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 
    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


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?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The post payment age

I had breakfast with a friend this morning.  Before he retired he was an accountant, a CPA and corporate manager.  He thinks like an accountant.  But since he retired he has been a pastor in the senior living facilities.  He teaches about 6 or 7 times a week to seniors who are nearing their finish lines, nearing the end of life.

This morning as we discussed what he's doing and some of the older people he works with he said, "Now that we live in the post payment age..."  I stopped him for a moment and asked where that term came from.  He had begun to use it to help older people understand the work of Christ and it's a perfect term for the time we are in.  

When Christ declared on the cross, "It is finished" he was declaring the bill paid.  Paid in full.  And now, as my friend describes it, we are living in the post payment age.  We look back on a price paid we could have never paid.

The post payment age.  What a great term for a salvation available for anyone with no added costs or fees.  It's paid in full!