Getting Real About Life, about Love, and about God

Friday, February 27, 2015

Lenten Reflection #8: Cold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ's love and mine,

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lenten Reflection #7:Busy

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

You know there is a difference between busy and hurried?

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

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

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

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

In Christ's love and mine,

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lenten Reflection #6: Being Christian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ's love and mine,

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lenten Reflection #5: Burdens

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

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

In Christ's love and mine,

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lenten Reflection #4:Inside Out

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

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

In Christ's love and mine,

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lenten reflection #3: Worship

After Jesus baptism in the Jordan, we are told, he is immediately led by the Spirit into the desert or wilderness where he fasted and prayed for 40 days. 
Lent is an opportunity for us to participate in a similar 40 day journey. A journey where we fast, pray and draw near to God. A 40 day journey of worship and reliance upon God. Where we discover that we can not live on bread alone but on evey word that comes from the mouth of God. Where we discover that God is enough for us and he is worthy of our love and adoration. 

Lent is a 40 day journey that actually takes place over six weeks. The time it takes for this journey is actually more than 40 days because we don't count Sundays in the forty days. Sundays are little Easters. Each Sunday is a day to worship the resurrected Lord and give him out praise and our love. 

Although, Sundays don't count in the 40 days of Lent they are still an important part of Lent. In fact they are what Lent is all about. Loving God. Worshipping Him. There are certain things that the God (who has everything) only has when we give it to him. That is our attention and our adoration (love). 

It is important that we worship because worship is the act of turning our attention to God. It is all about God. It is not about us. Worship of God requires us giving him our attention. 
Worship is drawing near to God and praising God. Offering ourselves to Him. Offering our love. Expressing our adoration. 
I pray that today you worship as you journey with Jesus. I pray that each day, not just Sunday, becomes a day of worship for us all as we grow deeper and deeper in our love and relationship with Christ. 

In Christ's love and mine,

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lenten Reflection #2:Time with Jesus

38 Jesus and his disciples went on their way. Jesus came to a village where a woman named Martha lived. She welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary. Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was busy with all the things that had to be done. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, my sister has left me to do the work by myself. Don’t you care? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered. “You are worried and upset about many things. 42 But few things are needed. Really, only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better. And it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42
There are many good things that take up our time.  There are many things that we do throughout our day that are necessary and important.  For many people it seems like there is not enough hours in the day to do all of the things that we need to do.  We make list to try to help us be more efficient.  We set reminders on our phones.  Yet it seems that we cant get to everything.  On good days we might achieve most of the things that we feel are important but most days we fail to get to everything and many things are put off to a later day.
Sadly, for many it seems that time with Jesus can get crowded out by all of the busyness of our day.  We can get so filled with important things and needed things that we forget, or lose sight of, what  Jesus says is the only thing that is needed. 
Mary chose to set at the feet of Jesus and listen.  Martha was doing good and important things to provide for Jesus as the guest of her home. Martha, caught up in all of the stuff that must be done for her guest, gets upset at the lack of help from her sister.  Martha doing good stuff crowds out that which is better. When Martha does that bitterness, jealousy and anger creeps in.  
Why is it that we always seem to have a tendency to settle for good when we can have better.  We crowd our days with good stuff when we could have great.  "Only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen something better." 
I have heard it said many times, "Life is about choices."  
As you and I fill our schedules and make our daily list of things to do are we settling for good or are we choosing what is better?  Are we taking time to be with Jesus and to pray and listen? Are we making sure that each day we make time with Jesus a priority?  I think we can tell if we are or not by the state of our hearts and our temperament.  How is our bitterness?  How is our anger?  How is our jealousy?  How about our contentment?  How is our love for and towards others? Are we settling for good rather than great?  Are we letting the good things crowd out the God thing?
Lent invites each of us to set at the feet of Jesus and listen.  Lent invites us to take seriously our relationship with Jesus each and everyday.  Lent invites us to make sure that we are making time to walk with Him and listen to Him every day because it is what is most needed.  Let's make time with Jesus the top of our list and the one thing that does not get put off till tomorrow.
In Christ's love and mine,

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lenten Reflection 1: From Ashes to Beauty

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,   
because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

                                                             Isaiah 61:1-3
Lent is a season that begins with Ash Wednesday and runs until Easter Sunday.  It is a a time of reflection, deep devotion, self denial, and pursuing a deeper more intimate relationship with God.  It begins with ashes and recognizing our weakness, our limitations, our vulnerabilities and ultimately our need for God. It ends with celebration, victory, power, and reconciliation.  Jesus overcomes sin.  Jesus overcomes death.  Jesus transforms death into life.  
The season of Lent offers us the opportunity to go on a journey of transformation with Jesus.  To go on a journey from the dry "ashy" places of our lives to discover the power and victory that we have in Christ.  Lent offers us the opportunity to give up our ashes for Christ beauty. We all have are ashes don't we?  
Ashes could be seen as a metaphor for the dry, empty, dark places in our life.  Ashes are those things that we hold unto instead of Christ.  Ashes are things like guilt, pain, shame, hurt and other emotional weights that we carry with us daily.  Ashes are things like bad habits, addictions, and desires that drain us of life and leave us empty.  
Lent offers you and me opportunity to have God transform those ashes to beauty.  To turn our mourning to joy and our despair into praise.
That is what God does he transforms our lives.  He makes all things knew.  His desire is that we do life with him and that we know the power of His love and experience Him in our lives.
However, we need to come to him and we need to offer him our "ashes" if we want to experience his power and transformation.  We have to go through the ashes and surrender them to him so that he can make them beautiful.
This is the invitation that is for each of us in lent.  It is not magic- give up chocolate, or social media and get the victory.   It is is surrendering the ashes of our lives to Jesus  and finding rest in him.   It is  about going on a forty day journey with Jesus.  A journey from ashes to beauty...that goes through the cross and the resurrection and has no end.
I hope that you will join Jesus on the journey.
I will be sharing my journey here and would love to hear from you as you journey.
In Christ's love and mine,

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Digging Out

We had a major snow storm a few days ago and were covered in snow like many people in the north central and north eastern parts of the US.  Today we are finally digging out and getting back to life as usual.  The snow storm provided many opportunities to be neighborly to others.

In the story of the good Samaritan it has always struck me that each of the people who happen upon the man who had been robbed, beaten and left along the side of the road where his neighbor.  In fact, even the ones who harmed the man and stole from him where his neighbor.  However, there is only one, the Samaritan, who is acts neighborly.

I was blessed in this storm by some good neighbors.  One helped pull my son up a snow and ice covered hill when his car was stuck.  Another came and plowed the snow form our drive so that we could get out of our home.

Last night, I was giving the opportunity to help a neighbor who was stuck in there drive.

Opportunity knocks all the time for us to go from being neighbors to being neighborly and turning aside and going to our neighbor and caring for them.

Are you looking?  Will you be neighborly?

Love today in a real and tangible way.  Live your faith.  Love God by loving his people.

In Christ's love and mine,