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Archive for March, 2012

A Sacrifice That Demands

This Sunday, as part of the Lenten season, we will be discussing the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us.  He left paradise, emptied himself and took on humanity.  He lived on earth for over 30 years teaching us how to live in a manner that brings true joy and peace, and then suffered a terrible death – all to bring redemption to a fallen world.

That sacrifice cannot be minimized and it cannot be ignored.  Jesus’ sacrifice demands something of us.  We must respond.  We cannot come face to face with this reality and simply turn and walk away.

Too many churches today are consumed with meeting people’s felt needs.  Don’t get me wrong, the church exists because of the needs of the people.  The problem is the felt needs and the real needs of people are not always similar.  Church for many people is a place to go and feel better – a place to go to “get fed.”  So in order to grow a church, many have turned to a consumer model of ministry – just giving the people what they want.

While some of that is necessary, I am convinced that we are not honoring God if we don’t tell people that following Jesus demands something of us.  We cannot look on the cross with gratitude without hearing Jesus’ words that we too must take up or crosses on a daily basis.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, many years ago, reminded us that grace without sacrifice is cheap.

God’s grace is free but it is not cheap – it cost Jesus his life and it demands something of us as well.

So remember today that as believers, we owe a debt that can only be paid by the submission of ourselves to the one who died for us.  But that is a price that has a heavenly return on investment!

Be blessed!

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In the midst of a Monday . . .

I realize that for some people, Sunday is technically the first day of the new week.  But for the vast majority, Monday is when the week begins.  And Monday is seldom seen as a good day.  Have you ever noticed that people can’t stand Monday, but Friday is an entirely different mindset.

This will show my age and my taste in music, but back in the 80’s (the best rock era by the way) there was a popular group by the name of Loverboy.  They did a song that made the charts entitled, Working for the Weekend.  The idea is that Monday through Friday afternoon is just time we have to suffer through to get to the good stuff.

So if that is the mentality – that for the next five days we are biding time until the weekend – where is the motivation to make each day count?

I think we need an attitude adjustment.  We need to rethink how we approach this day we call Monday.

As believers, we are to strive to please God everyday, not just on Sunday.  Every day should be filled with possibility – not just the weekend.

So in the midst of this Monday, my challenge for you is to rethink what this day could mean – what it should mean.  Today is the day that God has made and we should be joyful about it.  It is teaming with possibility.

What will you do today to make it count?

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If you read the headlines today, you will see things like “nuclear armament,” “solar storm,” and “severe drought.”  It would be easy to pick up a paper or surf the web this morning and become very overwhelmed with all the problems we face.

Personally you have a lot on your plate – activities with the family, more work than you can do, church activities, civic duties and somewhere in there finding time to take care of yourself.

Then add to that all the need you see around you.  It would be possible to spend every waking minute caring for others who are struggling if that is what we chose to do.  We sit in the midst of one of the worst recessions of our lifetime.  People’s lives have been destroyed as a result.  And people are running scared.

It is easy to become overwhelmed with life.

The typical response when we feel overwhelmed is to retreat.  We desire to get away from the pain.  We resolve that things are just too bad – too hard – there is nothing that can be done.  And so that is what we do – nothing.  We allow ourselves to be pushed into indifference.

But today, I want to remind us that God is still on the throne and still in control.

Today, you might not be able to change the world but you can impact your little corner.  It is a choice.  It is a commitment.  It is what it means to be salt and light.

Go be make a difference today.

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Come Awake

This morning, I watched the sun come up.  As it painted orange and pinks into the wisps of clouds on the horizon, I could see the outline of birds moving from tree to tree and roof top to high line.  Birds everywhere.

They flitted from place to place seemingly at random.  What appeared to me to be purposeless moving from one place to the next, was, I am sure, all part of their morning dance.  They were coming awake – making ready for a glorious day.

Join the dance today – come awake – it’s going to be a wonderful day!

Be blessed!

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Last night our youngest son Bryson performed in a choir concert at the high school.  Music is one of his greatest passions and he is very talented!  Through junior high, he was a tenor – he could hit the high notes with precision.

But about a month ago, that all changed.  For him, it was not a gradual change, it happened over night.  He was getting ready for solo and ensemble competition – one day he sounded like a baritone and the next, he had changed to a bass.

His choir director told us that when he opened his mouth that day, she stopped him and asked, “Who are you and what have you done with Bryson?” The way she describes it, he now has a 275 pound linebacker voice in a 130 body.  And through her coaching and training, he as transitioned beautifully.  He has the control of someone much older.  We are extremely proud of him and very thankful for Ms. Groll.

As I think about all that has transpired and Ms. Groll’s comments, I am reminded of a fundamental truth.  Life is full of change and we are no exception.  We age, we change jobs, we grow relationships and lose others, we gain weight (and in my case, lots of it), our hair changes color – our lives are full of change.

But God looks beyond all that and focuses on the heart.  Psalm 51 talks about how God speaks to us in our inner most being and what God wants from us is not a bunch of activity but rather, a pure heart.  A heart that is focused on pleasing God is more important than anything we could “do.”

God is more concerned about who we become than what we do.

So regardless of how we may be changing on the outside, what is on the inside is what counts.

Bryson’s voice may have changed and that has been a good thing, but his heart is still as pure as ever and that matters more than anything!

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How close to do you feel to Jesus today?  Does he seem near?  Or does he seem distant?  If you are like me, that feeling changes from day to day.

The truth is that Jesus is always near – he, through his spirit, is with us always.

But the reality of our existence is that we don’t always feel it.  When that happens, I have found that it is not Jesus who has moved but me.

I read this today from Thomas Merton:

The deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion.  It is wordless.  It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech . . .

That is what I want.  That is the kind of relationship with Jesus for which I long.

Lord Jesus – draw me close today!   So close that words cannot express – so close that words are not needed!

Amen

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I have a question for you today:  How much light does it take to be visible in a dark room?  I heard that question last night at a conference and I have been thinking about it ever since.

The talk was on changing the world and the question was asked to make us think about the power of just one person who is committed and passionate about what God has called us to do.  Can one person really make a difference?

How much light does it take to show up in utter darkness?  Not much.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to go spelunking in, at that time, a newly opened cave in the Carlsbad Caverns.  We had to hike up the side of a mountain and then take a rope ladder down into this huge hole in the ground.  It was a great adventure.  There were no marked trails in the cave and we were armed only with our flashlights and an experienced guide.

We hiked back into the cave for about an hour and once deep in the heart of the cave, the guide had us sit down and turn off our lights.  We sat for a few minutes in suffocating darkness.  I don’t know if you have ever experience utter darkness but it is staggering.

After what seemed like an eternity, in the midst of that darkness, the guide produced one small light that illuminated the entire area.  It was amazing how one little light could bring such illumination out of the darkness.

We live in a dark world.  We are surrounded by evil and corruption.  We come face to face daily with deception and self-centeredness.

The only hope for our world today is the light that only Jesus can bring.  The good news is, as a believer, you have that light.

So, when faced with the question of how many people it takes to make a difference in the world, the answer we should remember is – only one.

Go be light in a dark world today!

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