Getting Real About Life, about Love, and about God

Friday, January 31, 2014

What if it is not all about me? Part 2

After yesterday's blog some people had a few questions and wanted more said on this topic. I don't have all the answers on this, I am still in the process of being transformed by Christ from self-centered to Christ centered.  God is working on me.

Remember, it is a work that God does in us.  This too is about God. 

Spiritual disciplines our important things that we can do to open ourselves to Gods work in our lives. They help us to deny ourselves and connect to God. Prayer helps us to focus on others. I know that we can pray selfishly and there are times that we do. Yet, Jesus tells us when we pray we are to pray as a part of the family of God. Our Father...Give us our daily bread...forgive our trespasses...as we forgive...lead us...deliver us.

Prayer is not  self-centered and true prayer, offering ourselves and others to God, moves us out of the center and focuses our live on our need for God and our care for others.

Spending time in God's word, reading and meditating on the scriptures help us to shift our focus from ourselves to God.  It speaks to us about God's love for us and mutual love for one another.  God uses his word to change us from the inside out and to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him.  He is withing the words of the bible that we encounter in a real and tangible way The Word that is God and becomes flesh and dwells among us.  It is not easy to read the words of scripture and remain self-centered.  Jesus says, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23.  Following Jesus begins with daily self-denial.  

Worship helps to shift our center as well.  True worship is not about us it is about God.  It is offering our love, adoration and attention to God.

Another spiritual discipline that God can use to shift our center is service.  Serve others.  Through service we experience the joy of being use by God and experience Christ in the people we serve.  Service changes us.
Doing the "one another's" of the bible helps us to deny self and follow Jesus.  Love one another.  Serve one another.  Carry one another's burdens.  We can't do the pone another's and remain self centered.  God changes us as we deny ourselves in this way,

Books have been and can be written on these spiritual habits and practices.   They enable us to arrange our lives in such a way that we can encounter God and he can do the work of transformation in us.

Finally, I know that we might wonder if it really is more pleasurable to be Christ-centered than self-centered.  I mean after all if I just set out to please my self would that be pleasurable?  Would that be more pleasurable than living for what pleases God?

Unless you are an extreme narcissist, which means psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in self-esteem, you know that you really do experience more pleasure from selfless acts than you do a selfish act.  I can blow hundreds of dollars on myself, have a temporary good time (and I have), and be left empty and drained of life afterwards.  Every time that I have selflessly given to help others It has been life giving and the pleasure last.  We feel this at moments around the holidays when we expand our hearts to care for other.  We experience this in moment of disaster when suddenly we reach out and rely on others and care for others.  We fell this on mission trips and when we do random acts of kindness.  We feel this when we lose ourselves in worship of the one who created us for his pleasure and loves us, cares for us and wants what is best for us.   

I guess what I want to say is give it a try.  You will not be disappointed.

What if it is all about Him?

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug


Thursday, January 30, 2014

What if it is not all about me?

Selfish.
Self centered.

Do you ever find yourself in that place where you are thinking only about yourself?  Do you ever wonder when you do things "what am I going to get out of it?" or "what is in it for me?" Do you ever find yourself just asking, "what do I want?" or "what do I need?"

Ya, me too!

I think one of the toughest transformations for us to allow God to make happen in us is the transformation from being self-centered to being Christ-centered.  We tend to go from that place of what is good for me and what pleases me.  We come from a place of what do I want to do.  Really this is the root of sin and separation from God.  We are selfish and only care about what we want and what pleases us so we don't care what pleases God or what God wants.  We even know what God wants but the "fruits" look good and pleasing to us and we desire them so, we do what we want.  

But, guess what?  What I am about to write may surprise us.  
IT IS NOT ABOUT US.  We were not put on this earth and created for our pleasure. 
IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT US.  We were created for God's pleasure.  
IT IS ALL ABOUT GOD.

Now this does not mean that we won't find pleasure in life or that we don't get anything out of life.  In fact, I think that life is most pleasing to us when we are pleasing God.  Life is at its best when we allow God to be a the center of our lives.  We then can have life and have it to the full.  A self-centered life is always less of life.  The pleasure that we find in just pleasing ourselves does not even come close to comparing to the pleasure that we find when we seek after what pleases God. 

This means that in order for us to truly find pleasure in life we need to be transformed.

We can't make this shift from self-centered to Christ-centered without giving up control.  We can't be transformed in this way without letting Christ have the lead and we follow.  

After all, what if it really is all about God and not about me?  Would we ask different questions and live our lives differently?

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Lord's Supper

I can remember the first time it clicked with me.  I was in the sanctuary at Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church and I was holding a piece of Hawaiian bread soaked in grape juice.  I realized that that piece of bread and juice was more than bread and juice.  I remember holding it and thinking that Christ gave his life for me the least that I can do is give my life for him.  Christ gives himself to me and I am invited to receive him and give my self to him.  
"This is my body given for you."  That is what he said. 
 "This is my blood shed for you."  That is what he said. 
"As often as you do this remember me." That is what he said.

Yesterday I did the Tuesday worship services at a local nursing home.  For the first time in the almost six years that I have been going to Eastview Manor for these services we shared in the Lord's supper.  It was amazing.  Throughout my life I have had a several unforgettable and moving moments when it comes to sharing in this meal that Christ gives to us.  Moments that clicked and I understood that Christ is present and we encounter him in this sacrament.  Moments when I could not help but know that God was real because I could sense him in with me as I participated in the sacrament.  Yesterday was one of those moments.

Yay God!  

"This is my body given for you."  That is what he said. 
 "This is my blood shed for you."  That is what he said. 
"As often as you do this remember me." That is what he said.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

It's Cold

This morning when I woke up and stepped outside it was -3!  If I have learned one thing from living in the Midwest it is that I do not like cold weather.  In Missouri and Iowa,  where I have spent the majority of my life, we can experience extreme heat and extreme cold.  This has enabled me to know that I am a warm weather person.  

As I hit the cold this morning with this thought I was reminded of Jesus words in Revelation 3 to the church folks in Laodecia, and really all Christians, about living in relationship with him.
He said, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!" (Revelation 3:15 NIV)
The folks in the church were indifferent. They were lukewarm and just going through the motions. They were playing church.  They were neither extreme.  It would be better if they were either cold or hot but they (we) are neither. 
I am a hot weather person and I pray that I live my life on fire for Jesus. I pray that I don't fall into lukewarm indifference and just going through the motions.   I pray that I would be a person that others feel the warmth and the love of Jesus through. 

May you be warmed by the presence of Christ today. 

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug


Monday, January 27, 2014

Must be about my Fathers Buisiness

We are not told very much about Jesus as a child. The Gospel of Luke tells us about a time when he was about 12 years old and his parents left him behind during a trip to Jerusalem. After traveling for a day on their return home they discovered that Jesus was not with them and returned to Jerusalem to find him teaching in the synagog. Jesus response was don't you know that "I must be about my father's buisness"

The word that really hits me as I read it is "must."  After I get past the thought of them traveling a day without knowing Jesus was missing, I am hit by the must language.  

Is doing God's work a must for me?   Too  often it is seen as an option.   Too often it is seen as something I do when I get the time or when it is convenient.  
 
When we are about our fathers buisness life has meaning and purpose. When we are about our fathers buisness we experience his power and his presence.  

It should not be something that is when it is convenient or optional. I must be about my fathers buisness. 

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Friday, January 24, 2014

Thank God it's Friday

Happy Friday!  

Today, as I wake and turn my thoughts to God I am thankful for prayer partners.  I am thankful for those people who throughout my life have prayed for and with me. 

There are times that I have not had the faith to pray and there have been friends who prayed for me. When I could not do it, they did. Wow!  Where would I be without those people who have prayed for me when I could not or would not?  That is a prayer partner. 

My prayer partners pray for me to find forgiveness, strength, healing, hope, love and guidance. Just to name a few. 
I am thankful for prayer partners that pray for me. 

Prayer partners also pray with me and together we go to God with my joys, hopes, dreams, fears, insecurities and vulnerabilities. Again, just to name a few. Wow!  Where would I be without my freinds praying with me?  

Freinds, everyday is a day I need you to pray with and for me and my family. I am so grateful for you partnership. Please pray with me today as my wife begins her medical therapy that she will have to undergo from now until they find a cure for ms. Today is a day that we need strength and assurance, comfort and peace. It is not any different than other day. It is just that today we introduce daily shots and new medications. God is with us and he will comfort us and ease the anxiety. I know this. It is already comforting knowing that you are praying with and for Nicole and I. 

Today I am thankful for my freinds who are my partners in prayer who pray with and for me each and every day!

In Christ's love and mine, 
Doug

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

God of the Impossible

It seems that over the past few months there has been a recuring theme going on for me.  It began back in November I think.  I preached a sermon series during the time leading up to Christmas that was about how the Christmas story is filled with all kinds of impossible things that God makes possible.  The virgin birth, the star that leads the magi to the manger, the birth of John the baptist to a couple who was "old" and pass child barring age, and the marriage of Joseph and Mary that was destined it seemed to end in divorce are a few of the things that God makes possible to show us that all things are possible with God.   As the new year has begun the theme has continued in my preaching and in my medatative and prayer life.  This past week we were challenged to believe that "we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength."   The challenge was to step into our fear of failure and trust God's strength in our weakness.

Here is what I am beginnning to think.  God is preparing me because he going to do the impossible.  I need to trust God because there is something about to happen that only God can do.  I don't want to miss this miracle.  I don't want to allow fear to keep me from stepping into this.  Because God is doing a miracle.

That is what God does.  He is the God of the impossible.  He does for us what is impossible for us to do.  Do we really trust that?  Do we really expect and anticipate when we are facing the impossible that God can do it?  Do we really expect and anticipate that when we are weak he is strong?

I am preparing and looking for the impossible thing that God is doing right now.   How about you?

Maybe you feel like you are at a place where all you are faced with is the impossible?  Trust the God of the impossible who is able to do far more than we could ever ask or imagine.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Monday, January 20, 2014

Do we really want to be rescued?

My friend Andy posted his sermon topic yesterday on Facebook. He invited people to come to his church and hear a message that connected the classic TV show Gilligan's Island to the Gospel. 

Oddly,  I found myself this morning on the Tvland channel watching that old classic show. It seems they are having a marathon.   I don't know the direction that Andy went but as I watched I was instantly taken to a connection that I think speaks to the human condition,  the way you and I tend to act. 

The story line of the show is pretty simple, 7 people set out on a three hour trip in the SS Minnow and they end up ship wrecked an stranded on an island. The show is about the things that happen as they live on the island and try to find a way back home. The tension that is created is over whether they will be rescued or not. This is complicated because at times it seems they really don't want to be rescued. 

I think this is an interesting connection. God wants to save us.  He want to help us with our struggles and to overcome the things that strand us and seperate us from him.  We know that we are stuck for the most part. Yet, we have to want to be rescued. It seems at times,  if we are honest, we really don't want to be rescued. We are comfortable even in the life that we know is killing us,  because we know it. To surrender to God and return home is an unknown. To surrender to God and return home would mean we would have to change and we don't know the new life like we know the old one.   We want things to be different but we fear the change to come. We are such creatures of habit. Even in habits we know are bad. 

Home is where we belong. There is no place like home. We are never fully alive and living until we are living in relationship with God. So we must be rescued. We have to want to be rescued. 

When we cry out to be rescued our rescuer comes.  That is his promise. 

Is is time for you to get off your Island?

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Friday, January 17, 2014

Thank God It's Friday!

When I was blogging regularly before I would often use Fridays as a day to express my thanks and gratitude to God.  As I get back into the swing of things and work through this writing block I will do it again.  

Today, it seems that I as I think about all the many things that I have to be grateful for there is one thing that I have had come to mind that I often don't think to be grateful for.  In preparing for the message I will share this Sunday at Dockery I have been reflecting upon the connection between our weaknesses and God's power.  I am grateful for God's power and that I can experience his power in my life.  I am grateful that the power which created all things and overcomes sin and death is available to me.  I am thankful that the power to open the eyes of the blind, make the lame walk and raise the dead is at work in my life if I will just surrender to it.  I am grateful for the power of the resurrection that is available to strengthen me. 

 It is not the power that I often don't think to be grateful for it is the understanding of my weakness. I am grateful that I can see that I am weak and in need of God.  I am grateful that I can recognize my need for God's power.  I am weak.  I struggle.  I have hurts.  I have habits.  I have hangups.  I have flaws.  I am too weak to deal with the stuff of life on my own.  I am thankful that I can understand this.

It is at this place of understanding our weakness and our need that we can experience the power of God.  As long as we think we are strong enough we will never experience the power of God, because we will just rely on our own strength.  Never trusting God's.  Yet, his power is made perfect in our weakness.  It is not until we understand our weakness and give our weaknesses to him that we can understand and experience his perfect power.  

Thank God for an understanding that I am weak and in need of his perfect power in my everyday life.  His power is perfect for overcoming my fears, my worries, my stresses, my weakness.  I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.  Thanks be to God!

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Resolutions

I will admit it, I am a resolution maker.
 
I like the hope and the possibility that comes with a new year.   So, at the onset of a new year I like to dream that things can be different and set out at the start of the new year to make a change for the better.  God is in the business of making things new.  The new year signals for me that promise and I am reminded as a new year begins that God is not done with me yet.  What can I do to make myself available for God's transformation and change in my life?  This is the question I ask myself as I think about a new years resolution.  What can I do differently to align myself with the work that God wants to do in my life.

I know that today is the 16th day of this new year but I have a desire to do more than set a goal and try to stick to it.  I want whatever change or decision that I make to be one that draws me closer to God.  I am not looking to draw attention to myself or an external accomplishment.  Although, there may be external changes that I need to make to draw closer to God.  What I desire, with the promise and hope of this new year, is a new a deeper love for God and to resolve to do what will help me experience more authentic relationship with Christ.

Sure, I might resolve to blog more or exercise more ( I have got to get a race on my schedule so I can work off this holiday and vacation weight) but ultimately I want to resolve to submit myself to the only one who can truly make all things new so that I can claim his promise of transformation for my life.   I want to be more real about my life, my love, and my relationship with God.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Missed Miracles

I wonder how many miracle we miss every day.  I think that sometimes we expect miracles to just be obvious and undeniable.  Sometimes they are.  Sometimes we see the impossible happen and we can give no other explanation except it was a miracle of God.  However, I think that many of God's miracles can be missed or even misunderstood.  We will call them coincidences or luck.  We will try to come up with an explanation that we can understand logically or because we just don't expect a miracle we don't see it.  

Jesus first miracle illustrates this for us.  The miracle takes place at a wedding reception.  People are partying and having a good time and they run out of wine.  Mary, Jesus mother, tells him that the time has come for him to demonstrate his power and then tells the servants to do what Jesus tells them to do.  Jesus has them take the jars that were used for cleaning and fill them with water and then serve that to the people of the party as wine.  The servants do as Jesus asks and when the people drink the servants offering they drink the finest wine of the night.  Jesus takes stale, stagnant and dirty water and turns it into the finest wine.  The people who drank the wine that night had no idea that a miracle had just taken place.  They just think "this is good wine."  The host of the party, the bride and the groom, have no idea that the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords has just performed a miracle to continue the celebration.  Most of the people who experienced Jesus first miracle miss the miracle.  They may have seen it as good fortune or coincidence or may have even just taken it for granted.  But, the servants saw it as a miracle. The ones who did just as Jesus told them to do know that Jesus turns stale, dirty, stagnant stuff into the finest of wines.  They know that Jesus can do the impossible.  They, because they are serving and doing what Jesus ask them to do and they are watching to see what happens, know that it is a miracle not coincidence, luck, or chance.  They don't miss it.

I wonder what miracles I have missed today because they appeared ordinary.  I wonder how many we take for granted each day.  

If we are following Jesus and not getting out ahead of him we are in a better position to see his miracles.  When we do what he says and serve him our perspective on the things that go on around us is clearer.   I am looking.  I am expecting.  I know that it is what Jesus does and there is no such thing as coincidence when it comes to God.

In Christ's love and mine,

Doug

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Catch Up

The past two days I have felt like I am trying to get up to speed.  My time away afforded me an opportunity to slow down.  Slowing down is important. It is also something that seems to get harder to do in our busy, wired,  world. It is important for many reasons.  It is hard to love in a hurry.  It is hard to connect in a hurry.  It is difficult to grow in relationship with God in a hurry.  Life tends to want to hurry us up.  Sometimes it wants to run us over.

Today I feel like I am trying to jump on a treadmill that is already going and catch up to the pace.  I need to do that to get back into the swing of things and to get things done but I must remember that it takes slowing down to grow, to love, and to connect.  I can't let the pace and the hurry of life and busy schedules derail me from the things that are most important and most needed.  As we get back into the routine we have to make sure that we are always catching up with God and with others.  Slowing down, a rhythm of rest and work, is what a Sabbath life is all about.  It is an ebb and flow.  I must keep the rhythm and I must keep the flow.

How is your rhythm?  How is God flowing in your life and work?

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Monday, January 13, 2014

Back at It

This year the Christmas present at the Franklin house was a family vacation.  We planned and saved so that we could spend quality time with each other and get a chance to reconnect and create lasting memories as a family.  We did many wonderful things. We traveled and saw parts of our country that we had never seen before.  We drove from Trenton, Missouri to Miami, Florida and back again.  (That is about 45 hours together in the truck!)  We visited with family that we had not seen in a long time along the way. Nicole and I met our nephew and the kid's cousin Ray for the first time.  We were able to spend several days with my sister and brother in law and other friends as we sailed to Mexico and back.  We swam with dolphins. We saw alligators up close.  We jumped in a dove through waves in the ocean.  It was truly a trip of a life time.

I don't tell you this to make you think "oh look what they did!"  I tell you what we did because I want to tell you what was the best part of the trip.  The best part of the trip was the time spent with each other.  It was uninterrupted time with my wife and children.   It was time with my brother and sister in law and sister and brother in law.  It was talking and sharing and doing life together. You see the best part of the trip is not something that we have to go away somewhere to experience.  Sadly, sometimes it takes getting away to really enjoy the best parts of life.  Which are not places, or sights, or experiences, but people.  Our family and our friends are what make the sights, sounds, places and experiences so meaningful.  They are what makes  home a place like no other place.  I thank God the opportunity that we had to make this trip and I and grateful most of all for family and friends.  Invest time in your family and friends.  If it means 45 hours in a truck than do it.  It it means making sure you set down and have a meal together, do it!  Value one another and give thanks for the gift of relationships and family that God has given us to share and experience everyday.  Invest time into your relationships.

I am going to try this year to get refocused on my time reflecting and writing.  I have been a little "blocked" when it has come to writing and blogging for some time.  This year I will try to make it a priority.  I am going to make every effort to get back to regular blogs because it helps me in my relationship with Christ.  As focus on and build our relationship with Christ it impacts all other relationships in our lives.

So, I guess what I am trying to get out today is that I have returned home with a new and deeper appreciation for relationships and a deeper desire to nourish and grow these relationships.  I want you to know that I am back it!

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug