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Archive for October, 2009

Keep It Simple

One of the quotes I have pinned to my bulletin board caught my eye yesterday.  It is a quote from a jazz legend named Charles Mingus.  Here is what he said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”

Reading this quote has had me thinking off and on since.  I have had this question rolling around in my head since yesterday, “Have I made the simple message of the Gospel complicated?”

I think one of the downfalls of the church is the sad truth that we have taken a simple message of love and forgiveness and made it immensely complicated.  Instead of focusing on a relationship, we have made it about religion.  Instead of concentrating on freedom, we have made it about rules.

God loves you and wants to have a relationship with you – that’s it in a nutshell.

It really is that simple!  Have you made it more complicated?

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I am still reading in Romans 11.  Today I got to the end of the chapter and ran across this verse and I have been rejoicing in it ever since.  Do this for me – stop reading right here, just for a minute, and click the link in green and read the verse and then come back here and read the rest of the post.

Now just let that verse settle for a minute . . .

There is no way we can ever fully understand God.  We talked about this earlier this week.  I learned early in my college career, a very frustrating lesson.  I really like to have things nailed down and really understand things, but I learned early on that in a lot of areas, the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.  Now that may not bother you, but for me, it has been a lesson that frustrated me at first.

But when I understand this truth about God, I have to stop and praise my Creator!  God is so magnificent, so big, so beyond anything we can understand, that it makes me realize there is nothing I can encounter that God cannot handle.

God is so awe inspiring that I don’t have to worry about anything – nothing!  In fact, simply thinking about how overwhelmingly unknowable God is shrinks my problems and concerns.

How big is God to you?

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Does Hearing Lead To Action?

I had the unique opportunity to hear Francis Chan, a pastor in Simi Valley, CA, preach yesterday at a conference in Arlington.  He is an exceptional communicator and did a great job.  One of the things he said in one of his sermons has haunted me ever since he said it.  He talked about how we often pray to hear a word from God.  We set aside time to pray and read in hopes that we will hear from God.  But then he asked the question, “When we hear a word from God, do we do anything about it?”

He used an illustration of playing a game of Simon Says.  He reminded us that when you play Simon Says, all those playing must do what the leader says (emphasis on the word DO).  However, when we read in the Bible what Jesus taught, we have taken the approach that we should memorize it but little more.  We can quote scripture of what Jesus said, but has it impacted the way we live?

I am still wrestling with this question.  How about you?  When you hear from God, do you do anything about it?

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It’s All or Nothing

One of my favorite authors of all time is Thomas Merton.  He has been described as one of the most influential spiritual masters of the twentieth century.  He was a monk, a poet and a writer.

I ran across this quote yesterday and it has had me thinking ever since:  “A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all.  No man can serve two masters.  Your life is shaped by the end you live for.  You are made in the image of what you desire.”

“A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all” – Wow!  That hits home for me.  I think we all have a tendency to compartmentalize our lives – our spiritual lives are lived at church, our family lives are lived at home and our work lives or school lives are lived there.  But Merton reminds us that it is all or nothing.

Is your job spiritual?  How about your home or family life – is it spiritual?  God wants all of you not just part of you.

I challenge you today to spend some time contemplating your life.  Is it spiritual (focused on God – serving God) or is it non-spiritual (focused on yourself)?

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One of my earliest memories on a motorized vehicle was when I was about 6 years old or so.  My dad had found a mini-bike.  Now for you folks not familiar with such things, a mini-bike is a small two-wheeled invention with a five horse or so motor mounted on it – no gears, just a throttle and a brake.  This one was red and it had black handle grips and a black seat – the seat was a piece of plywood with 3″ foam on top and covered in black shag carpet – yeah, real shag baby.  It was stylish.

The brake was a foot lever that when pushed would make a steel plate press against the tire – yep, that’s how you stopped (in theory anyway).  My first time on that contraption was in the alley behind our house.  Now a key point to the story comes at this point – at the west end of our alley was a street but at the east end, the alley made a T and there was a row of houses backed up to the alley, each with a back fence (you may be guessing what comes next but don’t get ahead of me).

My dad pull started the engine, I got on and away I went, straight down the alley.  Things were progressing well until I realized I was going to have to slow down at the end of the alley.  A minor point omitted to this point, and unbeknownst to me at the time, is that the throttle had a tendency to stick.  I let off the throttle but nothing happened, I maintained my break-neck speed (probably about 20 miles per hour).  I began to push the brake with my foot but it wasn’t helping.

I got to the end of the alley and went head-on into a fence.  Oddly enough, that stopped me.  I missed a telephone pole by inches so I walked away with only a deep scrape on my knee from glancing off the pole.  But the fence didn’t fare so well – I had knocked it down.  I am sure my dad spent the better part of a day repairing the fence so it was fine.  But I was left with a fear of that mini-bike and a scar that I carried on my knee for years to come.

I quickly got over my fear, but the scar remained.

I am reminded today that we all have scars – all kinds of scars – physical, emotional and maybe even spiritual.  But here is the challenge for today, don’t let the scars hold you back, use them to remind you of the lessons you learn along the journey – let those lessons make you stronger.

God wants to use all of you to make a difference – scars and all!

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We’ve all known people like this – loud, overly confident, always bragging about accomplishments they have made or how much they know – arrogance is all around us.  To be blunt, I don’t really like being around arrogant people – they annoy me, especially the ones who are arrogant about their faith or their Christian walk.  I have said this before, but if you ever encounter a person who suggests they have everything worked out and can explain all the mysteries of God – you need to run; get as far away from them as you can.

I don’t think God takes delight in arrogance.  In fact, that is what got the Pharisees in trouble.  The fact that they were so sure of what they believed is the very downfall that kept them from recognizing Jesus as the son of God.  I don’t want to be a Pharisee!  I want to remain open to what God is trying to do in and through me.  So this requires humility.

Humility is hard for all of us – more so for some than others.  Our society teaches us that it is ALL ABOUT ME!  I have rights and you can’t tell me what to do.  We are so programed to believe that the world revolves around us that it is sometimes hard to remember that God is in control – not us.

If we are truly going to follow God, we must do so out of a sense of humility – humility that understands God is in charge and others are just as important as us.  We have to remember that we do not have the corner on the market for understanding God.  We have to remain open to the fact that we can really only understand as much about God as God reveals to us.

Remember that God is God and we are not – don’t be a Pharisee.

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Be Full

I was reading in Romans 11 this morning of how Paul was considered the Apostle to the Gentiles or the non-Jewish folk of the time.  He talked here about how his hope was that through the conversion of the non-Jewish people, that the Jews (his very people) would be jealous and thus want to turn to Jesus as well.

But here is what caught my attention today, the word that will stay with me and hopefully form me to be more like Jesus today is “fulfillment.”  Paul said in verse 12 that through their reconciliation to Jesus, they would be fulfilled.

How many people do you know that are looking for fulfillment?  Are you looking for fulfillment?  Do you turn to your job to fill that need for validation and feeling full?  Do you turn to your spouse for that feeling of fulfillment?

The Bible teaches that true fulfillment – feeling complete and valued – can only come from God.  Why is that?  I believe it is because in reality, when this life is over, all that really matters is how we followed Jesus.  What did you do with your life to make an impact for God’s kingdom.

The only thing that really brings fulfillment is a life lived for Jesus – fleshed out in how we love others – that’s the full life.

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