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Archive for May, 2011

Last Friday, I was working around the house on my day off.  We are trying to get the house ready to put on the market so that we can make the move to our new community.  I was doing some prep work, getting ready to paint a door frame in the garage when my cell phone rang.

It was one of those calls that any parent dreads.  My oldest son said, “Dad, I’m at the clinic.  I was hurt at work but it’s not life threatening.”

I am not sure what else he said because I was already scrambling to get to the car.  I heard “not life threatening” and I added those words to the fact that he called me himself and so I was not in panic mode – but still, the only thing that was important to me at that moment was getting to the clinic to be with him.

Turns out that he got one of his fingers tangled up with a band saw and needed five stitches.  While that is never a pleasant experience, it could have been much worse.  But he is fine and today, is headed back to work.

I am sure that he learned some lessons through this experience – one of which is that band saws can be dangerous!  I also hope he was reminded that his dad will be there when he needs him!

But I learned something too.  Sometime over the course of  the days following the incident, it dawned on me:  If I had the feelings I had when I got that call, how much more does our heavenly father care for us when we experience pain.  The Bible says that God knows the number of hairs on our heads – God cares for us individually!  What an amazing thought.

So no matter what you are going through today, know that God cares and is right there ready for you to call!

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This past Sunday, our church hosted the high school baccalaureate service.  It was my honor to speak to the graduating class and challenge them as they cross this threshold in their lives and move into a new phase of their journeys.  One of the things I discussed was the difference between happiness and joy.  Happiness is fleeting.  It is dependent on how we feel.  When things are going our way, we tend to be happy.  When we have a bad day . . . not so much.  The bad news is, we are all going to have bad days from time to time.  Things are not always going to go our way.

Joy, on the other hand, is lasting.  It is more than a feeling, it is a confidence in knowing the end of the story.  It is the contentment that comes when we remember that God is in control.

Today, I used Psalm 51:10-12 as my reading.  Here is what it says:

Create in me a pure heart, O God, 
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 
 Do not cast me from your presence 
   or take your Holy Spirit from me. 
 Restore to me the joy of your salvation 
   and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

I have always loved verse 10 where the writer asks God to create a pure heart within him.  But today, my mind locked in on verse 12 where the author asks for the joy of God’s salvation to be restored to him.

Do you ever get so tied up and weighted down in the day to day grind and the problems that come your way that you forget about the joy you possess?  The joy that is available to you simply because you know the Creator of the universe personally?

It happens to all of us.  Sometimes we do need to be reminded of the joy that is ours as believers.  So today, my prayer for you and for me is an echo of the psalmists words:

Lord God, I ask that you renew your joy in us today.  Remind us of what your salvation truly means.  And then, help us to live that joyful life today – regardless of our circumstances.

Amen

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You know how you hear a song time and time again, and then one day you actually listen to the words.  I did that yesterday on my commute home.  I had the radio on and the volume pretty low – which according to my wife,  is not normal.  But I caught myself singing along and so I turned up the volume and all of the sudden, I heard the words.

The song was Something Holy by Stellar Kart, and the chorus caught my attention.  Here is what the words say, “We were born to be, a part of something holy.  All of us are restless until we find.”  Then the chorus finishes with “bigger than you and I.  Bigger than all our lives.”

We have been focusing on this idea on Sunday mornings for the last few weeks.  This sums up what we have been talking about – being part of something bigger than ourselves.

It is so easy to focus only on ourselves.  In fact, that is what our culture forces upon us.  We live in a “me first” society and we have all, regardless of how holy we try to be, fallen into this trap to some degree.  Even in the church, it is not uncommon to experience the attitude of “I want it my way.”

But following Jesus means focusing our lives and our love outside ourselves.  It means striving to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.  It means longing to be part of something holy.

Is that your desire today?

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It is Monday – two days after the world was to end.  I am still here and if you are reading this – so are you.  I mentioned this at the beginning of my sermon yesterday and a little girl, about 7 years old, shouted out from the second row, “Nobody knows when the world will end – that is what Jesus said in the Bible!”

First off, I loved the enthusiasm.  I have told the congregation that I love interaction and to feel free to respond to questions.  So this little girl was just showing how comfortable she feels in our worship services and I think that is awesome!  Secondly, she was right on!  How cool to have a 7 year old remind us of what Jesus said!

But I have a question for you today.  What if you knew for sure that the world would end on Friday?  How would you live today?  Who would you make sure to call and talked to?  How would your actions be different?

My challenge to you is this:  do those things today – live as if your days were limited – because in reality, they are.

Be a blessing today.

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Silent Listening

On Wednesday nights at the church we are talking about prayer (and we are putting it into practice).  Last night, the lesson was on listening.  It is hard to hear God speak if we are not listening.  The problem is, we do not practice listening very often.  God is always present and always ready to lead, but we rarely pay attention.  It is really about sensitivity.

One of the things I had our folks do last night was to sit in silence for 2 minutes – and I timed it.  The objective was to clear their minds and listen for God to speak.  I then asked for responses of what it was like.  Most said it seemed like much longer than 2 minutes.  One gentleman said he had to keep telling himself to shut up.  We all chuckled at that but that has been my experience as well.  I can sit and be still.  I can keep my mouth shut, but my mind continues to run at 90 miles per hour.

The art of listening takes practice.  Being still and quiet is harder for us than we might want to admit.  However, if we are going to hear from God, we have got to make listening a part of our daily routine.

So here is my challenge for you today.  Make time today to find a quiet place in which you can be alone.  Then sit down and make yourself comfortable (not nap time comfortable, just at ease).  Then sit in silence for 5 minutes and do your best to clear your mind of all the thoughts floating around in there and just listen for what God will say – the impressions you will feel.

I would love to hear of your experience.  Feel free to leave me a comment here.

Be blessed today!

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I was reminded yesterday (and am living that reminder today) that when we allow ourselves to be pulled from our comfort zones, we need to remember to be flexible.  My plan had been to wrap up our mission project in Fabens by noon or so and then get the group started on the next project, collect my things and hit the road for home.  Instead, we finished at about 4:30 and then drove to the next project, looked it over and then headed for the dorm around 6.

I knew that by the time I got cleaned up and ate dinner, it would be 8 pm MST before I could begin the 6 hour drive.  I decided to stay one more night and make the drive today.  As much as I wanted to be home last night, I know that the work we accomplished is pleasing to God.  So, the inconvenience is worth it.

This is a common issue on mission trips.  In fact, I never lead a group on a trip like this without a discussion about being flexible.

But how about the rest of the time.  How flexible am I during a normal work week?  When I have an extensive To Do list, do I get frustrated when interruptions keep me from being able check things off my list?  I am reminded that God would have us be available.

Will you make yourself available for God to use today – remaining flexible?  Or will you get frustrated when an opportunity arises?

Your choice.

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Existing to Serve

Today I have a wonderful privilege before me.  My work crew, made up of 8 students and a couple of Baptist Student Ministries assistant directors, began work yesterday in Fabens, Texas, on a dorm facility.  We scraped and painted most of the exterior of the building.  Today we will return to finish what we started.  The facility is owned by First Baptist Church of Fabens and has been there for over 30 years.  It’s purpose is to house groups who come to the border to do mission work.  A number of years ago, one of the groups I lead actually stayed in the facility.  Over the years, countless thousands of people have stayed in the dorm, while ministering to the people in the area – on both sides of the border.

But there is another amazing ministry that operates in Fabens out of First Baptist Church.  It is called Crossing the Border Ministries.  Joan and Elfie run this effort.  It is a ministry that provides food for people on the Mexican side of the border.  Each and every Tuesday, pastors cross the border and enter Fabens.  They make their way to the church where they pick up food and other supplies and then return to Mexico to distribute the items to people in need in the villages along the border.  It is a wonderful and vital ministry.

It is one thing to give up a few days out of a busy schedule to come to El Paso and serve.  It is important and in many ways and just a couple of days can make a huge impact.  But it is quite another to make this kind of service a way of life and a daily existence.  That is what Joan and Elfie, and many others like them, have done.  What examples of commitment and dedication to God’s Kingdom!  They are reminders that God calls each and every one of us as followers in the Way, to make service to others a part of who we are – to make it a lifestyle.

I have heard about Crossing the Border Ministries for years, but today, I get to see it in action!  I’m pumped!  It is going to be a blessing.

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