Tuesday, January 30, 2007
When you go to a restaurant it is a nice experience because you are waited on by a waitress or a waiter; service is part of the experience. Part of the challenge of life is to figure out who we are going to serve. Many people choose to not follow Jesus Christ because they don't want to have to serve anybody. But the truth is, we serve either God or Satan. Now, most people don't purposely serve Satan. But if you are not serving God, then Satan has control of your life even thought you don't realize it. As we are told in Ephesians 2:2- "1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient."
So the is there for us each day. Who are we going to serve. In the Old Testament, Joshua so the people struggling with this decision, and he sought to make his choice clear in Joshua 24:15; "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." I am thankful that Jesus Christ is my savior and Lord, and that I serve Him. I like Joshua choose each day to serve the Lord. And so I leave you with this question: Who do you serve? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Last week my wife and I saw the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness." Overall we enjoyed the movie. It was entertaining, and Will Smith and his son Jaden were wonderful together. I also liked how the character, Chris Gardner was determined to fulfill his dream, and worked hard to achieve it.
However, I do believe there are some flaws in his thinking.
Flaw #1- Chris Gardner struggles because he doesn't have much money to live on. As you watch, you feel sorry for his situation. But it is easy to forget that he was in this condition because of poor choices. He chose to buy and sell a bone scanner, thinking that he would make lots of money. The reality was that it was difficult to sell the scanners, and so he had little money to live on.
Flaw #2- Because of this, he put his child in a difficult place. Ultimately, this lack of vision and money caused his girlfriend (and the mother of his son) to leave. Now he was faced with the challenge of raising his son by himself. This also caused them to become homeless, which put them into some not-so-good living arrangements.
Flaw #3- His goal was all about money. Selling the bone scanners was about making money. Then he saw a man, who was a stock broker, with a fancy car. He decided he wanted to be a stock broker so that he could be rich and have a fancy car. But the truth is, money alone doesn't make you happy. There have been many people in life who are tremendously rich, but weren't happy. In Philippians 4:12, it says- "12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." The secret to being content is to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ!!
Flaw #4- The point of our life is to follow the 2 great commands that Jesus gave us in Matthew 22:36-40, 36"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." When we love God and love one another, then we will find our way to happiness. Or as Psalm 37:4 says: "Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." When our desires are God's desires, then God blesses us abundantly, and we live as we were created to live. In this we find happiness!
If you choose to see the movie, I believe you will enjoy it. But don't get swept away into thinking that whatever goal you have will make you happy. Only God can do that. Let me know what you think. (email@example.com)
Monday, January 22, 2007
This morning I woke up and thought about my day; the start of another week. And I was feeling a little sluggish. Has this ever happened to you? You think about your day, and you're not too excited to get started? Maybe your life is repititious. Maybe you don't have much excitement.
Then I started to think about why I felt that way and how I could overcome it. It is not a bad thing to have these feelings, but it is not good to dwell on them. So what can we do about our life when we don't feel overly excited about it? Here are some suggestions:
One thing we can do is what Philippians 4:4 tells us, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice." It has been proven that when we have a positive attitude, it will help us to live more positively as well. The truth is, there is always something in life to rejoice over (the fact that you have a job, or wonderful children, or a place to live). On top of all of this, we can rejoice always, because God is always there for us; God will never leave us nor forsake us. If we waited to rejoice when life was perfect, we would never rejoice. In the rejoicing, we will tend to get more excited about our day and our life.
A second thing is to be thankful. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we are told, "Give thanks in all circumstances." Now to some this might seem wrong. How can we give thanks in all circumstances. But we give thanks because we know that God can bring good out of any situation. And so we are thankful for a God who cares; thankful for a God who makes a difference in our lives; thankful that in the midst of life's struggles, there is still good to be found. When we live our lives as thankful people, we will find that life becomes more meaningful and more productive.
A third thing is to give of ourselves. You have probably heard the verse from Acts 20:35, where Jesus says: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." That is true. When we give, we forget our own struggles. When we give, we start making a positive difference with our lives. When we give, we feel good about ourselves and our lives because we find that we have purpose. People who enjoy their lives are people who freely give of themselves. People who are miserable are usually those who are selfish and don't know how to give.
As I reflected on these three things today, I realized that God truly has blessed me in so many ways. I am blessed with a wonderful wife and 2 children. I am blessed with being the pastor of a church that loves each other and is trying to make a difference in our community. I am blessed with good health. And so I sit here writing this blog with a new attitude for the day; one of thanksgiving and joy.
I would love to hear from you to know how you seek to overcome the feelings of being worn out by the daily grind. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Each of us, whether consciously or unconsciously, have set-up boundaries in our lives. Boundaries in regards to who our friends are, boundaries in regards to who we associate with, boundaries in regards to who we interact with. Now in most cases these boundaries are healthy and good and protect us. But in some cases these boundaries can be bad. Just as the disciples didn't want to help the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28), we at times can limit the involvement and help we give to people who don't fit within our boundaries.
Now these boundaries can look different for different people: for some the boundary is race, for others it might be lifestyle, and still for others it might be economic level. But whatever the boundary, it keeps us from sharing the love of God and sharing our lives with others.
Like our boundaries, we live our lives with expectations. Expectations of how we are to live, and expectations of how others will live. And also like our boundaries, these expectations are often healthy, as they give us reason and direction in our life. But, there are times when our expectations might limit our response to others. For example, say I have the expectation that I need to work to make a living, and others need to work as well. But someone might come to me who needs financial help. If this person is not working, my expectation might keep me from helping them, keep me from meeting their need, because I feel that they are not helping themselves. And yet, God just might want me to go beyond my expectation to meet their needs as Jesus went beyond others expectations and helped the Canaanite woman.
It is not uncommon for a church to lose focus of what it is to be about; for a church to think that it exists for itself and its members, and forget that God calls the church to reach beyond its walls to share the love of Christ.
Example- There's a true story of a church who desired to grow, and so they got a church growth expert to come and visit their church. The first thing this church growth expert did was to walk the committee out to the parking lot and said to them: "Now, imagine that you know nothing about this church and that you have just arrived at this church on a Sunday morning for worship. Now let's go into the church." This little exercise created a different perspective for the committee as they started to think about how there were no signs to guide a newcomer.
This is just one example of how a church becomes a church for insiders, for its members, and not for outsiders, for visitors.
So here are some important questions: Are we trying to understand our community to see how we can reach out? Are we stepping out beyond our boundaries to share the love of Christ with others?
The great Russian poet Yevtushenko writes in his autobiography a powerful moment that he witnessed. It was in 1944, when 20,000 German war prisoners were marched through the streets of Moscow, wearing blood-stained bandages, and hobbling on crutches or leaning on their fellow soldiers. Then, all of a sudden a Russian woman pushes herself through a police line and stuffs a crust of bread into the pocket of an exhausted soldier. This act caused a host of other women to run up to the soldiers and begin to give them bread and other necessities they had in their hands.This story is a reminder that we have an innate sense of compassion and love to be shared. It should be even more true for the follower of Christ. We are called to break through the boundaries of race and prejudice and indifference to do our Lord's will; free the captives, love the unlovable, help the poor, preach the good news that God loves all and wants all to be saved. Tell me what you think (email@example.com).
Monday, January 15, 2007
Since today is the day we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., I thought it might be good to post his picture and a portion of his "I Have A Dream" speech. As you read these words, take in how wonderful the thoughts are in regards to inclusiveness and unity. It is the thinking that reflects our loving God and the desire I know God has for creation.
I Have A Dream, by Martin Luther King, Jr.
(to read the full speech you can go to: http://www.usconstitution.net/dream.html)
I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope.
I know that I have a dream to see our church connect with all in our community; which means we need to be an inter-racial church. I have a dream that old and young, rich and poor, will worship together and work together in ministry. I have a dream that people will come to this church and feel loved and wanted. I have a dream that our church will be a beacon of hope and light for north Long Beach.
What is your dream? Write me and tell me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, January 11, 2007
The other day I was looking at our church, decorated with poinsettias, and I was enjoying the ambiance. But it also made me wonder what is needed inside a church to make the experience right. So many old style churches are decorated with banners and stained glass windows, and so much more. But is that really needed for worship? So might answer "yes," others "no."
Then on the other side, you have many churches that meet in a school, or a movie theatre, or even in homes. These churches don't have any special decorations. In fact, most often, they can't use decorations. So what is it about the decorations that help us to worship?
When you walk into a church, how do you know that you are in a place of worship? Is it the furniture, the decorations, or maybe the feel? Are there some things that direct your attention more to God, and some that take it away? Can the decorations be so ornate, that they distract you from the worship at hand?
Let's take a step back for a moment, and change the setting to our home. When we live in a home, we decorate it. Maybe we put pictures on the walls, couches and chairs in the rooms. When we go into a bedroom, we know it is a bedroom because there is a bed in the room. So if we feel the need to decorate our homes, why do we disagree over whether or not the church needs to have decorations?
As I write this, you may not even have realized that you have a preferance one way or the other. So I encourage you to think about this issue. What makes a church a place of worship, and is it wrong at all to worship in a gymnasium or a movie theatre?
To share some of my feelings, I have to say that I can enjoy stained glass windows and banners, but at the same time, I can feel close to God and be able to worship without them. My personal opinion is that being together with other believers is often what helps me the most to worship.
SO, I would love to hear what you think and feel about this topic. Please write me and share your thoughts, and perhaps others will respond to me and you as well. (email@example.com)
Monday, January 08, 2007
As we have entered a new year (2007) it is usually the time that people think about setting and achieving new goals in their life. If you are not one to do this, I would like to encourage you to think about doint this. If you do this, I would like to remind you of some important aspects about setting goals.
First, why should we set goals? Well, when we set a goal, it gives us a direction and a purpose. It is easy in life to get off track with what we should be doing. There are so many demands on our time and our lives, that we can get caught up in doing things that don't really matter or don't further our purpose. Setting goals helps to keep us moving forward with what we were created to be and do. Also, when you set a goal and achieve it, it gives you great satisfaction to know that you are being productive and improving yourself.
Second, when you decide to set goals for your life, there are some important guidelines to follow. Make sure that you don't try and set too many goals. I would recommend not more than three or four goals. If you achieve those goals, then you can always set more. Next, make sure that the goals are what you want to achieve, not just something you think you should be doing. For example, you might set a goal to get in shape. If you don't really want to achieve it, you won't put forth the energy to achieve it, and in the end it will just frustrate you.
After this, you should make sure that the goals you set are specific. If your goal is not specific, you will not be sure if you have achieved it or not, and this can again bring frustration. Instead of saying "I will get in shape," say that you will work towards running 2 miles, three times a week. You probably won't be able to run 2 miles off the bat, but you can work up to it, and you will know when you have achieved it. Try and keep from setting a goal of doing something "every day." The chances are that you will not be able to do something "every" day.
Last, make sure that it is a stretch for you, but not so much that you can't achieve it. For example, if you want to lose weight, you might start in small increments. Tell yourself that you will try and lose 5 pounds in the next month. Then be specific about how you will lose this weight. Maybe you will cut down on the portions of your food, or cut out desserts. Maybe you will do 15 minutes of walking, 3 times a week. If you reach this goal, but you still want to lose more weight, then you can set a new goal for the next month.
All in all, goal setting is important and good. However, don't let the goal rule you. The goal is to help encourage you to better yourself and to be more of who God created you to be. As you set goals for yourself, try and set one or two goals in 4 areas: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Don't forget to tell someone your goals so they can help to keep you accountable and motivated. I'd love to hear what you think and/or what goals you are setting for yourself this year! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thursday, January 04, 2007
In 1970, the spacecraft Apollo 13 was sent on a mission bound for the moon. But this “routine” space trip went very wrong. There was a malfunction caused by an explosion which ruptured oxygen tank no. 2 in the service module. The explosion also ruptured a line in the no. 1 oxygen tank, causing it to lose oxygen rapidly. The service module bay no.4 cover was blown off. All oxygen stores were lost within about 3 hours, along with loss of water, electrical power, and use of the propulsion system. Ron Howard made this into a film in 1995 showing the trials and tribulations of the Apollo 13 crew, mission control, and families/ after a near-fatal accident crippled the space vehicle. The astronauts are stranded 205,000 miles from earth, they are in a major crisis. Mission control has to find a way to bring them home. Otherwise there was the possibility that the spacecraft explosion might maroon them in an enormous orbit about the Earth. In the end, Mission control was able to find a way to bring them home safely. It is an amazing story!In our lives we will face times of crisis. Some crises will be major, others minor. But we need to know how to respond to any kind of crises if we want to learn how to live fully; if we want to learn how to live focused lives for God. It is about being able to process the deeper life pain while seeking to live for the Lord.
So what are some of the types of crises we might face?
- A threat to life, property or way of life./ When we are threatened or part of our life is threatened, then our response is to fight against it.
- Conflicts in relationships./ Conflicts in our relationships can be quite painful.
- A current situation which requires urgent change./ Any kind of change, even if it is for the best, can be difficult to go through. But sometimes the way we are living is not good and must be changed. The sooner the better!
- Inner turmoil or frustration./ When you are not at peace in life, then you are in turmoil.
- Past abuses or dysfunctional relationships that have not been dealt with./ It is easy to want to avoid our past pain or abuse, but at some point in life, for us to be healthy for God, we must deal with it.
- Personal sickness or a sickness in the family./ Health issues are always disruptive to life.
- Mid-life struggles regarding loss of focus or direction./ We all want to know what life is about, and so when we struggle to understand God’s will or direction for our lives, it can be quite uncomfortable maybe even lonely.
In 2 Corinthians 1 the apostle Paul is despairing for his life. But then he says some amazing, powerful, and important words in verse 9- “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” Paul understood that in the midst of the crisis, God would do a great work.
As we deal with crisis, don't try to understand the lesson or lessons to be learned in the crisis. It is important to focus on and deal with the crisis. But as you seek to deal with the crisis, don’t think that you have to do this on your own power; trust in God. God will walk with you through the crisis, and God will walk you through the crisis. Praise be to God! (tell me what you think: email@example.com)