Getting Real About Life, about Love, and about God

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hot Topics

The Hot Topics have been chosen and the series has been put together.  We are going to spend some time seeking biblical answers and perspectives on these tough issues.





July 26 – Ground Rules – Use/Misuse of the Bible & FAQ’s
Topics included: Reliability of the Bible, Biblical Inspiration and interpretation.  Biblical worldviews and other worldviews and what to do when they don’t agree?
August 2 - Talking to and hearing from God
Topics included: Discerning God’s voice, Speaking in tongues, prayer  
August 9 – Racism, Sexism and other ism’s
Topics included: Racism, Sexism, Class-ism, Us and them vs a we mentality
August 16 – God, Sex and Sexuality
Topics included: Is sex God’s idea?, Pre-marital sex, homosexuality, sexual identity
August 23 – Marriage
Topics included: Same sex marriage, Christian Marriage & Legal Marriage, Polygamy, Monogamy
August 30 – Can Christian’s Divorce?  Can Christians Remarry?
Topics included: How does God feel about divorce?, divorce, adultery, remarriage.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Intent and Purpose of Reading the Bible

"How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
    By living according to your word.
 I seek you with all my heart;
    do not let me stray from your commands.
 I have hidden your word in my heart
    that I might not sin against you."  Psalm 119:9-11

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do." James 1:22-25

Psalm 119 and James 1 are just two of the many places in the Bible that talk to us about the purpose and intent of scripture reading.  The intent of reading the Bible is not to merely read it.  It is not like other books, wherein we seek to read it to just be entertained by a story or to gain some knowledge.  The ultimate intent of reading God's word is to have it written on us.  To have what we read and who we encounter in the Living Word transform and change who we are.  Reading and meditating on God's word is intended to change our hearts, our minds and our character.  The goal is not that we can quote the scriptures word for word but rather that we live the scriptures by doing what it says.  In fact, the Bible warns us about just having knowledge of the scriptures and what they say and not living the truth of scripture.  Ironically, doing so is a sign of not having knowledge of God's word.

When we read with the intent of getting the scripture all the way through us and etched on the core of our being rather than just getting through the scripture, we are open to the work of the Spirit through the word to change us.   Reading the Bible with the intent of being changed by God through it means that as we read and meditate on its truth we allow it to read us.  It is a mirror that reflects back to us who we are in our weakness, in our sin, in our frailties and our shortcomings.  It reflects back to us our defiance and our rebelliousness.  However, that is not all that it reflects to us.  In it we see who we are in Christ.  We can see what we are becoming as we allow God to transform us through his Living Word.  We discover God's love, grace and purpose for our lives.  We encounter God.

This is what makes the Bible different from all other books.  This is what makes it a Living Word packed with the only power to transform and change us from the inside out.

May we all be changed by the encounter that we have with God in and through His word today.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What Translation of the Bible Should We Read?

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 
Romans 12:3 (New International Version)

 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. 
Romans 12:3 (King James Version)

Because of the privilege and authority[c] God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
Romans 12:3 (New Living Translation)

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. 
Romans 12:3 (The Message)

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 
Romans 12:3 (New American Standard Version)

Por la gracia que se me ha dado, les digo a todos ustedes: Nadie tenga un concepto de sí más alto que el que debe tener, sino más bien piense de sí mismo con moderación, según la medida de fe que Dios le haya dado.
Romans 12:3 (Nueva Versión Internacional)

As a pastor people will often ask me what translation of the Bible should they read.  I always tell them they should begin with one that they can understand.  I do not know Spanish.  I can't even begin to understand what God is speaking to me when I read a translation of the Bible in Spanish.  This is the very reason that the Bible is translated and we have multiple translations.  So  that we can hear and understand what God is saying to each of us through the scriptures.  

We need to find a translation that is easy for us to read and understand.  The blessing of the many translations is that we can usually find one that is written in a manner that  we can understand.  When preaching I tend to read from the NIV because it is pretty easy for many to understand and is not filled with language that is different from the everyday speech of the people of my congregation.  However, when it comes to study of the scriptures and meditating on their meaning I will read multiple translations.  They help me to think bigger and understand more deeply the thought being expressed.

Romans 3 says to think about myself soberly or with sober judgement.  What does this mean?  Well, by looking at other translation I can see that this is about being honest in my evaluation of myself.  It means that I should not think that I am better than I really am and that I should not misinterpret as someone that brings goodness to God but that God brings goodness to me.  

As you make scripture reading and reflection a daily part of your life I encourage you to read multiple version and reflect upon what the different translation help to bring out for you.  Allow His word to be written on your heart and your life so that others might understand more fully what God is saying to them through you.

It has been said many times that we may be the only Bible that some people will ever read.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A New Command

In our day and age with technology we really have no excuse not to read God's word.  It can be accessed online and on your phone and you can receive daily reminders through text, email and other means to nudge you and say "read the Bible today".  I use several different means to encourage me to get into the Bible and read it.  I have a couple of friends who text me each morning with a scripture and a reflection.  I have the Bible app on my phone (www.bible.com)as well as BibleGateway (www.biblegateway.com) that each give me a daily scripture reading.  We print the Revised Common Lectionary (http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/daily.php?year=Breadings) in our bulletin each week for everyone to have access to daily readings.  Many people tell me I want to read the Bible but don't know where to begin so I never pick it up.  Try using one of these resources or the several others available to take the first step in opening the book.

This morning the Bible app gave me this verse to read and reflect upon.

"A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples of you love one another." John 13:34-35

These are the words of Jesus.  In some Bibles, Jesus words are written in red.  This is red letter stuff. This is a new command given by Jesus to us and it expresses what is at the core of what it means to be a follower of Jesus and and live in relationship with him.  If we are following Jesus our love will give us away.  Our love, the way that we love one another will be the true mark of whether we are living in relationship with Jesus or not.  As we grow in relationship with Him our love will grow and become more like His.  Jesus says, "as I have loved you, so you must love one another."  Our love will give us away.  It is not how well we know the Bible or how often we go to church that will allow others to know that we are followers of Jesus, it's our love for one another.  While reading the Bible and church attendance helps us to have his word written on our hearts and worship, serve and grow in relationship with Him they are not the marks of true disciples, they are what disciples do so that there love becomes more likes His.  If not, if they are our end rather than the means to a deeper relationship with Christ, we are just playing church.  We fool no one.  They don't see love.  Too often they see people who claim to be followers of Jesus casting judgement and condemnation.  Instead of love they see churches that wont except them or that look down at them.

"A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another."

Gracious God, I pray that I might love like you so that other may see in my love that I am a follower of you.  Amen

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Monday, June 1, 2015

Try it! You will like it.

"Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him."
Psalm 34:8

I remember as a kid, and with my own children, how when trying something new it would often take some encouragement.  Whether it was a new food or a new practice my parents would encourage me to give it a try.  You can't say you don't like it or that it does not work until you try it.  Give it a shot. Try it!  Taste it!  You don't know until you try.

I am encouraging my church family to try arranging their lives around six practices that we see the people in the early church doing every day.  I am encouraging them and anyone else reading this blog to try and spend time each day reading God's word and reflecting upon it so that it shapes the way that the live their lives.  To devote each day to intentional spiritual growth through encountering God in His word, Spirit-empowered prayer. life-changing worship, Christ-centered fellowship, risk-taking missions and service, and radical hospitality and faith sharing.

They say that it takes 21 days to make a habit and I want to encourage to try for 21 days arranging your life around these practices that will help you connect to God and grow in relationship with Him. Create a habit of scripture reading, prayer, worship, service and faith sharing.  Try it! You will like it.

I would love for you to share your experience with me through this blog.  Let me know how it is going and what God is revealing to you.  Let's grow together.

Taste and see that the Lord is good!

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Friday, May 1, 2015

More on "Instead"

This word is just hanging with me and continuing to cause me to reflect upon my relationship with God.  I wonder what are those things that we chose to do instead of growing and maturing in our relationship with Christ.  If we are not growing and maturing the truth is we are doing something else instead.

I think it was Ray Kroc, the McDonald's founder that said, "when you are green, you are growing and when you are ripe you rot."  When the growing stops you start dying.  This is true of living organism.  It is true of plants.  It is true for us.  Instead of growing we start dying.  Instead of living the life that God calls us to and becoming the people that God calls us to be, we start dying.  We don't grow and mature, instead we wither and die. We dry up.  We are drained of life giving power.  We are emptied of life.

"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ."  Ephesians 4:15

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Instead

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
Ephesians 4:15 NIV

Reading Ephesians this morning I was drawn to the word that starts the 15th verse.  It is one of those words that we can just rush by in reading or, like it did this morning, make you stop and really think about what it is being said.  Paul is saying we should do something instead of something else. He is saying that we should speak the truth in love and grow and mature and become like Christ.  Instead of, if we read the previous verses, not maturing or growing up and just going with the flow and listening to whatever teaching is popular for the day.

He is saying try something different than what you are doing.  Instead of doing what everyone else is doing, instead of doing what feels good to me, instead being immature in the faith, grow up.  Instead of acting like everyone else be like Christ.  Instead of doing what the world wants you to do be what Christ is calling you to be.

Instead.

Things can be different.
We have another choice.

The other option is one that we often fail to grasp hold of and claim for our lives.  We can allow GOd to do a work in us to make us grow and mature and be like Jesus.  To make our heart, mind and character like Jesus.  I chose love.

Love today instead of not loving.
Care for others instead of just looking out for yourself.
Spend time recognizing that God is with you today instead of just hurrying through the day.
Live today instead of existing.
Grow today instead of being stagnant and unchanged.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Enjoy Your Gift

Someone needs to hear this today.

Is it you?
Is it me?
Maybe both?

The past is just that, it's past.  It is behind you.  Let it go.  You don't live there anymore.  Christ is making all things new.  Too often we get stuck in our past and we miss the present because we can't get out of or let go of past mistakes, past hurts and past experiences.  By refusing to turn the page and except the new beginning that Christ offers we miss out on the gift of today.  We fail to live in the moment because we are still in the past.  This robs us of today.

Worrying about tomorrow or what the future holds robs us of today also.  We need to let go and not worry about our future.  It is future.  It is unknown to us.  But, as the songs says, "I know who holds the future."  God is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow.  He has tomorrow for us and we can trust him with what lies ahead and we will live in that moment when it becomes the present.  Live in the gift of the present and leave the future in the future.

It is called the present.  It is our gift to enjoy and it is the only moment that we have that we can really live in.  We cant live in the past and we cant live in the future.  This present moment is meant to be lived in.  It is not living in the moment or enjoying the gift God has given us if we dwell in the past or worry about the future.  You only get this moment for a moment and this day for today.  Live it!

Enjoy your present.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

He's Got You and He is Not Letting Go.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
John 10:28-30 NIV

Some of us might remember the Sunday school song "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands".  The song taught us that God has us all in his hands.  Her has the "little bitty babies", the moms, dads and everyone else in his hands.

It is good for us to remember this truth.  God has you in his hand.  He is not distant and far off.  He has not abandoned you in your situation.  He has not left you to deal with your circumstances all alone.  He is holding you.  Just relax and rest in the palm of His hand.  He has got you.  This promise also comes with the guarantee that he will not let go of you.  No one will snatch you from Him.  No one and no situation will be able to loosen his grip on you.  Even when we struggle to hang on he does not let go.  God has you securely in the grip of His grace and mercy.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Be Encouraged and Encouraging

You are not alone.  I  don't know what you are going through but I do know that God does.  I also know that He loves you and cares about your life and your circumstances.  You are loved more than you will probably ever know or can imagine.  God is crazy about you.

When we were kids we had a little saying "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." That saying is a lie.  It is just not true.  Words can hurt us.  They can hurt deep.  The wounds that are caused by harmful and destructive words are worse than the wounds caused by sticks and stones.  "Word wounds" can run deep and destroy someone's sense of worth and purpose.  Words do hurt us.

Words also have the power to build up.  Our words are pact with powerful potential to tear down or build up.  How do you choice to use your words?  We can use our words to encourage and inspire.  We can use our word to speak value into people life.  We can use our words to bring smiles comfort, and strength to others.  We can use our words to brighten someone day.  It is our choice.

It is important to understand that negative words are more potent then positive ones.  One negative word is what will be heard over a multitude of positive ones.  Negative words are remembered.  IT takes a lot of positive words to heal the wounds of just one negative word.

What you say to others today is filled with power.
We have a choice to encourage and build up or tear down.

James shares these words with us,
A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!

It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.

This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!

My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you? 
James 3:3-12 (The Message)

Love today

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug


Monday, April 13, 2015

Sharing Faith

I was listening to the radio today and there was a conversation about sharing faith. They asked a pastor who was on the broadcast,"how often we should share our faith?"  His answer, which I am not arguing with, was as often as the Spirit leads us. 

This got me thinking. 

Faith is lived belief.  Faith is living what we believe. It is being so sure and so certain that we live our lives accordingly. 

We share our faith always. We can't help it. What we do and what we say expresses what our faith is in.  People are watching us, they see what we are doing and saying and they interpret that through the lense of what we say we believe. We are sharing our faith always. 

Here is the gut check part of it.

The faith that we share may or may not be faith in Christ. 

One of the great theologians (I say it this way because people have attributed this quote to Augustine, St. Francis and others) said, "share your faith at all times and when necessary use words."

The radio broadcast was talking about the words part. We need to be open to the Spirit's  leading in those moments that we need to use words to share our faith. But we need to be aware of the faith that we are living every moment and live by the Spirit. Our lives are sharing what our faith is. 

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Follow the Crowd or Follow Jesus?

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

We will never be able to discern and know the will of God if all we do is go the way of the world. If we just do what the rest of the world is doing we always struggle with understanding and seeing God. 

Conforming is what people want us to do. I say don't conform. Be different. Christianity is not about becoming part of a group of people who look a like talk a like and think a like. Dispite what people may say. If you are part of a group that call themselves followers of Jesus they should not be calling you to conform to their ways or way of thinking but to be transformed by a relationship with Jesus. There is great diversity in the body of Christ and there is great unity. The unity is in one God, one faith, one hope, one baptism and one Spirit who is in all and working in all.   The unity is in Christ who is at working transforming each of us. 

The question for us to answer for ourselves is, are we conforming or transforming? Am I refusing to go the way the work is trying to force me to go or am I being transformed by the renewing of my mind by Christ Jesus?
We need to allow His word not other words transform our minds. This is the only way that we will be able to discern whether we are just following the crowd or if we are following Jesus. 

Love today. 

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

We Can Pray

About 16 years or so ago I was in a bible study with some friends and we where talking about things that were troubling us.  I don't remember the exact issue that we were discussing but I can remember a life lesson that came from the conversation.  There was a very wise lady in the group.  She was mostly quite and listened but when she did speak it was always very deep and profound.  When she spoke it was a good idea to listen.

I remember that in our discussion, I answered with " well, we can pray."  She instantly followed with "we CAN pray."  It is not, when all else fails, we can pray.  It is not when we feel like there is  nothing we can do then we can pray.  The truth is we CAN pray.

What an awesome and amazing privilege we have.  God hears us when we pray.  The all-powerful, all-knowing, all loving God of the universe listens to us, cares about our hurts, and works in our lives and our situations.  He says, "ask".  We CAN pray.  There is power in prayer.  Prayer should be our first resort.  We should give thanks and praise because we can pray.  To offer to pray for someone is to place them in the hands of the almighty.  To pray for someone is to tap into the power of God for them.  When someone prays for you they are doing the most powerful thing that they can do.  When we pray for one another we are doing the most loving and powerful thing that we can do for them.  Sure they need us to stand with them in their difficulties. We should cry with them and help them.  We should walk with them through the storm.  All are good things and powerful.  But, the most powerful and life-changing thing we can do is pray.  We CAN Pray.  Thank you God.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

God Is Love

Just a heads up, as you start reading,  this post contains some words that are not often used in our everyday language.  I learned them in seminary, and for the cost of that education, I feel that it is only good stewardship to use these "church" words from time to time. I will use normal language but those words will be in parenthesis

Of all the qualities and characteristics of God the one that I find the most profound and amazing is that God is love.  It is awesome to think that God is all-knowing (omniscient). It is amazing to begin to understand that God is all-powerful (omnipotent) and it is incredible to begin to grasp that He is present in all places at the same time (omnipresent).   It is profound to understand that God is, was, and always will be and he exist outside of time and space infinitely with no beginning and no end.

God really is bigger than our minds can comprehend and understand.  Yet, we can know him.  We can know him closely and intimately.  In fact, this is His desire.  This is why he creates us so that we can know and be known by Him.  As I stated earlier the attribute that most gets me, the deepest and most mind blowing one, is that God is love.  At His very core, His nature, is love.  God is love.  Pure love.  He is nothing but love.  It is not that he is loving or he does loving things.  He is love.  This means that everything he does is and expression of love. Creation is an act of love.  Commands are an act of love.  He enters our world because he is love.  He gives us choice because he is love.  If something is unloving it is not God or Godly because God is love.

I will be honest with you.  I can't fully understand this.  As I think about the magnitude and what this means I reach the limits of my understanding and intellect.  I know loving people and I have seen expressions of love but all the love that I know and have witnessed does not even compare to God's love and what is expressed by God who at His very core love.  Even the most loving people I know do not love unconditionally without limit.  In fact, in many ways, God is hard for me to grasp because I have never seen a love that is so unselfish and so unconditional before.

God loves you and me no matter what.  He loves us even when we don't love Him.  He loves us when we persecute Him.  He loves us even when we curse Him.  He loves us even when don't acknowledge He exists.  He loves us even when we misrepresent Him. God is love.  Because He is love he lets us choose to love Him and never makes us love Him.  This blows my mind.

This is something to ponder today.  This is worth admitting that we can't fully comprehend just how deep and how wide and how vast the Father's love is for us.

I always say the ultimate problem is not the we don't love God enough it is that we don't know how much God loves us.  God is love.

He loves you and he is at work in your live acting in love.  That is all He can do it is who He is.

Our response, when we begin to grasp this, is love Him in return.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug


Monday, April 6, 2015

What do we do now?

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  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. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin—  because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.  The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.  Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.  For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
It is the day after Easter.  We have had the celebration.  What now?   Romans 6:1-14

For many, we have been disciplined for forty plus days leading up to Easter.  We have spent time focusing on living as followers of Jesus. We have been reading our bibles and reflecting on scripture. We have been worshiping with others and living our lives as worship to God.  We have been praying and seeking a deeper and fuller relationship with Christ. We have seen and felt God at work in our lives.  Christ has done a work in us.  We feel closer to him.  Our trust, our love, our discipline to follow him has gotten stronger.  So now what?

Do we just go back to business as it was before this time?  Do we just return to the way things were before Easter and before the season of Lent.

I can't.
I won't.
I refuse to play church.
I refuse to just build up to Easter and act like I want to make Jesus my life for a few weeks and then return to an undisciplined, "what is in it for me", self serving life after Easter.
I refuse to go back.

Sure, life is going to have ups and downs.  Sure, there are going to be days that feel like Easter and there are going to be days that are dark like Good Friday.  There will be days that God feels close and days that God feels distant.  But, everyday I am going to seek to grow deeper in relationship with Him.  Everyday I am going to seek to live for Him.  Everyday I am going to seek to be disciplined to do those things that help me to connect to Him and grow.

The devil wants nothing more than for us to dress up, take pictures celebrate Easter with wonderful worship and think that we have accomplished the goal.  He want us to think that we did the Easter thing so we can go back to business as usual before this began.

This is the new beginning.  What we do from this point for is really going to be the most telling.  Will we live like Easter makes a difference?  Will we live the new life that it offers?

I am not going back.  I refuse.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Lenten Reflection #40: The Son Is Risen

Past, present and future walk into a bar...it was tense. 

The tense matters. It expresses when something occurs and gives us time reference.  

Christ is Risen!  

Is denotes a present tense. Today, the Son is Risen. We don't celebrate and remember that he did rise or that he will rise. Christ is Risen. 

There is no need to be anxious, worry or tense, Christ is Risen indeed!

Today is the day to worship. Followers of Jesus will worship today because hope is not lost. Death does not win. Sin does not have the last word. 

Christ is risen!

This is our present reality!

Love today, for by so doing others will know that you are a follower of the risen Lord. 

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug 


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Lenten Reflection #39: Saturday

The Saturday before the first Easter, must have been the worst for Jesus followers. We are fortunate to know the rest of the story. Although, Jesus had tried to tell them what was going to happen and what the final outcome would be, his followers did not understand and they did not think an Easter was possible. 

His followers, the best we can make out from the Gospels, gave up hope, where scared and confused. 

Hopeless, scared, confused...this is life on Saturday. No Easter just the shadow of the cross and Jesus in the tomb.  

I am grateful that I know how the story ends. I am thankful that Good Friday is not the end of the story. We are not stuck in the darkness, fear, confusion and hoplessness. 
 
Sadly, many of us today who find ourselves on this side of Easter, live like it is Saturday.  We live like Christ is still in the tomb. We live defeated rather than claiming the victory that had been won for us. We live without hope. We are scared and afraid.

Hang on Easter is right around the corner. Stop living on Saturday. Live as Easter people. Christ is alive and he is with us everyday of the week. The power of the resurrection, the one who is the resurrection is our hope. He has won the victory for you and me. We don't need to live in fear.  We are Easter people. 

Are you living in Sarurday or are you living by the power of the Risen Lord. 

Love Today. 

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Friday, April 3, 2015

Lenten Reflection #38: See The Good

It is hard to see that there was any good in the Friday before the first Easter.

An innocent man is arrested, quickly run through a sham trial and sentenced to death.  Jesus is mocked, ridiculed, beaten, and forced to carry his own instrument of torture and death to the outskirts of town.  There, he has spikes driven through his wrists and his feet to fasten him to the cross and he is lifted up to hang on the cross until he can breathe no more.  Even as he hangs there struggling for breathe and slowly dying, people, even one that is being crucified along side him, continue to hurl insults his way.

Meanwhile, friends that had been with him for the past three years, run away and hid.  They claim to never had known him.  A mother cries at the loss of her child.

Jesus dies.  He is stabbed in the side and he is taken down from the cross and laid in a tomb.  The tomb is sealed.  At first glance, hope is lost, joy is replaced by mourning and fear wins the day.

They call it Good Friday, yet when we look at the Friday before Easter it is hard, at the level of sight, to see anything good about Friday.  We may not see good in what we see but good is coming out of what we see.

The prophet Isaiah foretold about the good that comes out of the tragedy that we see on the surface of Friday.  He says, "But he was pierced for our transgressions he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) That Friday, with all the pain and punishment, brings healing and restoration that you and I could not bring to ourselves.  Friday is about God loving you and I so much that he willingly took the beating, ridicule, punishment and death for us.  He says, "I will take the blame.  Blame me for there sin."  He dies to make a way for us not to have to go through life separated from him.

In Jesus own words, on that Friday, we can see the good.

He says, "Father,forgive them for they know not what they do."
He says, "It is Finished."
He says, "Today, you will be with me in paradise."

On the surface, and at first glance we see the pain, the punishment, and the tragedy.  We can see the passion.  But if we look for the good we can see it.  There may not be any good in what we see on the surface but good is coming out of what we see.  God does for us what we can't do for ourselves.  God makes a way for us to be forgiven, healed, and restored into relationship with him.  He takes on our pain, our punishment for us.  So, that we can be with him in paradise.

I have a good friend that always reminds us to look for the good.  He says, "It's a beautiful day in God's world be sure to see the good."

Today is Good Friday, be sure to see the good.  This is a day that shows just how far God will go, and just what he will endure, to live in relationship with you.  This is a day where love gives all.

He did it all for you.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lenten Reflection #37: Mandate

It  is believed that on the Thursday before the first Easter morning Jesus gathered in a room with His closest friends and shared in a meal.  The event is recorded in the Gospels and we are told that at this meal Jesus holds the first communion service.  It is often refereed to as the Last Supper and has been depicted in famous artworks.  Tonight, many people will gather together and share in a meal of bread and drink from the cup and through the mystery of God participate in Lord's Supper and commune with God.  When they do this they will remember that meal that Jesus shared with his friends on the Thursday before Easter.

At that meal Jesus does some other important things.  He serves his friends.  He serves the ones that would soon dessert him and go into hiding.  He serves the one who will sell him out for a few pieces of silver.  He washes their feet.  He kneels down and takes there tired, achy, smelly, dirty  feet into his hands and he cleans them.  He shows them love and forgiveness by kneeling down and cleansing them. He then says,

"Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." John 13:14-17

He invites us, challenges us and  calls us to care for and serve one another.  To offer to one another the same love and grace. To forgive and serve like Him.

Then he gives us a mandate.  This Thursday before Easter has become known as Maundy Thursday and it is believed that the word maundy is derived from the word mandatum, where we get the word mandate.  A mandate is an official order to do something.

If we are not careful we can get mixed up on this day and just see it for eating this meal or ceremonial foot washing.  While these are good and important practices we must not forget that Jesus, on the night before he was going to give himself for us gave his followers, and us, an order to do something.  Yes, whenever we eat the bread and drink of the cup remember him.  Yes, serve each other and forgive each. Here is the why,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Love today.  It is a mandate from Jesus.  By so doing others will know that we are his friends who gather with him share in a meal that is His body and His blood.  By our loving as he has loved us other will see and receive his grace, mercy and forgiveness.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Lenten Reflection #36:We Need Each Other

A few days ago I was reflecting upon how I am truly dependent upon God.  I need Him.  I am dependent.

I am also dependent on others.  We all need each other.  We need each other to get through this journey of life.  We are not meant to be alone. When we are created we are created for community and relationships. God is a relational God and he works in and through our relationships to help us to grow in relationship with him and one another.  He declares in the creation story only once that things are "not good" and this is when man is alone.  After each thing is created we get the refrain "and he saw it was good" yet it is "not good for man to be alone."

In contrast, when he creates a companion for Adam he declares for the first time, "it is very good."

We need each other for many reasons.  We need others to pray with and for us.  We need each other to help carry burdens.  We need each other to inspire and encourage us to do good works.  We need one another to stay disciplined and focused on our relationship with God.  Ultimately, we need each other to live out our relationship with God.  We express our love for God through our love for one another.  We can't love God without loving our brothers and sister who we see everyday.

We can't do this Christian life and follow Jesus in isolation.  We need each other.  I need my wife.  I need my children.  I need my friends, neighbors, co-workers and strangers to live in relationship with Christ.

You inspire me.  You encourage me. You are Jesus with skin on to me.  I need you.  We need each other.

Love Today.

I Christ's love and mine,
Doug

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lenten Reflection #35:When Children Cry

I don't handle my children crying very well.  I refused to be a parent that would let my children cry themselves to sleep.  My heart hurt to hear them cry.  When they would fall and skin a knee or bump their head.  I would wipe away the tears not just to dry their face but I can't hardly bear to see them cry. I want to comfort them and help them over their pain.  I want to wipe away their tears.  My kids are 16, 15, 11 and 6 and I still can't handle seeing any of them cry.

The Bible tells us that God is one who wipes the tears of his children.  He hurts with us and he hurts when we are hurt.  Isaiah 25:8 says,

"he will swallow up death forever.  The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces: he will remove his people's disgrace from all the earth.  The Lord has spoken."

God could not bear to see us swallowed up by death and separated from him forever.  So he swallows up sin. And when we are hurt and crying he wipes our tears.  It seems that he too does not like to sit by and see his children cry.  When we fall He is there to wipe are tears, to help us up and mend our wounds.

In the final days of Jesus earthly ministry He reveals how far he will go to restore us into relationship with Him. He shows us what he is willing to do for his kids so that we can be with Him forever.  He shows us how much he loves us as He swallows up death and sin on Good Friday and He makes all things new on Easter morning.

Rejoice for God, Our Heavenly Father, is with us and he will wipe the tears from our faces.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Monday, March 30, 2015

Lenten Reflection #34: Do Over

This morning I sat in the hospital waiting for a friend to come out of a procedure. While I waited there I took some time to reflect upon scripture and to write a blog post. The post was a reflection on the passage from Isaiah that prophecies about the final days of Christ's earthly ministry and his suffering.  You can read this passage in Isaiah 53. 

The particular part that I was reflecting upon speaks of how Jesus bears our pain and our suffering. I talked about how we experience the shadow of the valleys we walk through because Jesus stand between us and the situation so we don't get the full impact, just a shadow. The psalmist writes that he walks through "the valley of the "shadow" of death. 
Like when an object is between the light source and the ground it cast a shadow. The shadow is not what is being blocked it is just an after effect.  
 
Jesus bears some of our pain and suffering so we get a "blocked" version. Jesus keeps us safely in the shadow and he bears the brunt of the pain and suffering. 

I am sure that the blog was going to be a good one but as I was searching for the perfect picture to go with the post I lost everything. The whole post just disappeared from my phone. 

So, I got a second chance to write and reflect. 

Isn't that just like God. He is with us through our pain and our suffering and he is the God of second chances. And third chances. And fourth chances. So on and so forth. He is the God of the do over. 

Love today knowing that as long as you let Jesus lead you will be in His shadow. 

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lenten Reflection #33: Palm Sunday

 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
John 12:13

I remember in the old westerns when an outsider would come into the camp of the cowboys or the cowboys would encounter the Indians and they wanted to talk, they would say "I come in peace" or they would say someone had sent them.  Sci-fi movies used the same type of line when the people of earth confronted the aliens, "I come in peace."

On the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem, the day we remember today as Palm Sunday, the people exclaimed, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."

In whose name do we come?  Whose name do we represent?

As followers of Jesus we come in peace, love, hope and joy.  We come in the grace and forgiveness that flows from a live lived in the name of Jesus.

We are blessed when we live and relate to others in the name of the Lord.  Blessing, according to Matthew 5, means that we will see God.  We will encounter Him.  We will be comforted by Him.  We will be called "children of God."  We will enter His kingdom.

Names in the bible are more than names.  They illustrated who the person was.  They had deeper meaning into a persons character and they described them at there core.  Jesus even changed peoples name to call them something that better illustrated the content of there character.  He tells Simon that he will called Peter, which means rock, because Peter was a rock.  Elijah means the  "my God is the Lord".

For us to live in the name of Jesus means to live as Jesus would live.  To live with the character the Jesus and to love like Jesus love.

In our day there may never be parades of palms but we can come and live by the name of Jesus.  People may never shout "Hosanna", but may it be said of us that we come in peace, love, joy and hope.  May they say of us that we live in the name of Jesus.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Friday, March 27, 2015

Lenten Reflection #32:Dependent

"My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge."
Psalm 62:7 NIV

I am dependent.  I spent a great deal of my life trying to show myself and everyone else that I could be independent. I tried most of my youth and early adult years trying to prove to other that I could do it all by myself.  Independence was what I thought it meant to grow up.  Be my own man.  Depend on no one but myself.

Boy, was I wrong.  I am dependent on God.  Without Him I am nothing.  Without Him I can do nothing.

Sure, I can balance my checkbook and I can dress myself.  I hold down a job.  I have the independence of being able to care for myself.  Yet, I am dependent upon God for everything.  He is my rock and my refuge.  Everything I am, everything I will be and everything I have is because of Him.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lenten Reflection # 31: Easter is Coming!

I was just thinking the other day how quickly this season of Lent has gone by. Easter is just around the corner. This Sunday is Palm Sunday and then we will move into Holy Week. Easter is on the horizon.  

Of course we still will pass through the cross and Calvery. We will be confronted by and encounter the passion of Jesus. There is still darkness before we reach the light of Easter. But, hang on Easter is coming. 

Easter transforms the darkness to light. Easter changes death to light. Easter turns all our Good Friday's to Easter Sundays. 

This is the promise of the parable of Easter.  For all our Good Fridays there is an Easter morning. For all the days that we pass through that are filled with pain and darkness there is an Easter coming.   Beautiful, life giving transforming days are coming!  

Hang on Easter is coming!  I can see it on the horizon. 

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lenten Reflection #30:A Better Day

Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
Psalm 84:10

Maybe you have seen the t-shirts or the signs that proclaim that "the worst day fishing is better than the best day working." Maybe you heard it in reference to some other hobby.  But the sentiment in the saying is that the wearer of the shirt or the person with the pumper sticker or sign would rather do that even when it is bad than be working.  

The Psalmist expresses the sentiment that with God is the best place to be. It is better to spend one day in God's courts, worshiping, connecting to and growing in relationship with Him than a thousand doing anything else.  

I would rather go through my worst days with God than have to go through anything without Him.  I would rather have to go through storms of life with Jesus than to go to the mountaintop and be without Him.  I am grateful that God is with me every step of my life.  I am grateful that he never leaves me or forsakes me.  I am grateful that he leads me from the difficult moments to moments that take my breathe away.  He carries me at times.  One day with God, even if it is a hard day, beats the alternative.  To be apart from God.  To not have God with me.  

I know that he is with me.  That is the good news.  God is not going to abandon us.  We can spend everyday in his presence.  Everyday can be a day in his courts. All that we have to do is be a doorkeeper that opens our lives to Him.  

Love Today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lenten Reflection #29:Not Magic Words

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
John 14:15-18

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
John 14:23

Bad days are a part of my life.  As a pastor and as a fire fighter I am often with people on the worst days of their lives. What I have learned through the years is that my words are inadequate for the situation,  There are no magic words that can be said that will change the bad day to a good one.  I don't profess to have an "abracadabra" phrase that will comfort the hurt, right the wrong, or reverse the situation. Words, although we want to say something, really are limited and usually fall way short of conveying the comfort, hope and care that we want to offer someone in the tough times of life.

Jesus does not offer us magic words.  Jesus offers us himself.  In the midst of our worst days and toughest times he does not say remember what I said in such and such verse.  He doesn't say hold onto that promise I gave you.  He is our comfort.  He is our healer.  He is our friend.  He is with us.  He comes to us and makes his home with us.  He is our advocate in the midst of our troubled times.  He does not leave us to face the situation alone.  He gives himself to us.  He does not just give us words he gives us himself.  We can hold onto Him.  We can find shelter in Him.  We can can receive strength from Him.

As followers of Jesus, who are called to love and care for one another, this ministry of presence may be the greatest thing that we have to offer one another in the midst of tough times.  Rather that just coming up with a cliche to try to make things all better with a few words, we can follow Jesus' lead and be there.  We don't have magic words but we can be there to help weather the storm with them.  We can be a visible sign to one another that we are not alone in the tough circumstances of life.  By doing so we may just make real the presence of God for someone without ever saying a word.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Monday, March 23, 2015

Lenten Reflection #28: Never Give Up

"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him."
James 1:12 NIV

The trails of life suck.  There I said it.  It is true.

Even though James tells us to consider it pure joy when ever we face trails and hardships it still does not mean that those times are not unfair or that the don't suck.  They suck the joy and the life out of us.  They are difficult.  They are hard for us.

Just because we are following Jesus does not mean that we are immune from difficulty, tragedy, and hardships of life.  Nothing in the the bible guarantees us rainbows and roses. In fact, Jesus said in this world we will have troubles.  Any preaching or teaching otherwise is just not true.

What God does promise us is that he will be with us in the midst of the tragedy and the difficult circumstances of life. He does not abandon you and me when things get tough he surrounds us, sustains us and hurts with us.  That is what the cross reveals to us.  If we want to see where Jesus is in the pain and the tragedy of this world all we have to do is look at the cross.  He takes on our pain.  He experiences our hurt.  He is with us, bringing life into and out of our troubles and trials. When those situations and circumstances try to suck the life and joy from us they cannot.  Jesus is life and joy even in the midst of our darkness.  He shines light in our darkest times.  A light that the darkness cannot consume.

James says what we need to do and why we can consider it joy is because Jesus is with us and we just need to hang on to Jesus and not give up.  Because we will see Him even in the darkest moments.  Just hold onto Jesus and don't let go because he works in all situations for good. Even the worst and most tragic of situations.  By never giving up will will experience  God like never before.  We will experience that God really is wholly adequate to save us and sustain us.  When we persevere and don't give up on Jesus we will  know, with all that we are, that Jesus is all that we need.  We will experience the power of the resurrection.  We will experience death transformed to life, sadness to joy, darkness to light.  We experience the blessing of knowing, seeing, and living in the favor of God.

There are situation and circumstances of life that may never make sense to us.  There are moments and trails of life that will try to suck the life out of us.  Just hang on to Jesus and never give up.  He is with us and he will get us through it and we will experience God in ways we had never imagined possible without our troubles.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Friday, March 20, 2015

Lenten Reflection #27:Cravings

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:2-3 NIV

I often have a sweet tooth.  I feel as if I just have to find the right sweet little treat to eat or I wont be satisfied.  There are times that what I crave is spicy foods.  Most of the times I try to eat well but sometimes my cravings for sweets or other delicious delicacies kicks in I grab hold of that treat to satisfy the craving.

Now, 1 Peter is talking about much deeper cravings of life than just sweets or spicy foods.  Peter is talking about our deepest longings and what it is that we strive for in life.  He is talking about making our relationship with God something that we crave like a new born baby craves milk.  Milk is all a new baby needs to grow and flourish.  If you have ever had a child you know that they crave milk constantly and consistently.  It seems in the first year all they do is eat, sleep and grow. Well, they do one other thing, which comes from craving so much milk, but I will leave that part out.

Peter says, like the new born baby, you and I should crave not milk but spiritual milk.  He goes on with his metaphor to say that the spiritual milk that we are to crave is God and he is good.

Here are some deep cravings I think we all share in common.  We all crave peace.  We want to have life that is free of stress and worry.  We want to have lives that are content where we can find rest for our weariness.  We all crave love.  Each and everyone of us wants to be loved.  Deep done inside each of us is a voice crying out "love me".  We also share a deep craving for joy.  No one wants a joyless existence.  We all need hope.  We long for something to give us hope that we can hope in and hope for.  No one craves hopelessness.  We all crave something that brings us hope.

These are the deep spiritual cravings that exist deep within all of us.  The only way that we can really feed these deep needs of hope, love, joy and peace is through a relationship with Christ.  This is why Peter says, crave a relationship with God like newborn babies crave milk.  Jesus is our peace.  Jesus is love.  Jesus is our joy.  Jesus is our hope.  Jesus is all you and I need to grow and to flourish.

Do you crave a relationship with Jesus?
Do you crave him more than you crave chocolate or your favorite drink?
Are we in each moment thinking about and seeking to be satisfied by the only one who can truly satisfy us or are we still seeking to be satisfied by things that still leave us wanting more?

Jesus is what I crave.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lenten Reflection #26:Bearing Fruit

When we are growing in relationship with Christ it will bear fruit.  Our Relationship with Christ will produce in us character and qualities that are not there previous to our connecting and living in Christ.

The scriptures tell us about what we should see produced in our lives and as we see these qualities we are given evidence that Christ is at work in our lives.  The qualities do not come from us.  We cannot produce Spiritual fruit apart from the Spirit.  No matter how hard we try.

Galatians 5 tells us about the character qualities that are produced by the Spirit in our lives.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

You see we don't become more loving toward ourselves and others just because we try really hard.  We can't become more kind or patient just because we want to.  It seems every time I try hard to be patient the more inpatient I get.  I get impatient with my impatience.  We will never, apart from Christ,  have within us the ability to be truly kind, good or gentle.  The ability to be faithful and trustworthy are not natural to us.  Peace within our lives cannot be found or produced by us.

I have always been struck by the last fruit of the Spirit that the writer of Galatians list. Self-control you might think, and most of us do, comes from withing us.  We can make ourselves do what we want.  We can keep our cool.  We can somehow control ourselves and produce in us good morals and character.  But, this is not a fruit that is produced in our lives without Christ.

I have head this once I have heard it 100 times.  "I am going to get my live together and them I am going to give it Jesus."  Have you ever heard that?  Have you ever said that?

Don't believe the lie that somehow you can fix your situation.  That we, on our own, can become self-controlled enough to overcome our struggles, our addictions, our flaws, and our mess ups.  Don't get caught in the trap of thinking somehow you, alone, can become more loving, kind, patient, gentle or faithful.  It just can't happen without living in relationship with the one who produces these fruits in our life.   We will never find peace within without Christ within.  These are not fruits we can produce.  We do not have self-control.  God gives us self-control by his Spirit that lives in us.

We need to give him our lives and let Him get our lives together.  Only He can.  We need to give Him our messes that we have been trying to clean up.  We need to give Him those situations that are causing us to be restless and our trying our last nerve.  We need to submit to the Spirit and allow God to do what only God can do.  Let Jesus be Jesus in our lives.  Allow him to bring about these promised characteristics and qualities.

What is growing n your life?
Can you see these fruits being produced as you live with Him?
Are you more loving, kind, gentle, faithful, peaceful, joyful, patient and self-controlled now than you where before you made Christ your life?

The promise is that these fruits are produced in our lives.  They are a kind of gauge to us of our living in relationship with Christ or playing church.  They will reveal to us if we have been living in a relationship or just a religion.

Let Christ bear fruit in you and through you today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lenten Reflection #25:Following Jesus

When I think about listen for and seeking God's will for my life, I often think of the old cell phone provider commercials with the guy walking around saying "can you hear me now?"  Sometimes I picture  God saying it and sometimes it is me.
This morning at a devotion time with some other guys we were talking about following the leading of the Holy Spirit and how difficult that can be for us at times.  We wished it was as easy as it sounds.  However, discerning God's leading in decision making can be difficult for us to determine.  There are other voices out there.  There are others things competing to be the leader of our lives.  There are other things that are trying to be number one.
I think that in order for us to be able to discern more easily it helps for us to stay in tune with the Holy Spirit.  We need to constantly be doing those things that are connecting us to God and keeping listening and hearing His voice.  When we are disciplined about reading and meditating on scripture, worship, spending time with other Christians, and praying it get easier to hear God and to make out His voice through all the other voices.  When we allow our lives to be saturated with God's word, prayer, worship and Christ centered fellowship we begin to see what is happening in our lives through the lenses of prayer, worship, and scripture.  Discernment becomes easier as we get closer to God.  As we live in relationship with Christ he transforms and renews us to have a mind like His and heart like His.
The flip side of this is also true. As we fail to do those disciplines that connect us to God the more difficult it gets to discern his voice and the easier it becomes to start to listen to other leading and allow other things to take priority.  Sadly, many times we confuse those other voices for the voice of God because we are not able to discern anymore because we are not in tune with the Spirit.
Following Jesus means that we let him lead.  It means that we must listen and obey.  This requires daily living in His presence practicing Spiritual disciplines that connect us to God.

Jesus says that when he speaks his sheep hear his voice.  It is not "can you hear me now?"  It is, "my sheep know my voice."

We can hear him now.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lenten Reflection #24:Lacking nothing

"The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing."
Psalm 23:1 NIV

I am someone that when it comes to the 23rd Psalm tend to favor the King James version.  It is the one that I learned and it is the one that is in my memory and written on my heart.  When I read it, in other translations I have trouble not wanting to read the words as they are in the KJV translation.

However, it is helpful to read other translations because they can help us to see things in a deeper way and to interpret more fully the promises of God.  The NIV translation of this familiar passage begins with the words that "The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing."

There are a lot of things in live that can leave us lacking.  In fact, I think all things of this world will not fulfill us they will leave us lacking something.  KJV say uses the word "want".  Everything in live leaves us wanting more.

Anything else that we make our shepherd will lack something and leave us wanting.  When money or any of those other things in live (job, fame, notoriety, family, education, position, etc.) are what we follow and rely on for protection and the source of our life and sustenance we are never satisfied we are always wanting more.  They lack the ability to satisfy us.  They lack the ability to weather the storms.  They lack the ability to satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart.  They can't fill a void that only God can fill.  They will always leave us wanting more.  They lack and they leave us lacking and wanting something more, something deeper and something beyond and other than just worldly stuff.

When I am  my shepherd, I lack something.  I lack the loving relationship with my heavenly Father who created me to love me.  Money will never love me.  A job, success, fame, degrees, knowledge,-- will never love me.  My family and other relationships in life, as loving as they are, will never love me like God and fill that deep longing that I have to be loved unconditionally just as I am. To be loved by God who is pure love.

When we discover that love that only comes from God and we make Him our shepherd, we lack nothing.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Monday, March 16, 2015

Lenten Reflection #23: Give Me Proof

"Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom."
James 3:13

Proof.

People always want proof.  Faith is difficult for many because we live in a world where we are not comfortable with mystery.  We want to solve everything and we want to have 100% certainty that we are right. We want the proof so that we can show we are right.

Maybe, that is what it is.  Maybe we just want to be right.  It isn't the mystery that scares us as much as it is that we might not fully know.  Somehow if we live in the mystery, or admit to things that we don't fully know or understand, we wont seem intelligent or wise.

Yet, wisdom does not come from whether we can win a debate or show people how smart we are.  The greatest proof of our faith is not that we outsmart others or that we can have all the answers.  True wisdom, according to James 3:13, brings about a humility to live what we say we believe.  To show what we know to be true about Jesus through our actions  not through debate.

I have someone very close to me who feels that faith in Jesus is unreasonable.  They think being a Christian does not make since.  My first thought is to "convince"them with all my intellectual arguments.  To debate them until I can say, "see I'm right, your wrong." But, that is not what I am called to do.  It probably wont work.  They are smart and they are probably not willing to budge until they see Jesus in some supernatural way that they can say proves his existence definitively.  He has heard lots of arguments.  He has heard lots of evidence.

What I feel deep down within me is that what I need to do is live out the proof.  Live my life with humility showing my good deeds.  Be willing to lay down my pride or desire to when in order to love and pray that in some way that he might see the truth of Jesus in me and my life.

Someone once said, "you have to be Jesus to someone to earn the right to tell them about Jesus."

James reminds us that true wisdom is not an intellectual argument it is a life lived in humility and love.  It is faith in action.

I pray that God will work through me to help in this relationship.  I pray that God will give me the wisdom to live my faith in such a way that he encounters Jesus in a supernatural way.  I pray that I wont turn my faith into an argument to be won.

Love today,

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Lenten Reflection #22:Generosity

"1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us."
2 Corinthians 8:1-5

Something must have gotten into the Macedonian Christians.  Paul tells us that they were in the midst of "very severe trials" and that they were extremely poor.  However, that did not stop them from given generously all that they could give even beyond their own ability.

They were not having a pity party for themselves because they were going through trials.  They did not focus on what they did not have.  They focused on God.  All they wanted to do was join God in what God was doing.

He also tells us that they did not give out of guilt or coercion or even because they "ought to."  Entirely on their own they gave all they had to give.  They saw giving to the cause of Christ as a privilege.

Then Paul tells us the secret to generosity as he tells us about these "strange" Macedonian Christians.  They gave themselves first to God.

Generosity flows from a relationship with Christ.  Giving is what God does.  "God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son." (John 3:16)  Jesus loves so much that he gave His life on a cross for us.  Love is generous.  Love gives.

We have a tendency to focus on our trials and our poverty and when we do that, I belief, it robs us of our generosity.  It keeps us from recognizing and seeing that God is with us in the midst of our circumstances and is able to do exceedingly more than we could even ask or imagine.   He did it with the Macedonians and he will do it for us.  God wants to create in us a heart of generosity just like his.  When we first give our self to the Lord we become gracious generous givers.

Tonight I thank God that I got to spend the evening with some folks that are generous like the Macedonian churches.  We were at an event that raised funds for people in need in our community.  I got to see this extravagant generosity and it got me thinking about how it is the natural outcome of living in relationship with Christ.  As we reflect upon our relationship with Jesus and seek to grow deeper in relationship with Him our generosity should be growing as well.


In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Friday, March 13, 2015

Lenten Reflection #21:TGIF-Thank God for Friends

" And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds," Hebrews 10:24

It has been good for me and for my relationship with God to be blogging daily again.  I had gotten out of the practice of writing.  I really had been experiencing quite a writers block.  This seemed to happen at the exact the time that I had given in to God's nudging to right a book about playing church under the working title, "Stop!".  For many years, I had felt the Spirit leading me to do this and had worked on it to the point of the basic outline, the chapters and began the introduction.  I had spoken on the topic several times and had preached a revival where it was clear that the pieces to the the book puzzle were coming together.  Then I stopped writing.  I have had it in the back of my mind but have not gotten to it.  It even stopped me from blogging.  I was just blocked when it came to writing.

Here is a theological truth that we all should understand. When God is at His best that is when the devil works his hardest.

The fact that we encounter difficulties when we are trying to follow God is not a sign that we are doing something wrong.  It most likely means we are doing something right.  The devil does not want us to do the will of God.  In those moments that we are is when he is going to go to work on us.  He is going to try to make it difficult for us.  He will fill our minds with distractions and with negative thoughts.  He will try to convince us to believe that it is too hard or we just are not good enough.

Sound familiar?

Thanks be to God that we are not in this alone.  God gives us others who are on the journey with us.  Friends to fan  the flame of the Spirit in us.  Friends to inspire us and encourage us towards God's intent for our lives.  Friends to spur us along toward love and good deeds.

God led me as I started the process to write a book to share with some close friends about the idea of the book and the desire to write it.  Yesterday, I received a message from one of my dearest friends  who I had shared this calling with .  I missed his call but he went ahead and left a message to "spur" me.  I popped into his mind and he just wanted to see how things were going and particular how the book was going.  I am grateful for my friend.  I thank God for you.

That is Hebrews 10 stuff.  That is everyday living in relationship with God.  Following his leading, living his love, spurring one another along towards love and good deeds.  I thank God for friends who will go on the journey with me.  I pray that I too may be one who spurs others along towards love and good deeds.  That I can be one who helps others live in and grow in relationship with God.  

Greater is he who is within us then he who is in the world.  Be encouraged today.  Lets do this together.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lenten Reflection #20: Love One Another

9-10 People conceived and brought into life by God don’t make a practice of sin. How could they? God’s seed is deep within them, making them who they are. It’s not in the nature of the God-begotten to practice and parade sin. Here’s how you tell the difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children: The one who won’t practice righteous ways isn't from God, nor is the one who won’t love brother or sister. A simple test.

11 For this is the original message we heard: We should love each other.

12-13 We must not be like Cain, who joined the Evil One and then killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because he was deep in the practice of evil, while the acts of his brother were righteous. So don’t be surprised, friends, when the world hates you. This has been going on a long time.

14-15 The way we know we've been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters. Anyone who doesn't love is as good as dead. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know very well that eternal life and murder don’t go together.

16-17 This is how we've come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

18-20 My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.
1 John 3:9-20 (The Message)

1 John is filled with many passages that shape my understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.  This morning I was thinking about just how much we need to experience real Christlike love in our lives.  There are so many who go through their day without anyone sharing love with them.  Some go weeks, months, years, even their whole lifetimes without ever experiencing real love.

John tells us that if we love God than our natural response, our responsibility, is to love others like Christ loves us.

What are we doing to love God by loving others?  Are we loving in all the opportunities that we have today to love?  Each person I encounter is needing and deserving of Christ's  love and mine.  Will I practice real love?

Here is the challenge.  Love today.  Love in real and tangible ways.  Listen. Care, Help. Love.

Do you see that person over there?

That is our opportunity to live of out our faith and to love God.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug