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.