Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Every year, on the first Sunday of the year, we hand out Epiphany stars. Each star has a word on it. As you receive this star, it is supposed to be your "word" for the year. It is God's encouragement to you for the year. There are many words; words like faith, support, encouragement, surrender, etc...
My word for this year was "opportunity." The fun thing about getting the word in this random manner is to see what God might do in and through me. This year I have seen how God has given me many opportunities. Opportunities for service, opportunities for new friendships, opportunities for mentoring, opportunities to make a difference. I believe because of this word, I have been more aware of the opportunities placed before me.
How about you? If God were to give you a word, what might that word be? How have you felt God prodding you? Leading you? Challenging you? I encourage you to think through these questions. It will help you to know how God has been with you throughout the year.
God bless!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

God With Us

When you look around, it doesn’t take long to realize that there are many people who are lonely. They are lonely for several reasons. Some are lonely because they isolate themselves from the world. Others are lonely because they have trouble opening up their heart to others. And still others are lonely because they aren’t loved as they should be. People can be in a crowded room, with many people, and still be lonely, because they are not connecting to others.
In this Christmas season, we have a good reminder that we need not be lonely. In Matthew 1:23 we are told about Mary fulfilling the prophecy from Isaiah 7:14: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel." which means 'God with us.' God is with us. Not just 2000 years ago when Jesus was born, but even now.
God is with us. This means that we always have someone walking with us. This means that we always have someone to turn to for help. This means that we have someone who understands us. This means that we have someone who can act on our behalf. God is with us.
This Christmas season I hope you open yourself up to the presence of God through Jesus Christ. But I also hope that you pray that God would bring others to you to love and love you. God is with us in this way as well! God bless.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Does God only love Christians?

We are in the advent season (as it is known in many religious settings), and this current Sunday is to be the Sunday of "love." With this in mind, as we think about love, I wanted to tackle the question "Does God only love Christians?" This is an important question, because people believe Christianity to be so limiting, and the God of Christians to be so narrow and unloving (since He condemns people to hell).
The truth is that God loves everyone. In the book of 1 John, in the New Testament, we are told that "God is love." So the essence of God is love itself. If God's essence is love, then the nature of God is to love. The Bible also tells us that God does not want evil to befall anyone.
The most profound scripture is a very well known one; John 3:16, which says: "For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." God loves the world; everyone. And because of this life, He allowed His Son, Jesus, to come to this earth and live amongst His people. That is what Christmas is all about; God's love; God's coming to us; and ultimately Jesus dying on the cross so that we might not be penalized for our wrongdoings.
It seems that the world wants to live without accountability. They want a God who loves, but who doesn't punish. If you were to look at families where the children misbehave without any punishment, you see a family in chaos, and children who have no sense of right and wrong. These children not only wreak havoc in their families, but in the world around them.
God doesn't only love Christians, God loves the whole world. God created the world and said that it was good. It is not God who put us in the position we are in, we did that on our own; we got ourselves lost from God and God's love. God's love is there for all to receive, they just have to reach out to God and accept it. As Romans 3:23 says, "For the penalty of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ." Let us grab hold of this gift. The best gift you can have this Christmas!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Materialism: Why does it feel so good?

We are coming into the Christmas (Advent) season, and all the decorations are starting to go up. Christmas season is my favorite season of the year, because I love the decorations and the spirit it brings. And yet, there is a spirit that exists that is not good, and that is the spirit of materialism. The stores are advertising and hoping that people will buy, buy, buy. And we all join along and spend lots of money.
So I want to deal with this question: Why does materialism feel so good? It is always fun to get new things. And it is so easy to get caught up in wanting what is new. Why is this? I believe it is because we get so easily bored. Anytime we work at the same job, or drive the same car for any length of time, we begin to get bored with it. And so we get antsy and begin to want a new car, or a new stereo, or a new job.
But on top of that, the new products usually have upgrades. The new cars have all the new gadgets (GPS, TV screen to see behind the car, etc...) And as we look at these new products, all shiny and fancy, we get that itch to have it. And once we get these "new things" we have to brag about it to others. Then those who don't have the new things want them as well.
I believe at the core of overcoming this desire for materialism is learning how to be happy with what we have and with where we are in life. As the apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:11, "For I have learned to be content with whatever I have." Until we learn how to be content, we will always want something more, something different. We will never be able to enjoy life.
SO, this Christmas season, even in the midst of getting and giving, try to sekk out a bit of contentment for what you have; try to allow yourself to be content. Maybe even give away some of what you already have, because when you give, then you come to appreciate what you already possess. Believe me, contentment is much better than always wanting.
And all the more, receive LOVE Himself; Jesus Christ. This season really is about knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In Christ, we can be content, and know that love is more important than things!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Having Fun in the Holidays

The holidays are supposed to be fun. There are decorations, and gatherings, and parties, and great meals, and spending time with family. What could be more fun than this?
But the truth is, for many people, the holidays are anything but fun. The decorations mean work (taking down what normally is out, and putting up new decorations). The parties and family gatherings mean spending money for the food, and extra time to get everything ready and cooked. Then there is the shopping for a Christmas tree, and Christmas cards, and presents. Then there is the decorating the tree and wrapping the presents. Holidays can turn into an abundance of work and added busyness. Does this sound like fun?
Another aspect that can make holidays difficult is thinking about the loss of a loved one. Usually during holidays the grief of a lost loved one intensifies. Instead of the holiday bringing joy, it is a reminder that this loved one is no longer there in your life. I was talking to a friend this week, and she was saying how Thanksgiving was going to be hard because her husband (who is working in another country) will not be able to be with them, and she won't be going to see her family (who live in another state). Holidays are not fun for everyone.
So how can we have fun in the holidays? Here's my opinion: don't take the holidays too seriously. What I mean by this is don't work so hard to get the "right" Christmas gift. Don't take hours to do the shopping. Only decorate in a way that will bless you, not make life overwhelming (especially if you don't like the work it takes to decorate). Schedule time with family and friends in a way that will be a blessing to you. If you belong to a church, then you have a "church family" on top of your regular family. Schedule in time with those you love to be with. Don't over schedule. Learn how to say "no" to those things that burden you. Call a friend when you are feeling "down."
Psalm 16:11 tells us, "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."
Hopefully, by bringing into your life people you love, and limiting the extra "work" that holidays can bring, and letting God's presence bless you, you will have fun in this holiday season. Blessings.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


This is a topic of a friend of mine who has been blogging each week on the same topics. It is interesting that she chose this topic because of the week I am having: Monday I wrote my sermon, prepared for the Bible Study, and led the Bible Study; Tuesday I met with a family to prepare for the funeral of their son, and put the funeral and the talk together, and also had 2 night meetings; and today, Wednesday I did the funeral, the gravesite, and had another meeting. BUSY AS A BEE!
The Bible affirms the importance of working hard. Proverbs 6:6 tells us: "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!" In other words, don't be a sluggard, one who refuses to work hard. And 1 Thessalonians 5:12 says: "Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you..." Working hard is something that we were created to do.
So if we are meant to work hard, is it bad to be busy? The answer is no, and yet it is also yes. Yes in that we are to told in the Bible to "make the most of our time" (Ephesians 5:16). An important story for us to hear is the story where 2 women are doing very different things. Martha is working hard and preparing for a gathering (as was her duty), but her sister Mary was sister lazily at Jesus' feet. She started to complain to Jesus about this. Jesus answers in Luke 10:41-42, "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." It is important to balance our busyness with times of reflection and worship and sitting at Jesus' feet. And even God Himself rested on the seventh day and commands us to do the same.
Are you busy? Is your busyness always productive? Do you take time to sit at Jesus' feet? Do you take a Sabbath break? Hopefully you answer yes to all of these. I know I need to do a better job at these break times. Tell me how you do it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What was it like for God to become human?

Have you ever wondered what it was like for God to become human? We might not be able to understand this, because you don't know what difference it could have been if you don't know that there is more. Jesus knew that there was more because even though He was a human being, He was also God in the flesh. Jesus knew the power He possessed being God. Jesus knew the knowledge He had as God. Jesus knew the love He carried. Jesus knew what it was like to be God.
But He also had the limitations of being human. He had emotions like a human. He had limited physical strength. He got hungry, and angry, and sleepy. He could feel physical pain, and doing miracles drained Him of His energy. I'm sure at times He wanted to get out of that human body and escape the limitations that were put on Him.
So why did He do it? Why would He give up so much? Philippians 2:5-11 tells us:
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."

It was about understanding and attitude. God understood how we were lost in our sin. God knew we couldn't be saved by our own doing. So God took on human flesh and came to this earth and became Jesus Christ. As "the Christ" He knew that He needed to humble Himself and not worry about his human limitations. He needed to become a servant to bring people to a saving faith. Jesus was willing to suffer so that we wouldn't have to.
What was it like for God to become human? Ultimately, it was victorious, exciting, fulfilling, and purposeful. It was a profound way to share His love. And it was worth everything He went through.
What might God be asking you to do to help someone else? Share this important message of God's salvation? Lift someone out of their depression? Guide someone to understand their purpose? Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


The definition of synchronicity is: "the experience of two or more events which are causally unrelated occurring together in a meaningful manner." The interesting idea here is that often times events that happen in our life might seem unrelated, but can be related in a way that helps us to understand what we are to know or do.
If we can understand that many events that seem unrelated are actually connected, then it helps us to be more conscious and aware of our situation. Even more, it will help to direct us in our lives. I truly believe that God has a plan for our lives, and that events in our lives come to us to help lead us in this plan. If I am aware of how the events fit together, I will be better prepared to find meaning in them.
For example, a couple of years ago my church and I got involved in a program called "Focused Living." This program helps individuals, and ultimately churches figure out God's vision. Part of this program contains an aspect of mentoring. So, I started mentoring several people in my church. As I did this mentoring, I realized that God has gifted me for this kind of ministry. This has been affirmed lately by God bringing to me other mentoring situations outside of the church! SYNCHRONICITY AT WORK.
A second example: last week I was reading a chapter in the book "Wild Goose Chase," by Mark Batterson. In the chapter I was reading, he talked about needing to set goals for God in a way that would really make a difference for God (i.e. it isn't enough to want to grow the numbers of my church, what would be God's purpose for growing the church?). Then the same day I decided to read an article that someone had given me ("Jesus' Guide to Ministry Success," by J. Oswald Sanders). In this article Sanders talks about how God "wants us to have spiritual ambition so that our lives might really count and bring glory to His name." Again, setting goals to make a difference for the Kingdom of God. SYNCHRONICITY.
I believe synchronicity is all around us, we just have to start looking. And if you start looking you will see that God can truly guide you. Tell me what you think.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Christian or Christ Follower: Is there a difference?

The word "christian" gets thrown around a lot these days. Because of this, many who say they are Christians don't really live a life that is any different than anyone else. So maybe if we want to differentiate ourselves, we should say that we are Christ followers. But is there any difference?
The Greek word for Christian found in the New Testament is Christianos. It is a word that refers to those who were "adherents" to the ways of Jesus. It was actually first applied to the Gentiles (or the non-Jews) in the New Testament. Followers of Christ actually didn't give it to themselves, but it was spoken of them by others. It was a way that others would designate these people who gave themselves over to Christ.
There may be important understanding here. To be a Christian shouldn't be a title we give to ourselves, but what others say of us when they see our behavior. To be a Christian really should be the same as being a "Christ follower." As a Christ follower we should seek to act and live and think as Christ did. Our lives should be different enough from the world that others will notice our example and behavior.
Unfortunately, too many "Christians" are not Christ followers. They say they believe, they go to church, they talk the talk, but their lives do not match their words. They act too much like the world to be Christ followers.
How do you see the difference between those who say they are Christians and those who are truly following Christ? How can we be less concerned with calling ourselves Christians, and acting like Christ followers? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Gratitude. Grateful. Thankful. Thanksgiving. These are words that are important to think about, and even more, an attitude that is important to display. And yet, how often do we take for granted what we have in our lives? If you are like me, you tend to reflect too much on the negative experiences, instead of the good things of life.
This last Sunday my church celebrated "Pastor's Appreciation" day. It was wonderful to have them show me their love and appreciation. I was given a basket full of cards and gifts. Later, when I went home, it was a joy to go through the basket with my wife and kids and see all the special gifts, read the touching sentiments, and marvel at the time and energy that went into putting this basket together. This should be a memory that does not leave me; a memory of gratitude.
A number of years ago I started an "Encouragement" file. I did this because someone once told me that this file would help me in times of discouragement. So I put into this file (actually I now have files) the encouraging notes and cards I get from people. And sure enough, whenever I pull it out and read some of the thoughts expressed, I became grateful for the time these people put into sharing their loving thoughts with me; grateful for what I mean to them and the impact God has allowed me to have in their life.
If we take the time to notice, we really have much for which to show gratitude. In fact, it might be beneficial if you take a moment and list some of the things in your life for which you are grateful. It really makes a positive difference when we think about this. As Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." We should not only dwell on them, we should be grateful for them!
Tell me what you think.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Overcoming Discouragement

The other day I was thinking about how discouragement is just part of life. There is a part of me that would like to avoid discouraging situations, but there is a part of me that also understands that they can help me in my life. As the Bible tells us in Romans 5:3-4, "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope." It is through our sufferings, through our discouragement, through our trials and challenges that we learn how to persevere, and through this persevering spirit we are able to gain character; we become a better person!
So what has been discouraging me? My son's baseball team. I am managing my son's baseball team, and there appears to be a lack of talent on the team. Consequently, the last 2 games we have lost 10-3 and 7-1 which included countless errors! But that is just a game. Right? So to overcome this, I should focus more on what I can do for the kids to help them improve, than on the score or on winning or losing.
I am also discouraged by the lack of attendance and money in our church. There are many reasons for this, not worth going into at this time. If I were to think about how to overcome this discouragement, I think it would again be focus. If I can focus on those who are coming, and what God is doing in and through my life, and how I'm helping others, then maybe I can be less discouraged. If I follow Romans 5:3-4, and let this trial give me a spirit of perseverance, then I can have the character I need to make a difference as a minister in this church!
The good news, then, is that I can take each issue in my life that causes me to be discouraged, and find a new perspective on how it can challenge me to be better. May I give my discouragements to God this day and every day!!
Tell me what you think.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


In life it is important to admit the weaknesses, faults, and limitations we have in life. This is important, because until we admit this, we fool ourselves into thinking e are somebody that we are not. However, it is not easy, because to admit these things, makes us feel that we are less of a competent person. But admitting my shortcomings is not about putting myself down. It is about coming to terms with the "real" me. There is nothing wrong with having shortcomings, because everyone has shortcomings.
What this is really about is being transparent. Too often in life we try to put on masks, facades, and pretend we are someone that we are not. The problem with this is that we can never be comfortable with who we are, because we never live the life of who we truly are. We try to be what we think others want us to be.
Where I need to start with my transparency is with God. I know that God already knows who I am, since the Bible informs us that God formed my inward being. But being transparent with God is important, because it allows me to admit who I am to the One who loves me the way I am. A good way to be transparent to God is through journaling. In journaling I can share with God my true and honest thoughts and feelings. How freeing it is to put down on paper what I am, and the emotions that are inside. It is a wonderful release.
Another form of being transparent is admitting my sins. Too often, until I admit my sins to God, it is easy for me to pretend that they are not real. But once I reveal them, I need to deal with them. This too is a healthy practice. In the Bible, in Psalm 32, verse 3, it says: "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away..." Confession is the transparency that is needed when it comes to our sins. When we don't confess to God, our sin stays within us, and creates a guilt that eats at our being.
I am grateful that I can be who God created me to be. I can admit my limitations and faults and shortcomings, because that is who God created me to be. By being transparent in this way I can be more content in my living, because I don't have to pretend. And when I confess, I receive forgiveness from my sin from God and can live as a person who is free of all guilt.
Where do you need to be more transparent? Start today!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Can you really be happy?

Happiness is something that everyone wants in their life. In fact in the Declaration of Independence it says: "...We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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..." People have been led to believe that there is a path to happiness. And yet, as the Constitution says, they have the right to the "pursuit of happiness." Unfortunately, too many people seem to always be pursuing, and never finding!
What is the answer? Well, if I had the answer to a life of happiness, I could be a rich person. I know that in my own life, there is much happiness, but also much that brings unhappiness. Anytime there are problems in life, there are times of unhappiness. This is the reality; problems are a part of life. There is no way around this.
So, we need to discover how we can find happiness in the midst of problems. And for me, the way I do this is to give each day to the Lord. Psalm 118:24 says, "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." Each day is a new day full of possibilities. I try to live my life with enthusiasm and excitement, trying to make it the best day I can. That alone gives me happiness. When the day brings me fun and good experiences, that is all the better, but even when life is hard, and there are struggles, I still try to find the good in it.
Last week I came into my office and turned on my computer, only to find it wouldn't boot up. This has been a major inconvenience, and yet, I give thanks that I have a lap top that I can still use while my computer is being fixed. I can find happiness in knowing that there are alternatives to not having my office computer. We can do this with so many aspects of life.
How do you find happiness in life? Let me know.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Experiencing God's Love 2

A few months ago I did a blog on "experiencing God's love." However, this topic is so big, that I wanted to explore it some more. I realize that I am not able to express completely how, or in what ways we experience God's love. There are so many ways that this is true.
I would like to share again some thoughts on this, because I believe it is such an important topic. We tend to take love for granted; especially God's love. We forget that God's love is unconditional. Even though we don't deserve it, God showers us with His love. As I was thinking about more ways I find this to be true, I came up with a couple more I wanted to share; children, and forgiveness.
I believe that God gives us children to help us to love and be loved. Before I was a father I would see my friends with their children. They would care for them, and be there for them, and talk about how much they loved them. But I could never fully understand this until I was a father. The love I have for my children is impossible to explain to others. I love my children completely. There isn't anything they could do that would cause me to stop loving them. And the love I receive back from them is truly priceless. In this experience, I have learned so much about my relationship with God. I can understand God's love better by understanding the immense and unconditional love I have for my children!
A second way I realized I experience God's love is by the forgiveness God gives to me. Romans 3:23 reminds us that "for we all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory." But, God doesn't leave us in our sin. Christ gave His life for us on the cross so that we might be forgiven. Therefore, we are told in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, then He is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleans us from all unrighteousness." What does this mean? Well, as Psalm 32:1, "Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." We are able to experience happiness because we are no longer weighed down by sin and guilt!
I asked some friends what they thought, and this is some of their responses:
When the congregation at church greet each other with hugs. I experience God's love through my family and friends.God shows his love during times of trial in my life when I don't even realize it and He is working things out for me. God provides what I need and not necessarily what I want. Through sunshine, birds chirping, flowers, and nature. I'd love to know how you experience God's love.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Life is full of Challenges

When golf balls were first manufactured, they made the covers smooth. However, it was then discovered that after a ball had been roughed up, they flew further. So, they started making them with dimpled covers. This is how it is with life, that by going through the challenges of life, we might get roughed up, and we actually become stronger.
Have you ever felt that when you go out into the world, you are like a sheep amongst wolves? You try to be nice, and kind, and loving, and giving, only to find that others take advantage of you, or are unresponsive to your generosity? And this can be frustrating and can get us down.
I know that all too often I focus on the potential rejection and suffering that might come to me, instead of focusing on the protection and provision of God in our lives. The Bible speaks of how when we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are filled with the Spirit of God, and have the power of God within us, and working for us.
Many times I am asked how I know what to pray. And my answer is always the same: "I don't think about it, I just let the Spirit of God guide my mind and my words and speak through me. It is the same when we are called to go and live through the challenges of life, we need to let the Spirit direct us and speak through us. It is believing that God will provide for you and me what we need in the times that we need it.
Even though the world can seem like a jungle, full of ferocious animals, it is the wisdom, and innocence, and power of God that will protect us and carry us through it all.
But in the midst of it all, we do need to be careful. In the New Testament, Jesus, in Matthew 10:21, gives us a warning about people: "Brother will betray brother...and a father his child, and children will rise against parents." In our world, you have to be careful who you trust and what situations you put yourself in.Again, this comes back to letting the Spirit of God guide your thoughts and your actions.
I urge you to focus,not on the fact that there are challenges and untrustworthy people, but rather that we are called to be "in" this world, and God will guide us in regards to who we can trust, what we should do, and where we should go. Remember, the challenges actually serve a purpose, to make us stronger, and to help us actually make a difference.
Join with me today in giving thanks to God for the challenges we face, and to seek to learn and grow from them! What do you think?

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Some people are characters, and others have character. Character is the evaluation of an individual's moral qualities. Character includes qualities like honesty, integrity, loyalty and courage. It has been said that character is who you are when no one is looking. In other words, we might be honest in front of people, but dishonest behind their back.
As I deal with people in the church, it is interesting to see how some people can be trusted, while others cannot. Some people can be counted on and stay true to their word, but others go back on their word like it is nothing.
As a minister, character is not just part of my life, it is an important part of my job. I am called to be an example in who I am for others. I am called to be honest, and loyal, and trustworthy, and above reproach.
But as I say this, shouldn't this be true of everyone? Shouldn't everyone be expected to have good moral character? Why do we expect some people to have more character than others?
Life is full of experiences that not only test our character, but actually develop it. We see this expressed in Romans 5:3-5, "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."
Character is born through our life experiences. As we face suffering in our life, we learn perseverance and fortitude; we learn how to push through the difficulties and not give up. This persevering spirit gives us character, because it gives us a strength that could not be developed by life being easy. We learn the importance of being disciplined and committed and trustworthy, so that we can make things happen. We learn that being trusted by others is a valued quality, because we probably have had people come into our lives during the time of struggle who we trusted, and helped to get us through.
If you were to evaluate your character, how would you do? Are you trustworthy? Honest? Loyal? Responsible? Loving? If not, where do you need to improve? It's not about knocking yourself down, it's about evaluating so that you can improve your character, because none of us is where we need to be. But there is probably little that is more important than having good character.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Being Useful

I think that all people want to feel useful in life. There are definitely times when we mess up and don't feel useful. I remember when I was a kid, and my dad would be doing some work, and I would go over and want to help him, and he might even let me try, but if I failed to do it right, he would step in and take it away from me. Those times caused me to feel not so useful.
Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever struggled with something, or failed at something, and because you did you didn't feel useful? It is not uncommon to go through periods in life like this. The key is not to believe these negative voices.
The Bible tells us that we are very useful. In Ephesians 2:10 we read: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Did you catch that? We are God's workmanship. We have been created to do good works.
Even more, we are reminded that when God created Adam and Eve, after God had finished creating them, God said: "It is good." We are created with the capability to be good, to do good, and to be useful. The key is finding what you are good at. Maybe it is writing, or drawing, or organizing, or resolving conflicts. Then once you have an idea of what you are good at, seek to find a place to put this to use. It may be your job, it may be your church, it may be at your kids' school.
I am thankful for the times that I can be reminded that I can be useful, because this helps me to break the spell that my struggles, failures, and negative voices have put on me. Refreshing my mind in this truth lifts me up and sets me on the path to "good works." I hope this encourages you as well. Share a comment, and encourage someone else.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How To Celebrate God

Have you ever noticed how we celebrate so many things in life? My birthday is coming up in September, and I am excited about being able to celebrate this event with friends and family. We celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, birthdays. Celebrations are great, because they are not only fun, but they help us to remember special and important times of life.
This week I came across a blog that talked about how we so often fail to celebrate answered prayer. Here is a quote from that blog ( "How often we pray intently for God to reveal/answer us and then when He does, we have almost lost interest in the subject because we have already gone onto another desire to pray for. We don't take time to celebrate in His answers." As I thought about this, I realized it is true.
Not only does this happen in my life, but it happens in the church as well. How often do we lift up prayers to God, but we fail to celebrate the answers; we fail to celebrate with others. And yet, having said this, I am glad that our church did this just last week. We had been praying for a while for someone with cancer, and we found out that the cancer is gone! So we shared it at church last week, and everyone applauded; we celebrated as a church family!
So, the question is, how do we celebrate more? Well, I think that it is important to make a habit of sharing not only your pain and struggles with others, but share the blessings that God is doing in your life. I need to make sure that I am praising God for all that He does, but even more for the fact that He cares about me personally and walks with me. As the psalmist said in Psalm 72:18-19, "Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel,
who alone does marvelous deeds.

19 Praise be to his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Making Big Decisions

The Robert Frost poem "The Road Not Taken" starts out with these words: " Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;"
In life we have decisions to make. Sometimes there are only 2 choices, sometimes there are more than two. Sometimes we have small decisions to make (i.e. What clothes should I wear today?), and other times the decisions are bigger (i.e. Who should I marry? OR Should I get a new job?).
The question I want to ask is this: How do you make a big decision? What criteria do you use to make what you feel is the right choice? Most people choose by what feels right, or what's most convenient, or what gives them the greatest reward in return. Sometimes people will make choices on a whim, or out of anger or frustration. Often times, people don't put the thought and energy into it that a big decision requires.
For me personally, I like to start with prayer. I believe that God is a personal God, and cares about my decisions. Even more, I believe God has a plan for my life, as Jeremiah 29:11 says: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." As I have learned to listen to the voice of God, through times of prayer I feel God leading me to the right decision. Secondly, I will talk to other trusted friends. I believe that God has given us trusted people in our lives to help give us wisdom. Maybe we're too close to the decision, or maybe our emotions are tied up, or maybe want to make a decision based on a selfish desire. My friends can help me to be more objective in making the decision.
I believe God has a plan and purpose for my life, and for yours. The challenge is making the right decision when the choice comes. And as Robert Frost says at the end of his poem:
"I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
I'd like to hear your thoughts. :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Imagination. The dictionary gives the meaning as: "The formation of a mental image of something that is neither perceived as real nor present to the senses." To imagine something is to think about bringing into being that which doesn't exist. As I think about this, I am immediately drawn to the creation story of how God brought the world and all that is in it into being. God imagined it, and then made it happen!
In respect to me, I think about the text in Genesis 1 that says that people have been created in the image of God. As part of God's image, I have imagination, and can bring into being that which does not exist. This is especially true for me to think about in regards to ministry. I love to imagine what our church can be, and what the people in the church can become. It is exciting to see a person blossom into the being God created them to be, and know that I had a part in this.
But the challenge comes in that the older we get, the harder it is to imagine. It could be that we don't believe that what we imagine can happen, so we stop imagining. It could be that we get caught up in the concreteness of life, and stop imagining. But I think this is an unfortunate occurrence when we limit our imagination, because without imagination we lose hope and the excitement of what could be.
If you could imagine without limitation, what would you imagine? What do you want to see happen, that isn't in existence right now? I know for me it is to see the people in the church unified with one purpose and reaching out with God's unconditional love. Once we imagine something, we need to take one step at a time to try and make it a reality. I hope you will let yourself imagine, starting today. Tell me what you think.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Loving Your Neighbor

One of the best known phrases from the Bible is the words of Jesus, where He said: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Now this sounds good, but what does it mean, and how are we to live this out? I ask these questions, because I know that it is easy to speak the words, but if I don't know what it looks like, then I probably won't be doing it in my life.
In the Bible, after Jesus said these words, He was asked the question: "Who is my neighbor?" That is a good question. If we are supposed to love our neighbor, then it would be good to know who our neighbor is. The obvious answer might be the person that lives next to us, or on the same block as us. But Jesus wanted us to understand that it is much broader than that. In short, Jesus told a story about a Jewish man who was attacked, robbed, and injured. He was injured so badly that he couldn't walk to get help. As time went on a couple of different people walked by, and not wanting to get involved, they passed by on the other side without helping. Finally, a Samaritan (one who didn't get along with Jews) walked by. When he saw the man was injured, he felt compassion for him, and so he carried him to a place where he could get help, and paid for the man's care.
In telling this story, Jesus was making the point that our neighbor is anyone we come in contact with that needs our help. It doesn't matter the ethnicity, the social status, or the way the person looks, to "love our neighbor as ourself" means to care for those who we can help. This is challenging, because it is easy to keep to yourself; to not want to involve yourself in the problems and concerns of others. But life needs to be about giving ourselves away.
As a minister, I have many opportunities to do this. And when I help another person, I need to do it without the expectation of getting anything back. If I do it with that kind of an attitude, then I will have selfish motives, and it will limit my capability to love genuinely. So when I see a need, and realize that I have the means to help, then I reach out in love and help that other person. In this way I am "loving my neighbor as myself." How about you? Where have you been able to do this? I would love to hear your story.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

God for a Day

If I were God for a day/week/whatever, what changes would I make in my life?

As I think of this question, I have two reactions: one, is that it would be great to have all the power in the world. The other would be a fear of the damage I might cause. This question takes me back to the Jim Carey movie “Bruce Almighty.” Bruce thought it would be great to be God, but then realized the great responsibility that came with such great power, and how he messed everything up by granting everybody their requests. But of course the question limits the power to changing myself; what changes would I make in my life?

To answer this question presupposes that I have the knowledge of what is best for me. Of course we live our lives thinking that we know what is best. But as I have lived my life, and seen the mistakes I’ve made, I’ve come to understand that I don’t know what is best. So to be God for a day I would need to have the wisdom and insight to know what is best. I suppose that I would want to create in me a better capacity to love people unconditionally. As Christians, we want to love unconditionally, but it is oh so hard. Whenever we are wronged or taken advantage of, we want to put forth our anger to others. We might say we forgive someone, but we hold the grudge deep inside. So secondly, I’d change myself to be able to forgive for real.

I think that if I was able to make these changes, I could truly love, and encourage, and minister to others around me, and I would be able to help people experience the love of God. I know that many people long for true, unconditional love. How wonderful it would be to give them a taste of this.

This answer may not seem profound to some, but I think that love and forgiveness is at the core of who God made us to be, and is what allows us to have deep, meaningful, ongoing relationships.

How about you?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Taking It Easy

I am here on vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota with my wife and her family at a family reunion. The scenery is amazing! I love being with my family taking it easy. As I reflect on this time I am having, I think about how difficult it is to "take it easy" in life when we are not on vacation or in a place like the Black Hills. And I began to wonder how we can have this same "take it easy" attitude every day.
What is it that allows me to take it easy while on vacation? For one, there are no worries. We have set aside money for the trip and we have no definitive schedule. BUT, even on vacation, things don't always go as planned. My wife and her parents spent last night and all of today sick with the flu. NOT FUN! And yet, I still have this sense of taking it easy.
The apostle Paul I think says it best in Philippians 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious for anything, but with petition and prayer, make your requests to God, and the peace that surpasses all knowledge will guard your hearts and minds." What a wonderful thought: every day we can give our worries to God and have a take it easy attitude. Every day we can know that God's peace is there for us. Every day we can experience the life that God has for us to enjoy. We doubt it, but it is true; it is promised to us by God.
What is keeping you from this "take it easy" attitude. Maybe giving it over to God on a regular (and I mean even every minute of the day) basis will allow you to experience the beauty God has for you to enjoy this day and every day. What do you think?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Want vs. Need

When people see a church, they often think that it is there to meet a need that they have; churches are for helping people. And to a certain extent this is true. But this is not the only truth, or even the primary truth. Churches are there first and foremost to lead people to God and to help them become disciples of Christ.
This was actually an ongoing issue with Jesus while He was here on the earth. People would come to Jesus with a perceived need (to be healed) and Jesus wouldn't offer them healing at first. For example, in the Bible, in the New Testament, in the book of Matthew, chapter 9, some people brought a paralyzed man to Jesus. What was Jesus' initial response? Let's read it in verse 2: "When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, 'Take heart, son, your sins are forgiven.'" Jesus forgives the man of his sins.
In this passage we have the issue of want verses need. The man wanted to not be paralyzed any more. The man wanted to walk. The man wanted Jesus to heal him. But Jesus knew that his greater need was to be saved from his sin, so Jesus forgave the man of his sins. This doesn't go over too well with the people, and Jesus realizes that they don't understand, so to help them get to a place where they were open to having their need met, Jesus took care of the want and healed the man. With this, verse 8 tells us: "When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God..." In the end, God is glorified, and faith is strengthened.
In an article entitled "How Responding to People's Needs Hurts the Church," by Elizabeth I. Steele, she says: "This trivializes the church, its mission, and its outreach. It eviscerates the heart of the church’s message and cuts the church off from its identity as the people of Christ." When the church seeks to always meet the needs (which are usually wants) of people, it creates people who only think about taking, instead of developing disciples who want to give. Christ came to "serve and give His life as a ransom for many." As Christ's followers, the church should be about helping its people learn how to give of themselves. When this happens, the needs will be met all the more.
The church is called to create disciples, not sponges. What do you think?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Listening to God

Those who have the ability to hear have been given a great gift. It is easy to take this gift for granted. One way we take it for granted is by using selective hearing. Selective hearing is when we only hear what we want to hear. People do it all the time. Maybe they are in a discussion, and they are not listening to what the other person is saying because they are thinking about what they want to say. Or maybe they are distracted (like when I watch TV) and don't hear what their spouse is saying.
I know there are many times when I try and say something to my kids, and their answer is, "What?" even though I am standing right next to them. And then when I don't repeat what I said, and they think about it, they realize what I said.
Our hearing is really an amazing gift, because without it we would not be able to communicate. If you only talked, and didn't listen, there would be no communication. And yet this is what we do to God all the time, and we call it prayer.
When we come to God in prayer, we usually do all the talking. And most of the time our talking is just asking God for things, or asking God to do things. We don't take the time to "listen to God." And then we get discouraged when our life doesn't go the way we want it to.
Now granted, it takes practice learning how to listen to God, but it is possible. That why Jesus said in the Bible, in the gospel of John how He was the shepherd, and His sheep hear His voice. We can learn to hear (discern) the voice of God. Think about it this way, there are people who call you on the phone, and with hearing only one word from them you know who it is, because you know their voice.
When I pray, and I quiet the thoughts in my head, I will hear a "still small voice" speak to me. This is the voice of God. And as I have learned how to listen to it, I can be guided by God's speaking to me. Prayer is so much more wonderful now that I can listen to God; now that I can have full communication with God (talking AND listening).
I encourage you to practice listening to God. It will make a difference in your relationship with God, and it will make a difference in how you live your life. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I Will Not Be Afraid

Fear is real. We all have areas in our lives where we are fearful. I am afraid of heights. I also have a fear of failure. But the problem with fear is that it causes us to not live life to the fullest. Fear causes us to hold back. And while President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "the only thing to fear is fear itself," the reality is that we do allow ourselves to have fear.
Fear can be paralyzing. It can rob us of our peace and joy. It can keep us from stepping out in faith to do what we know we should do. If you were to look at the life of King David (from the Bible), you would see that David had many opportunities to fear. As a shepherd he regularly encountered wild animals threatening his sheep. He had to overcome his fear to fight them off. He ended up fighting a giant named Goliath, who was much bigger and stronger than he was. He had to overcome his faith as he defeated Goliath with a sling shot and 3 stones.
In the book of Psalms, David wrote a very important Psalm in regards to conquering fear through prayer. Let's look at this prayer in Psalm 27:1-3:

"The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. 3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident."

In this prayer David declared that even when evil was around him and threatened him, he would remain confident because God was there to protect him. As David said, "The Lord is my light and my salvation." Where do you feel some fear? I know I need to trust God to help me to be successful in my endeavors as I trust him to lead me even when others around me attack me. How wonderful it is to know that with God I can overcome my fear!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

High Gas Prices

How have the gas prices affected you? These days everybody is fed up with the rising gas prices. It's not just that it seems so wrong to have the prices be so high. It's that it affects us in every aspect of life. Because of the high prices, we see airline prices going up, food prices going up, consumer prices going up.
As I was reflecting on the affect it has had on my own life, I realize that it has caused me and my family to make some changes. My wife and I are regularly trying to work out our schedule so that we can use one car at times, instead of two. This makes it difficult, because we often have different schedules and places to be. And even though we seek to live on a budget, most of our spending money goes to money for gas, instead of going out to eat, or driving somewhere for an outing. And while spending time at home can be a healthy family discipline, it can be a bit much some times.
The high gas prices is causing a lot of anger these days. You might have read the article of the Danville woman who was accused of setting 2 gas stations on fire in protest. There are gasoline protest meeting groups online. There are attempts to hurt the gas companies (like the effort to encourage people not to buy gas from a particular company, or on a particular day). Or how about Bob Oyster, who was told by Shell he was going to have to pay higher prices for the gas, so he jacked up the price well over $4.00 (that was when it was selling in the mid to high $3.00 range). He did this to make a statement. As Oyster says: "I got fed up. It makes a statement, and I guess when people see that price they also see the Shell sign right next to it.''
While things are tight financially, I am still able to pay for gas. But that doesn't mean I want to give all my money to the oil companies. And what about those who can't afford the gas anymore? What are we to do? I'm not sure I have the answer, but I do know that as consumers, we CAN make a statement by trying to limit our gas purchases. After a while, it WILL begin to send a loud statement to the oil companies. By doing this, we also are seeking to be good stewards of the money we do have.

I ask again, how have the gas prices affected you?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Turning Bad Into Good

Life is full of bad experiences. Bad things happen all the time, to good people as well as bad. Bad things can even happen to Christians. There are many who wonder why God doesn't protect them from the bad things in our world. But think about this, the bad things that happen to us are either our own doing, or a product of the bad in our world.
First, we sometimes create the bad which happens to us. We don't always make good decisions, and some of our decisions lead us into situations that cause bad to come to us. Those who choose to smoke will have to deal with this addiction (maybe for a lifetime), and for some they will get cancer and die. If you choose to lie, and get caught in your lie it can cause you trouble. If you go out for dinner all the time, even though you don't have the money, you might find yourself short when it comes time to pay the bills. Our bad choices cause bad to come into our lives.
Second, sin creates bad things in our world. Romans 3:23 tells us, "For ALL have sinned and fallen short of God's glory." You don't have to read far into the newspaper to see all that bad that exists in our world; war, rape, robbery, kidnapping, drugs, gangs, and on and on I could go. Since we live in this world, there are times when this bad affects us and impacts our world. Maybe you don't live in a safe neighborhood, maybe something bad like this has happened to you, maybe you are afraid to go out into the world.
But there is good news. God wants to bring good out of our bad. Romans 8:28 tells us, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." The Bible promises us that when we trust God, God can take the bad that has happened in our lives and work out good from it. I know that in my own life, the struggles I have gone through have taught me important lessons, or prepared me for something else I was going to do in my life later on.
There is an interesting process that you can go through that helps you to discover this. What you do is get a bunch of yellow and pink sticky notes. On the yellow sticky notes write all the good that has happened in your life, and on the pink sticky notes write all the bad things that have happened. Then put them in chronological order. When you read through your time line in this way, you will discover that much of the good that has happened follows the bad; God used the bad to prepare you for the good that was to come.
So, what should you do? Trust yourself to God. Believe that God will bring good out of your bad. Don't give up living. Be passionate about life.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Childlke Faith

In Matthew 18:1-5 Jesus says, "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" 2He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me." Here we have a situation where the disciples were wanting to be great. We see ego; pride; selfishness. Jesus surprises them with these words.
What is Jesus saying here? Greatness comes not from physical strength, but from spiritual strength; a humility of spirit. Kids are humble. They believe what you say. They are not hard hearted. They are persistent. They believe in miracles. They have a capacity for wonder. And if we are going to be great, then we need to have a childlike faith.
When we do not have a childlike faith, we try to be in control. We think that we have to have all the answers. We think that we need to take care of all of our needs. We think that we have enough strength to do what needs to be done. But in the end, we become predictable, because we usually do what is expected of us to do.
Predictability and faith cannot coexist. What characterized Jesus (and ultimately His disciples) was unpredictability. The things Jesus said and the things Jesus did was always surprising those around Him. He ate with sinners, hung around tax collectors, prostitutes, and lepers, and healed people on the Sabbath. In fact, when Jesus was present, everyone was uncomfortable because they didn’t know what to expect.
This is what childlike faith does for us; it leads us to do the unexpected because when we follow God's leading, it usually is not what is expected. I know in my life when I follow my lead, it is nothing new or profound, but when I have faith like a child and trust Jesus, then it is very profound.
I challenge you to think about how you can be more childlike in your faith. What do you need to do differently? Where do you need to let go? Where do you need to trust more? What miracle do you need to ask God for?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Spiritual Warfare

Have you ever wondered why people attack you? Do you feel like you have extra trials? Are you having trouble in your relationships? Do you feel depressed? These issues can all be related together by the issue of spiritual warfare. As the apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:12- "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. "
Often times we are attacked because people are attacking God. They do this without knowing the deeper issue. This can especially happen when we seek to step out for God, and in our serving God, or doing the work of God, attack will come our way. And in these times, we can let ourselves feel beaten down and frustrated, or we can walk in the light of God (John 1:9- "The true light, which enlightens everyone...").
We need to understand that Satan is real and trying to disrupt our lives; Satan is trying to keep us from the joy of the Lord. In his book "The Screwtape Letters," C. S. Lewis talks about this attempt to derail our lives from God. It is a wonderful rendering of the deceitful ways in which Satan tries to blind us to the reality of how beneficial it is to live in the love and presence of God, instead of following the ways of the world. As Satan attacked Eve so deceitfully, he seeks to confuse and disorient us into letting the temptations of the world and trials of life overwhelm us.
When we walk in the light, we put ourselves in a place to have the armor of God available to us: "13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."
We are called to stand firm in what God gives to us. When we live in this way, we can live in the joy of the Lord as we know that we are strengthened by our faith, our righteousness (which comes to us by Christ), the Bible, our salvation, and prayer. We can indeed overcome the struggles of life, and learn to enjoy life in the midst of life's difficulties.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Marriage is Sacred

Marriage is an interesting concept in today's society. I believe that people are losing the understanding of what marriage is to be. It has become too easy for people just to live together, or sleep together without any thought of love or commitment. By doing it this way, you don't have to make a commitment; you can just end the relationship when things don't seem to be going right. How have we gotten to this place where people don't want to make a commitment to another person?
If you were to look at the concept of marriage, it began at creation when God saw that "it was not good for the man to be alone." So in seeing Adam in this state, God created Eve. By giving Adam, Eve, and giving Eve, Adam, God created a partnership. But this partnership was to be deep and bonding; the two becoming one.
Marriage is more than just having someone around to keep you company. Marriage is more than having someone around to fulfill your needs. Marriage is a sacred act of commitment and binding together that God has instituted and given to us. If and when we go into a marriage relationship, we should do it with the understanding that we are pledging our love and faithfulness to this other person for life. When we commit to each other in this way, there is actually more freedom, because we don't have to worry about jealousy or mistrust; we have given our binding word to our partner.
Think about the beauty of the picture of 2 becoming one. Together we forge with another person a world, a life, that is bound together. If you have ever seen a couple that has been married for many years, they often finish each other's sentences, and often times begin to look life each other. This is the two becoming one. There is a depth and intimacy to the relationship that is unique and beautiful.
As a minister, when I do wedding counseling, I try to help the couple understand that this is to be a lifelong, sacred commitment that is made. It shouldn't be made just on feelings or in hurriedness. It is a commitment that they make to each other, but also to God. What a joy it is for me to do a wedding for 2 people who get this concept of sacred bond.
What do you think?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Experiencing God's Love

We hear people talk of God's love all the time, but probably don't think about it too much. Then the other day I was at a seminar, where the speaker talked about a class that Bishop Desmond Tutu was going to teach; the class was to be on God's love. As the class gathered, Tutu had no syllabus for the class. This concerned the students; how would they know what was required of them? Tutu preceded to tell them that there were no tests, quizzes or assignments. In the end, the class was to be about them sharing stories of where they had experienced God's love. Tutu's reasoning was that we can't share God's love until we understand how God has loved us.
As I thought about this question (Where have I experienced God's love?), I found it difficult at first to come up with an answer. I knew that I had experienced God's love, but couldn't come up with specifics. So I started to think more about how God has expressed His love to me. As I thought about this, I realized that I needed to define how God's love comes into the world, and into my life.
Here are a couple examples:
The first is how I met my wife. When I was in my early twenties, all of my friends were getting married. I very much wanted to be married and have kids, but couldn't seem to find the person God had for me. When I was 28 and very committed to my ministry, I told God that if I never got married, then I would dedicate myself to ministry. At this point, I stopped worrying about being married. Soon after, I met a woman named Tami, who is now my wife. God has blessed me with a wonderful woman, who is the right person for me.
The second is about having our first child. As Tami and I were trying to have children, we were frustrated because Tami couldn't seem to get pregnant. We even saw a doctor, but nothing worked. After I got a pastoral job in Colorado, we had stopped worrying about getting pregnant, and sure enough Tami got pregnant after the first month of having moved.
Now I'm not trying to say that just because we want something God will give it to us. But in my life, these are two examples where I have given something over to God, stopped worrying, and in time God has blessed me with a wife and 2 children. As I reflect on these events, I realize that God's love is shown in His wanting what is good and best for me, but in the time that it is good and best.
How about you, where have you experienced God's love? I would love to hear your stories!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

It's Not Fair


How many times have you said "Life's not fair?" It is something we have all said at one time or another. It is something my kids say all the time. We say this, but what do we mean by it? We say it when we feel like we have been mistreated; we get in trouble in a way others don't (for example, you get a ticket for speeding, but others around you don't). Or, we might say it when someone gets to do something that we want to do. Or maybe when someone gets something we want (i.e. a new car).
When we say "it's not fair," we have the expectation that life is supposed to be fair; meaning that everyone is supposed to have the same opportunities and experiences. Why do we have this expectation? What is there in us that makes us think that life is supposed to be fair? The truth is, it doesn't take long to learn that life isn't fair, in that, we will have opportunities others don't have, and others will have opportunities we don't get to have.
Think about this for a moment, what have you gotten to do in your life, that others around you haven't gotten to do? When we say "it's not fair," we are too self-centered, and forget that we have had many wonderful blessings ourselves. The truth is, most of the time when we feel like life isn't fair, is when we aren't getting something that we want; something we think we need.
For me, being that I believe in God, and believe that God loves me and wants the best for me, understand that if I focus on what I do have, and not on what I don't have, then I will be able to experience the blessings of my life. Instead of trying to compare my life to others (which leads us to say "It's not fair"), I need to try and enjoy and take advantage of the opportunities that God does put into my life.
What would happen if we stopped complaining about injustice, and tried to turn this energy into making the world more fair for those who don't have much? What would happen if we stopped being upset with what we don't have, and focused on what we do have? (Someone else may have a new car, but maybe you have a wonderful marriage and job). What would happen if we accepted that life isn't fair, and that is okay? What if we understand that God is a God of justice, and justice will be rendered by God in due time?
Life isn't designed to revolve around us. Life happens regardless of us. So maybe if we stop focusing on life being unfair, and try and make a difference with our lives, we will experience more than we could have ever thought possible. Let's give it a try!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Unanswered Prayer

Sometimes I think we think that prayer is something we throw in the air, and then catch what God throws back. Only sometimes, it seems as if God doesn't throw anything back. Of course we know this as "unanswered prayer." Have you ever felt this way? That you are praying to God, but it doesn't seem that God is listening? If God loves me, and cares for me, and wants the best for me, why is there times when He doesn't listen?
These are valid and important questions, because they lead us to seek the answer of what prayer is really for. The truth is, while we are told in the Bible that we are to make our requests known to God, we are also told that God answers our prayers according to His will, not ours. The reason why we feel that God is not answering our prayers, is because we are looking for a certain answer, and when that particular answer does not come, we do not see the answer God gave to us.
From the book "Prayer Power Unlimited," J. Oswald Sanders challenges us with some questions we might ask (p. 107): Am I sure my request was in harmony with God's will?
Did I really pray making use of Jesus' name?
Did I pray the prayer of faith and really expect the answer?
Was I praying from selfish motives?
Did I depend on the Holy Spirit in my praying?
While prayer is as simple as talking with God (as we might talk to someone we love and trust), the answer to our prayers always aren't so simple. And even more, more than a tool to get things from God, prayer is supposed to be a means to draw close to God and be in relationship with God and surrender to God.
When will God answer me? How come God isn't helping me? Where has God gone? If you are struggling with any of these questions, I encourage you to flip through the book of Psalms, and see how the writers of these Psalms struggled with much of these same questions. And then see how they gave themselves over to God, and how God came and was present to them!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Burden of Guilt

Do you struggle with feelings of guilt? It seems that so many people do. It isn't just that people feel guilty when they do something wrong. It is that they can't get over this feeling of guilt. They let the guilt wear on them and become a burden in their life. Why is this? Why do people have difficulty getting past these guilty feelings?
As I was thinking about this topic of guilt, I came across an article on the Internet by Doris Jeanette, Psy.D. The article is titled: "Living a guilt free life for healthy relationships." Here is how the article starts out:
"Guilt is the worst experience
known to humans. It ties us up in knots and makes us feel unworthy and miserable. First let me explain that It is not a real feeling.
It is caused by thinking that we have done something wrong. We think we have done something wrong because we judge ourselves or someone else judges us. A child does not "feel guilty" until someone tells her that she has offended someone or hurt someone's so called "feelings." Psychologically "feeling guilty" is a conditioned response, not an authentic feeling. In other words, we are taught to feel bad and thus guilty when someone judges us..."
There are several things I want to say about this passage:
1. Guilt isn't the worst experience known to humans, sin is. Sin is what causes us to feel the guilt. But guilt can tie people into knots because they don't know how to let go of the guilt. When you do something wrong, it makes you feel guilty because your conscience lets you know that you've done something wrong.
2. Guilt is not about having others make us feel bad, but feeling bad because we know we've done something wrong. It is not something that is 'taught,' but something that is in us to help us move to that place where we again seek to do what is right.
3. Guilt is not designed to be ongoing, but to lead us to Jesus so that we can ask for forgiveness. Once we have admitted our wrong, and received forgiveness, the guilt has served its purpose and needs to be let go.
I like what was said in my Daily Prayer Book (Copyright 2000, by Tyndale) on April 18:
"However much our culture denies the reality and effect of guilt, there are many
today who live under its burden. Many people still have the sense that their lives
are not what they ought to be. This sense of guilt may actually be a gift from
God to help redirect us to God's way...God's greater gift to us is His mercy,
which enables us to start anew..."
Guilt leads us to God, who reminds us that He loves us, and He helps us to start anew. How can you let guilt not be a burden? Take it to the cross of Jesus, where it is forgiven and removed. Then go anew and live your life with joy!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Power of Three

What would you do if you were all alone in the world? Some might say that they would like the solitude. Others, who love to be around people might think that it was the worst thing that could ever happen to them. Some people feel all alone like this even when there is people around. The truth is, just because we have people around us, doesn't mean that we aren't alone.
Why do we struggle to let others into our lives? More and more the world seems to be getting less connected, and increasingly isolated. When you walk down the street it is difficult to get others to look at you, much less say "hi" to you. And if they say hi, they usually aren't smiling.
In the Bible, there is a wonderful verse in the Old Testament (Ecclesiastes 4:12). This verse says: "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
This verse reminds me of the importance of having other people in my life. IfI let others be close to me, then when I need some help, or when I need some support, I have that help available to me. I think that we have to find a way to get people interacting together more. If you look at Genesis 2, you will discover that God created us to be in relationship with others. "It is not good to be alone." This doesn't mean that you have to have a partner, but you do need to have "close" friends. Just like 3 cords wrapped together becomes strong and almost unbreakable, so having other close friends with you in tough times can help you from breaking.
Why is the world so individualistic? What can we do to break this trend? Tell me what you think (

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Church of Oprah

I recently viewed a youtube video where Oprah had spoken about denying Jesus Christ. She says that this came about when she was in her late 20's and her pastor talked about God being a "jealous God." It didn't make sense to her that God, who was supposed to be all-powerful, and all-loving could be jealous of her. How could that be?
This led Oprah into a new venture of faith where she sought answers outside of the framework of the all-powerful God she had believed in as a young adult. She got to the place where she believed that there couldn't possibly be one way. On her show when she was challenged by a member of the audience about Jesus being the only way, all she could do in response was to repeat over and over again, "There couldn't possibly be one way." This led her to New Age doctrines and the development of a "New Earth Web class."
Why should we be so concerned about this? Because Oprah has a faithful following of millions of viewers who are easily swayed by her philosophies. Any time that she promotes a book through her book club or television show, it instantly becomes a best seller! By offering this new earth web class, she is seeking to lead people away from Jesus Christ, and towards this doctrine of:
"Who you are requires no belief." "Heaven is not a location, but refers to the inner realm of consciousness." "The man on the cross is an archetypal image. He is every man and every woman." "My mind is part of God's; I am very holy." "My holiness is my salvation." "My salvation comes from me." "Let me remember there is no sin." "Do not make the pathetic error of 'clinging to the Old Rugged Cross.'" "The only message of the crucifixion is that you can overcome the cross."
If there were a lifeboat adrift at sea, and in the lifeboat were a male lawyer, a female doctor, a crippled child, a stay-at-home mom, and a garbageman, and one person had to be thrown overboard to save the others, which person would we choose?”
This type of thing is done every day. You see it in the school yard when teams are chosen for dodgeball. The weakest players are seldom chosen first. Why? The team captain doesn’t want them in the lifeboat. It carries over into adulthood. It seems that Oprah is afraid that she will be kicked out of the lifeboat.
But this is not the message of Jesus Christ. Jesus says: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life." With the message of Jesus in mind, everyone who believes has a secure place on the boat.
What do you think? Do you agree? Share your thoughts.