cultivated by the advertising industry that tells us we "need" the new, best, most advance whatever.  It breeds a subtle discontent with excess.  Sad, isn't it?

Often, when I'm able to travel to a third world country I feel ashamed and embarrassed by all I have.  It makes me wish for a contentment in God alone apart from the things around me and yet it's so elusive because our flesh tingles with the thought of something new....something no one really needs, but if we had it we would be "happy."

My friend has reminded me that the excess we enjoy is not the norm and we should be uncomfortable with it.  To have a car, a home, socks without holes, food on the table and a refrigerator to put it in are excesses most of the world does not know.  But we take it all for granted.

I pray for an uncomfortable contentment that makes me ever thankful for what God has provided, but uncomfortable with having it when others have nothing.  Lord, help me to see the things I have as simple gifts to use for your glory and not trinkets to hoard for my own pleasure.

Years ago I remember Dr. Henry Brandt say, "My goal in life is not to get to the end of it and compare my pile of ashes to your pile of ashes."  

May we live with an uncomfortable contentment that glorifies God.

Philippians 4  "I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am."   (THE MESSAGE)



Monday, December 14, 2015

Besides You...



"I said to the Lord,
'You are my Lord;
I have no good 
besides You.'"
Psalms 16:2



As I begin these thoughts I'm struggling for words.  The reason this comes with difficulty is the immensity of this simple verse I quoted above.  It's funny how often new verses like this appear in my bible that weren't there before, but this is one of them.

As I read it I stopped....."I have no good besides You."  I couldn't go further, I had to read it again, "I have no good besides You."

What do I do with that?  How do I fit that into my life?  David, the author of these words was a wealthy king.  He had treasure, fame, and literally everything we in our day call the good things of life. 

A man who had it all takes a moment to contrast them to God and is basically saying that none of it has value in comparison to God. "I have no good besides You" is the ultimate value statement about life and all it offers.

Now, what do we do with it?  Would we shake our heads in agreement?  Would we say "amen" from the bleachers?  Is this how we see all that is around us?

I think not!

We live in a world of good things....a culture rich the the very best, the "good life" as they call it.  But it seems that David saw beyond the curtains and saw the God who made it all.  In contrast to having God all the rest is rust, rot and rubble.

This is something I will be thinking about for a while.....because to be honest I hesitate at this verse because it's not mine.  I have something I need to do about this.  More on that another day.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

We don't know what to do....

One of my favorite stories from the Old Testament is the story of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20.  In that chapter the king suddenly discovers a large army has snuck into the country and is only days away from attacking them, an army too big for them to defend against.

Jehoshaphat gathers the people at the temple and he prays.  In his prayer he makes this honest and transparent statement,  

"We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

There they stand, parents, children, king and soldiers....

waiting for God.  

They aren't busy arming the city, it's too late for that.  They can't ask for help from a friendly nation, there isn't time.  

Their only hope is God.  And so they wait.

In the crisis of “now” they found their only hope was God.  And so they wait. 

I’m sure the children were looking at their parents wondering what was going on.  I know fear was pungent in the air as they waited…..with the enemy at the gate.

But they waited and God wonderfully answered. 

May we be people who see the days, are aware of the enemy and his work and realize our only hope and help is God himself.



“We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

This is the church!

This is the church living out the love of Christ.  I love the heart that created this idea and the church that loved on this young man.  It is what the church is supposed to be....not about giving money, but showing the love of Christ to others...no matter who they are, no matter what faith they follow.  

Our call is simple-  Love God, love people.  Oh that we would simply do that well!


Wednesday, December 09, 2015

A praise in the morning


Another day
A new dawn
God is faithful once more
The sun rises
The grand artist 
reminds us 
he is there
A new day
Another opportunity 
to 
thank the one who made us
who cares for us
who holds all things together
Another day
to praise the only
great
awesome
God

Today
as the sun rises
I praise the great
and awesome 
God who made
the stars
who made me
He is most wonderful

Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Safe


Safe.

It describes so many thoughts, 
so many things.

Safe is a place where we store valuables.
Safe is where we keep the things we 
most treasure, the things we hold dear.

Safe
is
a feeling we want, a sense we desire,
to be safe,
to find a place to hide 
from the storms.

Often I hear people describe
the desire to be safe,
to hide,
to find a place where
fear
and worry
and the world 
won't touch us.

Safe.

In this world it seems to be
elusive,
unobtainable.

It seems there is no place
that is
safe 
any longer.

In the dystopic world
we live in we all hunger for
safe.

And yet it eludes us.

There is no safe place....
there is no place to hide.

But there is one who offers it,
one who says to all of us,

"The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety."

There is a safe place, it's someone....it's in the God who made us.

There is "safe"
nowhere else.

There is no other place to hide 
from the storms all around.




Monday, December 07, 2015

My name is nobody

Years ago we watched a cute spaghetti western by the name, "My name is nobody."  It was poorly done, but a lot of fun.  The title is catchy.  It deals with the one thing we all fear most- being nobody.

We all want to be known, to be important in some way.  No one wants to live and feel their life made no difference at all.  If that were the case why are we even here?  Why are we living if life doesn't make any difference? 

So we all look for meaning, purpose.  But in a world of celebrities how do we find our place?  How do we become somebody?  And who are we living for anyway?

If the stage is the world nearly all of us will be bit players in a bigger play.

If the stage is someone special, someone we care about, then we become the center attraction.

I love the words of Paul as he describes how God sees all of this in 1 Corinthians chapter 1 when he writes,

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness,holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

God is telling us that our roles in this play are vital for the story to unfold as he wishes.  Every part of his grand play has purpose, every player, every person matters.  No one in God's great drama is a nobody.  

On a planet with nearly 8 billion people we can easily disappear, but the one who made us has a role for us in his grand production and he knows us by name.  All of it is meant for one great crescendo- the glory of God.

Are there days when you feel invisible, feel like you don't matter...that no one cares?  Nothing could be further from the truth! 

You might feel like a nobody, but all of that changes because of the one who loves you.  He makes all the difference.


Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Living in the surprise of God

This morning, as we met in our staff meeting,  a question was asked by one of our pastors,


"When has God surprised you?"

I thought about it and my thoughts wandered to all the encounters that I have had in recent days.  They were encounters where I've seen God work.  For me the most surprising encounters are how God works in the lives of people.

A month ago I went to the store to get a few things and a $2.00 item rang up $200.00.  The cashier had to get help.  The manager of the department came to fix it, but clearly something was wrong with her.  I asked, "Are you ok?" and she simply replied, "No." 

I waited as she corrected the mistake and then I asked this stranger, "What's going on?" She began to weep.  Her father was dying.  I listened as she talked about what was happening and then I asked her,  "Can I pray for you?"  She shook her head yes, we prayed and I left.

We live in the surprise of God all the time if we could only see it.   The surprise of encounters with broken people, needy people.  In each of these encounters I'm constantly surprised at how God suddenly shows up to be in the midst of these encounters giving us an opportunity to love them in Jesus name.

A couple weeks ago I was on a flight back from Miami and on my right was a young Muslim man.  He looked like all the photos of terrorists on TV.  I listened as he looked at his phone and mumbled the Koran under his breath.  Not wanting to waste the opportunity to see God work I leaned over, said hello and introduced myself, "Hi, my name is Mike."  He shook my hand, told me his name was Mohammed and that he was from Egypt studying engineering in Dallas.  We talked about Egypt and a few other things and then I told him, "I'm a Christian, what do you think of my Isa (Jesus)?"  He replied that he had some Christian friends and had talked about it with them a bit.

Living in the surprise of God is quite easy.  We simply need to see what's happening around us.  God is waiting to surprise us with encounters, needs, blessings, and so much more.

When has God surprised you?  Are you looking for him as you live your moments?  Do you realize he's in every encounter of one of his children?  

Live with the anticipation that God is about to surprise you with his work in your life, through your life.  He is an amazing God!


When has he surprised you with what he has done?





Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Random thoughts on a Tuesday

This morning my thoughts are all over the place.  I'm thinking about world events, bills, the day ahead, people I love....I'm fretting and worrying over other things.

How can our minds cause us such confusion and frustration?  

As I look at the world events, the chaos around and the wars on every continent I see men and women cringing in fear.  Fear is, at the moment, the dominant emotion of our culture.  We anticipate the worst and live in fear that it will really happen.

As I look at my bills I realize I constantly make mistakes and spend more than I should.  I don't want to live that way.  Needs come, money goes.  Problems happen, money goes.  Doctor visits, money goes......it seems to go much faster than it comes.  

As I look at the days ahead I see the Lord on the horizon.  He's coming soon.  I look forward to his return, but it increases the urgency of my desire to share the gospel with everyone I meet.

As I look at those I love I find myself in prayer.  As the patriarch of my little clan I see my most important task is to love well and pray like crazy!  I'm sure that's what my parents did.  It's clearly the need of those around me.  

I think of the passage in the Old Testament about a group of men who knew the times and knew what to do.  I pray I am one of those men in these last moments of human history.