Getting Real About Life, about Love, and about God

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lenten Reflection #10: What's God Doing?

Psalm 105

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
    tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always.
Remember the wonders he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
    his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
He is the Lord our God;
    his judgments are in all the earth.

Two very important and powerful promises of God are that God is with us and that God is for us.

God is with us.

God never leaves us and there is nothing that can separate us from his love.  He loves me when I am unlovable.  He loves me when I do unloving things.  He will not abandon me--ever.  He will not stop being with me--even when I am trying to hide.  He is with me and he is working in my life.  

If I am looking I will see it.  There have been times when I was not looking that I was fortunate enough to recognize Gods presence.  However, most often when I am not looking I miss him. I think it is because most often God's does his extraordinary work and reveals himself to us in ordinary ways.  We can take it for granted or pass it off as something other than God's presence because it seems ordinary.  But truly it is anything but ordinary.  God is with us.  

When I am looking for God I can see him.  I will notice Him in the little things.  I will see Him working through the people around me.  I will recognize Him at work in me.  I will see Him looking after me and guiding me throughout my day.  I call this the spiritual discipline of noticing.  Psalm 105 invites us to notice what God is doing in our life and to praise him for what he has done.

God is also for us.
God is not only with us in every situation and nothing separates us from his love, he is also working in our situation for us.  God is at work in good circumstances and bad.  He is there, working, on the mountaintop and in the valley.  He is at work, for us, bring about good in all situations.  The Psalm invites us to see that and to tell people what he has done.  

This morning I woke up.  Thanks be to God.  God has given me this day to spend with Him.  It is the strength that he provides me that will get me through the day.  It is the comfort that he gives me that will be my comfort today.  He has provided a way and he is with me leading me.  I am going to do my best to notice and I am going to tell others about how he is doing.  

Look, see and share today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug 



Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lenten Reflection #9:Remembering the Sabbath

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy" Exodus 20:8

Sunday morning worship is really a highlight to my week. Those times that I miss being able to gather with my church family and worship, for whatever reason, always seem leave my week flat. It seems all week like something is missing. The rhythm of life is just off. I need that weekly reset, refocus and intentional turn away from myself and my situation to God.  Sunday morning worship helps me connect to God and focus my life on Him. 

This being said I am sure that God meant more than just "go to church" when he says to remember the sabbath.  I find it interesting that the NIV translations says, by remembering we keep the Sabbath holy. 

Understanding what is meant by remembering the Sabbath is important to keeping it holy. 

The practice of Sabbath is first seen in creation when God rests from his work and is just with his creation. He walks with them in the cool of the morning. They are known by and relating to one another. The creator rest from creating to be with and enjoy his creation. 

Being is remembering. Being with and investing in the relationship with out creator is remembering the Sabbath. That is what he does. He does not just take a day off. He connect to and with what he has created. Worship is about our relationship with God. It is expressing our love and offering out praise. It helps us connect to Him and have him speak into our lives. 
Remembering the Sabbath is about being more than about doing. There will lots of things you and I do today. Will we do them with Him and in his name? Will we spend time connecting and growing in relationship with our creator?  Will we take time to enjoy our creator as we rest from what we usually are doing every other day. 

By so doing we remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. 

In Christ's love and mine, 
Doug

Friday, February 27, 2015

Lenten Reflection #8: Cold

Each morning I try to read my Bible.  There are different things that I will use to spark my reading. Some days it is a devotion that I receive in an email or one that I am following. Other days it is the daily readings that are printed in our church bulletin.  There are also days where I open my bible app and read the daily reading that it suggest.  I also have a good friend that send me a text each morning usually containing a verse.

I don't feel that how I get to reading my bible is nearly as important as the fact that I read it.  I find that when I start my day reading God's word and meditating on its meaning for me and my life my day goes much better.  Not that things are necessarily circumstantially better but I have a lens to see my life and what is going on through.   It helps me to stay connected to God as I "chew" on the word that I have read throughout my day.  It helps me to allow God's word to shape me and the way that I see the world around me.  It helps me to stay in a place where God can write his word on my heart and I can live His word in my life.  It enables me to hear God speak to my life.

This morning it was -3 when I woke up,  I went to my bible app and I typed in the word "cold".  God said to me through His word,
"because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold." 

Love grows cold  as we grow apart from God.  God is love.  Apart from him we can't love.  It is impossible.  I cant love my wife without loving Him.  It is impossible for me to love my children or anyone else without God.

There is also a connection between my ability to love and my wickedness.  Wickedness is a tough word.  I think that most fully wickedness in this context is about living disobedient to God.  It is self centered rather than Christ centered.  It is not a about particular "bad" behaviors" as much as it is about living apart from God and denying him with our lives.  It is about living absent or void of him and rebelliously doing whatever we want not caring about what God wants.  

Our love will give us away.  Is are love growing cold? Are we growing in our love of God and our love of others?

I am going to "chew" on this today.  I want to allow God speak into the cold places of my life and ask him to warm me with his love.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lenten Reflection #7:Busy

Today has been a busy day.  We have days like that don't we?  Days where we do many things, but most of the things we do are not what we thought we would be doing when the day began.  It has been a day like that. Busy.

You know there is a difference between busy and hurried?

I have had hurried days also.  Days where I hurried through one thing to get to another.  I was in such a hurry that I missed opportunities or made mistakes.  Days where I looked back at the end of my day exhausted and could not think of one thing that I really had done. I hurried, I was frantic.

I think it is Dallas Willard that says, "hurry is the enemy of our spiritual lives." It takes time to relate.  It takes time to reflect.  I takes time to connect with others and connect with God. When we are busy, like today, we can still take time for the important things.  In fact, I usually discover what was important was the interruptions to my schedule.  Care for a neighbor. Lend a hand. Help a friend. Be a listening ear for someone who needs to talk.  Laugh.  Love.
You see we cant build relationships in a hurry.  We can't love in a hurry.  We need to make sure even our our busy schedules that we are going slow enough to notice and stay in tune with the Spirit.  We need to carve out time to be alone with God so that he can settle our hurried spirits and calm the raging waters inside.

I hope that you find time today to connect with God and others around you.

Bill Hybels wrote a book titled to busy not to pray.  On days like these I try to remind myself of that truth.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lenten Reflection #6: Being Christian

Yesterday I heard a song several times that I had never heard before.  The song is by country music artist Carrie Underwood.  It is a song about being changed by her relationship with Christ.  It talks about how after being baptized she was no longer the same.  The message of the song is biblical and powerful. We are no longer the same after we make Christ our lives.  We are no longer the same people.  The old is gone and the new has come.  It is no longer I that live but Christ that lives through me.  In Christ we can do all things.  In our weaknesses he is strong.  We are changed.  We are stronger.  Because of our relationship with Christ.

One of the times that I heard the song I was with my daughter Delaney and she said, "Hey, isn't this Carrie Underwood?  I didn't know that she sang this kind of song."  I think Delaney assumed that we were listening to a "Christian" radio station because that is what my radio is usually on.  The song could easily be a worship song played on Christian radio and in church.  However, I had surfed to a country station and it was on that station probably because she is one of country musics biggest stars more than the content of the song.

What struck me is how we compartmentalize our spirituality.  Kind of like we have different stations for different types of music.  Too often we life our lives like we have a spiritual station, a work station, a home station, a fun station and all other types of stations for different aspects of our life. This causes us to live like these stations are not related.  So, what we do in our spiritual life we don't relate to our home life or our work life and somehow we think we can separate what we do at home or work from our relationship with Christ.  Yet, this is not so.  God is not interested in our spiritual lives he wants us.  He want us to make him our whole lives.

What struck me most about this song was that we cant compartmentalize it.  Is it a country song? Is it a worship song?  Is it suppose  to be played on a country station or a Christian station?  These are the question that come out of living this compartmentalized life.  We need to label and we need to place it in the right area of life.

But that is not the way it should be if we are changed and we are living as followers of Jesus.  Our relationship with Jesus will change our work and how we do our work.  It should change the way that are husbands and wives, sons and daughters and brothers and sisters.  When we live in relationship with Christ it changes the way that we live in relationship with all other people.  Our lives are changed and we can no longer do what we use to do the same way.  We are now living in and through Christ. So, if we are a country music singer we are country singers living in relationship with Christ and that will come through in our music. If we are teachers than we are teachers living in relationship with Christ and that will come through in the way that we care for and help others learn.   We are not just an occupational title and work separate from Christ.  We are not dads, moms, brothers, sisters, children, separated from our relationship with Christ.  If we are, we are just playing church and have not surrendered our lives to Christ and living in relationship with him.

Does your relationship with Jesus show in all aspects of your life.  Has it changed who you are? Have you surrendered all areas or are you still trying to live a compartmentalized life?

I don't desire to be a great pastor.  I long to be a Christian one.  It is not my dream to be a great husband and father I want to be a husband and father that follows Jesus.  I don't want to be a great fire fighter and not be a Christian one.  I want to have everyone that I encounter see in the way that I do what I do and say what  I say that I live my life as a follower of Jesus.  I long for them to see in all that I do that I have been changed.  I pray that the song of my life is a worship song and that we all might allow our relationship with Him to come through in all areas of our lives.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lenten Reflection #5: Burdens

"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." -Galatians 6:2

Burden is not a word I use often. I also don't hear it used much outside the context of church folks. However, I do have burdens and I know my friends, coworkers, neighbors and everyone else I encounter are carrying  around hurts, struggles, pains, worries and a ton of other things that are weighing them down.  All kinds of stuff that we are not meant to carry by ourself, or at all.  
We are burdened about our health and upcoming test results. We burdened about how to pay the rent or get the kids a new pair of shoes. We are burdened about our relationships and we are burdened about decision we have made or need make.  We are burdened by loved ones who are struggling. 
If you are like most people you just try to hold up under the weight. And if you are like most people you are barely keeping it together. Barely able to carry the weight. Outwardly it might seem ok but inside we are being crushed by the weight of it all. 
This is because we are not meant to carry these pains. We are not meant to just keep piling it up and trying to carry as big a load of burdens as we can possibly endure. 
Jesus says, "come to me all who are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest." 
That stuff, that the bible calls burden, that we are carring that is weighing us down, we need to give it to Jesus. 
Also, we need to help each other give it to Jesus. We need to pray for and with one another and carry each other's burdens to Jesus. 
You are not in this all by yourself. Share your burdens with a trusted friend and ask them to help you carry them to Jesus   
Pray for each other. 
In so doing we will fulfill the law of Christ. 
I pray for you today that your burdens may be lighter and that you might know the rest from your burdens that Christ promises. 
Would you help me carry mine?

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lenten Reflection #4:Inside Out

"Create in me a clean heart, Oh God; and renew a right Spirit within me." - Psalm 51:10

It is easy to clean up on the outside.  We can shower, shave, put on new clothes.  We can even for a while act like we are someone that we are not.
For a time we can put on a smile.
For a time we can pretend that we have it all together.
We can even put on the persona of loving and caring.
These temporary cover ups are not changes at all.  They are just our attempt to fool others and ourselves.  We might give some habit up for a while but we will pick it up again unless we are changed.  We might smile on the outside but we wont have joy unless we are changed.  We might clean up and look like we have it all together outwardly but that wont change what is going on in our heart and our Spirit.
We can not change our hearts.  No matter how hard you and I try I can't change myself.   Sure we try.  We try hard.  And we always end up disappointing ourselves don't we?  We may have some apparent success but it is temporary.
The good news is that God is in the heart change business. That is what he does. Only God can change a human heart. He is not concerned with the outside.  He wants to change us from the inside out.  He says, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put his Spirit in you and cause you to live according to my laws and keep my decrees." (Ezekiel 36:26)
 The sooner that we learn that we can't change ourselves and that God does and will, the better off we are.  It is a tough lesson to learn.  We want to think we can do it. Although we hate banging our heads against the wall we continue to bang our heads into this wall of self-actualization and I can do anything if I just try hard enough.
Here the good news today.  You can stop trying so hard.  You can give up the acting and pretending.   What you want and desire is just a surrender away.  Surrender.  Let God do what he has promised to do.  Let him change you from the inside out.  Make the words of the psalmist in Psalm 51 be your Lenten prayer.  Ask God to create in you a clean heart and renew a right spirit within you.  Rest in Him and in the power of his Resurrection that is making all things new.  This includes me and you.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug