Getting Real About Life, about Love, and about God

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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