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Archive for January, 2014

What does real commitment look like – unwavering – never ceasing – completely sold out – commitment?  Have you ever seen it?

Have you ever looked commitment in the eye and recognized the prize that you were witnessing?

I had such an opportunity on Monday.  I sat with a pastor and his wife at a restaurant in Juarez, Mexico for dinner.  We talked about an upcoming retreat that we will offer to pastors and their wives this June – a time of refreshment, training and renewal.  I listened as he described some needs he would like to see addressed.  I also listened to his words as he shared about a struggle or two.  But what captured my heart was the look in his eye when he told us that he has been serving in Juarez for 17 years.

When Juarez plummeted from a rough city to the most dangerous city on the planet – he and his family stayed.  When death tolls rose – he kept on ministering to his congregation.  When the killing moved from cartel wars to indiscriminate murder – he and his family persevered in reaching out to their area.

That, my friend, is commitment.  As I sat on the bridge to re-enter Texas and the good ole’ USA, I reflected on our conversation.  I remembered the look in his eyes when he shared.  And I had to ask myself: “Am I that committed?  Would I be willing to stick it out and continue to serve in the midst of threats to my family and myself?  Am I willing to be uncomfortable for the cause of Christ?”

I look at my new friend and I am inspired.  I am motivated to risk a little more.  My passion is renewed just a bit to see Jesus proclaimed with conviction.

I look at my new friend and my resolve is strengthened.

Commitment can come in many forms but it is defined by the willingness to deny ourselves and live for Christ.

Are you committed?

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Have you ever had the blessing of watching God move?  I have to admit, the visible evidence of the invisible occurs all too rarely in my life.  And while I am confessing, I know that the rarity of its occurrence is not an absence of God moving but rather an absence of presence on my part.  God is at work all around us every minute of every day – we just rarely slow down and pay attention.

I am working through a book right now entitled, When It’s Rush Hour All Day Long, by John Tadlock.  In the book, the author refers to the reason we live at such break-neck speed as “hurry sickness.”  He even offers a quiz to see if the reader suffers from hurry sickness.  Unfortunately, he does not offer a scale of determining just how deeply the reader suffers from the ailment.  I am afraid if he did, he would have to re-calibrate it after I took the quiz.  One of the questions in the quiz is something like – do you count the people in each line at the check out and estimate how many items they have in their carts in order to gauge the speed of the process and then choose the line based on your best estimate?  As I read that question, I found myself wondering – “Who doesn’t do that?”  But then the next question hit a little closer to home – do you keep tabs of the other lines as you are waiting to determine who is winning?

Guilty.Hurry

Now I will say, not once in my life have I finished before the other lines and walked by them and yelled – “LOOSER!!”  Alright, maybe I have thought it – but I have never said it out loud.

We all suffer from hurry sickness in our culture.  In fact, if it were really a disease, I believe it would be considered a national epidemic.

What has become normal pace for us leaves little time to see God at work.  We don’t even take time to process the things we realize are occurring around us.  We just shrug things off and move on with little thought.  How will we ever see the movement of the invisible?

The first step is to realize you must slow down.  God did not create us to live at such a pace.  In fact, Genesis records that when God was in the process of creating the world, the seventh day was set aside for rest.  Did God get tired creating the world?  No – I don’t believe that was the reason God rested.  God set a precedent.  God created us to need rest so God created Sabbath – rest – cessation from work.

This seems like an odd topic to discuss on a Monday.  We are just getting started on a new week in which we have a full schedule and plenty to do.  But God created us for relationship.  When we get so wrapped up in our schedule – our To Do list – our world – we forget to look for God.  We fail to see God at work all around us.  We miss the blessing.  We miss the fulfillment we are seeking desperately.

Stop!

Slow down!

God is at work!

Just look!

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Cosmic Mr. Potato Head

My kids had a Mr. Potato Head toy growing up.  They played with that thing off and on throughout their childhood – sometimes taking some the items from the toy and trying to wear them on themselves.  Our middle son loved to wear the glasses.

Ethan Potato Head Glasses

 

The toy is still around in stores today.  It is a plastic toy with the basic shape of a giant potato.  It has holes and slots all over it so that you can insert facial features – nose, mouth, ears, eyes, etc. where every you like.  You can arrange the features to suit you.  If you want to try and put the nose on top of the head – sure – no problem.  Or maybe having the mouth above the eyes is the look you are going for – that works.  The combinations are many.  You get to create the look that you want.

As I think about that toy – I pause and wonder, is that our perception of God?  Do we ever attempt to create God in our own image as opposed to realize we are created in God’s?  If there is something about God that doesn’t suit us do we just leave that attribute off?

God is not a cosmic Mr. Potato Head.

Scripture teaches that God is all-powerful and unchanging.  We need to always keep in mind who we are in relation to who God is.  God is creator – we are the creation.  God is pure – we are imperfect.  God is holy – we are sinful.  God is God and we are not.

So the next time you see a Mr. (or Mrs.) Potato Head toy remember that we may rearrange the features on that toy, but we can never change God.

Live a life that please God today!

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We are beginning to work through the book of Colossians on Wednesday nights.  In the first chapter, Paul opens his letter to the believers by telling them that he always gives thanks for them.  Here is what he says in verses 3 and 4 of chapter 1:

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people.

What a great witness to the faithfulness of the people in Colossae!  The believers there were so in-tune with God and living to follow Jesus that Paul felt compelled to offer thanks for them every time he prayed for them.

As I read what Paul wrote I have to ask myself this question:  Am I living in such a way that others are thankful for me?  Or maybe a more pointed question would be:  Who is thankful for the way I live and represent Jesus?

Does your faith in Jesus and your commitment to live by his example positively influence others you meet each day?  Will others be drawn to God because they encounter you today?

Who is thankful for you and the way you live out your faith?

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Shaping the Deformed

We are all spiritual beings.  Like it or not – know it or not – agree with it or not – each and every one of us is a spiritual being.  God created us this way.  We are created to need God in our lives.  In fact, life is not complete when we exclude God from it.  But our nature wants to live life on our own.  We can do this all by ourselves – so we tell ourselves.

When I went back to school a few years ago, what drew me to the degree was the opportunity to concentrate on a discipline called spiritual formation.  Growing up in the Baptist tradition, I was intrigued by the description of what this might involve.  My studies took me down paths I had never experienced and to authors of whom I had never heard.  And on the back side of the degree, I – like most – realized I know even less.  My eyes were opened to new worlds of thought I did not even know existed before – there is so much more to learn and experience.

But what was solidified for me through the process was that all of us are spiritual beings and we are all being formed.  Our choices, our experiences and the people we encounter are all instruments of formation.  I have begun to see myself as a deformed spirit that God is slowly but methodically forming into the being God intended.

You may disagree (and that would be fine), but the way I see it, sin has deformed my being.  My drive to do things on my own – my selfish desires – my poor choices – they all have deformed the spirit God created.

When one is willing to allow God to shape her or him, God can take a deformed spirit and form it into something beautiful.

Are you the person you want to be?  The better question is are you the person God intends for you to be?

Allow God to shape you.

You won’t regret it!

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Time Alone With God

When is the last time you were alone with God?  For some, you might say “just a few minutes ago,” or you might say, “first thing this morning.”  But for some, we might have a hard time remembering the last time we spent real time alone before God.

Jesus often went out to be alone with God.  Mark 1:35 tells us he got up early to go out and be alone with God in prayer.

As believers, time with God is vital to our progression as Christ followers.  Oswald Chambers said, “When God gets us absolutely alone, and we are totally speechless, unable to ask even one question, then He begins to teach us.”

It is when we get alone with God and allow all other distractions to fade – when our attention is given to nothing else – that God can begin to work.

Find time today to be alone with God and see the difference it will make in your day.

Be blessed.

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Time for Reflection

Calendar

Here we are at the beginning of the new year.  2014 brings opportunities and challenges – some, a carry over from 2013, but some will be new and fresh.  I always love this time of year.  I guess it is because I am wired to be a planner and think through strategies. I love to dream about what could be and often should be.  This time of year lends itself to that kind of thinking.

So what about you?  What will you do to make 2014 a year to remember?  Have you even thought about it?  Last night, I asked some of our folks to think about what God has done in their lives this past year.  So often, we make a somewhat mindless statement when we are asked how God is at work – “I have been blessed.”  For some, there is real meaning in that statement.  But I fear that all too often, it is just a casual phrase, thrown around with little thought.  So I challenged some folks last night to be specific and list the top 3 things God has done in their lives in 2013.

Can you do it?  Can you think of the top 3 things God has done in your life this past year?  I extend the same challenge to you – to set aside some time this week to reflect on just what God has done.  Then celebrate those things.  Psalm 145 tells us we should remember God’s mighty deeds and offer praise.  And not only offer praise, but share with others what God has done.

Don’t start another year without reflection.  God truly blesses us but we need to train ourselves to see God at work.

Let me know how God has worked this past year.

Be blessed today!

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