Archive for February, 2013

The Focus of Lent

We find ourselves right in the middle of the season of Lent.  For many, this time of year carries little significance.  For some denominations (mine included), Lent is not something that is observed – but that fact is slowly changing.

For most people, when we hear the word “Lent” we automatically think “give something up.”  While self-denial is large part of Lent, we need to look behind the practice and understand the purpose.

The observance of Lent is patterned after Jesus’ time in the wilderness.  The forty days Jesus spent in solitude were not the result of punishment.  He had just been publicly proclaimed as the chosen one.  No, Jesus was led into solitude for a different reason.  He spent his time in preparation for the next leg of his journey.  He faced the temptations to trust in things other than God, but affirmed his commitment to trust only in God.  His focus was sharpened over those forty days on what truly matters.

That is why we observe Lent.  It should be less about what we give up and more about our trust in and focus on God.  When we deny ourselves of something in observance of Lent, it shouldn’t be seen as punishment but rather as a way of realizing that we can’t trust in the things of this world that we tend to turn to for comfort.  Instead, our focus should be on God and our calling to follow in the Way.

So what grabs your attention today?  What coaxes your focus away from God?

Put your complete trust in God today.  Nothing else will do.

Be blessed.

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Lessons From Linda

One of the ministry opportunities that is afforded me as a minister is to walk with families through some really cool times – weddings, births, baptisms and others of life’s many mile markers.

But there are other times that I walk with families and the occasions aren’t nearly as joyous.  I met with a family on Sunday to plan a memorial service for Linda.  As I sat down on the sofa, I listened as four daughters gathered around to share stories and memories about their mom.  And I watched as a proud father nodded his head in agreement and love as he listened to each story.

I wrote as quickly as I could and then finally gave up and just listened.

I learned many, many things that afternoon about Linda.  But what most struck me as I drove away from the house was the undeniable, overwhelming love that this family has for one another and how they learned that from their parents.

As I have prepared to speak at her memorial today, Linda has inspired me.  I wrote yesterday about the importance of taking the time to appreciate those you love (you can read that post here).  But Linda inspires us to move beyond a mere appreciation.  I am inspired to show my love in my actions and not just in my words.

Today’s “Verse of the Day” on Biblegateway.com is 1 John 3:18, which is very fitting.  It says this,

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

A lesson Linda knew well and lived out daily.

Shouldn’t we all do the same?

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One of things that has always fascinated me is the west Texas weather – and I grew up here!

On Sunday, the sun was shining and we enjoyed 70 degree temperatures.  By the time church let out Sunday night, we had wind chills in the 30’s.  By Monday morning we had white-out conditions and 4″ of snow and a blizzard going on.

Schools and businesses closed their doors and everyone settled in to stay warm for the day in the comfort of their own homes.

I can tell you for my boys and me (Kristi is away on a business trip), it gave us a much needed day to be together.  Apart from a couple of hours I got some work done (now days we can literally work from anywhere) we spent some quality time together and I loved every single minute of it!

I am so blessed by the family God has given me!  My boys are growing into amazing men and I get to watch God work.  

So today’s post really doesn’t have much of a message other than maybe to remind us to slow down from time to time and appreciate the ones you love.

God, thank you for the day you blessed me with to spend with my sons.  It was truly a time to slow down and breath and just spend time together.

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I am beginning to study for a sermon series that is on the schedule for after Easter.  We will be looking at the attributes of God.  One of the books I am reading in preparation for that series is by A.W. Tozer entitled, The Knowledge of the Holy.

In the very first chapter of the book, on the first page, Tozer makes a statement that has had me thinking.  He says, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

I am still wrestling with that statement, but I think there is some profound truth to be mined here.  He goes on to say, “the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”

Our concept of God shapes us.  Whether we realize the significance or not, there is nothing more important to any human being than God and what characterizes the relationship between the two.

Each of us will one day reach our last day – for you or me, that day may be this day.  And in that final moment – that final breath – there will be absolutely nothing that will matter more than our belief about (and in) God.  These are not just words written to make you think, these words come from personal experience of looking into the eyes of people drawing their last breath.  I have knelt beside many, many beds as people reached the threshold between this existence and the next and looked into their eyes and listened to their words.

I am not in any way trying to betray that moment for anyone, I am simply stating that this truth is real – I have seen it – I have felt it – I have held it.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important in that moment than our thoughts about God and the security of a relationship with the creator.

But here is the beautiful reality – thoughts about God and a relationship with Jesus are just as important today as they will be on your final day.  The difference?

A sense of urgency.

But here is what we must all take to heart.  God wants so much more for us than we understand.  If we wait to consider the importance of a relationship with God until the end, we miss out on a fulfilled life between now and that last day.

Why would anyone do that?

Think about it.

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Who Can You Trust?

Who can you trust?

I am attending a training seminar on being a better mentor.  One of the keys we discussed is really foundational to the entire process.  The key is relationship but having a relationship with another is impossible without one indispensable ingredient.  People open up and do life together when there is a relationship they can trust – the pearl within the oyster – the prize within the relationship – trust.

So I have been thinking a lot about trust for the past day or so.  Trust is something that takes a great deal of time to earn and seconds to lose.  As long as there is a level of trust in a relationship, meaningful, life-changing experiences grow out of time together.

But with no trust, the relationship goes no where and in fact really does not even qualify as a relationship.

But here is the stark reality.  At the most base level, no one can be trusted – at least not fully.

Now before you stop reading and think that I have given up on the world, let me offer some insight.

God is the only one you can trust.  Every other person will ultimately let you down.  But God will never leave you, never forsake you, never let you down.  God is where you must put your trust.

Once your trust is secure in God – – you can begin to trust others; not because they won’t fail you but because even if they do, you will not be hurt.  Why?  Because your security is not tied up in whether those folks follow through or not.

So here is my advice.  As much as I hope people can always count on me, the one to count on is God.  Put your trust in the Creator of the Universe today and everything else will be fine.

Be blessed.

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Turn Off the Noise

This past weekend we had a youth event in our community.  Three churches came together to offer what is typically called a Disciple Now event.

Students showed up for pizza and then worship on Friday evening and they did not go home until after church on Sunday morning.

So for 42 hours, teenagers focused on their relationship with God.

This year’s theme was NOISE.

The idea was to point out all the noise in our world and in our lives that distract us from what is truly important.

Our jobs – NOISE!

Our hobbies – NOISE!

The smart phones we don’t think we can live without – NOISE!

Serving in the community and even church – NOISE!

Television – NOISE!

Succeeding in sports or work – NOISE!

Some of these examples might cause you to pause.  You might be thinking, “Serving in the church can be noise?”  Here is my answer to that question – if our focus ever moves from our relationship with God to other things, even very good things, then those things have become noisy distractions.

The problem with noise is actually two-fold.  The first is that it simply distracts us from clear communion with God.  But an even more serious threat is that over time, all we hear is the noise and before we realize it, our identity has become wrapped up in the noise.

So here is my challenge today – cut out the noise for 30 minutes and focus on what is important.  Focus on your relationship with God.  Slow down, turn off the noise and simply listen.

Be blessed today!

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The Brush of God

Will people have a better sense of the character and heart of God because of their interaction with me today?  

That is a question I often ask myself.

In a world looking for hope and something (or someone) to hold on to, we must be at least a glimpse of God for them.  But that only happens when our hearts are right.

I have a “sticky note” on the edge of my desk that stays there to remind me of a prayer I often lift to God when I look at it.  On the note I have written these words, “Let my words and life reflect the depth of the work you are doing within me.”

We cannot give what we do not have.  We must have a growing, vibrant and meaningful relationship with God in order for others to see God in us.

May those you encounter today sense the brush of God through you.

Be a blessing.

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God Is At Work

Have you ever noticed that it is hard to see God at work right in front of you?

It’s not that we don’t believe God is at work.  In fact, sometimes its not even that we aren’t paying attention and miss it (which is often the case).  Sometimes we are so tied to what is happening that we don’t step back to see the bigger picture.

I have gone back and forth as to whether or not to share this here.  Our goal in serving God should always be to draw attention to what God is doing – not what “I” am doing.  Jesus was the best example of pure humility and as followers of Jesus, we should strive to live as he lived.  Our heart’s desire should be to make God’s name great – not our own.  There is not much room for ego or boasting.  The last thing I want to do is become “that guy.”

So it is with much humility that I share this article with you today.  Our folks are committed to follow Christ wherever that might lead.  God is opening doors in our community and giving us people who are willing to walk through them.

The reason I share this is not to bring attention to ourselves but hopefully to remind some that God is still at work.  And if God can work in our setting through our people – God can work anywhere!

Take a look at this article from Texas Baptists.

Have a blessed day!

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Hello!  My name is Brian and I got a ticket.

That’s how my meeting started Monday night.  A couple of months ago, I found myself being pulled over as I made my way through Lubbock toward the hospital.  Even though I explained that I was on my way to visit a church member in the hospital, the officer took no pity.

So long story short, I ended up in a defensive driving class.  I would not be all together truthful if I told you this was the first time I had sat through this information.  In fact, in my younger days, I think I could have taught it I had taken it so frequently.

At any rate, as the class began, I sat watching all those other lead footed souls in the class with me.  No one wanted to talk – we all just wanted it to be over.  Monday night, we sat and listened without saying a word.

Tuesday night, we were each back in our seats for the last half of the class – yes, it works the same as in the church – everyone was right back in the same exact seat.

But as the session came to a close, it was interesting to see the dynamics in the room change.  People began interacting with one another.  There were smiles on faces and even a few laughs.

As I drove home, defensively by the way, I reflected on what I had observed.  By the end of the class, people began to loosen up.  There was sense of camaraderie.  We had just spent 6 hours of our lives together.  Did we know each other any better than when we started?  Not really.  But the dynamic was impressive.  All of the sudden, we were a group.

My point?  All of us, by our very nature, are creatures who need relationships.  We are wired that way.  That is why small groups in church are so important.  We are going to find community one way or the other.  Wouldn’t it be better to find it in church?

I challenge you to get involved in a small group in your church.  Your life will be enriched.

Be blessed today!

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How’s Your Heart?

Did you know that the first “successful” heart transplant was performed in 1967 in Cape Town, South Africa.  The patient lived for 18 days with his new heart.  With the perfecting of anti-rejection medications, the results of such surgeries have continued to get better.  Isn’t it amazing what God has gifted some to do to help others?

Surgeons aren’t the only ones that can change hearts.

In Ezekiel 36:26 we read this:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

God’s desire for us is to have a heart that feels.  Obviously, Ezekiel is speaking figuratively about our center – not our actual physical hearts.  God understands that as humans, it is easy for our hearts to grow hardened and calloused.

Most of us have been raised with a philosophy something like:  “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”  Once we have been burned or taken advantage of once or twice, we tend to close ourselves off.  We put up walls to protect ourselves.  And over time, our hearts become like stone.

When this happens, God says that what we need is a heart transplant.

God’s desire for us is to have a heart like Jesus – that beats like his – that is concerned about the things he is concerned about – that cares for others as he does.

So how’s your heart today?

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