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Archive for February, 2010

Beans and Rice

I had a meeting yesterday with two really dedicated missionaries in the El Paso area.  They run a food bank for a local colonia (unincorporated community) just outside El Paso.  Every Tuesday, they give out beans and rice (an average of 900 pounds per month) along with other grocery items.  During this time, they have a worship service with those who come for assistance and also have an opportunity to pray with each of the folks.  Next month will mark nine years for them in this ministry.

I left the meeting amazed and inspired by their dedication.  Thank you Elfie and Joan for your tireless dedication to our Lord and the people of Fabens and the border towns just inside Mexico.

May we all strive to live out our salvation as you do each day!

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Grace and a Bicycle

My brother and I are very close and always have been.  I cherish our friendship and the relationship with which God has blessed us.  But, as with any relationship, we have had our disagreements.  Fortunately for us, ours happened when we were kids.

One time in particular comes to mind in which my brother instilled in me the meaning of consequences for my actions.  I do not remember doing anything to him – I am sure I was minding my own business – ok, truthfully, I don’t know what I did but I am sure it was not loving and brotherly.  At any rate, he chased me out of the house.  I beat him to my bike and rode off.  Of course, being the mature older brother that I was, I then proceeded to ride back in forth in front of the house mocking him each time I rode by.  What came next was a lesson I have never forgotten.  He grabbed a broom and would attempt to hit me when I rode by.  I am not sure that his strategy included his next stroke of genius but the last time by, he stuck the broom handle into the spokes of my front wheel.

Now I am sure you understand the ramifications of such actions.  At 15 to 20 miles per hour, when a front tire ceases to turn, the bike stops.  Unfortunately for me, the rider does not.  I face planted onto the pavement in the street in front of our home.  Of course this was long before the thought that one should wear a helmet while riding a bike (helmets were reserved for motorcycles or when jumping our bikes off 15 foot embankments).  Now that I think about it, the fact that I wasn’t wearing a helmet could explain a lot!

At any rate, I learned the hard way that day that it is not polite nor acceptable to chide and mock another person.  However, the lesson from this painful story is this:  relationships work because of grace, forgiveness and understanding (and in this case, a hard head).  Through the years, our relationship has grown because of his willingness to forgive me and my willingness to forgive him – all because of the love we have for each other.

God provides this grace with no strings attached.  So if today, you feel you have gone too far and God can never accept you as you are with all your faults, I am here to tell you that he offers grace, forgiveness and love.  Your actions will always carry consequences but God’s grace is sufficient to see you through.

Lean on God’s grace today!

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I have had a renewed realization that I need to be getting exercise.  It really hit me a few weeks ago when I took the boys for a suicide ski trip to Ruidoso.  We skied all day and then made the four hour drive home.  By the time I got out of the car at home, I could hardly walk.  My legs had tightened up and the next few days were somewhat uncomfortable.

So this week, I decided it was time to get back into the gym.  I went on Monday and eased into my old workout routine thinking I would minimize the soreness that way, and for the most part, that strategy has worked.  But this morning as a I went through my routine, I was reminded that I have a long way to go to get back in shape.

This experience has reminded me as well, that there are other “muscles” that atrophy when we don’t use them.  I am thinking of the spiritual muscles of listening to God, of showing Jesus’ love to those around us and other similar muscles.  Why is it that these muscles need to be exercised?

Two things to think about today: 1) We need to exercise these muscles because it is here that we grow our relationship with God.  So we have to be intentional and fierce when it comes to focusing on our relationship with God.

2) Exercise is necessary because without it, our spiritual life will atrophy.  The world in which we live does not put any priority on a relationship with God.  In fact, Jesus showed us just how counter-cultural following God with the heart really was in his time – today is no different.

So exercise those muscles today – it may be difficult to get into the routine at first, but once you get started, you will be glad you did!

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Leaders aren’t born, they form.  I truly believe that statement.  Certainly, people are born with certain skills, passion and gifts that help them down the road to leadership, but much of what makes a leader is learned and experienced.

The most important key to leadership is trust.  Do people trust you?  There are libraries of leadership books that will give you all kinds of formulas and ideas for leading people.  But if the people you lead cannot trust you, nothing is going to work.

So how do you build trust?  First, realize that trust does not come with title and position.  Sure, you will begin a new position with some “leadership change” in your pocket, as John Maxwell has said.  You will be given a little trust up front simply because people will give you the benefit of the doubt.  But that is not going to carry you far.

There are volumes written on this subject, but today I want to leave you with two ideas to think about as they relate to building trust.  The first is that people need to know that you truly and sincerely care about them – and that takes time.

The second is that you need to be transparent and vulnerable.  People need to see that you are real and authentic.  When you mess up, and you will, admit it, learn from it and go on.

People will trust someone who really cares and is authentic; and people will follow a leader they can trust.

Lead well today!

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This morning I spent some time looking back through Brian McClaren’s book, Finding Our Way Again.  The book deals with regaining a sense of the contemplative life – the life that spends time in the interior aspects of our being.  McClaren does a great job reminding us that our focus on our relationship with God is not an end in and of itself – our relationship with God serves as the platform from which God affects the world.  At the close of one of the chapters I had written this prayer in a blank spot on the page – it is my prayer today and I hope it could be your prayer too.

Father – I am utterly inadequate to be an apostle.  Mold me through your word, your touch, your community – into one empowered by your Spirit – committed to making a difference around me in my world.  Not only in the lives of my family and friends but also in the lives of strangers – even in the lives of enemies!  An apostle!

Amen

Be blessed today!

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During my prayer and reading time this morning, I was struck with an idea and I can’t let it go.  As I pray for our church and the entire movement of Christ followers, I am reminded that a true follower of the Way should be fully committed to living for Jesus and loving as he loved.

However, so often, we lose that passion.  Part of the reason, I have observed, is that we grow numb to God working around us.  In fact, we often reach a point at which we feel we have arrived – we are mature in our faith.

Unfortunately, “maturity” too often is actually complacency. Complacency is a cancer that is eating away at the very heart of the church today.

Why is it that once we have been a Christ follower for a number of months or years, we become less effective as disciples?

It is because we have lost the fire, the passion, the excitement of what it means to live for Jesus – to love like he showed us to love.

Complacency is a cancer – don’t let it go untreated any longer!

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Just a Snapshot

This morning I heard a song I have never heard before, Before the Morning, by Josh Wilson.  There is a line in that song that has really stuck with me, and in fact, is the title of the album, “life is not a snapshot, it might take a little time but you’ll see the bigger picture.”

A snapshot is just that – a snap shot – a split second in time.  It is not life defining.  As followers in the Way, we live with the big picture in mind – or at least we should.  Whatever you are experiencing today is temporary.  Life ebbs and flows.  Some days are better than others.

So if you have been living in the shadow of suffering, hang in there, it very well could be the darkness before the dawn.  Another line in the same song speaks to this: “the pain you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.”

Dare to believe – the snapshot you are living today is just a moment in time – there is more.  God is going to do something amazing today, you just watch!

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