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Archive for July, 2009

This past weekend I had 45 minutes to kill on Sunday afternoon before heading off to ensemble rehearsal in preparation for our community singing service.  So what did I do?  Well, being the time conscious person that I am, I could not bear the thought of just sitting for that 45 minutes so I decided to replace the sink faucet in one of our bathrooms.  Mistake number one – I am not much of a plumber!  Mistake number two, you don’t do anything with plumbing with the water we have in this town in less than a couple of days!

At any rate, it was not a pretty sight.  I missed rehearsal just so that I could get the line capped off and turn the water back on to the house before being gone all evening.  I then returned to the project at 9:30 that evening and “finished” the installation by 11:00.  Then I noticed that the drain pipe was cracked – quite possibly from one of my many tantrums I threw while installing the new faucet.

All of this has taught me that I need to remember that all of us have limits.  One of mine must be plumbing skills (or lack there of)!  I will most likely not refrain from dabbling in plumbing repairs in the future but I will remember that I am not very accomplished in this field – I will know my limits.

Now, before we jump to any hasty moral to this story – knowing our limits does not mean that we should become lazy.  God did create us to be gifted in certain things but that does not exclude us from serving in other capacities as well.  There must be a balance between knowing our limits and becoming lazy and using our limits as an excuse.  A committed Christian NEVER retires!

By the way, two days later, the sink is still not functional!  I know, I know!  Kristi, I promise it will be done before I go to sleep tonight!

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I was waiting at a cash register recently and no one was there to check me out.  I was in a hurry and had places I needed to be.  Finally, the employee happened over and rang up my purchase.  I have to confess that my frustration probably clouded my perception of that person – OK – no question that it did.

I was reading in Matthew this morning about Jesus’ parable about how if we have shown compassion and love to even the least, we have shown it to him.  Wow!  It hit me in that moment that everyone of us, according to the first chapter of Genesis, is created in God’s image, even that person at the register.  But in my frustration of the moment, I admit, I was not looking for the image of God in that person.

The question I have to ask myself (and perhaps you can ask yourself if you have ever been in that type situation) is this:  “How different would my interaction with that person have been had I been focused on finding the image of God in that person?”  Mind you, I was not rude or obnoxious with the person (even though a part of me wanted to be) but I was not compassionate or caring either.

I challenge you today to search out the image of God in the people you meet.  Seek to minister to everyone you come in contact with – Jesus said whatever we have done with the least of these, we have done with him.

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I woke up this morning with this thought running through my mind.  I kept asking the question, “What does living the Christian life look like in a purely practical sense.”  Or put another way, if I say that I believe in Jesus and his teachings and have dedicated my life to follow him, then what should my life truly look like to those around me.  The answer that came to me and still comes to me almost hauntingly is this:  “The answer lies at the foot of the cross.”

If I imagine myself standing at the foot of the cross, with all the sites and sounds of that horrific event swimming around in my mind, I begin to see the life of an authentic Jesus follower in vivid clarity.  I am not saying that we must each die on a cross literally, but Jesus was very clear that following him meant dying to self and taking up our cross daily.

But lets keep this image concrete and tangible – the authentic life – the life lived in commitment to Jesus – is one of sacrifice and humility.  When I look at the cross, I see a man who gave up everything and humbly did what God told him to do for others – all others including you and me.  He sacrificed everything for what he believed in – what he knew God wanted.

So, I ask the question again, “What does living the Christian life look like in a purely practical sense.”  The answer lies at the foot of the cross.  The Christian life, authentically lived should be a life of humble sacrifice – giving ourselves completely over to whatever God leads us to do.

  • Putting others’ needs before our own
  • Loving not only those who love us but those who don’t
  • Showing mercy and grace in our relations with one another
  • Turning the other cheek and not demanding my rights if I have been wronged

(Just a very brief and incomplete listing of traits)

I challenge you today to think about this, “If I claim to be a Jesus follower, does my life show it – do others see it?”

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Hands and Feet

There is an over-used, catchy saying that goes like this:  “People don’t care how much you know if they don’t know how much you care.”  In other words, we can try and share the awesome news of Jesus’ love and freedom all we want with people but it won’t mean much if what we say is not reflected in what we do and how we live everyday.

I am really proud of our youth this week.  They have already been to El Paso on a mission trip in June and now this week they are bringing it home.  They have set aside this week as local missions week.  Yesterday they cleaned up around a lady’s home who could not have done the work herself.  Today they will do a little more of the same and also begin working on her carport (that is falling down).  This lady is not a member of our church.  She is a lady in our community who needs help.

We must never fail to share the message of Jesus with folks – we are called to make disciples (read about that here) but we must earn the right to share that message by being the hands and feet and face of Jesus.  Our students are doing that this week.

How about you?  How can you be the hands and feet and face of Jesus today?

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Many of you are probably old enough to remember when computers began to make their way into everyday life.  It was a new thing for most of us.  I was in graduate school in the late 80’s when I got my first computer.  It had a 20 megabyte hard drive and I thought I would never use that much memory (wow!).

Back then, the software was good for the time but there was an issue with putting things on the screen and then having to print the file to see what it would actually look like on the page.  Software that could give you the same look on the screen as the page proudly advertised the acronym WYSIWYG.  It became a word that people recognized.  The acronym stood for “What You See Is What You Get” – pretty creative huh?  You could format the document or spread sheet and see on the screen what it would look like on the page.

In thinking about all of this, I am reminded that as Christians, we are to be transparent.  When people encounter us, what they see should be what they get – no hidden agendas and no masks.  I realize this is counter-cultural.  The world would say “never show your hand” and “don’t let them see you cry.”  In other words, the world would say, “never let them see your true self.”  Wouldn’t life be simpler if everyone was just honest and transparent.

As Christians, we must set this example.  It is a challenge for sure, but one that we are called to live if we are going to follow Jesus.  Take the challenge!

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Anytime I think of the 4th of July, I think of freedom – as do most Americans.  We set aside a day to think about the importance of freedom and living in a country that offers freedom to the people who live here.  It is an humbling thought to think about the men and women who have given their lives in service to this great country.  We are truly blessed as a nation.

But as I think about freedom, my mind always turns to true freedom – spiritual freedom – the freedom that God gives each of us.  A freedom of choice – a choice that we each must make as to whether to follow God or to live for ourselves.  God loves us so much that we have been given this freedom.  No one is a puppet at the end of God’s strings.  We each have the freedom to choose to worship and follow God or not.

But freedom is a two-edged sword.  Freedom is a gift that we must never take for granted but it comes with responsibility – we must choose.  Our parents can’t make the decision for us.  It is a personal, individual decision that each of us must make.  It is not just a decision to claim to be a Christian – it is a commitment to give everything you have and are to God and live in such a way as to carry out God’s plan of drawing others to God’s kingdom.

By not making a decision, we have chosen.  I pray that this 4th of July will be a reminder for each of us that we must make a conscious decision to live for God daily.  You are completely free to choose – what is your choice TODAY?

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I have been thinking a lot lately about what a church should look like – how it should reach out and how it should disciple those within.  I’ve been thinking about the balance between evangelism, ministry and discipleship.  I am still working through my thoughts on all of this but one thing I know for sure – the church must never turn inward and stop focusing on God and the people God sent Jesus to die for so many years ago.

I was in a conference a few years ago and had the pleasure of hearing Reggie McNeal speak.  He told a story of how he had been hired to consult with a church about how they could reach out into the community more effectively.  When he arrived at the church, he checked a sign in the entry way that listed all the meetings going on at the church that evening to find the room in which he was to meet.  He noticed that in the room next to his meeting was another meeting regarding facilities.

When he got to his meeting room he asked what the meeting next door was about.  He was told that the other meeting was dealing with how to stop the wear and tear on their facility caused by so many people from the community using the building.

Wow!  What a vivid picture!  One group wanting to reach out and another wanting to keep people out.  But before you or I get too pious, are our churches that different?  Do we truly want to reach out and bring people in?  Or do we feel more comfortable reaching out as long as “those” people stay right where they are?

I am not positive, but I think when everyone in the church decides that the task of the church is to reach out and bring people in  – then we will see a church that makes a difference.

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I listen to a daily devotional podcast done by the Jesuit order.  Most days are really good but today seemed to grab me more than normal.  The passage was out of Matthew (read it here) – the story of Jesus casting the demons out of the demoniacs and into the swine.  When the demoniacs first saw Jesus, they immediately recognized him as the Son of God and asked what he wanted with them.  After casting the demons out of the men and into swine, the herders ran into town and told everyone they saw.

The story ends with the entire town coming out and begging Jesus to leave the area.  The issue is that when people come face to face with Jesus, change happens.  The demons were afraid because they knew what was coming.  The townspeople were afraid because they did not want to be confronted by Jesus either.

I have to ask myself the same question, “What is it that I hold on to or maybe holds on to me, that causes me to resist Jesus and the transformation he wants for me?”  Am I ever guilt of saying, “Leave me alone Jesus!”?

I have not been able to shake this question.  I will live in this question today and pray for God to reveal to me how I can give all of myself to God.

How about you?  Is there anything you hide away or hold on to that prevents you from being fully devoted to God?

Something to think about.

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