Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Substitute

Romans 3:9 tells us that “all are under the power of sin.” Our sin changed the game plan. Our sin keeps us from being in fellowship with God, who is holy, righteous and perfect. So once sin came into the world, God put together a new plan; a plan to change our lives. But to do this He needed to provide a substitute, and the substitute is Jesus Christ.

Many wrong predictions have been made; here is a list of a few of them:
"A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make."
-- Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields'Cookies.
"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."
-- Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.
"Everything that can be invented has been invented."

-- Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.
"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction".
-- Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872

Obviously, we know that they predictions are very wrong. But the prediction of Jesus’ coming, and why He came, was not wrong. In Micah 5:2 we read where Jesus will be born: “But you, Bethlehem, Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel…” And we know that Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem. In Isaiah 9:6 we are told one of the reasons Jesus was to be born: “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon His shoulders; and He is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This child is Jesus, and He is given to us as a Savior; or as Matthew 1:21 says, to save His people from their sins.

Romans 3:24-26 tells us of what Jesus, our substitute did for us: “and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

Christmas is a time of understanding and believing that Jesus was born with a purpose; the purpose of justifying and redeeming us from our sin. This too was predicted, and it came true. As we come to Christmas day, let us be grateful that Jesus chose to substitute Himself for us, so that we could be free from our sin, and could again be in a relationship with God. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Gift

What gift do you want for Christmas? You probably make some kind of list and pass it on to your friends and family. No doubt, we all have received some gifts at Christmas that we would never want or use. An American Express survey about Christmas gifts found that the fruitcake was chosen most often (31%) from a list of “worst” holiday gifts. It even finished ahead of “no gift at all.” When asked how to dispose of a bad gift, 30% would hide it in the closet, 21% would return it, and 19% would give it away. Who knows, the fruitcake you get this year for Christmas could have been someone else’s gift from last Christmas!
A better question is: What is the best gift ever given? I’d like to propose to you that it was the gift that was given by God that first Christmas. It was not wrapped with beautiful paper and frilly bows, but wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger. The apostle Paul in reflecting upon Jesus says in 2 Corinthians 9:15:"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”
Many have tried to describe Him by using prose, poetry, song or music to characterize this glorious gift, yet, it is still not fitting. Musicians have composed some of their greatest music on this theme: Handel’s "Messiah," Bach’s Christmas Oratorio," & the beautiful hymns, "Joy to the World," "Silent Night, Holy Night," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."
As we approach Christmas day, I hope we will not forget the greatest gift of Christmas, Christ’s birth, which made His death and resurrection possible. This gift of God was given that you and I might be saved. Have you by faith received this glorious gift of God’s love? If you have never been saved or need to renew your vows before God, you can find forgiveness and salvation today by acknowledging to God your faith in Jesus, and your desire to receive the cleansing of your sins from Jesus. Let us receive the gift of Christ as we understand that this gift is from God to us; a gift that is unspeakable and unfathomable. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Kind of Person God Uses

In Ecclesiastes 2:11 we are told:- “Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was in vain and a chasing after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.”
We can easily feel this way, because all too often, we are not seeking to fulfill what God created us to do and be, but we go off chasing our own dreams. We have to understand that God uses people who desire to do His will. This is important, because, since God created the world, and created you and me, we will really only be happy, and bear fruit, if we are doing the will of God in our lives. As it is the Advent season, we remember what God said to Mary: "I want to use you." In response
Mary did not say, " I’ve got other plans,” OR “What about my dreams?” She didn’t
say "This really isn’t convenient for me,” OR “God, Can’t you get somebody else?"
Because Mary wanted God’s will for her life more than she wanted anything else, God chose her to do something wonderful; something that changed the course of destiny.
And even more, after this first encounter, Mary became even more in tune with God. In another part of the gospel of Luke, 2:19, we are told: "Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and often thought about them." Mary created a habit of listening to God. God speaks to people who listen. God uses people who desire to be used.
So, if you want to be used by God, if you want to do something significant with your life, if you want to be chosen by God, then you need to seek to listen to God, and seek to follow God’s plan. We probably need to stop thinking that we have all the answers, and realize that so often we feel like so much of life is in vain because we are chasing after the wrong things. We are trying to satisfy ourselves with things that won’t satisfy. We need to gain a new perspective on life and believe that God can come to us and speak to us and choose us as He did Mary!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Who Jesus Is

If you've ever played hangman, you know that it is very difficult to gues the word without some help by guessing some of the letters. For example, what word is
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _? What if I give you the letters J _ _ _ _ C _ _ _ _ _? By the title of this blog, you might guess Jesus Christ, and you would be right.
Mark 8:29 tells us: "But Jesus asked them, 'Who do you say that I am?'" This is an important question, especially as we approach Christmas and so many people try and take Jesus out of Christmas. Who is Jesus?
Books have been written on this question, but if we get a little information from the Bible then we can know who Jesus is; we don't have to guess. For our purpose here, it is important to note that Jesus is the Messiah, God's Son, God in the flesh, come to this world for two very important reasons. The first reason is so that the presence of God could be shown to the world. As we are told in the gospel of John, 1:14- "And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." By coming to this world, God made His presence known to us in visible form.
Second, and more important, when the angel Gabriel visited Mary (in Matthew 1:21-23), he told her to name her baby Jesus, because "he will save his people from their sins." This blessed event of God coming into the world, is the event of God wanting to save us from our sins. Jesus is the savior of the world. Jesus is the One who will take our penalty for us. Jesus is God with us.
I hope you receive this with joy, and hope, as you understand God's love for you, and the peace God can bring to your life. Be blessed in this season as you remember who Jesus is. Blessings.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Forgiveness is tied to forgiving

It seems to me that one of the most difficult things that God asks us to do is to forgive. And yet God sets it to us straight when we are told in Matthew 6:12 in the Lord's prayer, "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." The "as" is important, because it tells us that God forgives our sins based on the way we forgive others. And if we haven't gotten it by that, Jesus says it again 2 verses later: "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Pretty strong words for us to think about. And my first reaction to this is like what my children often say to me: "That's not fair!" We think it's not fair because we think that we if we have faith in Jesus, then we should receive the forgiveness of Jesus that He talks about.
So how is it that our being forgiven is tied into how we forgive others? Let me list a couple of reasons. First, it is for reconciliation. God desires for us to find reconciliation with others. Just like a parent doesn't want their children to be at odds with each other, so God does not want us to be at odds with each other. So, through forgiveness we can seek to be reconciled with each other. And the important factor here is that we can't determine how anyone else will act. Our role is to seek to be at peace with all (Romans 12:18).
Second, it is for our own well being. You might have heard of the saying, "Forgiveness sets you free." This is very true. God knows that when we don't forgive, we harbor feelings of pain, hurt, anger, frustration, bitterness, and on and on it goes. Having an unforgiving heart can tear us up inside. To forgive another person isn't saying that what they did is okay, it is saying that you won't hold on to it, you will seek to not remember it, you will not allow it to control your mind and your emotions. By forgiving the other person you are setting yourself free. Jesus Himself, while on the cross forgave those who were crucifying Him with the words, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
Third, it is for our own understanding. If we don't know how to forgive, then we won't know how to receive God's forgiveness. We learn by experiencing. And when we experience what it feels like to forgive another, when we experience the strength it takes to forgive another, then we begin to understand what God goes through every time God forgives us. Our forgiving heart helps us to be thankful for the forgiveness God so readily offers to us: "If you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Walking a Tightrope

I heard a story yesterday about a pastor who invited a professional tightrope walker to his church. They set up a tightrope in the sanctuary, and he walked the tightrope and performed some tricks. Then they set up a tightrope about a foot off the ground, and challenged the pastor to walk it. The pastor struggled to keep his balance. So the tightrope walker told the pastor to hold on to his shoulder and look at him, not the tightrope. With this the pastor did much better. The tightrope walker then talked about how when he walks the tightrope, he has to focus on a point in front of him. If he looks down at the rope he will start to lose his balance.
There is an important life lesson to be learned here: if and when we look down at all of our issues and problems, we lose the focus and will lose perspective. With this we will struggle and probably fall. Instead, we need to hold on to Christ, and focus on Christ. Only then can we move forward with confidence and without fear. As Hebrews 12:1-2, "....let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us focused on Jeus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith..."
If you are like me, you can become unfocused by dwelling on your problems. The answer is to look to Jesus, and let Him give us the spirit of perseverance to move forward, and to rejoice in this life we have with Him!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Distress Brings Opportunity

While on Facebook today I came across this quote from Brian Clark, church planter on Acts 17: "What distresses you could very well be your next ministry opportunity." This quote intrigued me, because I have been feeling distressed somewhat lately. I think what has been distressing me is that ministry has not been going like I planned, and people are not responding like I think they should.
However, this quote perked me up. I wanted to understand the context a little more, so I turned to the Bible, to Acts chapter 17 and began to read. I discovered that the apostle Paul was distressed by what he saw in his ministry travels. He was distressed by how the people acted, and by whom they were worshiping. And yet, as Brian Clark stated, Paul used this distress to lead him into ministry. Paul jumped right in and preached the word of God and the good news of salvation to all who would listen.
As I thought about this, I realized that often times our distress can lead us to become frustrated or maybe even feel like quitting. Instead, this distress should remind me where God wants to use me. If I am distressed by the situation, then maybe God is distressed by it as well. I need to jump in and serve the Lord all the more in these times! I need to look for opportunities to try and counteract what is being done. I need to preach God's word and the good news of salvation.
I was praying today to learn something about God. How wonderful that I learned that God wants to motivate me by what distresses me. How wonderful that I learned that this distress is actually a ministry opportunity. How wonderful that I learned that God wants me to be proactive with my words and action. Distress should not bring me down, but perk me up. Praise be to God!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How Am I Doing Today?

As I was thinking about writing my blog today, I came across a file on my computer entitled "How Am I Doing Today?" On this paper, was simply the days of the week with blank spaces underneath each day. It is a file designed to keep track of accomplishments. As I thought about this page, I thought it would be good to reflect on how I (and you) answer this question.
Now, if we were to compare ourselves to God, and think about how much of creation God created in a day, then we might feel a little sheepish, like our lives don't accomplish that much. But God doesn't want us to compare ourselves to God. God doesn't even want us to compare ourselves to others. God wants us to compare ourselves with what God wants us to accomplish each day.
Now this then leads us to ask the question, how do we know what God wants us to accomplish? And the answer to this is not one that is too specific. I'm not sure God makes a list of things to do (like we might do) for us each day. I believe God has more general goals for us. Goals like "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength." "Love your neighbor like yourself." "Forgive others as God has forgiven you." The Bible is full of really important goals that we should live by.
So, getting back to the question how am I doing today leads me to think that it is not about asking this question to judge myself, but to motivate and energize myself. If I know that God wants me to love others, and forgive others, and do good with my life, then I think I can get excited about the day. But when I have a long "to do" list, I could get overwhelmed before the day starts.
SO, how are you doing today?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shining the Light of Christ

Life is full of choices; full of us trying to discover God’s best for us. One of the challenges, but I think joys as well, is that God often brings about surprises, blessings, and new possibilities. We can be like Humpty Dumpty was at first and feel like we have to give in to our circumstances./ OR, we can be like apostle Paul in the Bible and follow the call of God on our lives. And what a rich life it was for Paul. While it was true that Paul had trouble in Jerusalem, he let the Lord turn it into an opportunity. He was arrested, but in all things, when he spoke, whether it was to the tribune, or the council, or to Felix the Governor, or to King Agrippa, or in Rome, Paul had many opportunities to tell of his faith and to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others!!
Trouble did not concern Paul like it might concern you and me. Instead of it causing him to worry, Paul knew that trouble was where God’s glory could shine, and where he could preach about Jesus. Paul was committed to living his life for God, NO MATTER WHAT. As Paul said in Acts 20:24, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.”/ For Paul, it was all about being faithful to the end. He also said it this way in 2 Timothy 4:7- “…But I have finished the race and I kept the faith, and the day is coming when my Lord will raise me up. I have pleased him.”/ God is not pleased with selfishness. God is not pleased with materialism. God is not pleased with lack of commitment./ God is pleased when we seek Him, and trust Him, and let Him work in and through us, and when we let Him walk us through the trouble that lies ahead.
What is your trouble? Trust God to lead you through. Shine the light of Christ in the midst of your trouble, and see how the trouble becomes a blessing!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Many people are bored with their lives. I believe people get bored easily because they allow their lives to be mundane. They do the same things each day, every day. They have their habits (when they get up, how they get ready, what they eat, etc...). They go to their jobs, do their work, and then go home. So many people live very predictable lives. The older we get, the more we tend to slow down and plan less and get into a rut in the way we live. Now this isn't true for everyone, but I believe it is true in many ways for those who feel boredom.
To avoid this, we need to keep life fresh. But the question is: How can we keep our lives fresh? I think we can do this in a couple of ways. First, we can learn how be content with what we have. As the familiar verse, Philippians 4:12 says, "I 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..." How many days a week do we wake up not feeling content? How often do we get to the end of the day not feeling content? The answer is often. When we are content with our life, even the simplest of activities can be exciting. For me, just being with my kids, being with my family is exciting; we don't have to do anything special.
Our world pulls us into the thinking that we are lacking something. That is what sales is all about, getting you to think that you need something that you don’t have. And when you get to this place, it is hard to be content. Contentment is being okay with what you have, not thinking that you need something new. We often think we need to have new “things, gadgets, toys” in our lives. What we need is the “newness” of God in our lives more and more each day. This is what will keep us feeling content. Once you go down the road of not feeling content, there is nothing material, nothing even in THIS world that will bring you contentment. Only in God can we be content.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Looking for the Good

We have all heard the phrase "the glass is half full." When this phrase is used, it is referring to the fact that we are to stay positive; we are to look for the good in every situation. And while there are negative things that happen in this world, it doesn't help to allow our minds to become negative. All that happens when we are negative is we get depressed, or lose motivation, or feel like quitting. Have a "glass is half empty" approach darkens our outlook on life.
As a Christian, I know that the Bible is full of teachings in the regard of living a positive life. In the book of Philippians, chapter 4, verse 4, the writer, the apostle Paul says: "Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice." Now Paul says these words not because his life is perfectly wonderful, but because Paul knows that God is walking with him in all aspects of life; the good and the bad. Paul has done some bad things in his life (like killing Christians before he was one himself), but Paul knows that God has given him a second chance, and called him to make a difference with his life.
The truth is, if we don't look for the good in all aspects of our lives, then we will not be able to make a positive difference. We will get caught up in the drama that exists around us, and lose our focus. We will lose perspective of how things can work out for the good. We will fail to put forth the energy that needs to put forth to move forward and live the life God has called us to live.
Life is full of good times, and bad times; up times, and down times. What we do with these experiences will make or break this life we have. If you want to make the most of your life, then you need to follow the example of Jesus Christ, and Paul, and other followers of Jesus, who were able to rejoice always, and who were able to make the most of what they were given. I hope you can do this as well. I know that it is my goal every day.
Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Ending of My Story

The blog group I belong to has chosen "The Ending of My Story" to be our topic for this week. As I thought about that idea I wondered what I would like the ending of my story to be. Is it even good for me to think about the end? Aren't we supposed to think about the now so that we don't lose focus?
The truth is, by looking at the end, it helps me to decide how to live now. I believe this idea of the end of my story is similar to thinking about what you might want on your gravestone. It is what you want people to remember about you when you die. And I hope that when I come to my end, people will be able to commend me for what I accomplished for the Lord.
I want my life to be about doing what God has called me to do; love people, encourage people, teach people about Jesus, live out God's will for me. I was created for a purpose, and there are some things that only I can do. I want to be able to come before God and have God say: "Well done my good and faithful servant." I want to be able to know that I did my best in bringing glory to God.
An Omphalos stone is a stone that is placed in what is believed to be the center of the world. Too many people want to be an omphalos stone, where they think of themselves as the center of the world; everything revolved around them. That is getting it all wrong. I want God to be at the center of the world, the center of my world, so that all that I do seeks to please Him.
I hope the ending of my story is a long way off, since I am only 48. I believe God has much for me still to do. And my desire echoes the words of the psalmist in Psalm 37:4- "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." I hope the ending of my story shows that I consistently delighted myself in the Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How to do more with your life than just exist...

A typical day for me is get up, get ready for work, help with the kids some (although Tami does most of that), take Tiffany to school, go to work, do my work all day, come home in the evening, eat dinner, watch some TV (or play a game with the kids), help the kids get to bed, read them their devotion, put the kids to bed, read some or watch TV a little more, and then go to bed. If you are like me, many of your days are similar to the one before. Day after day runs together, and at times life can seem a bit of drudgery. The repercussions of which are that we feel like we are just existing in this world.
If you ever feel this way, the reason is because we have lost our focus; we have lost our sense of purpose. In Genesis chapter 1 we are told that we are created in the image of God. To be in God's image is not to just exist or live a life of drudgery. And while we can't have extraordinary excitement in our lives every day, we can find excitement in the every day of life. This is because God makes life itself meaningful.
Each moment we have on this earth is a moment to make a difference. We have the opportunity to love somebody who needs some extra love, or talk to somebody who is lonely, or encourage someone who is down. Even in doing the same things day after day we can find excitement. How? It comes from recognizing that we have another day to live. We have experiences in our lives that can bless us, if we see it that way. We have the potential to give of ourselves, or try something new.
Every day doesn't have to be the same. Maybe today you try and change it up by doing something you didn't do yesterday. Maybe you spend some extra time with your kids, or take your wife out to dinner. The other day on my way home, I decided to stop and get Tami some roses and the kids some baseball cards (yes, Tiffany is now collecting baseball cards). When I came home, it was fun to give these gifts away, and fun for the family to receive them.
If you want to feel more than you are just existing, then try to do something unique with your life each day. Reflect on how you have this life to touch the lives of others. Give of yourself, be less judgmental, be more generous, be less predictable. And above all, live with purpose!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An Alternate Universe

Our blogger group is tackling the question: If the world was somehow sucked into a blackhole and entered an alternate universe, what would your ideal vision of that universe be? How often have people wondered if this world couldn't be better? I look around and see the evil, the corruption, the pain, the hurt, the lostness that exists. As a minister I am dealing with this in people's lives on a daily basis. Shouldn't we be able to live in a better world?
But what would that better world look like? It might require a serendipitous experience. Meaning, that this fortunate new world might just be happened upon (i.e. being sucked into the alternate universe). This new world would first of all need to consist of people who are sinless, because once sin comes into the world, the ultimate outcome will be the inclusion of pain, corruption, and evil. Secondly, this new world would be an environment of sharing. While ownership has its benefits, it leads to hoarding and selfishness. Thirdly, it would require unconditional love; the desire to love all without condition.
In the Bible, we see an attempt at this in the book of Acts where the people had a communal pot and shared their lives with each other. As Acts 2:44-47 tells us: "44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
Here we have an environment of love, and sharing, and the enjoyment of one another.
The world I am describing actually will exist; it will exist in heaven. Either when we die, or it comes to that time when Christ returns, we will join Christ in heaven. There will be no sin. There will be sharing. There will be unconditional love, as we will be in the presence of LOVE itself; GOD. So, I suppose that alternate universe is heaven, and what a world it will be!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Don't Stop Learning

God has created us as learning beings. And from our first day alive, we begin to learn; learn how to communicate, learn how to receive love, and learn how to love. As we get older we learn our a, b, c's, and we learn our 1, 2, 3's. We learn our shapes, and even how to draw (I remember the fun I had with my etch-a-sketch trying to draw patterns and pictures). We begin to learn how to put letters together to form words, and words together to form sentences. We go to school and begin to learn even more.
It is not a good thing to stop learning. In fact, one day I asked my 10-year-old daughter, and 12-year-old son: what would you be like if you didn't learn anything else the rest of your life? And the answer was that they would become very simple and immature adults. We are meant to learn, and to keep learning.
The challenge is that once we stop going to school, the tendency is that we don't learn like we used to. Our learning begins to slow down in many ways, because we stop pushing our minds in the same way as we did in school. We might read, but not necessarily books that teach us or challenge us. We might do puzzles, but not necessarily those that would stretch our minds.
So how can we keep learning? How can we challenge our minds without necessarily having to go back to school? I believe we can do it through many of the same things I mentioned: puzzles (I love Sudoku puzzles where I am challenged in my math skills), or more difficult word puzzles. We can also be challenged by reading the Bible and going to Bible study. By reading the word of God, we are challenged with the most important information, and we have an environment where discussion can spur our thought processes.
Along with that, we can memorize scripture. Memorizing is a great workout for the brain. How wonderful a brain God has given us. A brain that is capable of so much. As Ephesians 5:15 says: "Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise." When we choose to not stop learning, we live a very wise life. So how are you continuing your learning process?

Monday, August 24, 2009

All I Can Do is Pray

This morning I was reading Romans 15:30, which says: "I appeal to you, brother and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf." As I read this it made me think of those who say to me: "Pastor, I wish I could do more for the church, but all I can do is pray." All I can do is pray! Why do so many people think that praying is not an effective service to God. Here in Romans 15 the apostle Paul is asking for prayer as he deals with unbelievers in Judea and for his ministry in Jerusalem. Paul believes prayer is powerful and effective. And how about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemene when he takes Peter, James and John to pray with him. And when they fall asleep He says to them in Matthew 26:41- "Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial..." Jesus believes that prayer is important and powerful. So many times in the New Testament we see Jesus taking the time to pray. So my challenge to myself, and all who read this, is that we need to be people who are committed to prayer. Don't let the fact that you can't always see the visible results of prayer keep you from praying. Don't let the thinking that prayer is just a bunch of words keep you from believing. Follow the challenge of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "Pray without ceasing." Let the first words that you say in the morning and the last words before you go to sleep be prayer. I believe that if more people pray more often, and more fervently, they would experience the love and blessings of God more. And if you need prayer, please write your request on the comment section (which goes to my e-mail address first), and I will pray for you. Let us join together in fervent prayer. Tell me what you think. God bless.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How to stay positive

Often times our lives can feel like a tug-of-war. We are being tugged against by so many negative influences in life. There are the expectations that others have of us, there are the responsibilities we have from our spouse, our children, our job. There are the people in the world that are a negative influence. And we are in a spiritual warfare that tugs at us. As the apostle Paul said in the New Testament, Ephesians 6:11-12, "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For 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." How are we to stay positive in this environment around us?
As a minister I regularly have this discussion with people. One of the biggest challenges is the influences we allow in our lives. I am surprised to see how many negative influences people allow into their lives without realizing the draining affect it is having on them. We can limit the contact we have with people who drain us, and demand from us, and who bring us down. We can choose to surround ourselves with people who encourage us, and bless us, and lift us up. This alone will go a long way to helping us be positive.
A second way we can stay positive is to live out our passion. We all are passionate about something; God has created us this way. When we discover our passion and seek to live it out, it is an energizing activity for us. We all want to feel like we are doing something in our lives that makes a difference, and living out our passion makes a difference in our lives and those that we are seeking to help.
Lastly, we stay positive by knowing that the power of God is with us. In the same Ephesians passage it starts out in verse 10 saying: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power." We have the power of God with us, and we have the armor of God protecting us. Knowing that God is walking with me and will never leave me gives me great reason to stay positive in my life. Even more, when I serve the Lord I am energized and feel excited about life.
It is important to stay positive. I hope you can implement these thoughts. Blessings.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

If I Were Abraham

(Our topical bloggers topic this week is to pick a Bible character from the Bible, and write from their perspective. My character is Abraham)
Today I am being asked by God to go where God directs me, not knowing where that will be. This is quite a surprising request, since I am used to making the decisions of my own life. To do this, I will have to give up control; I will have to walk by faith. I suppose I have been chosen because I am a person of integrity. This is an honor and a challenge. Will I give myself over to this? I believe I will, since I do want to follow God with my whole heart, mind, and strength.
So off I'm going, me and my family toward Canaan. I'm a little nervous, and excited. Nothing like an adventure, and God will be walking with me. In fact, God has promised to bless me and my family, and has told me I will be a blessing to others. What more could I want with my life? The choice was really to stay where I was at and continue to do the same old things, or to set off on this new venture for God.
Each place I arrive at I stop to give thanks to God. I build an altar to remember that God is with me, and then God speaks to me some more. How wonderful and awesome it is to be guided by God Himself. How humbling to know that I am following the path God has for me. What adventures I will see, and experiences I will encounter. I give it all to God, because I do not know the outcome!
As I wrote this from Abraham's perspective, I realized that all of us are given this charge from God, to go to a land where we know not. We don't know what will happen today, tomorrow, or next week. But if we fcllow the Lord's leading, walking in this adventure, guided by God, God will bless us and allow us to be a blessing. I truly am like Abraham, called to follow God, give glory to God, and live for God. I hope that you feel the same excitement that Abraham felt in his journey.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

What must I do to be saved?

Our blogging group this week is tackling the question: What must I do to be saved? This is an important question, because it is a question that deals with not only our life here on earth, but also with what happens to us when we die. When Jesus was on this earth, he was asked that very same question. It's in the Bible, in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 19. A rich young ruler comes to Jesus and asks him: What must I do have eternal life? They proceded to talk about keeping the law, living for God. The man thinks he's doing all the right things, and pridefully thinks that he's kept the law and thus is deserving of heaven.
But then Jesus shows the man how his thinking is off by telling the man that he then needs to sell all that he has, give it to the poor, and then come and follow Jesus. What Jesus is saying to the man is that his riches and his pride and his position are keeping him from living the way God wants him to live; living for God. In the Bible, Jesus made it very clear, there is only ONE way to be saved, and that is by accepting Jesus as our Savior, believing that Jesus' death on the cross is what removes our sin, and allows us to be in a relationship with God. As Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ."
We think that the life we have is supposed to be about what we want. But this thinking is wrong, just like the thinking of the rich young ruler was wrong. We were created to be in relationship with God first, and then with others. We were created to give ourselves fully over to God, and let God lead us in a way to care for and help others. As Jesus summed it up: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself."
This is challenging, but it is life saving. For our life here on earth, and our life to come!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pray in the Spirit

In Ephesians 6:18 it says, “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication.” We read these words, and our tendency is to focus on the word pray. While this word is important, I think we need to focus on the phrase “in the Spirit.” What does it mean to pray in the Spirit?
Praying in the Spirit is about letting God's Spirit lead you to constant prayer. Often times we only pray when there is a crises, or when we have something specific to pray for. But we are called to "pray without ceasing," and this can only be accomplished when the Holy Spirit is directing us to pray. Second, praying in the Spirit is about praying with grace. We often bring judgment into our prayers. Instead we need to leave the judgment to God and simply pray with love and concern. In fact, Jesus did tell us to pray even for our enemies.
Third, praying in the Spirit is about learning how to let God’s words flow from us. This comes from knowing God deeply. The deeper we know God, the more we will know what God wants us to think, and wants us to say, and how God wants us to pray. For example, we may want to pray for healing for someone, but God may be using that sickness in the person's life to teach them to trust in Him, or for them to be an example to someone else who is sick. As we open ourselves up to God’s Spirit, God’s Spirit will help to lead us how to pray.
Lastly, we are to pray in the Spirit in all of our prayers, and all of our supplications. Even the simplest of prayers need to be offered through the guidance of the Spirit. This reminds us that God is concerned with even the minute aspects of our lives. To leave the Spirit out of any prayer will lead us to pray in our sinfulness and selfishness.
So let's try and incorporate this fuller aspect of prayer into our lives. If we do, we will pray with more power!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Taking Up Your Cross

In the Bible we read about "taking up your cross." Literally it could mean carrying around a cross. But the phrase is not to be taken literally. We find this statement by Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 8, verse 34. In this chapter Jesus is trying to teach the people what it means to give of yourself. Jesus is trying to help them understand that He came to this earth for the purpose of giving His life so that all would be saved through Him.
As the disciples heard Jesus talking about having to be killed, Peter tried to tell Jesus this wasn't going to happen. In doing this, Peter was not able to see the eternal perspective. Peter was more concerned with having Jesus with them than trying to understand the powerful ramifications of Jesus dying on the cross. So Jesus seeks to go a step further and explain the concept of self-sacrifice.
As Jesus was going to give Himself on the cross, He teaches us that to really follow Jesus means that we must deny our selfishness, our self-indulgence, and give ourselves over to serving God through serving others. It is only in giving up our wants and seeking God that we can ever really live for God.
The problem is that we get caught up in what we can have in this world. As we see all the materialistic goods around us, we lose sight of Jesus, and the cross. In fact, Jesus has turned into an expletive for many, instead of them seeing Him as Lord and Savior. How far people have turned. How can they take up their cross, when they don't even see their need for the cross?
And that's where we come in, because as we take up our cross and love others for Jesus, we begin to help people understand the full extent of Jesus' love. All the more, as we take up our cross, and deny ourselves, we begin to live a life of fullness, and richness, and blessing. In doing this, we receive more blessing than we could imagine; more blessing than the goods of the world can supply.
What do you need to give up for God? It's a great question. I hope you take some time to analyze and answer it!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Love one another, not judge one another

It seems so easy to judge others. Maybe it's because it makes us feel better. Maybe it is because it keeps us from having to look at our own faults and weaknesses. Maybe it's because people are just unhappy, and want to take it out on others. But whatever the reasons, people are very quick to judge.
The Bible warns us against such attitudes. In the book of James, chapter 4, verses 11-12 we are told: "Do not speak against one another, my brethren. If you speak against a brother or judge a brother, you speak against the law and judge the law. There is only one judge and lawgiver, the One who is able to save and destroy." In other words, we are not to be the judge of others, God is.
But there you have the challenge, because we like to play God. We think we know what is good and right. We think we have all the answers. We think we have the best plan; at least a better plan than God seems to have. And so we put ourselves in the place of God. And once in this place, we can play judge!
But all the more, we are told in Matthew 7:1-5, " 1"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." These are powerful verses. They remind us that we have faults, and because we have faults, we cannot put ourselves in the place of a judge.
The better way to live is by loving others. It is better for them, and better for us. It creates a better environment in which to live, and a better countenance. We will enjoy life a whole lot more if we are so full of love that we have to share. Love keeps you thinking in the postivie. Judgement keeps your mind on the negative.
Let's regale ourselves with the excitement of loving people. I'm sure going to try.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Dangerous Prayer

Statistics show that many people pray. In fact, for a good number of people, praying is as commonplace as going to a baseball game. You go, you watch, the game finishes, you leave. It isn't necessarily an exciting experience, but something to do. It doesn't change your life, but occupies your time. Or you do it because you were invited to.
But what if we took prayer seriously? What if we actually prayed in a way that was exciting? Dangerous? What would that look like? What kind of prayers might that be? Jesus, in Matthew 7:7-8 said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."
However, Jesus gives us some qualification in John 14:13-14 that what we ask for needs to glorify the Father.
And so we are encouraged to ask boldly, to ask dangerously, about many things: such as God exposing you to your sin and weaknesses; that God would break you so that you would rely totally on Him; that God would use you beyond your current boundaries or expectations along the lines of the well known prayer of Jabez: "Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, 'Oh that Thou would bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast [territory], and that Thine hand might be with me, and that Thou would keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!' And God granted him that which he requested." (1 Chronicles 4:10)
Unfortunately, we want our lives to be comfortable and easy. So we don't pray seriously. We don't pray dangerously. We pray selfishly. We pray for ourselves or those close to us that all or problems will go away and that we will have no worries. We don't pray in a way that might inconvience our lives in any way; that might change how we act or how we might serve the Lord.
However, if you want to have spiritual depth, if you want to make an impact on the kingdom of God, then you need to pray dangerous kinds of prayer and be ready to be challenged and stretched by God.
God created us to live dangerous lives in faith. God desires for us to have ever expanding ministry boundaries. I encourage you to let yourself be challenged in this way, and stop being safe in your prayers. The excitement of God's working in and through you will be great. Amen.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


While it is important to think well of yourself, there is a danger to think too highly of yourself. The Bible speaks a good deal about pride. In the New Testament, in the book of Romans 12:3 we are told: "...Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." This is good advice, because thinking too highly of yourself will lead to pridefulness, and with pride there comes many problems.
So what are the problems that arise when one is proud? One issue that can arise is disgrace. Proverbs 11:3 says, "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." Disgrace comes because at some point in the process, when someone is prideful, they will tend to misjudge the situation or problem, and fall short. With this there is great embarrassment, because the person went in spouting off words of great confidence. Second, there is conflict. Proverbs 13:10 tells us, "Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice." Pride leads a person to think that they know it all. When this happens, they fail to seek or accept advice from others. If others try and give them counsel, it often turns into a conflict because the person shuts themselves off from the knowledge given by people. Third, it can lead to destruction. Again, looking at the book of Proverbs, we are told in Proverbs 16:18, "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." To be proud will lead us to have the wrong focus. We focus on ourselves, our own desires, our own plans. Because of this, we lack the wisdom we need to succeed, and thus will experience a fall.
So how do we keep from being prideful? I believe the answer is accountability. We don't practice accountability much anymore, but it is very beneficial in spiritual growth. Accountability is like having a sidekick. You might remember how Ed McMahon was a sidekick to Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. Every so often McMahon would put Carson in his place with a nice little jab. These little jabs would keep Johnny from getting a big head.
Because pride keeps us from being godly, we need to let God lead us to those who will keep us accountable and will encourage us to be godly. We need to have others who can point out the pride in us, and challenge us to be more humble, and to rely on God more. It is difficult to admit we are prideful, and to see that pride in ourselves. Ask a trusted friend if they will help you with this. It will make a big difference in your life.

Monday, June 22, 2009

End Times

Our blogger group this last week decided on the topic of Matthew 24: What's that all about? As you look over this chapter as a whole, you will see that Jesus is not trying to alarm anyone, or gratify anyone's curiosity, but rather He is trying to inform His disciples, and ultimately us, that the world will come to an end. He gives some signs of the end of the world, but we see that the signs are general enough that the time can't be pinpointed. So if and when anyone does try to pinpoint the end of time, we can know that they are false prophets, which Jesus speaks of several times in this chapter.
One of the keys of this passage is for us to be prepared by the way we live, to be prepared for Jesus, but to also be prepared for life, because we should live every day in essence as if it were our last. Our life should be about living for God totally and at all times. As Jesus says in Matthew 24:44- "Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour." The only one who knows is God, as we are told in Matthew 24:36, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
I believe another reason that Jesus is not specific, is because we get caught up in these great scenarios so much so that we lose track of every day life. We begin to worry about that which should not concern us. If we are prepared for the day of Jesus' return, then it need not be a worry to us. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Jesus knows we have the tendency to look past the present to the future. So Jesus tells us about the fact that the world will end, and that there will be troublesome times, but He still wants us to focus on what we are doing today. This is why Jesus ends the chapter by giving the analogy of a slave who is found hard at work when his master returns. Jesus wants us to be focused on the work that we are given to do, the work we can accomplish, rather than that which we cannot change (i.e. when the end of times will come).
Let us seek to be faithful followers of Christ, working hard at what God gives us to do, and making a difference with our lives today!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Don't Lose Your Dream

If you were to think about your dreams, they may be real, but a little hazy, like looking down a road that has fog. We have lots of dreams when we are young. My 12-year old son dreams of playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers some day. He might be; this year he batted .625! My 10-year old daughter wants to be a school teacher, a librarian, and a mom. These are laudable dreams. Not necessarily out of reach.
So why is it that we so easily lose our dreams? I guess I am making an assumption that most people have lost their dream. I am making this assumption, because as a pastor I see so many people just living their life out, not really pursuing any particular dream. I also have the oppotunity to mentor many people, and it is a challenge to not only have a dream, but take the steps to live it out.
So how might we keep from losing our dreams? I would suggest we write it down somewhere where we can regularly see it. The dream should be something that you are passionate about; that you feel God has put in your heart and mind. Then you need to break it down to see what are the reachable goals in the present and not too distant future. And finally, you need to tell your dream to someone. This can be the hardest part, because as we get older it seems that it isn't as acceptable to have dreams. By telling it to someone, you not only make it more real, but you can have a trusted friend who will help you remember the dream, and keep you on track.
But even more, I believe that we need to give it all to God. God gives us the desires, and can help us attain them. God has plans for us to live out (Jeremiah 29:11). As Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." If we delight ourselves in God, then our desires will have come from God, and God will bless these desires; these dreams.
Don't give up on dreams, just because you are older. Don't give up on your dreams because you are busy. Don't give up on your dreams just because you have commitments and responsibilities and feel like your life is set. Give your dreams to God and let God help you run with them!!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Gaining Peace

If truth be told, we all want peace in our lives. We search for peace in many ways. Maybe we search for it by having a problem free life. Or maybe we search for it by having a job, and home, and possessions that help us to feel secure. Or maybe we search for it by having a conflict free life. Again, we want peace, and seek it out in many ways. The problem is that life is not problem free, conflict free, and we don't always feel secure. What are we to do? How can we gain peace in the midst of the turmoil and uncertainty of life?
The quick and easy answer is that we gain peace by seeking God. But what does that mean? How does seeking God bring us peace? Jesus tells us in John 14:27- "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid." Jesus promises us peace in our lives if we seek Him. Jesus tells us that this peace is not like anything the world can give us. Jesus tells us this peace will help us to not be troubled or afraid. Sounds good, right?
We get some more insight on this by reading the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." For some, turning to the Bible seems superannuated. They believe the Bible is outdated and not fitting for our contemporary problem. But the truth is, our lack of peace in life really comes from the worry in our life. We worry about our problems. We worry about our conflicts, we worry about whether or not we have enough money and things in our lives. Most people would admit that their worry does nothing to help their situation. And the worry causes extra stress in our lives which is unneeded.
So can prayer really help you gain peace? I believe the answer is YES! In prayer, we realize that we have the God of creation working with us and for us. In prayer, we put our problems in perspective to the rest of life. In prayer we can understand the role we are to play, and the role others play, and the role God is to play. In prayer we are able to take a step back and gain perspective on our lack of peace. In prayer we are invoking the power of God, which is the only real power that can take care of our situation.
When I seek God, I gain peace, because I know that there is someone out there big enough to handle my life; the One who created me. I hope you find it in yourself to seek God, and gain the peace God has for you; the peace that surpasses all understanding. And as we gain peace, we can pass this peace onto others!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How Do You Make Choices?

Every day we have choices to make. Of course there are the more simple choices such as “Should I get up this morning?” OR “What should I wear today,” to the more complex choices of “Should I change jobs,” OR “Should I start or end a relationship.” The question I want us to consider is: “How Do You Make Choices?” Whether we realize it or not, we have a system by which we make our choices. What is yours?
I would like to suggest a way to make good choices. I believe that God has given us the Bible for many reasons, one of which is to help guide us in life. The Bible gives us some excellent instruction in how to make choices. As we are told in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” All too often we choose to make our own decisions, trust in our own knowledge, instead of seeking God for direction. And all too often, our choices get us into trouble, or cause us problems. If we trust in the Lord, if we seek the Lord before we make our choices, especially our big choices, then we will walk on a much better path!
In Matthew 6:33 Jesus tells us: “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” We usually seek things for ourselves first, and our choices are made on what is best for us. But Jesus turns it around and tells us that if we seek God first, and the things that are good for the kingdom of God, then our choices will be clearer, and better for all, including ourselves. If we do this, we will see fruit born in our lives that will make our life productive and purposeful.
There are many other verses in the Bible that can help us with making choices, but let me mention one more; Psalm 37:4. In this verse we read: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” In life we want to have good things; things that will delight us. But like a child, we don’t always know how to make choices that will bring delight to us. Often times what we think will bring us delight actually brings us headaches and heartaches. But when we delight in what delights God, then our desires change, and God will give us what we want, because we want what God wants!
I pray that you would make the good choices that need to be made, but giving yourself over to God, and the desires of God. Blessings. Chris

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Can You Be Trusted?

They say that trust is something you have to earn. And if you think about it, you know it is true. If you have ever trusted someone who has let you down, or who has hurt you, then you know that trust is not to be given lightly. To trust someone means that we must give our heart and mind to someone else. When that trust is damaged, so are we.
My wife Tami and I happen to be fans of the show "Dancing with the Stars." I am amazed at the trust level the women have to have in the men they dance with; this is especially true when it comes to the professional women dancers trusting the men stars. If a throw or catch is missed, the dancers can get really hurt. Through hours of rehearsal and practicing a trust level is developed. They can know the catch will be made, because they have developed the trust. At this point in the dance, if the catch is missed, it would be a fluke, because it has been made over and over again in practice.
This is true in life as well. We develop the trust of others by practicing being trustworthy. We usually trust people with minor things (like meeting us somewhere for lunch or general information about our lives). As we see people trustworthy in the small things, we begin to decide to trust them with bigger things (like our more private thoughts and feelings to being a close friend).
As a pastor I know that my congregation members trust me with much. They trust me in how I love them. They trust me when they confess things with them. They trust me to teach them the truth. They trust me to lead them in the right direction. I value this trust, and know that to dishonor this trust would not only be hurtful to them, but in what they believe about God.
Even more, when we come to trust God, it is because we have seen God's faithfulness in our lives. To say that we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior is at first just words. The real belief comes when we see God being who we believe God to be. When God answers our prayers, our trust is increased. When we experience God's presence in our lives, or feel His presence in worship, our trust is increased. The more we trust, the more we open our hearts and minds to God, and the more we will see of God, which will continue to cause us to trust all the more.
I hope that you can trust your heart to God, and that you find it desirable to be trustworthy. May God bless you in this.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Is anyone following?

It is said that to be a leader, you must have followers. But even more than having followers, you need to have influence in the lives of others. Without influence there is no change, and without change there is no forward movement. But with this said, anyone can be a leader, because we all have the opportunity to influence others; we all have people in our lives whom we influence. For parents it could be their children, for bosses it is their employees, for children it could be their friends.
Being a leader can't be enough though. The question then becomes, 'where are you leading?' Is the direction you are going worth following? Hitler was a powerful leader, with many followers, but he was leading people down a terrible road. Being a leader isn't enough. We need to have the right vision, so that we can lead people in a worthwhile direction.
I believe the greatest leader ever was Jesus. He was a great leader first and foremost because He was leading people to a place where they could know and follow the will of God. He was a great leader because He loved people deeply, caring for their deepest needs. He was a great leader because He invested Himself fully into the lives of His followers. He was a great leader because He had great wisdom and compassion. He was a great leader because He in essence gave us a passport, a ticket to heaven through His death and resurrection.
So how can you and I be great leaders? We need to care deeply for those we are seeking to lead. We need to be humble in our leadership, helping others to understand we are learners as well. We need to have a vision of God's will so that others will know they are on a purposeful journey. We need to be compassionate and forgiving for our own mistakes and others'. We need to help others see that the destination is worth the effort that is to be given.
Leadership is not about power, it is about lovingly influencing others for the sake of Christ and for the life God has for us to live. As you seek to live, I encourage you to implement the characteristics of Jesus' leadership, and see what a wonderful difference it will make. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Looking out the window

The picture here of a person looking out the window can lead us to many different thoughts. Sometimes looking out the window represents someone who is reflective in nature. Looking out the window can also cause us to think of someone who is lonely or alone. It could represent someone who is isolating themselves from the world. Even more, it could be a way to protect yourself from the outside world.
God created us to be in relationship. The most important relationship in our lives is the one we have with God. In this relationship, it is important to have times of quiet and reflection. It is in these times of reflection that we get a sense of where we are in life, and where God wants us to be. In these times of reflection we slow down enough to listen to God and feel God's love.
Our world is full of lonely people. In the Aerosmith song "Angel," the first 2 lines of the song say: "I'm alone, yeah, I don't know if I can face the night I'm in tears and the cryin that I do is for you..." This song is talking about the loneliness of a relationship not working out. How often in life do we struggle in our relationships, and this struggle leads us to isolation. That is why our relationship with God is so important, because it gives perspective to all other relationships, and keeps us from ever really being alone.
I know a number of people who tend to isolate themselves from the world. Some isolate themselves because of feelings of anxiety and a difficulty of being around others. Others isolate themselves because they feel that the world is miasmic, and they don't want to pollute themselves from the evil of the world. The window helps them to feel protected. We are told in Romans 12:2- "Do not be conformed to this world..." Yet Christ told us in Matthew 28:19 to "Go therefore and make disciples..." The challenge is to go our into the world, and yet keep ourselves from becoming stained or polluted by the world.
Let us see what God wants us to see, and then receive the power of God to go out and share God's love. Let us not get stuck "looking out the window."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Monday Morning Blues

You're probably familiar with the phrase "Monday morning blues." This term has come about because so many people experience some kind experience where they feel down on Monday morning. There are several reasons for this: busy weekend, lack of sleep, mental frustration with your job, thinking about how long the week is even before you start it, even feeling the futility of life.
No matter what your personality, positive thinker or not, everybody feels the Monday morning blues at some time. The question then is: How can we handle the Monday morning blues? Let's look at how we can overcome the various affects.
I read a report that states that our internal clock actually operates on a day that is longer than 24 hours, so that when Monday morning comes, we have a natural sleep deficit of almost an hour. Along with the deficit that often comes from being busy througout the weekend, we need to work at going to bed a little earlier Sunday night so that we can be better rested for the work week.
A second issue is frustration with your job. Many people don't like the jobs they have. In fact, the statistics show that more than 75% of people are desiring a different job. Due of this, many people dread Monday morning, because it means going back to a place they don't enjoy; their work. So to help with the Monday blues, we need to find a way to enjoy the job more. A good way to change this is to stay positive. Think about the good you bring to the job. As the Bible tells us in Colossians 3:17- "And whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." If you seek to do your work for God, and not for your employer or others around you, you will enjoy what you do much more.
A third issue is that we get tired of doing the same thing over and over. So the week begins, and you think about your job being redundant. A good way around this is to find new ways to do old tasks, or find new tasks that can replace the old tasks. Try to be more creative with your work. Do things in teams. Set goals for yourself; as you accomplish these goals you will feel good about your work. Lastly, don't think about the whole week, or that Monday is the first of 5 days of the work week. Focus on Monday alone. This will help to curb that feeling of being overwhelmed.
It could also be time to look for a new job. Sometimes just looking can make you appreciate what you have, or cause you to realize there are other options.
The Monday morning blues will exist. But we can beat them, and we can even get to the point where we enjoy our job, and our life all the more. As Ecclesiastes 3:13 tells us: "..It is God's gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Chocalate Chip Cookies

I have used this blog to talk about many theological and spiritual issues, but sometimes it is good to think on the lighter side of life. So today I want to talk about chocolate chip cookies. Why chocolate chip cookies? Well, it happens to be the topic of my blog group, but it also is a way to think about one of life's good and simple pleasures. And in thinking of these simple pleasures, it helps us to keep equilibrium and not get too serious.
When I think of chocolate chip cookies I first of all think about my childhood. My mom would often make chocolate chip cookies. It was wonderful to have this tasty dessert, especially when they were hot out of the oven. Milk and chocolate chip cookies are one of the great treats of life.
But when I think of chocolate chip cookies, I also think about the wonderful balance of the dough and the chocolate chips. In life, the right combinations can make two things that are good, become together something that is great. We can see this in good teams, where good players joining together make a great team.
Or even more, a man and a woman coming together to be married and make a great partnership. This is true for my wife and I. In this partnership, my wife makes me a better person, and hopefully I make her a better person. Together we do great things in and through our lives.
So, hopefully for you and for me, next time we're eating a chocolate chip cookie, let's enjoy it for what it is, the delicious dessert, and let it remind us how God combines us with others to do great things!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Does God control our direction?

Today I want to talk about whether or not God controls our direction. And to this I answer "yes" and "no." What I mean by this is that God wants to direct us, but we don't always let God direct us. In Jeremiah 29:11 we read: "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." God has plans for us, and God has given us the gifts, abilities, and desires for these plans. But to be directed by God we have to seek God.
There are many reasons why we don't seek God. We can get lost in our selfish ways. We can follow the path of the world. We can listen to the advice of others that isn't necessarily from God. For example, someone my see that we are humorous, and encourage us to become a clown. But maybe you have coulrophobia (fear of clowns)and this would not be a good career choice. When we make our own choices in this way, we are not allowing God to control our direction.
As a pastor I have the opportunity to help people give themselves over to God; to encourage them to let God control their direction. In fact, one of the best things I do as a pastor is mentoring. In my mentoring, I help people to discover the passion that God has placed in them, and set goals that help them to live this out. But often times I see that people get sidetracked or blocked from carrying through on these goals (even with my help).
However, we can have direction from the Lord. This is good news, because we struggle all the time in our lives to make good and wise decisions. We get down on life because it seems so out of our control. But it isn't out of God's control. As Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
If and when we seek God with our heart, all of our heart, then God will give us the direction we need. With this direction, we will be able to live out the purpose of our lives, and our lives will truly have meaning. On top of this, we will experience great joy in our lives, because we will be fulfilling our passion and doing what we enjoy doing.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

When I Forgive

One of the great truths of the Christian faith is that I am forgiven. This is a great truth, because there is much for which I need to be forgiven. I lose my temper sometimes and say things I shouldn't. I don't always selfish at times and don't give my wife the help she needs. I can be prideful and arrogant. And on and on the list could go. As I said, I need to be forgiven.
The Bible tells me in 1 John 1:9- "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." So, the requirement for forgiveness is honest confession. This is made possible because of Jesus' death on the cross; His sacrifice in our place. Jesus took our punishment so that we could be forgiven.
This is all good, except for the fact that while God forgives me, I am not always good at forgiving others. Actually, I am better at judging others than forgiving them. As Jesus says in Matthew 7:1-3, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" It is interesting that someone else could do something wrong, not big, but enough that I notice, and yet I do something wrong and completely ignore it. Their wrong is like a speck of dust; my wrong is like a Tamarack tree. But I don't see mine!!
Matthew 6:15 is another of Jesus' challenging statements; He says: "But if you do not fogive men thier sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." I need to forgive others, because when I forgive, I learn how to be forgiven. When I forgive, I learn how to free myself from guilt. When I forgive, I am able to let go of that which causes me pain. When I forgive I am able to understand God more fully.
When I forgive others, it is sometimes as much or more for me than for them. Sometimes people don't deserve to be forgiven. They are not sorry for their actions, or don't seek to change their behavior. In these cases the forgiveness is to free me from their control over me. I can let go of any negative feelings I possess, and focus on what I need to do to heal.
During this Easter season, I remember what Jesus has done for me; going to the cross to die for my sins. Because of this I am forgiven. As I seek to walk in Jesus' steps, I need to learn how to forgive. How about you?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

What my life would be without Jesus

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like without Jesus? I accepted Jesus as my savior when I was 15, so I have known Jesus for over 2/3 of my life. But even still, I think I have an idea what might have been, because when I was in high school, I was not making good decisions before I knew Jesus.
A quick run down: my language included many swear words, I started smoking marijauna, I would hang out at lunch and make fun of other kids, my grades had started to slip, and my choice of friends was not good at all. If I had continued down this road, I am afraid I would not have made much of myself.
I write this without being proud of my actions or decisions at all. Even though the title is "What my life would be without Jesus," I would rather focus on what my life is with Jesus. The reason for this, is because I believe my life would be much the opposite of what it is now!
With Jesus I began to say "no" to many things. My swearing, my sarcasm, my arrogance, drugs, alcohol, how I treated people, and on and on it went. I began to believe in myself and in the fact that Jesus called me to do great things. I began to love others for Jesus. My life was transformed so much that it became evident to all that something was different.
Because of this I took a more obsequious path. I trusted that God had a plan for my life, and that I needed to humble myself and follow this plan. I graduated from college and went on to get my Masters of Divinity and become an ordained pastor. And because of this I know that God touches many lives through my life!
Without Jesus I believe I would be lost and without purpose. I definitely know that I wouldn't understand what life is about and how my life makes a difference. And I know that I wouldn't have changed so many other lives around me. I am glad I don't have to live my life without Jesus!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

As Easter Approaches

I am currently in a blog collaboration with 3 other bloggers, and our assignment this week is to write from the perspective of one of the characters. So I have chosen John, who in his gospel refers to himself as "the one whom Jesus loved."
"We are nearing what Jesus says will be the end of his ministry. I don't understand this, since it seems like He is just getting started. I know we have had some challenges (arguments with the Pharisees), but Jesus seems to win these arguments. There seems to be more and more people curious about Jesus; asking questions about Jesus; following Jesus. We fed over 5,000 people not too long ago!
But Jesus is taking on a more serious tone. He was talking about going to heaven; well back to heaven He said. And He told us not to be troubled by this. But I don't understand. I have grown to really love Jesus, and really make a connection. Jesus seems so different than any other religious leader I have ever encountered. He has made it so that I believe in a wonderful loving God.
I don't want to lose Jesus. But if that needs to happen so that I can have a better relationship with God, then I guess I need to let Jesus go; I need to let Jesus do what He came to do. And He says that it will be better for us; that we will have the Spirit of God within us and guiding us. That would be very powerful. So as I come to this time, I too am reflecting more on who I am, and who Jesus is to me, and how I need to be committed to following Him, and telling others about Him I want them to understand this amazing love of God that we see in Jesus.
'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.'
As Jesus died on the cross, tearing away the drapes from the temple that separated us from God, I hope that you can give your love to Jesus the way I have. If you do you will have your life transformed like I have!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Physician Assisted Suicide

In the movie "Whose Life is it anyway?" Richard Dreyfuss plays an artist who is in a terrible car crash. The car crash leaves him paralyzed. Because of his paralysis, he is no longer able to sculpt the way he once did. He decides that if he can't be the artist he once was, then he no longer wants to live. At the end of the movie it is determined by the courts that he can choose to no longer be on the machines or have the treatment that keeps him alive.
This is a good question when it comes to Physician Assisted Suicide: whose life is it? Because we live in a society that stresses independence, most people think that they are the ones who should choose all things for themselves; even when it is time to do. Those who are terribly ill might want to end their life to end their misery. But is our life really our own to decide?
In the Bible, Psalm 139:13-16 we are told: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place; when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." God is the one who desired for us to live, and designed for us to be born. Our life really does belong to God, not to us. What we do with our life is our gift back to God.
I think we have our perspective all wrong; we think that life is supposed to be all wonderful, and smooth, and perfect. We think that we are owed happiness and health. So when someone is not healthy for a long time, when they realize they will not get better, they begin to want to end their life. They think that having a doctor do it for them is different than committing suicide themselves; that if someone else sends them to the graveyard, then it is okay.
I disagree. I think that anytime we have our life ended, by our own doing or by the hand of someone else, we are playing God. We are deciding when the end of our life will be. We are deciding that God can no longer use our life for His purpose.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't agree with keeping someone alive by machines. If turning off a machine means that their life will end, then that is different than suicide. Because of our technology, we sometimes keep people alive longer than God meant for them to be alive. I know that I had to make this decision a few years back concerning my father. But I knew that my dad didn't want to be kept alive by a machine. If he couldn't breathe on his own, then it was no longer life.
I know that many will disagree with me on this. But I don't think scripture supports us having physicians end the life of people because they no longer feel like they have a purpose. I'm interested to hear what others have to say.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Are you the Pilot?

In our day and age, sin is not a word that people like to talk about. To so many it sounds disparaging and negative. People don't like to be told that they have sin in their lives; that they are disposed to sinful behavior. People don't want to believe in moral absolutes, where there is a clear cut right and wrong. So when sin is mentioned, people often respond in rejecting the teaching, or in anger that you would try and put them in the category of "sinner."
I believe this is the evidence of sin at work. Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." Because our world likes to deny that sin is a problem, it causes the problem all the more.
I believe this is also an issue of our wanting to be our own pilot. We want to be in control of our lives. We don't want to give this control over to anyone or anything, including God! But that too is the essence of sin. We see this in the story of Adam and Eve and the bringing of sin into the world. When the serpent told Eve that eating the fruit would make her like God, knowing good and evil, the sin was doing what she wanted apart from what God told her not to do. She wanted to make her own decision.
How often in life do I do this; make my own decisions? More than I can count. And how often have my decisions gotten me into trouble? Many times. Talking about sin isn't about putting anyone down. It isn't about shaming anyone. It is about owning up to who I am. And the good news is that God has made provisions for me to overcome my sinfulness.
If I were in an airplane, trying to fly the plane, and I got into trouble beyond what I could handle, and an experienced pilot came to help me, I hope I would accept the help. This is true of life. Our sin creates problems and we need help; guidance; strength to overcome. Let us accept this help from God, starting today. Blessings.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

How Do You Handle Conflict?

As I write this blog, I do not claim to be an expert at handling conflict. There have been many times in my life that I have not handled conflict correctly (my wife could confirm this). But through the conflict that I have experienced, and the successes and failures I have experienced, I have learned some good lessons.
First, I have learned that conflict is a part of life. There are going to be times when people have a difference of opinion, and this difference will cause conflict. It is also true that there will be times when people will attack you. Conflict also comes upon when we are wronged, and we have to stand up to the one who wronged us. Regardless of what we think about conflict, it will be a part of our lives.
Second, conflict can actually be an opportunity to solve the frustrations or hurt we are feeling. Because most people want to avoid conflict, when they disagree, or are wronged, or are hurt in some way, they tend to put aside and try not to think about it; they don't want to deal with it. But at some point, there comes a time when it has to be dealt with.
Third, conflict can be resolved when both parties seek to work together. Conflict doesn't have to be a bad thing. If both parties seek reconciliation, the conflict can actually cause a relationship to be strengthened. Sometimes it gives insight into how communication wasn't happening, thus improving the communication.
Fourth, if the other party doesn't want to seek resolution, you can still seek it for yourself. You can do this by following Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." By seeking to live at peace with others, we can be at peace within ourselves. As we attempt to resolve the conflict, we can know that we have done everything we can possibly do to make things better. The rest is on the other person.
Fifth, getting over conflictual situations might even mean that we have to forgive them; not for the purpose of saying what they have done is okay, but because if we don't forgive, then we will have turmoil and conflict within us until we can forgive and let go. (for more on this you can go to the archives to the right, 2/13/08).
Let me know how you handle conflict so we can learn together.