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!


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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When I was 12, I played baseball – first base.  I really enjoyed it but my career came to a close one afternoon when a fast grounder came right down the first base line.  It was coming so fast I had to field it behind the first base bag.  You guessed it, it hit the bag and popped up and hit me in the right eye.  I really don’t remember what happened next.  I remember regaining my senses in the dugout and hearing these words, “That’s gonna leave a mark.”  It did – along with astigmatism I still suffer with today.

I have the opportunity to speak to a group of college students today at noon.  One of the things I want to relate to them is appropriate for us to think about today as well.

Do you want to leave a mark on the world?  At the end of your life, do you want your eulogy to include, “the world is a better place because of  . . . (insert your name)?”

If so, here is something for you to think about today.  Maybe instead for thinking “I want to leave my mark on the world,” maybe the better aspiration would be, “I want to allow God to leave a mark on the world through me.”

The question I have been asking myself over the last week is “whose mark am I trying to leave?”

Leave a mark today!

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True Community

One of the catchiest catch-words in church circles today is “community.”  But what does it mean – what does it look like?

Last night in our study, In The Dust of the Rabbi, we talked about what it was like in the first century in a Greco-Roman world to be a Christ follower.  It would have meant that you would have been excluded from society – the economic world would be closed to you, the political world would be closed as well – because you no longer would be willing to sacrifice to the gods so you would be shunned and even hated.

The early Christians had no choice but to band together to survive.  They needed one another to live.  Community was a way of life – and disciples were born in, raised by and developed in that community.  But today, in our culture, the idea of community is really a little foreign.  We enjoy being with others but we also want our space.  We live in an individualistic society that praises independence.  So living in true community seems odd to us.

Regardless of how independent we may think we are, God actually created us to need others.  So what does community look like in 2010 in America?

The first thought is that the church should be that community – and that is true.  But is it?  Do people really live in community in your gathering of believers?  Is your gathering characterized by transparency, honesty and solid relationships or is it more of a social gathering for an hour or two on Sunday mornings where masks are worn and fronts are maintained?

This morning I am sitting in one of my favorite places to think and enjoy a good cup of coffee and one amazing blueberry scone – Sugar Brown’s.  As I sit and write this post this morning, I am scanning the room and here is what I see:  I see two young females at the back table who appear to be catching up after not seeing each other for a while; I see a young business professional in his suit and kindle, listening with great compassion and attentiveness to a young man who has a speech disability.  On the other side of the room is a table with three middle-aged men laughing and having a great conversation.  Right behind me are two older gentlemen discussing politics.

Now let me clarify that I do not make a habit of eaves dropping on peoples’ conversations, but I have to confess that I am a student of people.  But the point today is that what I am observing this morning at Sugar Brown’s is a clear depiction of community – the way God created it – and it is not even happening in a church (although I could argue that the scone was a spiritual experience).

Where does community happen for you?

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In my prayer and reading time this morning I got all the way through one verse in Romans (now you can see why it is taking me multiple years to make it through the book – I’m up to chapter 12 now).

Romans 12:1 tells us that we should consider God’s mercy – that undeserved gift we have been given.  Upon considering this gift – we should act appropriately by sacrificing ourselves to God.  This is a verse we all know.  But there is something here I want us to think about today.

Paul specifically ties some things together for us here that makes all the difference for those of us who call ourselves Christ followers.  He says that in light of God’s mercy shown to us, we should offer our bodies (our physical beings, the flesh and blood you and me) as a living sacrifice – not some animal we sacrifice by killing on an altar but our living, breathing selves.

Now don’t miss this part – this is to be our reasonable, spiritual act of worship.  I know that different translations use either reasonable or spiritual here and normally I would not point it out but I want us to think about this specifically today.  Not to be a Greek geek, but the original word here is logikein – which can be translated as reasonable or spiritual.  But the point is this, which ever way you choose to translate it, the word carries the idea of our inner being – our spirit.

So what Paul is telling us is that our spiritual, intellectual worship is hollow without our physical commitment as well.  So often, we see our devotion time or sitting in a worship service and singing a few songs and listening to teaching as being where we truly worship.

But Paul is specific – spiritual worship takes physical action!  The Way is not for sitting – it is for getting knee deep in the messiness of life – in the time-consuming awkwardness of demanding relationships.  That is worship!

How will you worship today?

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