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What Is Left?

When the world crashes down, what is left?  One minute, things are good and then the phone rings and you get news that crumples you to the floor – that promotion did not come through or that loved one did not make it through surgery or the test results are back from the doctor and it does not look good.

The reality is, as much as we ignore the fact, we are fragile creatures.  Our world can come tumbling down in an instant.

So what do you do when that happens?  What is left?

When we strip away the surface items, the only thing remaining really is our faith – or the lack of it.  It is in times of struggle that we determine where our faith is actually placed.  We have a tendency to say we trust in God but if we are truthful, we often place a lot of trust in our own abilities – our hard work – our smarts.  But when that phone call comes we realize how truly helpless we are on our own.

Take some time today to think through your own experience.  Where do you place your trust?

There is only one who will not disappoint.  Only one who is worthy of our faith and trust.  Only one that can rescue.

Put your faith in Jesus today.

Nearly Dying To Live

The Christian journey should be carried out awake and fully aware.  On the surface, you are probably saying, “Well, of course!”

But let me ask you, “Are you fully aware of God’s work in your life and around you right now, in this moment?”

I have read many authors who have impacted my life – brilliant minds that communicate truth in a way that inspires.  One of those is Ben Johnson.  In his book, Living Before God, he addressed this issue of living life unaware, calling it “life sleep.”  He talked about how we go through our daily routine – get out of bed, get ready for the day, go through the day, come home, eat, relax, get ready for bed, get in bed – REPEAT.  Our routine drones on and lulls us into a sense of oblivion.  We may think we are awake when in reality, we are going through the motions without even thinking about what we are doing or why.

Part of becoming more like Jesus is remaining fully aware of God’s work all around us.

Several years ago I nearly died – literally died.  A good friend of mine named Steve and I had just wrapped up a funeral (ironic I know).  The memorial was held for a man who had been a flight instructor and had trained numerous people to fly.  At the graveside, the plan was to have a fly over.  As west Texas weather works, that morning turned off with cold temperatures and drizzle.  But one committed soul (not necessarily bright soul) decided to brave the elements and honor his mentor with a fly over.

As we were leaving the grave site, we noticed the plane banking to make one more pass over the cemetery.  The plane’s path would take it directly over us as we were walking and then right over the top of the tent at the grave.  The plane continued to descend directly at us.  About 50 yards in front of us, the plane hit power lines that stretched across the cemetery.  One of the lines snapped and sparks began to fly.  The wings of the plane dipped but recovered and was able to stay in the air.  Had the plane come down, it would have taken us out – pushing us right into the very grave we just left.

Steve and I walked around the live wires dancing on the ground and got into the car.

We both sat down in shock.  We looked at each other and I don’t remember who spoke first, but the question was asked, “Do you realize how close we just came to dying?”  My heart was racing, the hair on my arms was standing and i was breathing hard.  All of the sudden, life was raw.  It was almost surreal.  But in that moment, I was fully aware of my humanity and the fragile existence we call life.  I was fully awake.

I am not suggesting that we should seek near-death experiences on a daily basis in order to live life fully alive, but I am asking the question, “Shouldn’t life be lived with our eyes open and with an awareness of God’s movement in it?”

A part of growing to be more like Jesus is being fully engaged in life – in all of life.  We cannot allow ourselves to check out and fall asleep.

Wake up – life is happening and God is at work!

Christianity is often labeled as a belief system of requirements complete with a laundry list of “do’s” and “don’ts.”  People protest “religion” because it is a system designed by humanity that sometimes takes the place of God all the while claiming to be the avenue by which we can reach the creator.  And often, this system is virtually impossible to follow.  It can lead to frustration and confusion.  The result has been a movement to reject organized religion.  Those doing so have grown in numbers to the point there is a name for them – the “nones.”

Unfortunately, the claim that religion is a problem is often true.  Religion can become a hinderance to an authentic relationship with God if we let it.  But don’t throw out the baby with the baptismal bath waters.  Hebrews 10:25 reminds us to never turn away from the gathering of like-minded believers together in order that we might encourage one another along this journey in The Way.

We are relational creatures.  We were created with a need for one another and even more so – a need for God.  So organized religion can serve a purpose.  We are called to be salt in a tasteless world and light in a dark existence – and we can fulfill that calling more effectively together.

But the question remains, “What does God expect from me?”

It is true, humanity has built elaborate systems to try and answer this question.  But the reality is – the answer is extremely simple.  Micah 6:8 boils down the entirety of the Christian walk into a single verse:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

There it is – act as we should, love mercy and walk humbly with God.  God seeks a relationship with you.  God wants to walk with you along this journey and guide you to live as you should and to be a person that is know for your humility and mercy.  And we can lean on one another along the way and learn from one another as well.

So how are you doing.  How is your relationship with the Father progressing?

Be a blessing today.

It’s a new week – a fresh start.

I challenged our folks yesterday – and in so doing, myself – to press forward to maturity in our faith.  That requires something of us.  Progression in The Way – in becoming more like Jesus – is not something that just happens.  It does not occur by osmosis or by accident.

Don’t misunderstand, I am not talking about salvation.  We are rescued by the Savior, not by anything we do.  But a one time decision to accept the grace Jesus offers by faith does not mean we automatically become mature in our faith.  Maturity comes through effort on our part.  That effort begins with time and focus.  We will never get to know Jesus without spending time focused on him.  Prayer, silence, scripture reading and listening are ways we connect with him.

Where is you focus today?  How much time are you willing to invest in the only relationship that will make a difference in your life?

Be blessed this day.

Fix Your Gaze

I think God may be trying to tell me something.  I posted yesterday about the importance of realizing how easy it is to drift away from God and the things we hold true.  You can read that post here.

So this morning during my time of silence and reading, I was reading through the story of Cornelius in Acts chapter 10.  One of the practices I try to use often is Lectio Divina or Prayerful Reading.  With this practice, you work through just a few verses and read them through looking for a word or phrase that stands out to you and then spend some time meditating on whatever that might be.

As I read the story, Luke tells us that Cornelius was not a Jew but was a God-fearer and prayed continuously (a habit we could all adopt).  During a time of prayer, an angel appeared to him and at his appearance, Cornelius “fixed his gaze” on the angel.  That is the concept that has continued to stick in my mind.  He fixed his gaze – his eyes were glued, his mouth was open and he was completely captivated.  The house could have collapsed around him and he would not have noticed because his full attention was locked on the visitor.

If we want to stop the drift – we have to learn to have that kind of focus.  We have to give God our complete and undivided attention.  When we do, we will experience God in a way never before possible.

Fix your gaze today!

So Easy To Drift

This past Sunday, I preached from a passage in Hebrews 2.  The writer gave an emphatic suggestion that as believers we have to pay attention to our relationship with Jesus.  Verse 1 tells us that if we don’t pay attention, we will drift away from the things we know to be true.  I don’t know about you, but I have found this to be overwhelmingly true in my life over and over again.

For those of you who do not know me, I am a type A person.  I have a To Do List for everything.  In fact, I have been accused of having a To Do List to remind me of what needs to go on my To Do List.  I like checking things off my list and the sense of accomplishment that brings on the days when I actually get to do that.  If I just described you – HIGH FIVE!  There is nothing wrong with being like this.

However, in my drive to accomplish, it is very easy to take my focus off what is really important.  Instead of concentrating on the bigger picture and the overarching calling that is on my life, I get pulled into the minutia that is my day.  It’s subtle.  It’s all but imperceptible – but little by little I drift.  I get busy and push time in silence to the back burner.  It tell myself, “That is what I’ll do when I get home tonight.”  The problem is, there is always one more thing on the To Do List that I could do – one more article I could read – one more call I could make.  So what happens is I fall into bed at an indecent hour and begin thinking about all the things I have to do tomorrow – never once stopping to think about the fact that I served Jesus all day but rarely had a conversation with him.

A day can turn into a week and before long, we look up and we have drifted to a place that we had no intention of being and we really don’t even know how we got here.

Well, today – – I stop drifting.  Today, I focus on what matters.  Today, I anchor my thoughts and actions to the one who called me to this in the first place.

Join me and stop the drift.

Be blessed today!

It is hard to believe that summer is gone and it is time to fight school traffic and all the joys that brings. But beyond the traffic and the lunches and the paperwork (yes, the same pages you filled out last year) there is something intimidating about this day for kids and parents as well.

For kids, there is the excitement of something new and challenging mixed with the fear of the unknown and the dread of homework.  But for parents, the intimidation is different.  It comes more in the form of losing control.  That child that has been under your exclusive care is now out of sight and the care is coming from someone else.  That is scary in many ways.  But take heart and find peace in the fact that God is never absent!  So today, when you feel that concern – simply pray.  The reality is – that is the best thing you can do for your kids – and yourself.

Lord God, I pray today that you will protect our kids. Please grow them into the responsible people you want them to become. Develop them into sincere followers of Jesus so they can make a difference in their schools, in our communities and in our world. And walk with us as parents today.  May we know the peace and comfort that comes with the realization that you have our kids in your hands.  Be with the teachers and administrators in our schools.  Strengthen them and guide them as the strive to pour into the lives of our kids!  Amen!

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