Archive for June, 2016

Work In Progress

What is God doing in your life today?  Can you see evidence of the God of universe working in and through you in this moment?

So often, the old adage is true – hindsight IS 20/20.  We can often look back in our lives and see God’s hand in the way things have moved and how we have grown.  In fact, I often make the statement in regards to growing spiritually that I hope I am closer to being like Jesus today than I was this time last year.

We can often see how God has moved when we look to the past and survey a specific time lapse.  But can we see God at work in the moment?  I must confess – I don’t see God in the moment as I should and certainly not as I would like.

But I was reminded of a very valuable truth this morning in my reading.  In Philippians 4:6, Paul encouraged the believers in Philippi that God is always at work.  He said this, “being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

God is at work and you are his masterpiece.  The completion of the project is yet to come but make no mistake – you are a work in progress and every day God works a little more on you.

Sometimes we just need to slow down and take a hard look at how God is working.

Be blessed!

Read Full Post »

The first time Jesus spoke publicly, according to the Gospel of Mark, was in a synagogue in Capernaum on the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. The customary order of worship in the Jewish synagogue of that day was to have a time of prayer and scripture reading, where someone, most likely an elder, would read from the law of Moses.

It was also customary after the reading, for someone to stand and expound on the passage read. These scribes would cite a particular rabbinic school and give commentary on the scripture from the sources that had been developed in the Mishnah and other works.

By the time Jesus entered humanity, having someone speak with original thoughts was almost unheard of in synagogues. In fact, it is believed by historians that it had been generations since the people of Israel had heard a word from God.

So when someone arrived with fresh ideas people were amazed and listened. Word began to spread about this man from Galilee who “taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” (Mark 1:22)

Jesus’ teaching is still fresh – it is still relevant.  His truth is constant.  I am reminded yet again of the importance of going back to the source. We often read books about what Jesus said. How about today, we commit this week to read what Jesus actually said.

Jesus called his followers to a new social order.

He still does.

Read Full Post »

Since May 1, I have been preaching through the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 on Sunday mornings.  It has been a very meaningful endeavor for me – and I pray for our church family.  On May 22, we had made it to the fourth Beatitude – blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.  The point of this proverbial statement is that as believers we should hunger and thirst for what is right and true.  We should stand firm on God’s truth without vacillating or wavering.  The problem that can arise when we do this is self-righteousness.  Pride can make its way into our hearts through the smallest of spaces.

So the very next Beatitude Jesus gave us was, blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy.  Jesus wanted to make sure that we strive to know and live by God’s truth but to do so with humility, love and mercy.  He reminds us that we all need mercy, so far be it from us to withhold mercy from others.

This past Sunday, I felt it imperative to address the Orlando tragedy.  I believe the Beatitudes we have been studying speak directly to our response to this horrific occurrence.  The time to stand on a platform and push an agenda is not in the wake of a tragedy, but I have seen both sides of the LGBT issue do just that.

The bottom line is that human lives were lost – sexual preference has nothing to do with it.  Every single life affected by this senseless act is a soul loved by God.

I am not suggesting that we should waver in our convictions on Biblical truth or compromise our beliefs.   Scripture is clear in its exposure of same-sex activity as sin.  But it is just as clear in its revelation of God’s love for every single human being.

Hold fast to God’s truth but do so with mercy, humility and love.

Father,  I pray that my desire to know and hold to your truth will never cloud my vision of seeing others as you see them.  May your love be evident in me today.   Amen

Read Full Post »

I served with a pastor years ago that used to say something to the effect that Mother’s Day is the day we celebrate mothers and how wonderful they are, but Father’s Day is the day we tell guys what terrible men they are and challenge them to be better.

I suppose there is some truth to that statement.  But yesterday, we took just a couple of minutes out of the service and we tried to remind dads of what a huge blessing and privilege it is to be a father.  It was also a time to encourage our church family to appreciate the dads in our lives.

I often say, “I hope to be like my dad when I grow up.”  He has had such an influence on my life – as much by example as anything else.  I appreciate how he has shown me what it means to love God and love others.  He has a true servant’s heart.

When I think of Father’s Day, I also think about the fact that as a believer, I have a heavenly Father.  Scripture teaches us that when we submit our lives to God, we become his children.  What an amazing thought.  We can be considered a child of the King – a daughter or son of the God of the universe!  Now that IS something to celebrate.

Yesterday we celebrated dads.  Our appreciation should not be limited to one day but should be shown to them throughout the year.  But even more so – celebrate your heavenly Father today – who gives you the right to be called a child of God!

Be blessed!

Read Full Post »

I reminded myself last night why I should have waited until day 3 to join the students at camp. As I lay there in my bunk listening to 21 boys, ranging in age from 12 to 18, I remembered how excited they are on the first night of camp. No one wanted to go to sleep. At least by day 3 they are tired at night and the loud jumping and running, the trying to outdo one another with their antics is restricted to just a couple.

But as I lay there, I thought about the week ahead for them. And just before I yelled, “Go To Sleep!!!”  God intervened and I began to hear each voice as a soul who desperately needs God. I began to pray that God would use this week to begin, or continue, a work in each of them to transform their lives.

I think that should be the prayer for each of us, regardless of where we are in the world today. May God begin, or continue, a work in each of us to transform our lives.

I head back to the “real world” today, but I have to admit, there is a huge part of me that wants to stay and witness what God is going to do in the lives of these students. But I guess I’ll have to settle for paying attention to what God is doing in my own life.

Be blessed today!

Read Full Post »

Our students leave for camp today.  I remember those days at camp – all the activities, the experience of being away, the study and fun.  I remember the songs sung around campfires.  One song in particular stands out, showing my age I suppose, but still true today – Pass It On.

Campfire Singing

I have heard it said that Christianity is always one generation away from extinction.  I think that is true.  I trust that God will not cease to interact with mankind due to our inadequacy, but I also know that God’s plan for the redemption of mankind includes our faithfulness.  We are commanded – not asked nicely but commanded – to make disciples in Matthew 28.  Deuteronomy 6 is clear that we are to pass on our faith to the next generation.  Here is what it says:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

This passage begins with the Shema, one of the pivotal doctrinal statements of Judaism, as well as Christianity.  And then it directs us to share our beliefs with the next generation.

Psalm 145 clearly points us to the importance of sharing our faith as well.  In verses 4-7, the author describes this process.

One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
    and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
    and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

He uses words like commend, speak, tell and celebrate.  The message is clear.  We are to pass on our understanding and faith to the next generation.  This process begins at home.  Share your faith with your children and their children.  Then take that same motivation for others to know Jesus into the world.

This is not a recommendation or a request.  This is a mandate.

Who will you tell about Jesus and the difference he has made in your life?

Start today.

Read Full Post »

I am back state-side after a weekend in Juarez, Mexico with local pastors and their wives.  It was the best conference we have done to date.  The 38 couples in attendance all had a great time.  The weekend gave them time to rest and refresh as well as challenged them to take a serious look at their individual spiritual walk and how that is lived out in their marriages and ministries.

I walked away with the renewed realization that pastors – regardless of where we serve – all need encouragement and time to decompress.  But another reminder was the overwhelming sense of being part of something bigger.

I often get so focused on what God is doing in my little part of the world that I tend to forget that God is at work all over the world through faithful servants.  God is making a difference.

So when we watch the news and hear about all the evil in the world and begin to get the impression that bad is winning over good, remember that God is still in control and very much alive and well.

Be blessed today!

Read Full Post »

Yesterday, we greeted pastors and their wives from all over Juarez, Mexico and the Chihuahua valley to a hotel here in Juarez.  For over a decade my partner has been calling pastors together for a time of fellowship, instruction and leadership development and the event has grown.  Several years ago, I joined him in this effort as we began to refine the focus of the meeting.

Opening 2016

For the past several years the event has focused on spiritual formation and marriage enrichment.  Last year we grew it from a two day, one night event to three days with two nights in the hotel.  The experience is a gift (free of charge) to the pastors and wives who have stuck it out and continue to minister in one of the most difficult and dangerous cities in the world.

Pastors are wired with compassion and called to give themselves for others.  But rarely do pastors have an opportunity to receive.  This event is that opportunity.

This year, we have 36 couples in attendance.  Our theme is Knowing Jesus.  We will remind them of the difference between knowing about Jesus and actually knowing him and the importance that difference makes in our lives and in our marriages and in the midst of the storms that come.  What a blessing to be able to minister to them over these three days.

I ask you to please pray for them.  Pray that God would give them exactly what they need from this event – that those who need rest will receive it; those who need refreshment will experience it; those who need to rekindle their marriages would regain that spark; and those who need to re-focus their spiritual walk will find clarity.

Thank you for your prayers!

Read Full Post »

We live in a mixed up world.  One would think that as long as Christianity has been around, the world would be a different place by now.  The truth is – the world is a different place than it was 2000 years ago.  The good far outweighs the bad – its just that the bad gets the press.

But we also have to remember that we live in a fallen world.  As believers, this is not our home – we are just passing through.  And on this passage, we are called to make a difference for Jesus while we are here.  We are to strive to be set apart; to be different.  Jesus challenged us in Matthew 5:48 to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect.

We do this by hungering and thirsting after God’s will for us – for his righteousness.  We hold tightly to the truth given to us in scripture.  We stand unwaveringly on our convictions.  But we do so with mercy and humility.

Our culture would say the greatest evil threatening the human condition today is intolerance.  (I would say, the condemnation of and aggression toward Biblical truth by those waving the intolerance banner is the strongest intolerance I see today – a bit ironic don’t you think?)  But the greatest evil threatening the human condition today is the same evil that has been a threat since the beginning – sin.

The only answer for sin is God’s grace and forgiveness brought about by God’s truth.

So we must not flinch at the accusation of intolerance.  We must stand on the foundation of God’s truth.  But we must do so with humility, mercy and love.

Be strong yet merciful today!

Read Full Post »