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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Responsibility

I used to have a coach who would say, "Be careful who you point your finger at. There will always be three pointing back at you." (about this time you should be trying this out. Pointer finger goes out, three fingers curved back at you and thumb pointed away. See? It works.) The point--no pun intended--was that we always have to take a little responsibility for things that happen in our lives. In fact, because of that lesson from long ago, I have a sign hanging above my desk in my office. It simply asks, "How is it my fault?"

Now, the present situation with the Gulf is one where we can learn some valuable lessons...about how not to act. Government blames BP. BP blames environmentalists. Republicans blame Democrats and they return the favor. The bottom line is that they could all learn a thing or two from my coach. While everyone is passing the blame, animals are dying, people are losing jobs, the economy is taking another blow and nothing is being accomplished.

Here is my concern. These guys aren't treading new ground with their behavior. This responsibility thing has been going around since Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent and both choked down their fruit. And what you and I are left with is the responsibility--there's that word again--for teaching our kids (and each other) to take responsibility for who we are and the way we act.

You see, until we take responsibility, nothing will ever change. The Gulf won't get any cleaner. My temper won't get any better. Your hurtful words about your friend will continue to flow. Our apathy won't change. Our sin won't be addressed.

We are reminded of this significant first step in 1 John 1:9 where it begins, "If we confess our sins..." In other words, admit we've done wrong. Then, and only then, can positive change begin.

So, Obama...BP...Congress...repeat after me, "Here's how it was my fault.." Feel free to join in.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Looking back


They say that hindsight is 20/20. I believe them, especially as it relates to that spring break trip from 2004. It was one of those condo deals where you come in for a few days, hear a sales pitch and they put you up at a decent hotel for a discounted rated. Discounts for ministers are always nice. So, that April, we loaded our three kids into our van and made the journey across southeast Georgia and up to Hilton Head.

The hotel was an average one and the weather was still too cold to enjoy the ocean much. So, we took advantage of the heated pool and the mini-golf course that sat just in front of our hotel. We ate great seafood, shopped a little at the outlets for summer clothes for our kids and took the four days there just to relax.

Looking back, I can see how God was already doing some unique things for us that week. We created some nice memories. Sarah had just gotten a new camera a few months before and she took tons of pictures. In fact, she had often joked that because she took all the pictures for our family that there wouldn't be any of her when she was gone--she would always be behind the camera. For that reason, I took the camera from her hands and took more pictures with her and the kids than normal. Pictures that are priceless to me. There is one of Josh, sitting on a rock at the mini-golf, with a red ball in his hand. There is one of he and I standing at the water's edge at the beach. There are pictures of Sarah with the kids amongst the flowers near the hotel. Then...there is the one that we simply refer to as the lighthouse photo.

The last night of our stay in Hilton Head, we were looking for an ice cream parlor (Sarah always loved her ice cream) down by the harbor. As we wondered among the shops and boats, we were pointing out some of the cool sites to each of the kids. Close by, there was a live band entertaining patrons at a local restaurant. I was showing Harrison one of the large yachts anchored in the marina there when I felt someone tap me on my shoulder. I stood and turned to face a young lady, probably in her 30s if memory serves me, with blond hair and a light jacket on--the kind one would wear while sailing. I don't know why she stuck in my mind except for the interaction that was to follow.

"You have such a cute family. Your children are precious. Would you like for me to take a photo of you?" Her accent was distinctly Southern.

I looked over my shoulder at Sarah and she smiled. She didn't have to say anything. I knew she loved the idea. I slipped the camera from her shoulder and handed it to the lady. I picked up Josh, handed him to Sarah and pulled Abby and Harrison closer to my side for the picture.

Hindsight is 20/20. I look back at that photo, those priceless moments that were neither planned nor rehearsed. And I tell you this...I can't say for sure this woman was an angel. But I can tell you that God, with all He knew that was about to happen to our family, sent someone to make sure I'd have a record of that night. It would be the last family photo we'd ever have.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A few final thoughts from Sunday

It was another great day Sunday as we wrapped up our spiritual warfare series. Next week, we'll kick off Joy--A Study of Philippians. Before we do though, I had to add some final thoughts on our recent topic (that's a pastor's prerogative you know).

Satan has a whole lot of weapons at his disposal. I think most of them fall into two larger categories: lies and loneliness. Satan will do a lot to prove to you that what he says is real and what God wants you to know is not reliable. The irony of this is that history and time prove the exact opposite. You can't believe anything that Satan tells you. Regardless of how "reliable" it sounds, the Bible is clear that Satan is, by nature, a liar (John 8:44). When we listen to his words, it leads us down paths of deception, low self-esteem, doubt, fear, anxiety and, for those who pursue it far enough, death. I spoke with a dear friend at Ridgeview yesterday who was reeling from the news that a good friend--a Christ follower--had taken his own life last week leaving behind a wife and 5 year old. Why? She just kept saying, "He listened to Satan's lies."

Equally destructive is the feeling of loneliness that we can all feel. Isn't it strange that we live on a planet with over 7 billion people and that any of us can feel alone? But we do. I do. Even in a house with five other people, there can be times when Satan wants me to believe that I am all alone in the struggles I face. There, feeling isolated from those who love me most, Satan has me exactly where he wants me. In this state of loneliness, we tend to isolate ourselves even more, believing that no one cares, no desires to help us, that no one else understands.

Once again, just yesterday, I listened to a young lady who earnestly wants to turn her life around. She is seeking answers for why her life seems so desperate at times. And what she shared with Lisa and I was a powerful and real feeling. "I just feel so alone at times, like I'm all by myself."

Can I tell you that I just wanted to cry with both of my friends? Somewhere, today, there is a special young lady with two dear children who thinks she is all alone in this incredibly cruel world. Somewhere else, there is another young lady with a sweet daughter who is facing life without her husband and friend because Satan filled his head with lies. Do I have to say more to prove to you that Satan's only desire is your destruction? Maybe you can relate far too well to the stories I've shared today. Three things I want to say to you. Don't listen to the lies. God alone has your best interest at heart. Second, don't ever believe you are alone. We all get tied up with our own lives and our own problems--but we all need each other. All of us. Lastly, don't forget that God loves you deeply. He is the only one who has died for you.

Let me know if there is any way that I can help you. I don't ever want anyone to feel alone...after all, that's just a lie from Satan.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Transitions

Transitions are a part of life...but that doesn't mean I have to like them. Don't get me wrong, some transitions are fun and enjoyable. Changes open up your world, give you new possibilities, force you from your comfort zone and can create new relationships. But, they can hurt too. There is a reason why I have said in the past, "Change is easy. You go first."

I thought about that earlier this week as I walked around the campus of Samford University in Birmingham with Lisa and Morgan. We were there f0r orientation as we anticipate Morgan's departure in August. More changes.

I'm excited for Morgan. I really am. In fact, after the orientation, I came back to the office and told them I was resigning and going back to college (just kidding). College is an incredible time for most people. I know it will be for my daughter. She is an amazing young lady with incredible potential. But it doesn't mean I have to look forward to her going. Heck, I feel like we just started blending a family. There is still much I want to share with Morgan...and much she still needs to teach me. Look...I just convinced her it was okay for an 18 year old to snuggle with her parents on the couch while watching a movie.

I guess one of the hard things about changes is that they are so often associated with milestones...and milestones mean I'm getting older. There. I said it. And, while I don't mind getting older, I don't like that my kids are. Harrison will be driving soon. Abby is acting like a young lady instead of my little girl. And Landon will be entering Middle School...our last elementary student in the bunch. More changes.

Somewhere in the midst of my fifth trip across the campus on Tuesday, I was reminded of this powerful truth. Life is full of changes...God is not one of them. Wherever I go (or my kids go), God is still the same yesterday, today and forever. Through every transition--puberty, high school, learning to drive--every milestone, God will forever remain faithful. I can look forward to His constant, reassuring presence through every transition that life brings.

But I still don't have to look forward to all the changes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Remembering my dad

In February, 2004, just three months after burying Sarah's 11 year old niece, she and I were called to Columbus, Georgia. My father's health had been deteriorating and doctors were not giving him long to live. After his first stroke in the summer of 1994, doctors had only given him a few years to live. He had laughed and joked all the way through another decade before finally succumbing to congestive heart problems. While it came as no real surprise, losing my dad, best friend and biggest fan was no easy task. My dad was an amazing man. He was not perfect by any means, just a very good dad and husband.

His funeral that windy February day was a celebration of the joy that he brought to our lives. It was a remembrance of all the good that his life represented. But his death made for a long, quiet van ride back to our home in Douglas later on.

I remember how dark the night seemed as our family made its way across South Georgia. The rural night air seemed to be pressing in on me from all sides. Finally, I broke the silence with a question to Sarah, "Does this van ride seem familiar? First, Taylor; now, dad." Sarah agreed then...quiet again. That's how our conversations went that night. Broken. Sporadic. Never really gaining momentum. In three months time, I had lost a precious niece and my dad. I had this overwhelming feeling that God was using these events and conversations to prepare us for something. By the time we finished the three hour drive, I was sure that God was preparing Sarah for my eventual death.

Little did I know that He would use the van ride conversations and all the ones that were to follow to prepare me for what I was about to go through in April. We talked about death, about moving on, about being prepared and about raising a family without each other. So, when tragedy struck our family that April afternoon, God had already been at work.

I cannot comprehend all the "whys" and "why nots" of April 9, 2004. I cannot honestly tell you that there were no doubts or fears that resulted from the accident (more about those in a later posting). But I can say that I drew great comfort (still do) from knowing that, long before our van ever left for its journey home that day, God had been looking out for me. He had been acting like a real Father--preparing me and my kids for the loss of Sarah and Josh.

You should be comforted as well. You see, your circumstances are never a surprise to God. No matter how much the darkness presses in on you, God has promised He will never give you more than you can handle. More than that, He has promised that He can use every circumstance, every trial, every danger or struggle to bring good. I am a completely different person in so many ways because of that five month period. Losing four people who I loved so dearly made me lean more heavily on God. I am better for having been through it. But I would have never chosen that path, would have never asked for those trials if I were given the choice. God knew better. He asked me to walk that journey because of what He knew it would teach me. He may ask you to do the same--He may have you at that place already. It may sound strange to say but...He loves you that deeply.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Her name was Brooke. At age 11, she was, in my mind, the cutest thing I had ever laid eyes on. It was a very proud moment for me the day she accepted my offer to "go with me." (to which my mom and dad replied, "Go with you? Go where? You're eleven years old.") Whatever going together meant, we were doing it for a good portion of my fifth grade year.

When I learned that her birthday was fast approaching, I had big ideas about what to get her--a diamond, a necklace, some fine perfume. Alas, a fifth grader's money can only go so far. So I turned to my mom for some help. I wanted our "first" birthday together to be special. (Never mind that it would also be our last).

The day slipped up on me. In fact, I had almost forgot that her birthday was the next day. My mom was given the assignment to complete the gift, wrap it and have it ready the next morning...I was headed to bed. The only thing I had purchased at that point was a trendy piece of adornment (okay, it was a leather bracelet with my name engraved signifying that she belonged with me). Whatever mom put with it, would be absolutely fine. I was sure of it.

I awoke the morning of her birthday and found the very nicely wrapped box on the breakfast table. This was going to be an amazing day. Our love for each other would only be cemented more by this show of affection.

I died when she opened the present. Inside the finely wrapped package was the leather bracelet and...a picture of me. Not just any picture of me, mind you. No, because a class photo from the fall or one of my football pics from that season might have been okay. The picture was me from ALL THE WAY BACK when I was 9 years old--bowl haircut and missing tooth included. Brooke laughed. Her friends made fun. I turned 15 shades of red trying to explain that my mom was the gifter of the picture. But that day, I learned a few valuable lessons:
  • Your mom's opinion of you is probably far higher than your own. Be careful what you believe about what she tells you--including when you have a bowl haircut and a missing front tooth.
  • Don't judge a gift...or a book...or a person by their cover. It truly is what's on the inside that is most important.
  • Find someone who loves you for who you are, not the gifts you bring. Brooke and I didn't make it past the next week of school. The gift had been the last straw. But as my dad would rightfully say, "There is always something better."
  • Things are never as bad as they seem. I thought my world was over the day Brooke dropped the bomb. Funny enough, she and I continued to be friends throughout the next two years. I don't know where Brooke's life has taken her but I can tell you that God has blessed me far beyond what I deserve when it comes to the lady that receives my gifts. I don't buy Lisa leather bracelets and, as far as I know, she's never seen a picture of me with missing teeth. But she has seen all the ugly parts of me--including my gift-giving challenges--and she loves me anyway. Life is good. Life in God's will is much, much better.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tracing your journey

I couldn't sleep last night so I finally gave up around 4 a.m. this morning. I laid their for the longest time trying to decide "do I get up and get ready and take the chance I'll wake Lisa?" or "do I lay here and hope that my mind will finally quit wondering?" I did neither. I laid in bed and wondered.

Finally, I crawled out of bed a little before 6 and made my way to the office. This gave me lots of alone time before my first meeting of the day at 8:30. I took advantage of the time to pull out my journal and re-read some of my entries from the last six years. It was a time of reflection, increased gratefulness for God's favor, laughing at some of the stupid things I wrote and crying over where my journey has taken me (crying for good reasons).

I can't tell you how important it is to journal the events of your life (not blog. Journal.) Even if you don't do it every day (I sure don't. There are some breaks in my journals as long as 2 years), it records the mileposts in your life where God taught you, guided you and blessed you. Even this morning, past lessons leaped off the page and refreshed me in "life courses" that I had already completed.

The truth is, much of Scripture is given to us by men who recorded God's ongoing conversations and interactions with humanity. There were so many instances where God instructed people, "Write down these words so that others may know." It's really easy so I thought I'd give you a complete plan on how to trace your journey through journaling:
1. Buy a spiral notebook (if you want to go a little nicer, buy a fancy journal from Barnes and Nobles or something)
2. Get a good pen--ink color does not matter.
3. Find a quiet place and a few peaceful moments on a regular basis.
4. Write what comes to mind.
Don't worry about what people might think when they read it. If you're still alive, they shouldn't be reading. If you've passed away, you don't care what they think anyway. Do it. You'll love it and you'll thank me that you took the time.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A question of why

Until November, 2003, my life had been sheltered from the tragedies that touch so many people. Yes, I had seen the death of grandparents but, though dearly loved, I knew older people face that reality. But not young ones. Not eleven year olds. Not in my family. Until that November.

We got a phone call saying that Sarah's 11 year old niece was in the hospital with a perforated appendix. It had been discovered fairly late and she was not doing well. Sarah and I left our kids with my sister's family and made the journey to Douglas. Before leaving, I remember looking at Abby and Harrison and saying, "You guys just pray for Taylor. She will be alright. God will take care of her." I believed what I said with all my heart. I believed she would get up and walk away from that hospital. So much so that I never even considered the alternative. And that's exactly what happened. Taylor died just a few hours after we got to Birmingham. For whatever reason, God decided that Taylor's time here was done.

And I had to be okay with that...sort of. I can tell you I didn't like it. I can tell you that my heart was broken for my brother-in-law and his wife and surviving daughter. I can tell you that I cried many tears at her funeral and questioned God's wisdom in how our prayers had seemingly been unheard.

But I also had to remember the limits of who I am...and the limitless nature of who He is. My choice was for Taylor to go home. God's choice was for Taylor to go...well...Home. My choice was based on selfishness and love for her family. His choice was based on His wisdom. He knew the far-reaching implications, the "ripples" that would come from her death. His choice was based on a love for the whole world--knowing that Taylor's passing would have an impact on many others that He cared about. His decision was based on foreknowledge. He alone knew how this decision would impact my family in the months to come. I had to understand that He is God, I am not...and there is a reason for this. A lesson that would come back to face me hard in the months that were to follow.

Trusting God is simply that. Not trusting Him in the good times or the great spiritual moments. Trusting His goodness means believing that in all things, He has in mind what is absolutely the best for all of me, in every situation, regardless of my understanding. I chose to trust Him then. I choose to trust Him now.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Reflections on Sunday

What an amazing time we had yesterday at Ridgeview! We had the awesome privilege of commissioning one of our own RCC families as they prepare to leave for Thailand at the first of July. It was a sweet time of encouragement for them and challenge for us. I was reminded of our responsibility to "stand in the gap" for the Clarks and so many others like them who enter vocational missions. But I also was reminded of the responsibility we all have to be Christ to this world--as teachers, students, bankers, realtors, neighbors and friends. Our burden for this world has to grow with each day as the number of people who live life without Christ increases. The world needs to know the hope that the Clarks carry with them on their journey...and the hope that you and I profess as we live our lives daily before a watching world.

The spiritual warfare has cranked up in intensity around RCC as we began our latest series--Angels and Demons. I almost have to laugh at Satan's "predictability" as he comes after us full force in these days of examining Scripture. I know that many of our families--based on what you are sharing with me--are feeling many of the same things. So, I encourage you, pray hard for your fellow "Ridgies." Do not fail to stand in the gap for each other as we examine the Bible's teachings on Satan and his work in this world. This Sunday we'll take a closer look at Satan and the demons.

Finally, I was challenged today to take a little time in my blog to go back and re-visit the events of April, 2004. There are so many new readers here and others who are coming to join us that may want to hear more about that fateful Spring day and how it changed my life. So, with your permission, I'm going to take a day each week to go back to the memories of that time and try to unwrap what God showed me through those days. I hope you'll join me. Feel free to read, react and even ask questions. There is still so much more that I have to learn about this journey I'm on. I don't want to miss a thing.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Spiritual warfare is no game.

We think it's a game. That's one of the problems that Christ followers face. Our image of evil is that Satan is some little impish trouble-maker who likes to pull pranks on us or make life difficult. Why else would we tell jokes about hell or watch movies about funny "demons?"

Hear this...Satan doesn't want to play games with you. He wants you dead. Can I put it any plainer? He's not out to make your life inconvenient. He is out to destroy everything about you.

I've seen evil. I've seen it up close. It's not a character in a red suit with a pitch fork and a tail. It's not an inconvenience in your schedule or your favorite show being cancelled after its first season. It is viciousness like you've never imagined (unfortunately). No...it doesn't come at you in that form because, if it did, all of us would be smart enough to run.

Evil is the love of self. Evil is the love of money. Evil is the willingness to climb all over every one else to get to the top. Evil says "God owes me." Evil says "I deserve this." Evil says "I don't care who it hurts as long as I'm okay." Evil looks out for number one all the time.

Here's the catch. It's always pretty. It always smells good, tastes good, feels right, and appears to be the best. Make no mistake, that's why this is a war that we are in.

The bottom line is this. Satan hates God with everything that is in him. He can't touch God or injure God. But he can definitely hurt God's children. So that is his full time hobby. It is the very core of his being. It is why he rips apart marriages, causes father's to hurt their children, causes politicians to forget their place, causes pastors to seek their own glory, allows the unjust to run freely and attacks Christ followers unrelentingly.

No. Spiritual warfare is no game. It's a...well, a war. And until the church starts to understand that and treat it as such (instead of acting like it's the punch line to a bad joke), we will never wield the power of Christ Jesus in a manner that is worthy of our God. With Satan, the game is on...will Christ followers stand to meet the challenge?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Distracted

I talked earlier this week about how Satan loves to use lies as a weapon against us. It's something he does very well. There's another weapon he uses with equal adeptness. It is distraction. These come in all shapes and sizes. They are literally a part of every single day of your life. They can sneak in and have you wrapped up before you realize what's gotten hold of you.

The dangerous part of distractions is that some of them can be very good things: family, careers, future plans, kids, hobbies, friends and church. You see what I mean about them being a sneaky thing?

Here is why distractions can be a problem. The Bible encourages us to make one thing a priority. (In fact, the original word we get our word "priority" from had no plural form. It was singular meaning there could only be one priority).

I was reading this verse this morning in my quiet time that reminded me of this:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 NIV

All of it? So my career can keep me from serving God's purposes? My family can get me off track? You mean a flurry of activity at church can keep me from finding the very God I'm looking for? Yes on all counts. Now, hear what I'm saying. None of these things are bad...they can just keep us from doing the very thing that Jeremiah was talking about--using every ounce of our being to go after God.

When God is the priority of our life, we disarm one of Satan's great weapons. Life is placed into proper perspective. Jobs, relationships, money and material things become ways that we honor God rather than ways that God can honor us. Did you catch the difference? Our lives weren't meant to be about us but about Him.

The first sin in the garden came when Satan got Eve (and Adam) distracted with this question: "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden?'" Notice that the question here uses two of Satan's best weapons as one... a lie (God never told them this) and a distraction (Adam and Eve had everything they needed but Satan got them focused on the only thing they couldn't have).

Check yourself today. What has your life been about to this point? Finding the right spouse. Getting the right job. Securing that promotion. A white picket fence with kids in the house. Not one of these things is bad...neither was the fruit in the garden. But when our focus becomes about anything else but Him, we wind up losing and Satan's weapon has found its mark.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Don't lose heart

As we continue this spiritual battle that rages around us, we should take heart from phrases of encouragement like the one above--"don't lose heart"--that are found throughout Scripture. They are simple words that contain such power for us as we wage war. As I told a friend just this morning, Satan's war against God's children is a constant, 24/7 fight. He never relents. Neither can we. This is just another reason why God created us to do life together. On those days when the battle is at a fevered pitch, I need others around me who will link arms with me. I need someone to utter the words that Paul uttered in 1 Corinthians...don't lose heart.

On June 6, 1944, thousands of Allied soldiers found themselves pinned down on the beaches of Normandy, France. Relentless gunfire from German soldiers was making every move life-threatening. Young men led by only slightly older officers were faced with a battle that was unprecedented for its day. What hung in the balance was freedom for Europe and, ultimately, an end to this horrible war.

On one beach, a scene was played out that was repeated up and down that shoreline that day. Colonel George Taylor, commander of the U.S. 16th Infantry, looked around at the men in his command. Some were dead. Many were wounded. All were frightened and faced with a decision. Taylor summoned everything within himself and said, "Men, there are only going to be two kinds of men on this beach, the dead and those who are about to be. Let's move"

The rest is history. Today, you and I face fears, overwhelming feelings, and tough choices. Our enemy is real and relentless. He fires at us from every angle and hopes only to see us dead. You and I can sit in our corner and lose hope. The end result is death.

As for me, I choose not to lose heart. I choose to move forward claiming the promises of Scripture that, even in the most fevered pitch of battle, those who follow Christ have overcome.
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 NIV

Monday, June 07, 2010

Liar, liar

We are heading into week one of Angels and Demons--our series on spiritual warfare here Ridgeview. For the next three weeks, we will be looking at what the Bible has to say (as opposed to what Hollywood wants us to believe) regarding the reality of spiritual warfare. Lesson number one...there is a real enemy who hates us. Because he is real and is hatred for God is immense, he will do whatever he can to make sure that God and His creation suffer.

I believe that Satan's number one weapon is lies. In the book of John, we read Jesus' summation of who Satan is:
When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44 NIV

Because he is so "good" at falsehood, Satan regularly battles against God's creation with a wide array of lies. On a personal level, he begins early in life by convincing each of us that we aren't smart enough, good enough, pretty enough, thin enough...you get the point. He tries to distract us from the truth that each of us is God's creation--perfectly planned to meet His purposes for our life.

On a corporate level, Satan keeps churches weak and ineffective by getting them sidetracked with a multitude of lies--your church isn't big enough, your pastor isn't perfect enough, the church down the street is a little better or the people on the other side of the world don't matter as much.

Here's how you battle the father of lies...truth. Seems simplistic but it is exactly the weapon prescribed by Christ.
You shall know the truth and it will set you free.

And isn't freedom what God desires for us to have...freedom to live in an abundant relationship with Him? So, how do you get truth? Here's your Sunday School answer--and it works--quit listening to the world and listen to what your Father is trying to tell you. I say the same kind of stuff to my children whom I love deeply. The world is gonna tell you all kinds of things to fit you in their mold or bring you down to their level. The truth--the good stuff your daddy tells you--is meant to give you security, love and freedom.

Satan is a nasty storyteller. We'll talk more this week about what "ole hairy butt" (as Lisa likes to call him) is really up to in this world. Just remember that God's word contains truth that we must have to battle a real enemy who hates us.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

You choose

I read a great quote this morning. I don't have a clue who said it...just know that it didn't originate with me. But it sure made sense.

"Yesterday or tomorrow...the choice is yours."

I got to thinking about the number of people I know who are unable to let yesterday go. I have spent untold hours counseling married couples, families and individuals who are living life in the rear view mirror. For some, it's a past mistake that they just can't seem to let go. They have asked for forgiveness, tried to make amends and even offered retribution. All to no avail.

Others have untold amounts of bitterness because they were wronged or hurt in their "yesterdays." They hold a grudge that builds walls, ruins relationships or leaves them isolated from those who want to live in community with them. The inability to move beyond yesterday is a huge obstacle to embracing your tomorrow...or even enjoying your today. But the greater problem in my mind is that holding on to yesterday too tightly reveals a lack of faith in a God who has forgiven yesterday and is preparing tomorrow for you.

The Bible speaks to this subject when it says that God removes our sin as "far as the east is from the west." God was speaking to our bitterness when He led Paul to write, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV

The choice is, indeed, yours--living life through your windshield or your rear view mirror. The change in perspective will make a world of difference in every area of your life. And, more important, it's the way God intended us to live our lives in Him.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Relational

It seems everywhere I turn these days, there are conversations and articles about "social media." As a nation, we have become enamored with the use of technology when it comes to our need for relationships. Where this really becomes a concern for me is my call to make fully devoted followers of Christ out of the people I come in contact with (it's your call too if you are a Christ follower). The question I have is, how do we make disciples in an age where Facebook is considered the basis of a relationship?

If you read carefully the stories of Jesus, Paul and the early disciples, you understand their emphasis on life-shared experiences and relational teaching. Yes, Jesus taught His disciples...but it was in the course of a life that was experienced together.

I get frustrated by Church people who believe that their occasional appearances at a worship service will somehow grow them into a mature believer. Such behavior will no more mature you spiritually than showing up at the dinner table once a week will grow you physically. If you are not in a constant, ongoing relationship with other Christ followers--more than just a worship service--you can't possibly be open to the kind of community that God created you for. Here's the clincher: it's only in this kind of community where the give and take of accountability can occur. This is where relationships (real ones, not Twittered) fine-tune us, encourage us, strengthen us for life's trials and grow the deep roots of faith we have to have to survive.

Now, the question to be answered, what are you willing to do to put yourself into that kind of "community?" Are you willing to expose yourself to accountability, to truth and to truly doing life together? Worship is good...really good. But it cannot take the place of having community with other Christ followers that know you on a deeper level. Community lost may be one of the greatest challenges facing our churches today. Without it, we all run the risk of remaining a mile wide and an inch deep in our faith.