Thursday, November 30, 2006
As we approach Christmas, it has started me thinking about the materialistic society we live in. It is amazing how many "things" there are in the world, and how much of it we want. As I look in my kids' rooms, I see so many little trinkets (many of which we didn't even purchase). We adults are the same way. We have so many "toys" and knick knacks.
And then Christmas season comes, and we wonder what we will "buy" for the other people in our lives. And yet, as I think about it, I realize that nobody really needs anything. So we go to the stores to buy gifts, just to buy gifts? The joy comes when I find something that can be beneficial in their lives. Then I feel good about spending the time and money on a gift. But, to just buy something because you're supposed to is just materialistic.
My wife and I usually take an evening to brainstorm together about what might make good gifts. Again, this is to help us seek out gifts that others wouldn't buy for themselves, or that they don't realize they need. When we can find these kinds of gifts, then it is hard for me to wait until Christmas for them to receive the gift.
However, this is another alternative. In times past, we have taken some of the money we were going to use for each other, or for our kids, and donated it to a worthy charity in their name. This has usually been received quite well, because it allows us to give to others who have real needs. We also set aside money to give to the church and to another organization as a "Christamas gift." This too helps to move us past the spirit of materialism.
I would love to see us use this time of Christmas to think about the needs around us. What can we do to give of ourselves in ways that would warm God's heart? How can we turn Christmas into more of a spiritual event, than a gimme, gimme, event? Let me know what you are planning to do and what you think about this. (email@example.com)
Monday, November 27, 2006
It is interesting to see what people think hope is. Here is how some people finished this statement: Hope is......
“Hope is….something within you; like seeing the glass as half full.
“….for the future; for peace and harmony in the world.”
“Hope is beautiful.” “Hope is success.”
“Hope is ….trust; if you don’t hope, you can’t trust anything.”
“Hope is….an answer.” “Hope is ….necessary.”
“Hope is…finding out there is a medical treatment for your disease.”“Hope is….what makes life worth living.”
We are approaching Christmas and advent. Advent is the season which leads us to Christmas, and starts with the Sunday of HOPE. I believe that God has much which we should be hopeful for, and the pictures above help us to see this hope which comes from God.
PICTURE 1- Sunrise (Hope of a new day); Psalm 118:24- “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”/ Hope is understanding that every day is a new day to make a difference with our lives, and in the lives of others. It doesn’t matter what has happened in the past, today is a NEW DAY!
PICTURE 2- Clock (Hope of a better time); 2 Peter 3:9a- “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness…”/ When we hope on the Lord to intervene in our lives, to answer our prayers, we often expect it to happen quickly. Hope is understanding that God will work His will and way in our lives; and He will do it in His timing!PICTURE 3- Ocean (Hope is powerful and expansive); Isaiah 40:31- “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength…”/ There are many things in life that can tear us down and make us feel weak. But in the Lord, when we hope on Him, we can know that His power is at work in us, and that “all things are possible to those who trust the Lord.”
But most importantly is picture #4- Baby Jesus.
Baby Jesus (The hope of new life; Jesus’ birth); Jeremiah 33:16- “In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.”/
We live in the days when we can truly receive hope, because our hope comes from God Himself. And so as you live in these days, from now until Christmas, I pray that you would not let the world around you overwhelm you with the secularism of Christmas. I pray that you would hope for what Christmas truly brings: joy, love, peace, and God’s presence in your life. Tell me what you think. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Monday, November 20, 2006
I would like to share something with you that is called “The Holy Alphabet.” I think it is quite fitting as we approach Thanksgiving and reflect on being thankful.
A – D: (Colossians 1:12)-
Although things are not perfect, Because of trial or pain,
Continue in thanksgiving, Do not begin to blame.
I think we all know that life is not perfect, and will never be. But that doesn’t mean that life isn’t good. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. The important thing in life is to learn how to be thankful for the things we do have. All too often we get in the blame mode. But what that really does is sap our joy and bring us down; it keeps us from being able to enjoy what we do have.
As Colossians 1:12 says: “giving thanks to the Father, who
has enabled you to share in the inheritance….”
E – H: (Colossians 1:16-18)-
We continue: Even when the times are hard, Fierce winds are bound to blow;
God is forever able, Hold on to what you know.
It is amazing to me when I talk to people, and hear about their lives. People live
incredibly complicated lives. Fierce winds do blow. Some people have lives that are very troublesome. People are not sure what to do or what to believe or where to turn. That is why it is important to keep things in perspective. As we are told in
Colossians 1:16-18, “For in Christ all things in heaven and on
earth were created….all things have been created through Him
and for Him. He Himself is before all things, and in Him all things
hold together. He is the head of the church…”
We must understand that God, through the Son, created all things. And because of this God is able to watch over us. This is what we know, and if we hold on to this, this gives us foundation to keep us strong in difficult times.
I want you to think for a moment of some difficult times: maybe it was financial, or with your health, or a conflict in the family. The possibilities are endless. But what makes everything better is knowing that the Lord of creation is able to get you through!
I – L: (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)-
The poem continues…Imagine life without His love, Joy would cease to be,
Keep thanking Him for all the things, Love imparts to thee.
Whether you realize it or not, the love of God is what keeps this world going. The love of God keeps God from destroying the world again as He did in the time of the flood. The love of God is what led God to come in human form, in Jesus Christ, so that He might die for our sins and open the door to forgiveness and eternal life. The love of God is what allows God to forgive us time and time again when we sin. The love of God is unconditional, not loving us for who we are or what we do, but loving us because we are God’s children. It is so important to be loved unconditionally!
We need to learn to love like God does. There is tremendous power in love. Be thankful in the ways you are loved by God, and by the people God puts in your life to love you, and seek to find ways to love others unconditionally; not for who they are, or what they can do for you, or by what they look like. But because we all need to be loved!
M – P: (Colossians 1:20)-
Moving to M through P…..Move out of “Camp Complaining,” No weapon that is known, On earth can yield the power, Praise can do alone.”
Why is it so easy to complain? What is it that complaining brings to our lives? I guess it goes back to blaming and passing the buck. It is easier to complain than to take responsibility or to seek to take care of our own problems. Somehow we think that feeling pity for ourselves gives us purpose. But all complaining does it take our focus away from what God can do through us, and takes our focus away from all the good in our lives.
You have heard the saying: “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It is a trite saying, but there is some wisdom to it. Those people who are most successful in life are the ones who don’t let their troubles bring them down; they don’t let their troubles defeat them. They look for ways to overcome their problems.
The truth is, there is power in praise. As we give praise to God for His presence and strength in our lives, we build up our outlook, and we trust God more. We then put ourselves in a place where we can be victorious.
Remember what Colossians 1:20 says- “and through Him God was
pleased to reconcile to Himself all things…”
In Christ, even our troubles can be reconciled, taken care of, removed.
Q – T: (Matthew 6:34; 1 Thessalonians 5:18)-
Q through T says: Quit looking at the future, Redeem the time at hand,
Start every day with worship, To “thank” is a command.
You might have heard the minister who asked one little girl, “Do you pray before meals.” To which the little girl responded: “Oh no, we don’t need to, my mommy is a good cook.”
Too often in life, we forget to say thank you to God, because we tend to go to God when things are bad, not good. But another reason we forget to say thank you, is because we are busy thinking about the future, and forgetting to appreciate the present. God desires for us to not only focus on the present, as we are told in Matthew 6:34- “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” But we are to be thankful for all that today brings…
1 Thessalonians 5:18- “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God.” We are not to presume what our life should be, but be thankful for this day that God gives us, whatever it might bring.
U - Z: (Philippians 3:14)-
And we finish with U through Z….Until we see Him coming, Victorious in the sky, We’ll run he race with gratitude, Xalting God most high. Yes, there’ll be good times and yes some will be bad, but…Zion waits in glory…where none are ever sad!
Even though I just talked about not looking to the future, we do have to remember the hope that the future brings. Scripture is clear to us, that at some point, Jesus Christ will come again. When He comes, He will come on the clouds in the sky, for all to see. His second coming will be for the purpose of moving us into the new era, where the earth will be no more, and those who believe will live eternally in His loving presence. Those who don’t believe, will live eternally apart from Love itself.
Where is the thanksgiving in this? That those of us who believe, should be thankful for our eternal salvation. Those who don’t believe can be thankful that all have the opportunity to believe if they so choose. And we can be thankful that we have opportunities to tell those who don’t believe how they can believe!
So, we are to run the race with gratitude. As the apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:14- “I press on to the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” What is the prize? Eternally living with God in heaven. Having access to the inheritance of my Eternal Father. And knowing that in glory, we will never have to again deal with the pain of this life.
Let us be thankful to God for all things at all times, for God is forever with us, working in and through us. I would love to hear from you. Tell me what you think; tell me of what you are thankful. (email@example.com)
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
It is interesting to see people respond to the topic of prayer. For so many they think that it is some kind of magic. I say my prayer and poof, I get what I ask for. Or if it doesn't work just the way they prayed, they figure that they must have said the wrong magic words. But prayer isn't like magic, and prayer isn't like a vending machine where you put in your money and pick out what you want. God does not respond to our every desire just the way we want. And that is a good thing, because often we don't know what is best for us, and if we got what we wanted, it would really cause us trouble.
So if prayer is not magic, then what is prayer and how does it work? First and foremost, prayer is an opportunity for us to communicate with God, and a way for God to come to us (or a better way to say it is "commune" with us). Think for a moment about communicating with your mother or father. Do you walk up to them and speak to them a list of all the things you want them to do for you? I wouldn't think so. To communicate, you share your thoughts and feelings with them; you tell them what is going on in your life; you relay to them the important things you want them to know. It is the same for us and God. We should come to God to share our thoughts, feelings, frustrations, and joy. We should talk to God about what we want God to know. We should speak to God as though He doesn't already know us, for prayer is more for us than it is for God.
And yet, prayer is for God as well, because in this time, we are to allow ourselves to feel God's presence, and let Him guide our thoughts to become His thoughts. In this time of quiet before God, we can actually hear God (and sense God) speak to us. You cannot listen, you cannot hear, if you do not stay quiet.
However, the Bible does tell us to "make our requests known to God." Asking is an aspect of prayer. And yet, we get confused by Bible verses that tells us: "Ask and it shall be given to you..." and "I will do whatever you ask in my name..." These verses make it sound like God will grant our every request. What is up with this? The truth is, that the Bible is a whole book, and fits together as such. To take one verse as the whole truth will get us lost every time. Along with these verses of God giving us what we ask, are the verses that bring further understanding telling us that what we ask for is to give glory to God. So, to ask God for a new Corvette is probably not what God will give to you. It probably is not what will bring Him glory, and what will help you in your life live out the purpose God has for you.
So, when you pray, go to God to build your relationship with God; share yourself with God. Also, let yourself be quiet before God and seek to hear what God might want to say to you. It might simply be: "I love you, my child." And, when you do make your requests known, try to temper them with the understanding that God answers prayer within His timing, and within His will. Tell me what you think. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
For the past few weeks I have been part of the Long Beach Press Telegram "Ask the Clergy" section. Each week we are given a question to respond to (300 words or less). I thought that this week's question would make a good blog.
In wake of the latest scandal with
Ted Haggard, (the Pastor in
Colorado) how would you encourage
those who are discouraged, hurt or
disappointed by his actions, in
the Christian community?
In our society I still believe that ministers are given a sense of reverence and respect. In one sense this is good, because it allows them the opportunity to teach, train, and guide people as followers of Jesus Christ. And yet, the danger can be that people give too much power to their minister, and put them up on a pedestal. Let me talk about the power issue first. When someone is given a great amount of power, the danger lies in the misuse of this power. Power can be misused by taking advantage of another or by seeking to gain wrongly from that power. But the other side is being put on a pedestal. The problem with being put on a pedestal, is that no one deserves this, because no one can live up to it. The apostle Paul, in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 3:4-5, “4For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men? 5What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.” All pastors are merely servants of Jesus. They are not giants, and they are not gods.Ted Haggard’s scandal has reminded us that we are all sinners, and we are all capable of doing wrong. This scandal is hurtful and discouraging to the Christian community because it causes people to look down upon God when God’s leaders fail. But the encouragement comes when we realize that the job of a leader is to point people to Jesus Christ, and the love and salvation that comes from Jesus. Even when a leader falls, Jesus Christ is still the same, and the One in whom we are to believe. The encouragement is in knowing that the failure of others reminds us of our own struggles, and that Jesus alone is the One who can help us overcome our struggles and make a difference with our lives. The encouragement comes in knowing that the Church is to be built not on the lives of Christian leaders, but on the foundation of Jesus Christ.
So, when we fail, or when we are discouraged by our own actions, or by others, we can know that Jesus Christ is there for us. It is in Jesus that we are to believe, and whose example we are to follow. Christianity is not following a leader, but following a Savior; Jesus Christ. Tell me what you think (email@example.com).
Monday, November 06, 2006
To the left you can see a treasure map. What would you do if you found a treasure map? Would you try to find the treasure? This is an interesting question, because in all of life we are searching for treasures. And in all of life we have treasures. Jesus tells us that we can know what we treasure by what we value in our heart. Matthew 6:19-21 says, 19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Jesus challenges us to have treasures that cannot be destroyed, stolen, or consumed. If you think about this for any time at all, you will realize that treasures like this cannot be physical or material. They have to be spiritual. So the first step is to try and determine what your treasures are now. And to figure this out, all you have to do is search your heart. Your heart will determine for you what you treasure. Where do you spend your time, money, and energy? That is what you treasure.
The second step is to figure out what you should treasure. And the Bible gives us a host of important treasures. Things like salvation, the Kingdom of Heaven, and love. These are some of the things that we will take with us to heaven; some of the things that we are to treasure in our hearts. Yet it can be difficult to rid ourselves of our old treasures so that we might replace them with the more appropriate treasures. In Matthew 19:16-22, Jesus tells us of just such a story:
16Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" 17"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." 18"Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'" 20"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?" 21Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." 22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth." This man's wealth and possessions were keeping him from receiving the treasure of eternal life. And so Jesus told the man to get rid of this treasure, but he could not.
What treasure is in your life that keeps you from valuing the true treasures? What do you need to get rid of so that you can follow Jesus? Why do you think it is so hard to rid ourselves of these treasures. As hard as it is to part with false treasures, it is worth the sacrifice. Great rewards are awaiting us when we can get rid of the fake treasure, and grab hold of the real treasure. Tell me what you think (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Just this week I came across an article in the "California Lawyer" magazine written by Earl Klein. The article was about the separation of church and state and the Newdow lawsuit to take the phrase "under God" out of the pledge of allegiance. It is the attempt of secular humanists trying to eliminate any trace of religion from public life.
It is interesting to me to see how a small majority of liberals, humanists, and athiests seem to be able to remove so much of religion from schools, government, courts, and public affairs. It is an attempt to truly separate politics and religion. But is this really what is best for our country?
Here is some of what Klein has to say about it. "First and foremost, the Declaration of Independence would have to be amended to eliminate the provision that has been referred as 'a cardinal moral truth, namely that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.'" According to Klein, that declaration is 'without question based on the biblical declaration that God created man in his own image (Genesis 1:27).' Klein goes on to talk about the objection to the public display of the 10 commandments. And yet, in his article he does show how our laws are derived from the 10 commandments (laws against stealing, murder, false testimony, purjury, etc...).
I too have thought a lot about this. I am concerned with what is happening in our society. In the midst of these changes and supposed freedoms, I don't see things getting better, but worse. Kids don't respect their teachers like they should, citizens don't respect their leaders like they should, and the morals of our country, in my opinion, have declined drastically. To some extent I do see this as a cause to the attempt to separate God from every day life.
Now, on the other side, people will want to argue that it is their right to have the freedom to not have God in their life, or have to view anything relating to God and religion. And while I do agree that it is not right to force people to believe, I do believe it is wrong to say that since they don't believe, everything must be removed from view.
As a Christian, not just a religious person, I do believe that God created us; created us in His image, and cares about what we do. To deny this is a person's choice, but it doesn't make it reality. I believe there is valid proof that God exists, that the universe was created by God, that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, and that salvation is through Jesus Christ only. To take away these fundamental truths, in my opinion, is wrong. And I think we have seen the wrong done by the attempt to rid our society of this. I hope that those of us who do believe, and we are in the majority, will continue to speak up and vote in ways that allow us to have leaders who continually seek to include God in our government and in our choices. Tell me what you think (email@example.com).