Archive for January, 2010

Who Do You Doubt?

We are into our second week of the study, “In The Dust of the Rabbi,” on Wednesday nights.  Last night we had a good bit of discussion around one particular Bible story.  You can read the story here.

The setting was the Sea of Galilee and the disciples in a boat, caught in a storm.  Jesus came walking along as if this was a normal thing and said something to the effect, “Hey guys, what’s up?”  Well, something like that.

When the disciples figured out who was out on the water, Peter wanted to join him.  He asked Jesus to call him out of the boat.  Jesus did and so Peter stepped out on the water – not in the water, on the water – he was doing it!

The problem came when he took his eyes off Jesus and focused his attention on the waves and wind.  He began to sink and called out to Jesus to save him.  I have written about this story before – you can read that post here – but today, the point I want to make is a little different.

What was Jesus’ response when Peter called out for Jesus to save him?  “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  Now I have always read this story and thought, “Peter was doubting Jesus.”  But think about it.  Was Peter really doubting Jesus?

Jesus was still standing on the water – he wasn’t sinking!  So why would he be doubting Jesus if Jesus is still standing there?  I think he was doubting himself and the calling Jesus gave him to step out of the boat.  I don’t think it was an accident that the disciple in this story is Peter – the bold one.

Jesus used this experience to illustrate the importance of being bold in our faith.  If Jesus has called each of us to follow him (and he has) then why should we doubt?  Jesus is still standing!

Jesus has a plan for each of us – it is his plan – it can’t fail.  So be bold in the way you step out of the boat today – or do you still doubt?

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As  a minister, it is not uncommon for a children’s class to do some project to show their appreciation for the church staff.  Several years ago, one of our children’s classes did just that.  They made book marks from regular copy paper.  On the paper they wrote a verse and included some artwork along with a three word reminder.

It still hangs above my desk on my bulletin board.  The verse comes from Hebrews 13:7 and says, “Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you.  As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith.”  Below the verse is a hand-drawn cross and the symbol of the fish.  Then below the multi-colored artwork is this phrase, “Follow the Leader.”

What a humbling reminder that children (adults as well) are watching what I do and how I live as a model for their own faith.  Knowing myself as I do, at times I want to say, “Don’t look to me.”  But I know that God planned the Christian community this way – to learn from and lean on one another.  I also realize that as a minister, for better or worse, I am more in the spot light than many.  So I am tremendously humbled.

But as I think about this reality today, I also know that who I want people to see in me is Jesus.  So while the children who made this bookmark for me were telling me that they are watching me so as to imitate my faith, I must always be watching Jesus to be able to imitate him.

Who are you watching today?

Follow the Leader!

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In the Absence of God

Do you ever feel God is silent?

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit with a young man who is suffering.  He was visibly hurting, to the point of tears, so I approached him to offer a shoulder.  He relayed to me that his grandmother has been sent home to die of cancer.  Hospice has taken over and the only thing left is to wait for the inevitable.  On top of that devastation, his mother-in-law just learned that she may have cancer as well.  As I sat beside this broken young man, I had little to offer but an ear.  I did my best to console him and his wife.  I then knelt and prayed with them and went on my way.

I have been thinking a lot about suffering lately.  We all suffer from time to time.  Many of us have experienced deep emotional and spiritual pain.  I have been there and find myself there now.  Some of you may be with me in the midst of this kind of suffering today.  If you have never experienced a period in your life when you felt God was absent and silent, I pray you never do – it is agonizing.

But even in the midst of such pain and suffering, I know that God is at work.  I trust that God is in control.  No matter how abandoned I feel, I have to believe that God has a plan.  It is in times like this that we must press on.  Even in the hollowness of going through the motions, God wants us to be faithful and do what we know to do.

Jesus never told us that following him would be easy – simple maybe – but not easy.  Press on!  Have hope!  God is still in control.

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I have said this before, but Kristi and I have been blessed with three amazing sons!  Our youngest sang this past Saturday in Lubbock as part of the middle school all-region choir (8th chair first tenor).  I sat and beamed with pride as our son stood on the front row of those risers, singing with the rest of the “best of the best” from the schools in this area.  They did an incredible job.

We have been to a multitude of choir concerts as parents, but this one was different.  There was a noticeable focus in each of the choir members.  Each one was there because he or she wanted to be and the result was inspirational.

It got me to thinking – what if church could be like that?  What would your church look like if everyone who attended this coming Sunday, was there to praise God and to learn how to follow Jesus more passionately?  What would your community look like if everyone who attends your church on Sunday were on fire for God during the week?

You may be thinking, “That is a nice dream but it will never happen.”

I want to leave you with one question:

“Why not?”

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A Soul That Pants

Just how passionate are you about following Jesus.  Before you answer that question, remember that there is a cost to being a disciple.  I have written before about counting the costs of true discipleship – you can read that here.

As I said yesterday, Jesus isn’t looking for converts – Jesus is looking for people who are sold out for him.

In Psalm 42:1, the writer says this:  “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.”  Does your soul long for God?

Pray that God will make you thirsty today!

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Tonight I am beginning a study on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  We are going to look at several things over the next few weeks on Wednesday nights dealing with discipleship.  As I have been reading and preparing for this first session, something very startling has become very clear to me.  2000 years ago, Jesus was not looking for converts.  Jesus isn’t looking for converts today either.

The majority of those who proclaim to be believers stop short of what Jesus is really looking for in a follower.  Jesus’ ministry was centered around a group of 12 people.  Obviously he touched many thousands of people during his short 3 years on earth, but his most devoted followers were few – but that was just fine.  In fact, Jesus designed it that way.

You see, for Jesus’ mission to be carried out, he needed fully committed, passionate and disciplined followers.  Nominal followers would not have carried out his mission once he was gone.  He needed people he could entrust with the very plan of God.

Today is no different.  Jesus is not looking for mere converts.  Jesus is looking for committed, passionate and disciplined people to carry out his mission – people who are so focused on following and serving Jesus that nothing else will do.

Are you that person today?  Did you ever have that passion – that drive?  What happened?

If you are in the Levelland vicinity, stop by First Baptist Church tonight at 6:00 and join the conversation.

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Suffering in Haiti

Tough Topic Tuesday:  How is it that we serve a loving and gracious God but bad things still happen.

With the earthquake in Haiti, the age old question of why bad things happen to innocent people has been on the minds of most folks.  While I don’t have the answers, I do have some things for us to remember in the wake of such devastation and suffering.

First off, I am going to have to differ in opinion with some vocal Christian leaders quoted by the media in recent days.  I do not serve a God who punishes innocent people by “causing” this kind of suffering.  Haiti is not being punished.  God is present even in the midst of this devastation but is not its cause.

God created this world and the people in it – but along side this creation was given free-will.  Much of the suffering in the world is the result of the decisions of mankind – allowed by God but not caused by God.  Wars kill innocent people but people decide to go to war.

I am not a scientist, so I do not know the full impact the decisions of mankind have on the earth.  But I do know that mankind has lived for generations on this planet and has consistently plundered the resources with little regard to the future.

The main point I want to make is this: God loves each and every person in the country of Haiti and I believe God’s heart is aching along side each and every person in that situation.  The real issue is this – God expects us to love our brothers and sisters and have compassion for them.  So what is it that we can do to bring relief to the suffering – put another way, how can God use you and me to minister to the hurting in Haiti.

There are a number of ways to help in the effort to bring relief to the suffering.  The American Red Cross is always a good organization to support.  The Texas Baptist Men are putting together water purification systems and could use donations as well. My point is not to push a particular organization but rather to remind you that there are ways to help.

The biggest thing you can do is pray for those people.  God is not the cause of this situation but God is the answer.  Pray that God would use people to impact the suffering.

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In leadership positions we must learn the importance of seizing opportunities.  We train ourselves to be sensitive to those opportunities when they arise because we know that, normally, opportunities are time sensitive.  With most opportunities there is a window.

As I think about all the windows of opportunity I am faced with on a daily basis – opportunities to reach out to others, to show Jesus’ love to them, to grow to be more of the leader God wants me to be – I am reminded that windows not only offer a view of what is on the other side of the glass.

Have you ever noticed that while you are looking out a window, you not only see what is outside but also a reflection of what is on your side of the glass as well?  The lighting has to be just right for this to happen, but it requires you to concentrate on what is on the other side of the glass because you are having to look through the images reflecting on it.

The reflection we see when we look out windows is who?  Ourselves (unless you live in a different plane of existence)!  I would suggest to you that opportunities arise each and every day – all kinds of opportunities.  But the real issue is what is in the mirror not the window.

In every window of opportunity, there is also a mirror.  What we have to remember is that regardless of the opportunity, the responsibility to seize that opportunity falls squarely to the image in the mirror.

Get busy!

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I have to thank my wife for this post today.  I had always been a camping, hiking, hunting, mountain kind of guy before marrying her.  It did not take her long to get me to include the beach and the sun and the sand to my loves in life.

There is something spiritual about standing at the edge of the ocean.  The picture of the vastness of the sea makes me feel small.  My thoughts then turn to God, the creator of all that I see and I realize just how big God must be – and just how small I am in comparison.

I am reminded that the world does not revolve around me.  I am reminded that there is something bigger than my needs and desires.  I am refreshed in my commitment to live with a passion to please the creator.

How about you?  What makes you feel this way?

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Distorted View

On the back of the current issue of Weavings is a very thought provoking prayer / poem.  It is written by John Mogabgab and here is what it says,

To see the world in the

transfiguring light

of God’s grace

rather than God

in the distorting prisms

of the world

is the turning for which

we must pray daily.

Distorting – that is such a descriptive word – taking truth and twisting and mangling it to the point that it doesn’t look the same any more – like looking into an amusement park mirror.  The world in which we live is driven by values that have twisted what life is really about.

So often, I catch myself looking to God to fix this, or get involved in that area of my life – as if God’s role in the world is to make me happy.  But I think when I do that, I am looking at God through my own distorted view.  Perhaps I should learn to look at my situation through the eyes of God’s grace instead.

That is easy to say but difficult to do.  That is why it should be our prayer daily.

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