Getting Real About Life, about Love, and about God

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,

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,


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lenten Reflection #33: Palm Sunday

 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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


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,

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,

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,

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,

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lenten Reflection 19:The Faithful Love of God

"Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments."
Deuteronomy 7:9 NIV

Covenants are binding promises.  

We as people don't always keep are promises.  Truth be told all of us have been disappointed by promises not kept. Also, truth be told, we have not kept promises that we have made and we we have disappointed others.  

This is not so with God.  God makes a covenant and and God keeps it.  He is faithful.  That is a big statement about God.  That makes God vastly different from us. He is faithful.  He can be trusted.  When God makes a promise we will not be left disappointed.  He will never brake his covenant with us.  It is a guaranteed deal because he is faithful.

The writer of Deuteronomy reminds us that the covenant that God has made with you and me that will never be broken is a covenant of love.  

God loves you and his deepest desire is for you and I to love him in return.  He will be faithful and we can trust him.  He will not fail us. 

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Lenten Reflection #18:The Gentle Whisper

Throughout Lent we are challenged to listen for God speaking to us in the midst of our lives.  We are invited to listen to God speak to our lives and the areas that we need to give over to Him.  Truly this is a daily part of living in relationship with Christ, not just a Lenten practice but during this time we need to deepen this practice so that it can become a daily habit.

A habit of listening for God's voice.

Elijah is one of the great prophets whose story is told in the Old Testament.  We read about a time when he hears God speak to him in 1 Kings 19:11-13:

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Reading and reflecting upon this passage this morning I am struck by a few things that I think help as I think about listening for God to speak to me.

1. God is with us in the storms and the turmoil of life-- but he is not the source of the storms and that is not his voice.  His voice is not the earthquake.  His voice is not the powerful wind.  His voice is not the shattering rocks or the ferocious fire.  The storm that you are in, just came out of, or are about to go through is not the voice of God.  God is with you but don't think the storm is His word for you.  And don't think he is the source of your storm.

Notice that God speaks to Elijah before the storm and he is to stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord.  The Lord is with Elijah before during and after this incident and he is seen as the gentle whisper and not the storms.

2. God's voice is a gentle whisper.  The King James version says, "still small voice."  We have to listen.  We have to take time to remove all the other voices and noises from our lives so that we can hear God speak.  This is why time alone with God is so necessary.  Are world is always screaming at us.  There are so many voices competing for our ear.  We have internal and external voices that try to keep us from hearing God or try to convince us that God is the storm.

What are we doing to quite the noise and listen to God?

God is with us through it all and if we will listen we will hear him speak to us and lead from the storms of life to still waters.

In Christ's love and mine,

Monday, March 9, 2015

Lenten Reflection #17:A Full Life

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10 NIV)

Are you living life to the full?

Does life seem empty?

I have had those times in my  life when I just felt like I was going through the motions. I was not really living life I was just existing.  I was breathing and doing but not really living. 

Maybe, you can relate?

Life is about living not about dying. Life is meant to be lived and lived to the full. 

On Easter we always remember and celebrate  that the tomb is empty and Christ is alive. Following Jesus is not about death and destruction it is about life. 

Following Jesus is the way to a full life. The tomb is empty so that our lives can be full. 

This is why he came so that you and I could have life, not death and emptyness, and we could have it to the full. 

Live today don't just merely exist. Seize the day don't let the day seize you. 

In Christ's love and mine, 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Lenten Reflections #16:You are Forgiven

"As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."
Psalm 103:12

Worship today as one forgiven.  God does not count your sins against you.  God forgives you.  You are not identified with or by the wrongs you have done.  God says, "I forgive you" and separates us from our sins.

Worship today as one forgiven!

In Christ's love and mine,

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Lenten Reflection #15: Becoming

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."  2 Corinthians 5:21

God is not done with us yet!  Who we are is not who we are becoming in Christ.  Often times we just settle for things as they are rather than grabbing hold of the promises of God.

One of my least favorite statements that I hear from followers of Jesus is, "I'm just a sinner."  If we have made Jesus our life we are not stuck in our sin.  "I'm a sinner" is no longer the truth.  Sin is no longer our master.  Sin no longer is our identifier.  We are Christ's.  We are children of God.  "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

As we walk with Jesus we are becoming his righteousness.  God has freed us from sin so that we could become something new.  The old has gone and the new has come.  This is God's promise to you and me.

This lent it is time to give up any notions that we are stuck in our sin and grab hold of the promise of God.  It is time to let God do the work in us to make us righteous, no longer slaves to sin, so that we can become the people that he desires us to be.  God is not done.  We are still growing and becoming.

In Christ's love and mine,

Friday, March 6, 2015

Lenten Reflection #14:Thank God it's Friday!

Gratitude is a natural response to a relationship with God.
When we understand that He created us just to love us and have a relationship.
"Thanks you!" is a natural response.
When we grasp just how deep and how wide His love is for us.
"Thank you!" is a natural response.
When we understand and experience his grace and forgiveness.
We cant help but say, "Thank you!"
When we experience His comfort.
"Thank you!"is just natural.
When we experience His protection.
"Thank you!"just comes out.
When we experience His provision.
"Thank you!" is what we must say, not just with words but with our lives.

We say "thank you" as we live our lives in a loving, committed relationship with Him.  We say "thank you" when we love him in return, because he first loves us.  We say "thank you" as we trust him to be our strength, our provider, our all in all, and our everything.  

Thank you God for creating me and loving me.  Thank you for desiring a relationship with me.  Thank you for forgiving me and for your grace and mercy.  Thank you for being with me, in me and working through me each and every day.  Thank you for never leaving me or forsaking me.  Thank you for always being for me.  Thank you for calling me your child and the relationship that I have with  you.  I love you too!

In Christ's love and mine,

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Lenten Reflection 13: Words and thoughts

"14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."
Psalm 19:14

Psalm 19 begins by reflecting upon how all of creation declares the glory of God without even having a voice. The sun, the moon and the stars all declare the creators majesty. The earth illustrates his beauty and power. The whole world sings a song of praise without even having voice to sing. 
I am one who can really see God in nature. All of creation points to God and declares his power, majesty and glory. 
I don't see how someone can look at the created world and then declare their is no God. Everything in all of creation has the fingerprint of God. 
What the psalm reminds us of is that we are the ones with the voice. We are the ones who can sing songs and give words to our praise. Yet, many times the words that we share and the thoughts that occupy our thinking may or may not declare his glory or be pleasing to God.
The other thought that hits me as I meditate on this scripture is that the meditations of our hearts will eventually express themselves in words that come out of our mouth.  That is why we need to guard what it is that occupies our thoughts. We need to spend time in the scriptures and meditating on God's word so that it becomes written on our hearts and lives. 
We, like the psalmist, need to pray about the thoughts that occupy our thinking and the words that come out of our mouths. 
May these words and the meditations of my heart be pleasing and being glory to God.

In Christ's love and mine,

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Lenten Reflection #12: Growing in Love

I was looking through pictures of my family today.  It is amazing how we have grown and changed as a family.  I thank God for such a wonderful wife and amazing children.

As I looked the pictures I was just taken about how much the kids have grown and changed.  (I also noticed that as a family we like to take selfies!)    I was surprised by how much I have changed.

I also thought about how much my love and my relationship with each of them has grown and changed throughout these years.

Nicole and I where married almost 19 years ago.  We dated for 4 years and where friends for two years before that.  We have known each other over half of our lives. I remember on the day we were married that I was so in love with her.  The truth is I did not have a clue what love was then.  As we have shared our lives together through the good, the bad and the ugly my love for here has grown deeper and wider.  I love her more today than that day we stood in the Platte Woods United Methodist Church and confessed our love to each other in front our family and friends.

On the day that each of my kids were born I was there and the love for them was instant.  But the truth is from that day forward my love for them has grown deeper and wider.  As our relationships have developed as we have grown as parent and child, so too has love.

My prayer for every couple that I perform a marriage ceremony for is that they will never love each other less than they do on that day. That down the road they will look back and say we thought we loved each other on our wedding day but our love for each other has grown more and more through the years.

It should be that way.  Our relationships, just like us, are growing and changing all the time.  When we invest in them.  When we put the time and energy into our relationship they grow deeper and deeper.  As are relationship grow  closer our love grows deeper and deeper.  I see this as I look at the photos.  I can see the growth of love and relationships even more than I notice the loss of hair or the physical changes of my family.

It is also true that when we neglect our relationships that they will change also.  Love can grow stagnant and distance can grow between us and others when we do not invest in our relationships.  Sadly, I see this way too often.  Marriages and families that start off in love but the growth is not deeper.  The relationship is not invested in.  No time or energy is put into growing closer and growing in love with one another and they drift apart.  I have seen in spouses and I have seen it in other family relationships.

I have also seen it in relationship with God.

The truth is that we should always be growing in our faith, knowledge and love of God.  As we live in relationship with Christ we should be growing in relationship with Christ.  We should be able to look back on that day that we decided to follow Jesus and say you know I thought I loved Jesus then but I did not know what that meant.  I love Jesus more today than I did back then.  My faith is deeper.  My love is deeper.  My relationship with Christ is closer than it was in that day.

Paul writes, "So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.  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.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."

 Our relationship with Christ is to be growing, maturing and building up in love.  Our love for God and one another grows as we invest in our relationship with Jesus.  We cant expect that our relationship with Christ will develop without us giving that relationship our time, our attention, our energy.  In the same way that our relationship with others can grow apart without our investment we grow apart from God.  Not because God does not love us or what a relationship with us but, because we have neglected our relationship with Him.

The awesome thing about investment in our relationship with Christ is that it effects every relationship that I have.  I am able to love my wife more as I grow in relationship with Jesus.  As I grow in my relationship with Christ I am able to love my children deeper.  As I mature and grow deeper in my love of God my love for others grows.  I am changed.  I can see the world around me through heavens eyes.  I  can be more forgiving, more compassionate, more caring,  and more gracious.  As I grow in my relationship with Christ my priorities are changed.  As I grow in my relationship with Christ I see what is really important and know what I need to invest my time, my energy and  my resources into.

Today I thank God for the growth and for that fact that he still is not through with me.  I thank God for his love and for the love of family and friends.  I am grateful that I can look back to the day when I made a decision to make Christ's my life and say with confidence that I love God more today than I did that day.  I can say with confidence that I love his people more today than I did that day.  I am changed and I am changing because of my relationship with Jesus.  I can also see that as I look at the pictures of my family.

In Christ's love and mine,

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Lenten Reflection #11:Our Father

Gracious, loving, merciful, Father of all.  You are not of this world, heavenly, yet you call us your children and you are living in relationship with us.  Father and child.

You and your name are worth loving, adoring, honoring, respecting and praising.
May we do today in our world what you would have us do.  May your plans and your purposes be fulfilled in this world just as they are in Heaven.

You are our provider, supply us with all that we need for today,  Keep us content.  Keep us from hoarding for ourselves or trusting in other things to provide. Keep us focused on your provision for today.

Forgive us for the hurts that we have caused you and your children.  Forgive us for the ways that we have separate ourselves from you and from others.  We forgive those that have hurt us.  We let go of our need for retribution.  We let go and forgive just like you.

Keep us behind you today, following your lead.  In our weakness, provide us with your strength to overcome the temptations to stray away or get ahead of you. Keep us from harms way.  Keep us out of the evil ones neighborhood,

You are my life, not a part of it.  You are my world, The Kingdom.
You are all the power I need.  You are The Power.
You are my all and all deserving of love, honor, and praise.  Glory!
I love you now and forever,

In Christ's love and mine,

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lenten Reflection #10: What's God Doing?

Psalm 105

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

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

God is with us.

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

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

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

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

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

Look, see and share today.

In Christ's love and mine,

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lenten Reflection #9:Remembering the Sabbath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ's love and mine,