Sunday, July 30, 2017

Built in

It suddenly struck me, as I commented on a friend's experience with another person, that the love of God is built in for those of us who have trusted Christ.  The challenge is to get our flesh out of the way and let the love of God actually reach those around us.

Jesus spoke these challenging and frustrating words in John when he said,"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."

The one defining evidence that we are Christians is that we love others well!  If that isn't part of our interaction with those around us, even those we may not agree with, it speaks loudly to those we encounter that we might not be like the Christ we claim.  

Love for others is not caveated by Jesus with "if they agree with you" or "if they aren't on your list of 'sinners.'"  We are to love others without qualifications, just love them.  Imagine the doors that would open for a conversation about life and the hard things that happen?  

We have missed so many opportunities to show people Christ by how we have failed to love them well.  

Do you know the love of Christ is built in if you are a Christian?  

Are you letting it out?

Friday, July 28, 2017

Sweet words

Words matter

They help,
or destroy

Words communicate

I shared in my last post our change in life,
the end of one thing
trusting God for what comes next

From those words I was blessed to read dozens
of notes from people we have known, loved
and cared for

Their words were like honey
sweet words, encouraging words 
that told of how God had used us to help them

How glorious is our God
that we can be part of each others lives
hold another's hand
cry with another's tears

How sweet are the words that come
from God working in us
This God we serve is most amazing!

To him alone be all the glory
Thank you, Lord, for using
one like me

May our words to others be sweet, healing balm 
to refresh the weary and worn looking
for a bit of your kindness in their lives.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The End

I'm coming to the end of a part of my life that has lasted for 27 years.

We all deal with endings
The end of school
The end of childhood
The end of a day
The end of life

Endings are part of time and a fallen world
They aren't all bad,
they make us aware that all things on this planet
will end

My current ending is today
As I think about it there is grief
regrets (aren't there always)
things I would change
things I wouldn't
in the end
it was a good day

Now for a new beginning
What's next?
I'm ready
So Lord, 
what do you have for me next?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Forgetting God

"You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; 
you forgot the God who gave you birth."
Deut. 32:18

"No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and did not remember the Lord their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side."
Judges 8:33-34

I have often forgotten something. I forget my keys, my phone and sometimes the very notes I plan to teach in an hour.  We humans are really good at forgetting....

...but to forget God?

How is that possible?

As I think about Israel coming out of Egypt walking through the sea on dry land, seeing miracle after miracle, eating manna for 40 years, seeing water come from a rock in the desert and so much more only to forget God I realize how easy this is for us as well.

We forget the most important one in our lives, 
the one who made us and loves us.

We forget to remember all he has done.  A day comes when things get hard, when money is tight, when sickness is our reality and we forget the very one who has cared for us every moment of our lives!

How do we forget so easily?

David, the psalmist, realized how easy we forget, how often we turn away and wrote down what God had done for him so when depression came, when doubt rose he could remind himself of God's amazing faithfulness.

One of my favorite quotes from the early church is from an old martyr who, being offered clemency for denying Christ, said...

When we remember the amazing God we serve it makes any situation a chance to serve him.  He never leaves us or forsakes us. 

So, I wake up each morning with these first works, "Good morning, Father, how was the night?"  as I begin a new day in the presence of the one who cares for me every moment.

May I never forget the one who died for me.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Thirsty for God

This morning one of our pastors taught on Psalm 63. The first verse in this wonderful Psalm begins with these words,

O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you

As he spoke I thought about my own life and wondered....when have I been so thirsty for God that I could think of nothing else? Am I so thirsty for him today that nothing else matters? We need water or we die. Our bodies crave it. Oh that I might be thirsty for God as I am for water on a hot and dry day.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Mud & Miracles

It doesn't take much for God to do great things...

"For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.
He said this and then spit in the dust, made a clay paste with the saliva, 
rubbed the paste on the blind man’s eyes, and said, 
“Go, wash at the Pool of Siloam." The man went and washed—and saw." John 9

The stories of the God were written to show us how much God can do with little things...

Little things like mud

Yes mud!

Jesus made mud and turned it into a miracle

It wasn't magic, it was God

What stories like this are meant to do is show us how big God really is!

This amazing God can use mud and change a blind man's life

Imagine what he can do in your life 
if you would give him your little things
give him your all

As one old saint wrote years ago...

"The world has yet to see what God can do with a man who is fully his."

mud and all.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

An upside down lifestyle

"Finally, all of you, be like-minded, 
be sympathetic, 
love one another, 
be compassionate and humble.  
Do not repay evil with evil 
or insult with insult. 
On the contrary, 
repay evil with blessing, 
 to this you were called
 so that you may inherit a blessing."
1Peter 3 

In the midst of a culture much like Peters he invites us to live a lifestyle that flies in the face of the way everyone around us lives.  It's upside down, others focused and God driven.  It's a lifestyle that isn't looking for the things we can gain, but a lifestyle focused on people as objects of love.

This upside down lifestyle isn't after titles, rewards, money or power.  It's not after personal satisfaction but is focused on loving others well, for their good.

That is so completely contrary to all that happens around us that if a few people ever lived this way it would quickly change the culture they live in, the lives they touch and their own hearts.  

Peter invites us to live as Jesus did and trust the outcomes to an amazingly big God.  He challenges us to avoid personal gain and pursue the gain of others first.  It's a lifestyle that would make those around us ask one simple question, "Why?"

And with that question we can smile and reply, "Jesus."

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Two things

There are really only two things 
we must do to live well-

1. Love God
2. Love others

If we focus on these two things
everything else will work out.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The nearness of God

"But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works."
Psalm 73:28

The nearness of God is a scary thing if you don't know him. In fact most of the world runs from the real God for fear of the encounter, but there are a few who know him and know that his closeness is the best thing that can happen in their lives.

For Peter walking on water the nearness of God kept him from drowning.

For the leper near death the nearness of God meant the touch of the Savior and a new life.

For many in the stories of the bible the nearness of God meant they were seen, loved, cared for and heard.

For millions since the first century the nearness of God has meant hope, home, love and relationship.

For me the nearness of God has been my good.  Without him my life has no meaning, my days are empty and a reason to live is hard to find, but because there is a God who is near, who sees me, I have purpose, hope, love and a future.

The nearness of God is my good.  How wonderful to have a God who is near to those who seek him.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Back to the basics

I'm reading a lot lately about why the church is dying. One article declares 'we are not meeting the needs of the Millennials' and another proclaims our irrelevance to the culture around us.  It seems there are more reasons for this problem than we could fix.  If we tried to do them all we would become even more irrelevant that we are proclaimed to be already.

So, what do we do?  For me it always goes back to the basics, the fundamentals.  What were we commanded to do?  That's where we must begin.  If we focus our attention on this generational change or that failure we will lose our way and get lost in pleasing a culture that is more fickle than it has ever been in the history of man.

Ok, the basics.  What are they and what does that mean to my life IF I claim I'm a follower of Christ?  That 'if' is crucial.  IF I claim I'm a Christian, a Christ follower, then I have instructions from Christ himself that frame who I am and how I live.  They are not suggestive, they are mandatory.  If I simply declare them irrelevant to our time and culture I'm declaring Christ irrelevant and his instructions as optional.  If we do that then let's find another religion.  This one is done.

So, as simply as I can, let me cover the basics.  Rather, let me ask Jesus to do that for us.  Ready?

“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?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Love God, love people.  It comes back to the very essence of what God has made us to be and do- We were made for love, to give it and receive it. 
When I sense I’m loved I draw in closer to the lover.  We all long for love, real love that loves us even when the lover really knows us, knows what we are like and loves us anyway.
God loved us first and invites us into this lifestyle of being loved, loving him and others in response.  It’s the essence of all Christianity is about.  IF I know God loves me I’m drawn to him, changed by him and become like him in how I respond to others. I, too, begin to love.  When we get that right a world hungry for real love will be drawn to us, not the church first, but to the real Christ followers.  When they know they are loved then we can begin to talk about the real lover of our souls, God himself.
The gathering of a bunch of Christ followers loving well is called a church.  The reason we are losing our impact in our culture is we have lost our instruction manual.  It’s just one paragraph and when we do that well the perceived problems we are trying to fix will simply vanish.
Here’s our instruction manual-
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ And, Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Let’s get back to the basics.