Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Never forget


I have to admit....I forget.  I forget some of the most profound things I have ever experienced and am overwhelmed by the trials of today.  I forget what God has done in my life and fret over the trials of today....completely forgetting his love and care every moment of my life!  How do I forget so easily? How do I trust him so little?  It grieves me to know, like the children of Israel in the wilderness, I forget all God has done and find myself worrying, complaining and fretting over the trials of today.

But this morning I watched a portion of a sermon by an old friend as he shared the story of God's touch in his life.  And I remembered when God did that in my life as well....but until I saw his story I had almost forgotten.  How could I forget the most profound thing that has ever happened to me?  But I did!  

Here is the passage my friend shared,


The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.

Zeph. 3:17


He will take great delight in you.

His love will change how he deals with you.

He will sing about you!

Do you realize how amazing this is?

In my own life my encounter with God's love happened nearly 47 years ago, but changed my life forever.  

How could I forget that encounter, that reality, that presence of God's love in a moment?  But I had!  

It's sad how easy it is for us to forget when God parted the Red Sea, fed us with manna and gave us water from the rock....and then, only days later, we complain because we have no meat.

We forget to remember that God loves us, he cares for us, he sees us and will never let us go.  Never forget that you are madly and passionately loved by the God who made you and saved you!  

Never forget!




Monday, October 16, 2017

Choices and Outcomes


You choices change your outcomes

You have heard that in different ways all your life

but

here is the truth...

You can't always control your situation,
what happens or what has happened to you

but you do control your responses to those situations

A young man by the name of Daniel lived all of this out
He was taken into captivity
His parents probably killed
His home destroyed
His life changed
He never saw his home again
He couldn't control any of those things

But what he could control was his choice
about his situation
and
he chose to live for God
in the middle of the worse possible situation

his choices completely changed his outcomes
and
the outcomes of his people
and 
his country of captivity

No matter what happens in your life
never forget you choose your response
you choose how you will deal with the situation
and
that choice will change the outcome in you
and
in the situation you face


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Nothing really matters

This morning I had to take our dog to the veterinarian for a checkup. As I waited with my nervous little dog in the waiting room two old men were visiting and one said to the other, "Well, nothing really matters anyway." 

My first thoughts were of a Queen song, but then I imagined he had to be either a realist, a pragmatist, a fatalist or a Nihilist.  Since he was old I thought him a fatalist resolved to his situation but I wondered.

Why would he believe nothing really matters?  What had brought him to that point?  Did he lose faith somewhere? Did he just give up?  It was such a shocking statement from the lips of an older gentleman that I began to wonder what had brought him to that dark place.

But, as I thought about it I realized it might be a liberating place as well.  If you aren't clinging to anything, aren't expecting anything, then you aren't surprised or disappointed by anything either.  It might be a great defense mechanism for him.  "Well, nothing really matters so who cares that the house burned to the ground."

But we are not left at such a sad place.  God has come and shouted to the world that life has meaning, we are not just animals doomed to death and oblivion, but we are the loved creations of God.  And his love brought him here to tell us, "YOU really matter!"  And then he proved it by giving everything to give us life.

The grand and glorious declaration of a loving God is that there is hope, there is a purpose, we are loved....and it matters!





Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Tragedy

All hell broke loose this week in Las Vegas.  It is a tragedy beyond words.  

Tragedy plagues our planet.  Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, floods, draughts....shall I continue?

Tragedy is a stark and sobering reality for the human race.  After every tragedy where life is lost one of the questions we all ask is "Why?"  

and

"Where is God when these things happen?"

Tragedy leaves us looking for answers that cannot be found easily and sometimes not at all.

We blame the shooter, the guns, the government, we even blame God.  

We want someone to pay.

But rarely will we find an answer, a note, a message in the clouds.  Rarely will we understand.  And what puzzles us even more is that tragedy often takes the best of us and leaves the wretched untouched.

In a vacuum of answers the one thing I hope tragedy does when it knocks on your door is drive you to God.  Don't run to him for answers. I've never found him willing to explain to us children why the boo boo hurts or why he didn't  stop it.  And when we ask, "Why did you allow this?"  we almost always hear silence.  I think the reason for God's silence is our inability to understand what has happened and what he is doing about it.  

In the midst of tragedy don't look up in anger, look up in prayer to a loving God who cares more than you could ever know.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Small graces

They are easy to miss.  Life is so busy. But God provides small graces each day to reveal himself, his love and his presence.  Most rush right past them.  There are meetings to attend, paperwork to do, babies to hold, kids to shuttle.

But be careful.  In the rush of life you will easily miss the small graces of God's presence, the thin places where he makes himself know, where he smiles at you, shows his love.  They are like gentle whispers.  They won't force their way into your attention, but they are all around you.

These sweet graces begin early.  A bird singing.  God took care of that bird through the night and he is singing of God's care and provision.  Did you hear it?

The sun came up.  Without a sound it declared that God is faithful, caring and providing for us.

Hopefully you were able to eat something to begin your day.  It's part of the daily bread thing God talks about.  He provides it for the saint and the sinner.  

Small graces.  Don't rush through your day too quickly.  You will miss them and in doing so you will miss God.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Staying on track


It's easy to get side-tracked, come off the rails and crash.  

It's hard to stay focused on the main things and keep going when the world is constantly trying to detour you.  

For me the tracks that keep me from crashing are two- love God and love people.  It seems these were important to Jesus too.  When asked what was most important these were the only two things on his list so I think I'm safe if these are my #1 and #2.  

The easiest way for me to stay focused is to simply follow Jesus around.  To do this I'm daily walking with him through the gospels...walking with him and the disciples, listening to his words, watching his interactions and learning from his relationships with both the Father and those around him.

One passage I go to often is from a sermon he gave in Luke 6.  These are profound words and force me to deal with life and people in a different way than what I see happening around me.  

Read these words from Jesus and then give me a moment to close with just one thought,


“To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.
 “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”

What if.....

What if this is how we chose to deal with everyone?  What would happen? What would change in our lives?  How would they change?

What if we really believed these words and lived them out?


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

There is more!




"What the resurrection means is... that if it comes to a point in your life where it seems that even death is inevitable and there is no way to escape it, well, death is not the end. There is more. There is hope no matter what."

Monday, September 18, 2017

Choosing sides



Are you old enough you remember the days of "choosing sides?"  Two captains would be chosen and they would take turns picking their teams from all those gathered to play.

It was a terrible experience...especially if you were last to be chosen.  That meant you were the least wanted of all those gathered to play.  What a humiliating experience!  (I say that because I was often the last to be chosen.)  

If you, as captain, were lucky enough to get the right picks then victory was almost certain for your team.  Choosing sides filled the air with anticipation and whispers of "choose me", "choose me..."  None of us wanted to be humiliated by last place but we all wanted to play on a winning team.  

The whole experience was one of emotional scars for life, but if you got the right team, what fun that was!  You were sure to win and usually did.  If only Billy was your pitcher then you had it made.  If you could get Sam for a batter then the game was yours. Getting the right players made a win almost guaranteed.

As I read a passage in Psalms this morning I thought back to those days.  It made me wince and smile all at the same time.

The Psalmist wrote,


"In my distress I prayed to the 
Lord,
    and the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.
    What can mere people do to me?
Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me.
    I will look in triumph at those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
-->
    than to trust in people."

In one version the text reads, "the Lord is on my side." As I read those words my mind flashed back to the days of choosing sides and I imagined being picked to be on God's team, to be on his side and he on mine.  

The Lord is for me, he's on my side!  

What a game this will be!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

What would you give?


Imagine you happen on a treasure beyond imagination.  

No one had found it before, but there it is...yours for the taking...but it's hidden in the field of another.  

You contact the owner and ask if you might buy his field.  At first he's hesitant, but you persist.  The treasure pushing you on as you think about the riches that could be yours.


Finally the owner agrees to sell it but the price is far more than you imagined, far more than the field is worth!  


It would take all you own to pay the price! You take some time and add up your assets.  Sell the house, the car, the TV, all the furniture, sell everything and you will have just enough to buy it.  


Would you do it?  Would you give all you own for a treasure beyond imagination?


Of course you would!  


None of us would hesitate for a moment when given this offer. Where do I sign?  When can I take possession?  All our things, all we own would seem nothing compared to the treasure hidden in that field.  


That's the story Jesus told about another treasure. A treasure more valuable that all the wealth men can accumulate, a treasure more valuable than all we own!  Here are his words,


“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field."

A treasure more valuable that all you own.  Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is that treasure.  A treasure worth a thousand fortunes, a treasure worth all you possess.  A treasure that should excite you to give everything to get it.  

I fear, the way we live, most of us have yet to discover the treasure, we have yet to feel that sense of excitement that comes when we willingly give all we possess to get it.  

Sadly we treat the treasures of this world as more valuable than the treasures of the Kingdom.  It seems our value system is all messed up!  We pursue the gold, the girls and the goodies and miss the real treasure.

What Jesus described was a man on a mission- I must have that treasure, whatever it costs, I must make it mine.  

As I write this I realize that often my own attention is captured by the trinkets of the world and I miss the treasure of the Kingdom. 

Like the little girl clinging to her glass beads when her father wants to give her pearls I cling to the shinny things and often miss the true treasure.

What would you give to possess the most valuable treasure in all the world?  Would you give everything you possess and do it gladly?  Would you be excited to give it all up to have that hidden treasure?

What would you give?


Friday, September 15, 2017

Consider....


We live in the midst of very trying days.  Disasters come with increasing frequency and affect those we love and care about.  In days like these we look for direction, hope, help and encouragement.
When wisdom is needed for days like these I go to the book of James.  Both James, Peter and Paul talk about our responses to trials, but James opens his book with instructions for trials.
In the opening verses of James there are two words that have captured my thoughts.  These two words had never stood out to me before, so let me share my new discovery with you.

The verses are 2-4.  They are the most challenging verses in the book because of their invitation to a decision.  Here they are with these two words highlighted,

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,  

knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

These two words are the keys to the invitation!

Let's reverse the verses and see if it sounds any different,

Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing... 

...therefore, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,

Because we know the outcome we can respond differently to the problem!  I had not really captured that clearly before.  

(I'm sorry, I'm quite slow.)

But suddenly I saw this- when we know that God's 
goal is to make us perfect and complete, lacking nothing, it's much easier to see trials as the training camp for that outcome.



Similar to the gym experience that takes the pain of a workout in light of the goal, we can endure the trials knowing what we will look like when God is finished. 

Consider, knowing.  If you knew how you were going to turn out could you endure a few trials to get there?  

Could you do it with joy, knowing God is working for your final good…that you would look like Christ?