Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas! Part 2

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:16-18)

And that's the real meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown.

Merry Christmas Day!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Have a blessed day tomorrow with family and friends. I'm writing this early in the AM Christmas morning. I'm about to head to bed myself. Tomorrow looks to be a nice day. We'll have our annual Christmas celebration with breakfast and opening of presents in the morning. and then at some point we'll get together with Mom and Dad and my brothers and sister. I'm truly blessed to have such a cohesive tight-knit family. Wish my twin brother Jim could be with us, but he'll be out in California with his family.

As I write this Chet Atkins is playing "Deck the Halls" on the turntable. Chester was truly something else on the guitar. The halls are decked, and the presents are wrapped. As usual it seemed like the month just flew by. It has been a nice month, but a busy one. Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but it sometimes seems it is hard to slow down and enjoy it. This week should be pretty slow though. I'm looking forward to it.

Chester is finishing side B with "Silent Night." That's where we are now. The house is silent, and I'm about to go to bed, but I would be remiss to head on without this last thought. I've been thinking today on thankfulness and the goodness of God. We human beings are so easily swept up into the negative. Sometimes it is hard to even slow down and enjoy days like this. If we're not careful, we can turn times of rest into times of worry. It's too easy when we find ourselves less busy to let our minds wander toward the future. That's when the care of the world can creep in and keep us from seizing the joys that this day holds. In Matthew 6:34 Jesus told us, "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself."

I think thankfulness is a good antidote to worry. Thankfulness turns our focus back on the Lord and on to His goodness. It reminds us of His care and provision. Be thankful tomorrow as you go about your day. Take some time throughout the day to thank the Lord for all He has done in your life. I sure will.

God bless and have a wonderful Christmas Day!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


We're beginning a series on joy at the church that I am really excited about. Interesting enough the primary Greek word used for joy in the New Testament, chara and the word we translate as grace, charis, both come from the root word chairo. This word, as with many Greek words, has a number of meanings. It was used as a salutation or greeting. It also means to rejoice or be glad, but it also means to be well or thrive.

Too many times we live a life of trying to get by when God has so much more for us. In John 10:10 Jesus even said that He came that we would have life and have it more abundantly. That doesn't mean we'll never go through stress or hard times or trouble. It does mean we should be living a life of meaning and purpose.

In Romans 14:17 Paul wrote that "the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." If you read earlier in the chapter you see that Paul was responding to a controversy over food and observances of ritual. He was trying to get them off of focusing on things that don't matter and on what is real. Righteousness, peace, and joy come though Jesus. We so easily get our priorities out of whack and wonder why we are stressed out and overwhelmed.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and is an outworking of our fellowship with the Lord. Joy sets us free to be who God would have us to be. It changes us and transforms us. It helps us to lay down our defensiveness and insecurity and helps us to get outside of ourselves and focus on others. Joy is powerful and ever so necessary in this life. Joy will help us to thrive and to live life well.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Submit to the Righteousness of God!

"For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God." (Romans 10:3)

The Bible clearly lays the case against trying to establish our own righteousness by our own works. Well meaning believers fall into the trap of trying to relate to God based on their own deeds. Unbelievers who acknowledge that they do believe in some sort of "god" fall prey to believing that God will accept them because they are a good person. The problem lies in the concept of righteousness. Romans 3:10 tells us that "There is none righteous, no, not one." Good deeds can't cover unrighteousness. If they could we wouldn't need a savior. 99 percent righteousness is still unrighteousness. The line is formed hard and fast.

Bur thanks be to God our Savior has made a way for us! Through Him we have the righteousness of God imparted to us by faith (Romans 3:22, Philippians 3:9). But what do we see in the human condition? We see such pride, arrogance and conceit formed in an unfounded and historically inaccurate view of the goodness of man. A view that manifests itself in people who believe that God must accept them because they are good. They refuse to submit to the righteousness of God. From the perspective of one who has been saved by the grace of God that is mind-boggling. Jesus has lovingly laid down His life and paid the price for us, but we refuse to accept the free gift He so willingly offers.

Christians who don't get this will live a Christian walk with a certain level of frustration, but thankfully it's not an eternal life and death decision for them. The grace of God is willingly extended to those who receive it by faith. We are saved by what we believe, and we're not disqualified by error in doctrine or belief in other matters. The grace of God is powerful. The true tragedy lies with those people who believe there is a God, but refuse to submit to what God has said. Those are the people who will try to pass muster by holding up their good works and will be tragically disappointed when told "I never knew you." In some ways those cases will be sadder than atheists who willfully argue against and reject God, but simply believing there is a God is just not enough. Even demons believe that.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

An Abundant Heart

"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45)

We've all been around people who are cynical and negative. I don't know about you, but a little of that goes a long way. I've had co-workers, friends and relatives who, because of that particular trait, I could only do in short doses. That kind of conversation tears at our souls and brings us down. It readily leads to sin as it frequently involves gossip and hard judgments against others.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that "the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." The Bible has much to say about our mouths and how they ought to be used, but in Luke 6 Jesus brings it all into sharp focus by targeting the real culprit -- our hearts. The original word for heart in Luke 6:45 and Hebrews 4:12 is the Greek word kardia. In this context it refers to the soul. The soul is the seat of our mind, will, and emotions.

People are sometimes good fakers, but given enough time hearts are exposed. I've met folks, who at the start, seemed to be really great people, but as time went on their heart issues began to show. People can fake it in the short term, but given enough time what is really in their hearts will come out. The abundance of their heart, or lack thereof, will be revealed. You really can't maintain what you don't have to give out. This is actually a good thing because it reveals needs and wounds and can open up real opportunities for healing and growth.

I love the statement in Hebrews 4:12 that the Word of God is "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." The Word of God is like a mirror we can hold our lives up against to see how we line up. Maybe I have been holding onto unforgiveness against someone and in reading the Bible I discover that Jesus commanded us to forgive (Mark 11:25). At that point my heart has been revealed and I have a choice -- I can either continue to do things my way or submit to what the Lord has said.

The car and feeding of our souls is critically important. If you desire an abundant heart it matters what you are reading, watching, talking about and thinking on. God's Word is vitally important in this process. Reading and meditating on it and applying it to your life will transform you. Of course, that has to take place in the context of our relationship and fellowship with the Lord or we can turn it into dry religion, in which case, it will avail us little.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Intrinsically Organic

Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. (Colossians 4:6).

Jesus was an awesome conversationalist. He was able to speak the truth in love without feeling the need to make sure everyone always agreed with Him. He was never fearful or intimidated. He spoke out of the reality of who He is. It is so easy for us to get intimidated in sharing our faith because we have fallen into the traps of thinking we have to give someone the formula for salvation or of being afraid that we are going to offend. We are robbed of being able to share incredibly good news!

In Christ we have entered into this awesome wonderful love relationship with the Lord. He has become the biggest person in our lives. In normal conversation we talk about the things and people that are most important to us, but somehow in our current climate of political correctness, we are expected to keep quiet about our relationship with Jesus. That is a trap of the enemy that we have allowed ourselves to fall into. We get intimidated into not sharing the thing that people most need to hear. Will some people be made to feel uncomfortable? Obviously. That's just part of it. People don't like things that challenge what they believe, and yet, there are people dying to hear what we have to say.

I think that one issue we have is that we have made "witnessing" so formulaic. We've turned it more into winning a debate or presenting a sales pitch than something that is intrinsically organic to who we now are. In doing so we have taken something that should come naturally and made it something artificial. How many times have you argued with someone that the outcome was them changing their position and agreeing with you? Pretty rare I suspect. We like to win and hate to be proven wrong. How many of us really like to be sold? Do you really like when someone pops into your life with some plan or thing that you weren't interested in and proceeds to try to get you make a commitment to it? Most of us find those kind of encounters unpleasant.

There is a better way though, and that is to take Jesus from a sales presentation to the very real, living person that He is. He is "King of kings and Lord of lords" and yet He is also "the friend who is closer than a brother." His love for us is beyond belief. If He is the biggest person in our lives He ought to be a big part of our conversation. The reality of that relationship is something that should challenge the people around you. As we cultivate our relationship with Him and grow in His grace then there will be an outworking of that in our lives. It really does change us and transform us. Because He is love our actions and attitudes begin to reflect that love more and more. Our conversation will reflect that love more and more too!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dwelling In The Shelter

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." (Psalm 91:1)

The Hebrew word for dwell in this passage is yashab. Yashab means to sit down, to remain or stay or to make that place your abode. It is where you live. Psalm 91 is a wonderful picture of God's protection and care. The outcome of sitting down is rest in his presence. Rest is a real good thing. I read an article today by Greg Laurie that talked about how 50% of Americans are constant worriers, but only about 8% of the things they worry about are actually legitimate.

Life can be stressful. but we have a place of refuge in the Lord. It is a place of rest and peace. We access it by our fellowship with Him. We do that by time in the Word, prayer, worship and a heart attitude that cultivates His presence. What do I mean by that? We learn to live in an awareness of His presence. In 1st Thessalonians 5:17 Paul tells us to "pray without ceasing." If we think of prayer as a religious exercise that would be impossible, but if we think of prayer as communication (communion) with the Lord then it can become a reality.

There are times when how we pray will be more intense than others. Sometimes we will withdraw to a quiet place, just as Jesus did. Sometimes though, we will find ourselves in a place where we just can't do that. Does that mean that God won't hear us or we can't receive His wisdom and help? Absolutely not. He is always near, but we need to sharpen our awareness and understanding of that. It really starts with a mindset that God is with me wherever I and we are having a constant conversation.

There is rest in this constant conversation with him. Stop striving and chasing. Psalm 91 is a wonderful place to start.