Getting Real About Life, about Love, and about God

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Option or Opportunity

A friend of mine shared with me about a two months ago what God had been laying on his heart about church. He told me that "church is an opportunity not an option." For these past couple months my friends words about church participation have been resonating in my soul.

Too often we see participation in the live and happenings of the church as an option. Church attendance, church worship, and fellowship with other Christians are just some of many options we have to choose from in our day. Church or something else it is our choice. Someday it is a choice that we want and we will participate and sometimes we choose something else.

Church is opportunity not a choice.

Church is an opportunity to encounter and experience God in the midst of of our lives. Church is an opportunity to worship, to love, to find meaning in life. Church is an opportunity to share our lives with Jesus and other followers of Jesus. Church is an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Church is an opportunity to live out our faith in relationship with Christ and in community with other followers of Jesus. Church is an opportunity to be transformed from self-centered "what is in it for me" choices to a Christ centered joy filled live of service to God and others.

Church is an opportunity to know God and his forgiveness. Church is an opportunity to find a shoulder to cry on, a friend to lean on, and a God to love on. It is an opportunity to love and be loved, to know and be known, to serve and be served.

We can choose, that is what free will is all about. But church, is more than a option that we have to choice from. It is an opportunity. In fact, as those seeking to follow Jesus and live out our faith, it is no longer an option, it is necessary for us, we cannot follow Jesus alone, in isolation. We need the church. It is not an option it is our greatest opportunity.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow Day

"Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."
Psalm 51:7

As I sat and looked out the window this morning at the pure snow that has fallen for the past 24 hours, my mind was filled with this verse from the Psalms. There is something beautiful about freshly fallen snow. No footprints, no snow plow residue, no slush or mud created by traffic-- just pure, white, snow. Untouched, unblemished.

It makes since that David would use this as the image for the cleansing that he desired from God in his life. He had made mistakes, he had sinned and he knew that he was dirty and he needed to be clean. He also knew that he could not do it. I m sure he has tried. I am sure he tried lots of things. He tried pretending that he was not dirty. He tried comparing himself to others who seemed dirtier so he "at least was not like them." I am sure he tried to clean himself up. But, he has come to an incredible discovery. He can not get himself clean. He needs God. He also knows that if God does the cleaning he will make him as clean and as pure as the freshly fallen snow.

As I sat and look out the window, with my mind full of God's word, I think about the areas of my life that God has washed as white as the snow. I give him praise for the way that he has cleansed me from my sins. I am also mindful of the tracks in the snow. The slush that I have made, the places that remain unclean and I ask God, knowing that he does the cleaning and not me, for his forgiveness and for his cleansing. "God, wash me and I will be whiter than snow."

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Life Part 5

Mark 2:22

"And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”

This might sound strange or too simple but the biggest obstacle to change and experincing new life and new beginnings is an unwillingness to change. We say we want things to be different but we don't want to be different. We desire a fresh start and we want a new life but we are not really wanting to let go of the old life. Jesus says, you don't put new wine in old wineskins. If we want new life we cannot keep doing the same old stuff that we have always done. New wine won't stay in an old wineskin it will burst the skin. It won't work.

This means that if we want to make a fresh start we will need to stop trying to do things the old way. If we want to make a new beginning, if we want our lives to be changed, we have to let go of our old lives. As long as we are holding onto the old way we don't have the ability to embrace the new. This year allow God to make all things new. This year claim the promise of God to transform and change your life from the inside out. Let go of the old and let God fill your life with love, joy,peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. God wants to fill our lives with the fruits of the Spirit. But, you cant put new wine in old wineskins we have to be willing to allow God to change us.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Life Part 4

Jeremiah 21: 11 says, For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Let me ask you this as you think about the plans that you might have for this coming year or for you life in general. Do any of the plans that you have come with a guarantee to prosper you? Do any of your hopes or your dreams or your plans for your life come with the promise that they will give you a hope and future. I don't know about you but the plans that I make for myself don't come with such guarantees. My plans often fail. My plans usually don't work out perfectly. My plans sometimes succeed but always leave me wanting more. There is only one plan that I can follow that comes with that kind of guarantee. That is God's plan for my life.

God has a plan for each of and he says, it is a plan that will prosper us and give us a hope and a future. The tricky part is that God is not going to force his plan on us. We can choose to live his plans or ours. He will allow us to live our plans as reckless and as crazy and as empty as they might be because he loves us and wont force us to do something we don't want to do. We have to want to live his plan for our life and seek his guidance for our lives. We have to give up the controls of our life to him so that it is no longer I that life but Christ that lives through me. Then we can live his plan and not our own.

The choice is ours. We can live our lives by our plans with no guarantees or we can choice to live a new life by giving up our plans and accepting the only plans for our life that come with a guarantee to prosper us and give us a hope and a future. Seems like a "no brainer" doesn't it.

Love today.

In Christ love and mine,
Doug

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Life Part 3

When God makes a change in our lives he does it from the inside out. Real change begins in our hearts. In Ezekiel 36 we are told that God promises to give us new hearts. It says, "I will take from you your heart of stone and give you are heart of flesh. I will put my spirit in you and cause you to live according to my laws."

You see we live in a world that is so caught up in the outward. We want a change and we look for quick fixes to the outside. We get a new outfit, or a new haircut, or new shoes. We seek out plastic surgery or cosmetic surgery. We make efforts to change the outside in hopes that it might change who we are but we are still the same on the inside. We will change jobs, change relationships, change houses, but nothing really changes because these changes are only outside changes. You see God knows that the only way that things can really be made new is from the inside out. This is why David prays "create in me a clean heart oh God." Change begins in our hearts.

If we want to really experience new life this year, it is not going to happen because we get a new car or a new body, the life that we all long for begins when we are given a new heart. Only God can transform a human heart and he has promised that if we will let him he will take from us our hearts of stone and give us a heart of flesh so that we can experience real and lasting change in our lives this year from the inside out.

Love today.

In Christ Love and mine,
Doug

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Life Part 2

If we want to life a new life in Christ and claim the promise of God to have a fresh start and be made new, the question is what is it that you and I need to do on the first day of this new beginning? What do we do on the first day of the rest of our lives. Well, I want to share with you a prayer that is found in Psalms 51 that helps us to understand what we do to begin a new beginning. David is the writer of this prayer and it is a prayer that he prays after he has been confronted about being a murderer and an adulterer. It a prayer that helps David begin to live a new life in Christ.

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.


Often when we want to make a change we just start doing the new thing. We say I want to live this way so we pretend that that is how we live. This usually ends with us not sustaining the change because we are just acting, we are pretending that we are something that we are not. We can't maintain the change because it is a facade that we are hiding behind rather than it being the product of being changed by God. It is something we are trying to do rather than something we are becoming. David shows us the place to begin is with being honest about who we are and being honest about our inability to change ourselves. It is about being real about the stuff that we do and don't do. It is about understanding that only God can really make things new. Change begins when we are honest about ourselves and our need for God and we ask him to make the change. David says, God this is who I am, I am sinner, I am dirty, I need you to clean me I need you to create in me a clean heart because I am not capable of doing it-- you know and I know what I am capable of. I need you to change me.

A new beginning for you and me begins when we stop pretending and start being real about who we are and our need for God. The truth is God loves us just the way that we are, we don't have to pretend that we are something we are not, but he loves us enough that he wont leave us that way. He promises to change us and to give us new life in him.

Love today.

In Christ love and mine,

Doug

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year- New Life

One of the things that I enjoy about the start of a new year is that at least for a little while people are filled with optimism and hope. The new year finds us thinking about the possibility for things to be new, to be fresh, to be restored. The new year begins and we are hopeful that this year things might be different, that this year things can be different. Some will make resolutions to help them strive toward a goal that they will set. Some will take on new habits while others will try to break old ones. The new year offers up the opportunity to drive a stake in the ground and say"this year things are going to be different." "I am going to be a better me." "I am going to get in better shape." "I am going to do good things more and bad things less."

The new year offers us the opportunity to at least for a little while dream that things can be made new. That we can have a new beginning. A new start. Usually though, by mid January, if we are honest, the hope and the optimism of the new year fades. Resolutions are broken. We fall back into the same routines and we live life in the same ruts. Optimism turns into what we will call realism to justify no change and our dreams and hopes of things being made new are forgotten. We just settle for things as they are. This year my prayer is that we don't settle for anything less than what is promised to us by God.

You see the promise of the bible is that we can live a new life. That all things can be made new. You and me can be made new in Christ. God wants each of us to have life and have it to the full. God wants us to have hope and optimism and to be better people. And God will make it possible for us to have a new beginning, a fresh start, a new life. Each and every day. Because that is what God does. We read in Romans chapter 6, "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 2 Corinthians 5:17 say, "Anyone who is in Christ they are a new creation the old is gone and the new life comes." Jesus in Revelation 21:5 says," I am making everything new." You see we are not stuck in the ruts that we find ourselves in. We have a way out. Our past and our present circumstances do not define who we are we and can have a fresh start and new beginning through Christ who is in the business of new life. You see God truly wants each of us to life lives of hope and optimism lives that are being renewed every morning. Lives that are being transformed and changed by him.

If we want things to be different, we might have to do things differently, we might have to stop trying to change our lives on our own by making resolutions and instead trust God to do what God says he will do. Trust God this year with our hopes, our dreams, our insecurities, our fears, and our habits. Trust God with our lives. As this New Year begins I want you know that God has plan for your life a plan to prosper you and not to harm you to give you a hope and a future. God wants to make all things new for you. Trust God for a new beginning this year.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year

My post this week will also be appearing, in some form, on our local radio station as devotions for our daily community devotion series "Christ in the Community." It is my understanding that they will run each morning of the week at 9:10 AM on KTTN 92.3.

I am grateful for the opportunity that God has provided me to share with our community. I pray and claim the promise that God's word goes out and it does not come back empty. I pray that God will minister to someone though the words that he shares through me.

I will be focusing this week on the promise of a new life in Christ as we start a new year.

Love today.

In Christ Love and mine,
Doug