Friday, December 30, 2016

He has set a day

In Athens, many centuries ago, Paul spoke to a group of people with a simple message.  It's a  message we need to repeat often.  It's simple, but communicates these essentials- there is a God, we have a problem, God provided a solution, one day he will come and set everything right.  It's a profound message, one we need to hear and respond to, one we need to share with the world. Here are his words-

“The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him! One of your poets said it well: ‘We’re the God-created.’ Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it?
“God overlooks it as long as you don’t know any better—but that time is past. The unknown is now known, and he’s calling for a radical life-change. He has set a day when the entire human race will be judged and everything set right. And he has already appointed the judge, confirming him before everyone by raising him from the dead.”  

-Paul, Acts 17


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Living a present tense life (dealing with fantasy and fear)



Mat 6:33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Mat 6:34 "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. -THE MESSAGE.

One of the great challenges of life is just the simple task of living in this moment, living a "present tense life." There are two great enemies of a walk with God that try to keep us from walking with God in the "now." One is "the fantasy of what could have been," and the other is "the fear of what might be." Let me address each one of these for a moment.

1. The fantasy of what could have been- We all live our lives looking back to the past or ahead to the future. It's rare that we live in the present tense. One of our enemies is the "fantasy of what could have been." We will often look with a longing for a change because of our present adversities- "If only I had married the other person," or "If only I had finished college," or "If only I hadn't made that horrible mistake" then life would be..... And our thoughts race to alternate present reality because of our dreams of "if only." Dreaming about what could have been can be a wonderful diversion, but it's sin plain and simple. The truth is that there is no "if only I had." There is only what is. Dreaming about an alternate life that would turn out different is a fantasy that brings nothing good to our present situation. It only makes the "now" harder because our fantasy solutions would have completely eliminated our real dilemmas and the need to trust the Lord with our real problems today. So, here is the first sin we often fall into. When you are tempted to visit the land of "if only I had..." make the decision not to go. It's a trip that only brings disappointment to what is your life right now.

2. The fear of what might be- The other problem I see many struggle with is "the fear of what might be." They are experts at worrying about something that hasn't even happened yet. There is no way any of us can see the future, so for us to worry about it before it ever gets here is a clear lack of faith in God to care for our tomorrows. Jesus clearly said, "don't worry about tomorrow." He knew we were tempted to do this, and warned us against it. Fear of what might be often keeps us from walking with God and trusting him RIGHT NOW. We miss the joy of a walk with God in the present tense.
We each have to live a present tense life intentionally. The distractions of fantasy about the past and fear about the future will easily get our attention away from a walk with the living God right now. I mentioned the word “walk” intentionally. It’s the word that the bible uses to talk about our lives of faith. The bible calls it a walk because there are some wonderful present tense elements to a walk that will help us stay focused on the now. Here they are quickly for your consideration- a walk demands a destination, but it can only be done one step at a time, one foot on the path toward the goal, one decision at a time to reach the goal. A walk demands a present tense life. That word, walk, often helps me get back to “now.”

As you go through your day living your life and find the temptation toward fantasy or fear, stop for a moment and ask the Lord, “Lord, where are we right now? What are we working on? Why am I tempted to leave this present tense walk with you?” That quick prayer and awareness of the temptation to thoughts of the impossible will make your present tense life an exciting place to be and will quiet those fantasies and calm those fears. Have a great day.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Resolved


Time for New Year resolutions, but let me suggest a different way of looking at them.  Let me suggest we resolve to live out what we know to be true about our faith and lives.  Ready?

Resolved- Since I have been made to be an image bearer of God, called to imitate him.

I resolve to daily surrender to him and his working in my life.

Resolved- Since he is my source of everything and the one I look to for my needs.

I resolve to daily ask him for my "daily bread."  It will remind me of my source and calm my fears.  And honestly, don't we just need the bread for today anyway?

Resolved- Since each day is an opportunity to serve God and others and in each day there are "good works" he has designed for me to do.

I resolve to look each day, each moment for the good deeds I can do in his name.

Resolved-  Since scripture tells me to give thanks in all things.

I resolve to look for ways to give thanks for the events of each day.  It will constantly remind me of my source.

Resolved- Since scripture tells me to pray about everything.

I resolved to look for ways to pray about the things I deal with each day, to say thank you or ask for guidance, to pray for another or ask for a better result.  

Resolved- Since God tells me not to worry about anything but to talk to him about it.

I resolve to do that!  I resolve to talk to God rather than worry.  

-Resolved- Since God is King of everything.

I resolve to trust him alone and not the governments of men who are constantly changing.  Only in God can I find the ruler I need.

-Resolved- Since my greatest need is peace in difficult days.

I resolve to seek it from the only one who can give it, God.

There is so much more we could do with this theme.  The idea is simple- begin with a truth concept from scripture and make a decision about it.  We do that anyway as we read the bible. Why not do it intentionally and prayerfully as we begin the new year?  

What response to God would you add to the list?

Monday, December 26, 2016

Searching for happy



Searching for happy

I don't think I've ever found it
but I've tried

I've looked

I thought it might be in things
but I didn't find it there

I thought it might be in a place
but if it is I haven't been there yet

I looked for it in relationships
but it eluded me once more

Perhaps the arts
Monet, Renoir, Picasso
but I found they were looking
for it too

Music was next

and for a moment it 
entertains, calms
and distracts
but it wasn't there

A job, a vocation I thought

but alas
that too is a quest 
for nothing

In despair I looked around

to see if anyone else 
had found it
but
sadly I see 
everyone else is looking
as well

Could it be

that
happy
is the thing
of fairy tales?

Could it be

that
"Living happily ever after"
was just a dream
an idea
to put us all on a quest
for something
that doesn't exist?

Then I looked to God

to see what he
made us for
what he hoped
we would discover
and I found
that 
his quest for us
was
HIM

He made us to

find the very thing
we most need
in HIM!

Could it be

that searching
for happy
is the world's
substitute
for the only
thing that 
satisfies our heart hunger?

Could it be that

there is no such thing
as happy
but only an 
illusion
of the real thing?

A cheap substitute?


Could it be that God is what we

were searching for all along?

Maybe Augustine had

it right when he said,


"My heart is restless 

until it finds its rest in Thee."

- St. Augustine



Sunday, December 25, 2016

The light has come

The world lived in darkness 
for so many years 
and didn't know it

But then,
on a still night
light came

It came as a baby
He was called
"THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD"

His name is Jesus
He came to
give light
and life
to a world
in darkness

The light has come
and his name
is 
Jesus

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Three Questions

There are three questions each one of us must answer.  

The questions are quite simple, but their answers will be profound for our lives and future.
  
They are these:  Why here? Why now? Why me?

Of all the questions that could be asked these three are essential.  Let's work on them together.


Why here?

Why, of all places on planet earth, were you born here?  Why is your "here" in this place?  Why weren't you born in Kenya, Nepal, Sydney?  Why here?  If you are self aware you realize that you are not here by accident.  You were placed in this spot on this planet to live out your life.  That knowing carries with it a responsibility- how will I live in the place I've been put?  How will I live out who I am in the place I was born?  My location is not an accident,  I've been put here on purpose to be part of God's great plan in time and history. In this place I have a role, a job, a part.  So, why am I here?  That's the task given you, to discover why you are here instead of born in a slum in Calcutta or an apartment building in Moscow.  You are here on purpose.  What is your role in this place?

Why now?

Do you realize you could have been born in the middle of World War I?  Imagine the chaos of a world war and living in the middle of that fear and turmoil.  But you weren't.  You could have been born in the period called the "Dark Ages" in Europe when disease, fear and despair was the norm.  But you weren't.  You were born in this part of the 20th century.   It's a time of airplanes, computers, cars, air conditioning, electricity, memory foam mattresses and grocery stores!  You are blessed beyond any other time in history to be born and live now!  Now, in this time of an advanced civilization you have the great comfort of life without pain, days without boredom, travel without weariness and days without silence.  It's an amazing time in the history of the world. So why were you born now?  Why in this time?  Why did you show up in this period of history, the most comfortable time humanity has ever known.

Why me?

You might think that's a silly question, but take a moment.....why are you YOU?  It's the result of your heritage, your DNA, your upbringing and the answers to the first two questions.  "Why me" is all about why am I who I am?  How did that happen?  Like snowflakes we are each different in a million ways, unique, designed to be us.  So why are you YOU?  

All three of these questions speak of a design, a plan and a planner.  They address the core questions of humanity- why am I here?  At the heart of them all is God.  The only answers to satisfy these three questions come from knowing you are, 1. not here by accident, 2. that you are in this time for a purpose and, 3. that your life has design and meaning.  And, to be honest, you would get none of that without God.

Only in God and his plans, timing and design do any of these questions find answers.  In Psalm 139 David writes of that plan in God's design of every part of us.  It has been inspirational to centuries of readers and encouraging to many who, for whatever reason, ask, "Why am I here?  Why am I this way? Why did God 'do this to me?'"  

Only in God do we find our identity and purpose in this time. Without him "why here?", "why now?", "why me?" can never find the answers that satisfy the searching heart. But in him I find "here" is my assignment, "now" is my responsibility and "me" is the perfect vessel to carry out God's plans for my life.



Love and Kindness have met



Love and Kindness have met
and the meeting of the two
has changed everything for us!

Love is the very heart of God
Kindness is the result.
Because of his love
something amazing happened.

They met in a manger, a cattle trough.
They met when God's outrageous love
was seen in his radical kindness.
They were seen in a baby
A baby who changed everything!

Now everyone knows these basic truths-
There is a God,
and he loves us,
and out of that love he acted.
The thing he did, sending his son,
revealed his heart and his willingness
to help us, to save us, to show us
himself.

The reason we still celebrate this holiday 
is in that day so many years ago
love and kindness met
and in that meeting
we are now invited
to become
sons
of 
God!

Some will say, "if God can do something
why doesn't he? If he can help us, where is he?"

All of that is answered in the day when love
and kindness met, when Christ was born
and God became one of us.


Monday, December 19, 2016

He's coming!

It's Christmas week.  Actually the week we celebrate the birth of Christ.  The time of year isn't as important as the event.  On a day more than 2,000 years ago a baby was born unlike any other who has ever lived.  This baby was actually the one who created the worlds come to save this one.  No doubt it's an odd plan...to come into the creation you made to fix it from the inside out.  Some would say if he were God couldn't he just snap a finger and fix it all?  But a holy God had only one solution and that was to come, live, and die to provide life for a dying planet.  Now, more than 2,000 years later, this baby and the life he lived, is still the most important person to ever visit this planet.  He was God in flesh.  This week we anticipate his arrival.  We remember his birth.  Soon, very soon he's coming back as King.  All of history revolves around him, as it should.  This week, as you remember his first coming and anticipate his return, take some time and say "thank you" for the wonderful gift God gave in showing us his heart, his love, his mercy and his grace.  He is a great God, the only God, and he deserves our worship.  He has come and he's coming again.  How wonderful is this God we worship.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Strained





I am being strained.
Constantly,
daily,
moment by moment.

There is a purpose,
there is a goal,
there is a reason,
but
sometimes
it's painful,
frustrating,
irritating.

Sometimes I see
no reason for
the straining
of my life,
my thoughts,
my attitudes,
my choices.

Other times I understand completely!

God is working.
He's filtering me,
straining me,
sifting me,
skimming away,
straining away
everything 
that doesn't look like Christ.

In the end
what is left
will look
 just like
HIM!

He's not being mean,
it's all done
out of love
and
in the end
he's making me into
the person
I
was meant to be.

(Heb. 10:14,  Heb. 12:3-24, 1 John 3:1-3)

Monday, December 12, 2016

He cares


Jesus, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God 
something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.


 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!


The birth of Christ
is the one event in history
that proclaims to the world

"GOD LOVES YOU."

We celebrate Christmas
to remember
that 
God sees us,
he cares,
he understands,
because....

....he became one of us
to save us
and
give us
LIFE!

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 09, 2016

It's the season....

        

It's the season to be grumpy.  At least it seems that way.  Last night I had to stop by Target for a few things and as I waited in line I saw and heard the lady two people in front of me checking out, complaining and fussing at the poor little cashier (a young high school student).  I asked her, "can I help you with your bags?  do you need help?"  She replied, "no," she was just being grumpy...(or something to that nature).  I replied, to my surprise, "don't do that, I'll help you, don't be mean to this poor kid. He's trying."  I know I shouldn't have done that, but she was just being cruel and it was so unnecessary.  

We forget so easily that the only eternal things we ever encounter in our lives are the other people we meet.  All the rest will rust, rot or burn up....people are the valuable things.  And there was a woman wounding another eternal being for the sake of a few trinkets!  It all made me a bit angry.

And so, this morning, I went back to a passage my wife and I chose as our life verses when we married.  They may help you as you deal with the frustrations of the Christmas holiday.  Here are Paul's directions for us as we live in full contact with others,

"Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.  And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father."

Make it a time of joy for others simply because of the way you treat them.  It will surprise them and give them a gift you can't purchase anywhere.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

A kind word

It’s Christmas season.  Those of us who are Grinch’s are busy complaining about the traffic, the commercialism and all the money “wasted” on gifts. 
But it’s also a great time for us, as Christ followers, to be intentional with a very simple thing- a kind word.

Scripture is filled with admonitions to love others, to care for the needy and show the love of Christ as we live our lives. But the easiest thing to do is be kind.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians and said, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” It means seeing others and speaking to their heart need: encouragement.

It looks like encouragement and a smile for the cashier as she frantically tries to check you out.  It’s being aware of those around you and taking a moment to lift them up with a simple, but kind word.  It’s about paying for the person behind you at Starbucks, letting someone in line ahead of you at the store, helping another with their bags, opening a door for a frazzled mom, sending a note of encouragement to someone you haven’t talked to in a while.

The list is endless, but it begins with these simple words from Jesus who gave us the formula for how to live in this season, in fact in every season, when he said,

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift (kindness) will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”


The greatest witness you can offer to the world you walk in each day is kindness…the kindness that invites others to a smile, an encouraged heart, a new hope.  Make it your goal, for the rest of this year, to look for at least one person in your day to whom you can give a kind word.  You never know…you might discover an exciting new way to share the love of Christ with a frazzled and frantic world.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Life in a box

A friend of mine told me last week,  "When all is said and done everything important about us will fit in a small box."  

It's an amazing insight.  One we had about 20  years ago when we moved into a house we had purchased.  In the attic was a small box.  In it were pins, awards and personal affects of the lady who had lived there.  Her husband, after her death, had put all that was important into that small box and left it behind.

It's rather sad that we leave such a small footprint on the planet, but it's true.  Our lives will fit in a small box.....and in the hearts and memories of those who knew us.  Our "Legacy" is one generation long, perhaps two at best and then our photos show up on a rustic restaurant wall....old faces from another era....long forgotten, a few memories left in a box for others to discover.

In light of this sad reality I am glad God knows us, remembers us and celebrates our lives as we live with and for Him.  Every name is remembered, every deed done for him written down, every life important.  Here, it may all fit in a small box, but there....where God rules, every life, every name, every action and deed remembered and celebrated by a God who loves us.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

100 years

I read a lot.  I know some of you do as well.  As I read I look for differing thoughts and opinions.  Some of those thoughts irritate me, some of them challenge me.  All of that is good.  So what do I do with all of it?  In the midst of living in a real world in real time I make decisions about life.  Some of those decisions reflect a trust in God, most of them do not.
The problem I face is reponding to the opinions, fears and thoughts of men instead of trusting in God.  It's easy to do!  Just having finished an election I reflect back on millions who responded to the words of one politician or the other. Their responses were in a vote, a protest, a post of Facebook driven by either passion or fear.  All of it fueled by the words of men.

But, in 100 years I wonder how I will reflect on the way I make choices today. Will I look back with regret at the way I have allowed men to influence my fears and decisions or will I respond to God and his word in the midst of a troubled culture?

Jesus made a troubling statement in the gospel when he said, "When the son of man returns will he find faith on the earth?"  That question provokes me, haunts me to filter all the voices I hear and respond to only one.  We have all heard the saying, "Live for an audience of one."  But are we living in response to the voice of only one as well?  Are we following God or the crowds?  Does fear drive our choices or does faith?

In 100 years how will I see today?  In 100 years will I reflect with a smile at my faith in God in a difficult day or will I reflect with embarrassment at my fear driven life?

Living in real time is hard, but in this moment my task is simple-  "Speak Lord, your servant is listening."

Monday, November 28, 2016

The ink well

We all write from the mind, heart and experiences of life.  That is the ink that feeds these blogs.  I'm discovering, for whatever reason, my ink well is dry.  Some call it writer's block but I realize I have nothing to say right now.  The world around me continues to swirl, but words escape me.  I'll return when I find more ink.......

Friday, November 25, 2016

Four little words

I haven't written much lately.  Life is happening and I can't miss it, so this place where I share my thoughts must wait.

We have just passed an election.  What an election!  Fear and panic still looms.  Uncertainty still hangs in the air.  Anger waits to attack if provoked...and it's easily provoked.

But none of that affects how I need to live.  None of those things change my primary task, my primary call.  In fact, what God calls me to do, to be is even more essential, more important because of what is happening around us.

It's contained in four little words...this call, this mandate of how I'm to live.  It's found in 1 Corinthians 16:14 and it is this,

"Do everything in love."

That's it.  That's my calling as a Christian.  The most important and difficult four words ever put together!

It means when I'm hated my response is love.  When I'm falsely labeled my response is love.  When I'm shunned by former friends, I love. When hurt by someone I thought cared,  I love.  

It means, simply, living like Christ.  It is the high calling of every Christian...but honestly, we have not done it well in recent years.  Fears have taken over and we have lived poorly.  But we must recapture the essence of our faith, it's the life of Christ lived out.

It is the most difficult life.  It means I love you enough to tell you there is a hell to shun, there is a heaven to gain.  It means I love you enough, truly love you to tell you that sin is still wrong.  It means I care enough to want your good and not simply your approval.

Do everything in love.  The most important and most difficult four words ever written.

I hope, in the new year, to model them more intentionally than I ever have, to live in Christ in a way that this lifestyle becomes normal for me....even when it's hard.

Do everything in love.  In a world filled with anger, fear and uncertainty these words invite us to a different way of living, a life like the one we follow....whatever the cost.  



Monday, November 21, 2016

Still

Here I sit.  
Still for a moment.  
It's quiet 
after a busy day of prep for Thanksgiving.  
Food to buy, 
preparations to make, 
a home to clean.  

But for a moment it's still.
In the quiet I'm thinking about 
all the things I can give thanks for.
God has and is so good.
He's always good.
We live in the shadows 
of his goodness
even when 
we can't see it.

It's because of a good God
we are here
and are able to say
"thank you!"

It's because of a good God
we have family to share
this time of year.

Thank you, God, for being so
good to us.
You are kind and gracious 
even when we deserve none of it.

Thank you.

None of this is new or inspirational,
but it's important to say it,
to do it,
to realize
we live by the mercy,
grace
and kindness
of a good,
good God.

And for that I say thank you.