Archive for September, 2010

Last week I bit the bullet and started back to exercising.  It hasn’t been easy.  I have yet to come up with a set time to exercise but here are three things I’ve learned in the gym.

1)  The first couple of days after starting back to the gym are the worst.  My old high school coach didn’t know what he was saying when he said, “You gotta get back in there to work the soreness out!”  I’m still sore and I’ve been back!  However, I do know from experience that it will get better in the next few days.

2)  It is very difficult to get into a routine – bad habits of not working out are hard to break.

3)  Some things that don’t feel good are actually good for you.  The world would tell us that we should always do what makes us feel good.  The Bible teaches differently.  Some things that aren’t always pleasant at the time make us stronger in the long run.

There are a couple of similarities to our faith journey here.  Getting into a routine of spending time with God is not always easy.  In fact, the first few days may be difficult.  But the payoff for your discipline will far exceed any “cost” you might have to spend.

Have a blessed day – maybe I’ll see you in the gym!

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I saw a headline this morning in a Christian leadership magazine.  It said, “People Are Resources.”

I understand the intent of the article.  Each and every person has been gifted by God with skills, and talents and passions that God intends for service in Kingdom work.  As a minister, a large part of my job is to help people realize their God-given gifts and then equip and empower them to use those gifts to honor God and fulfill their purpose in life.  It is easy to allow this part of my job to be twisted into something different.  Sometimes, when the pressure is on, it is tempting to see people as resources for allocation to fulfill needs in the church that I am responsible for filling.

But I think we all do that – don’t you?  How many times have you needed something done either at work, or at school or at home and you set out to find the person you could enlist to carry out what you need done?  I am not saying there is anything inherently wrong with this idea – that is how things get done.

But what I am saying is that if we ever allow people to be seen only as resources and for what they can do for us, then we have missed the bigger picture all together.  People are God’s creation and meant for relationships.

Take some time today to focus on your relationships.  That is what God really intends.

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Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a workshop covering web development and branding.  Our presenter was from Canada by way of North Carolina.  At lunch we were discussing the weather patterns of west Texas.  We explained that for us, a normal day is a day in which the wind blows a gentle breeze of 10 to 15 miles per hour.  We also told him that 20 to 30 mile per hour winds would be pretty normal for a windy day.  But then there are often 4 or 5 days per year in which the winds blow so hard that when you walk outside, the sky looks similar to a watered down glass of Diet Coke.

After giving the descriptions of the wind in west Texas, our presenter asked, “Why would you want to live here?”

There are a number of great reasons that I could list for wanting to live here: the people, the wide open spaces or many others.  But I think a picture is worth a thousand words when God decides to show off a little.

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It’s early Thursday morning and I am out on the back deck with a fire in the chimnea – lots on my mind I suppose.  As I sit watching the fire, I watch the flame build and die down.  As I add wood to the fire, the flame builds back up again.  But underneath the flame is where the real fire is – a bed of coals that keeps the fire going.  As I watch the fire I am reminded of a story I heard recently of an Oklahoma pastor named Otto Goins.  You can read his story here.

He is 100 years old.  He preached his first sermon in the summer of 1930.  Now, 80 years later, he is still preaching – and now, right back in the same building he helped build in 1940.  He now lives in a retirement home, but every week his neighbor drives him to church so he can preach.

It is burning coals like Otto that keep the flame going.  Yes, God keeps adding new fuel to the fire in the way of new ministers and leaders, but we must never forget those who have gone before who have kept the fire burning in our churches.

This story also reminds me that even though we may age and reach a point that we retire from our careers, we never retire from serving God.  As a minister, I have heard countless people tell me, “I have served in this capacity for plenty of years, it is time for the younger folks to step up and pull their weight.”  While this is often true, it should never be an excuse for retiring from being a committed believer.  Look at Otto, he is still preaching after 80 years of ministry.

We need the coals to keep the fire going!

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Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God:

But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,

The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries

(Elizabeth Barrett Browning – from Aurora Leigh – 1857)

I had read this before, but ran across it yesterday and had to stop and pray.  The reference is to Moses and his experience of meeting God in a burning bush that was not consumed.

Browning has the uncanny ability to get right to the heart of the matter with eloquence and simplicity.  Her point – God is all around us, in everything we see.  Our problem is that we are too pre-occupied with our lives and our schedules to realize it.

Those who stop and notice God at work in little things like the bloom of a flower or the laughter of children will experience a little glimpse of God – of heaven.

The rest of us go about our busy lives oblivious to God’s movement.

So here is my question for you today:  Will you go about your day intentionally looking for God, or will you simply go pick blackberries?

I would love to hear how you see God today – leave me a comment or send me an email.

Have a blessed day today!

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Monday Morning Even on Tuesday

I set my alarm early this morning to get up and have my prayer and reading time and then to write a truly inspired and inspiring blog post for today.

Instead, I turned the alarm off and thought, “I will just lay here and pray.”  Yeah, that didn’t work!  I turned over again and realized, “Now I’m late!”  So I jumped up, ran to make sure my sons were up and getting ready and then got myself ready.

I got ready just in time to begin the rat race that is taking kids to school.

So much for an inspired blog post.  It just goes to show you it can be Monday morning, even on Tuesday!

Hope you have a blessed Mon . . Tuesday!

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I just dropped our youngest son at football practice (yes on the Labor Day holiday) and as I returned home, I turned on the radio.  There was a song playing that seemed familiar but, as is the case with me much of the time, I had not really listened to the words.

The song was More Like Falling In Love by Jason Gray.  One of the verses says, “Cause all religion ever made me was just a sinner with a stone tied to my feet, it never set me free.”  Then the chorus says this, “More like falling in love than something to believe in, more like losing my heart than giving my allegiance.”

Those words really hit home.  I am not sure that my faith hasn’t become more of a belief system than a love affair.  One of my strong suits is loyalty and allegiance, but if that is all my relationship with Jesus is now days, then something has to change.  I know that Jesus wants more!  He died for you and me out of love, surely he deserves more from me than allegiance.  He desires a passionate relationship.

My prayer for you and myself today is this: Jesus, I don’t want just something to believe in I want to fall in love with you all over again.  Give me the desire and drive to know you more fully and love you more deeply than ever before!    Amen

I challenge you to make that your prayer today.

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A Time To Celebrate

My youngest runs cross country and on Fridays he has to be at practice at 5:45 am.  This particular practice is typically only 20 minutes or so.  So today, I decided to sit in the car and wait rather than drive home and start the coffee and then turn around and drive right back to pick him up.

As I sat there in the car, I listened to the Pray-As-You-Go prayer and reading for today.  The text came from Luke 5.  Jesus was being questioned by the Pharisees as to why John’s disciples fasted and prayed and his disciples didn’t.  Take a look at Jesus’ response:

33 They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” 34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?  35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”

I have read this many times before but before today – before the question was asked by the speaker in the guided prayer portion of the podcast – I have never thought about these verses in this way.  The speaker pointed out that in our lives there are times for prayer and fasting and there are times for celebration.  Then he asked, “What time is it for you?”

Jesus’ point was that there would be a time for his disciples to fast and pray, but while he was with them, it would be a time of celebration.

Do we celebrate times when we feel God’s presence in a fresh way?  Do we seek out time alone with Jesus and then celebrate that time?

What do you have to celebrate today?

I encourage you to take some time to celebrate this weekend.

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The Land Between

Have you ever found yourself in limbo.  Maybe it was between jobs or between relationships.  Or maybe you have found yourself in difficult times financially.

Maybe you are in the middle of something right now.

Last week I finished a book by Jeff Manion entitled, The Land Between: Finding God in Difficult Transitions.  It has kept me thinking for quite some time now.

In the book, Manion illustrates his points by pointing to the people of Israel and their journey through the wilderness.  They had been enslaved in Egypt for years and had been crying out to God to set them free.  So God used Moses to lead them out of that captivity and across the desert to the land of Canaan.  Unfortunately, because of the people’s lack of trust, this journey took 40 years.  That is a long time to spend in the land between!

Manion uses their story to point out that all of us experience periods of being in the land between.  But it is in this land between that God can use the experience to grow our faith.  Unfortunately, this same land between can drive us away from God as well.  God’s design is to allow us to choose how we will come out on the other side of this land between.

We can choose to trust God and believe that God will walk with us every step of the way or we can become bitter that we are having to go through trials.  The choice is up to us.  Coming from someone who has been in the land between before and in even as I write this am there again, it is not an easy choice to make.  There are days when we don’t want to be here.  There are days that it would be easy to complain and become angry with God.  But the answer is to trust.

As long as we know that God is walking with us and that there is a plan for us, then choosing to trust God comes easier.

If today, you find yourself in that land between, remember, this time can make you stronger in your faith or it can drive you away from God – it is your choice.

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Last night, my youngest son was doing homework and he asked me for a little help.  I have to be honest, there is very little homework these days with which I can actually help.  He asked me to define a deferent society.  I had to admit to him that I had heard the word but could not recall what it means.  So we looked it up together and I learned that it means mutually respectful – a tendency to yield to the will of another.  So a deferent society would be one in which everyone gets along because each person would be equally concerned about others’ feelings and desires.  Sounds good to me.  Unfortunately, sin has thrown a kink in that plan.

But it got me to thinking about the family of Christ followers – the church.  Surely, as believers, we could realize such a community.  Unfortunately, as followers of the Way, we are not immune to sin and selfishness.  We allow our own desires of getting ahead and getting the things we want to supersede our relationships.

Possibly even worse is when we allow our beliefs to drive wedges in our relationships within the family.  This morning I was reading in Romans 14 (yep, I’m still in Romans) about a different kind of problem we face in the church.  The problem of being judgmental – of drawing our circles of what is acceptable smaller and smaller – until we are the only ones left inside.

Paul says this in Romans 14:1-4

1 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Accept him whose faith is weak and don’t pass judgment when it comes to issues that are matters of opinion.

Now I realize that the issues I deem as disputable may not be issues someone else sees as disputable.  But what I understand Paul to be saying is that we should have respect for others and their opinions.  Ultimately, it is God that we will all answer to anyway.

If the church could truly grasp this concept and begin to live it, I believe we would see a community of mutual respect and love, just as Jesus intended.  That would be a deferent community – one the world needs – one for which people are longing.

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