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Archive for November, 2016

It’s official.  Advent has begun.  The Thanksgiving gatherings are fading into memories.  We turn now our attention to Christmas.  Decorations are coming out of storage.  Trees are going up and lights are being hung.  I truly enjoy this time of year – the anticipation, the excitement!

We also focus on giving more this time of year than any other.  Unfortunately, the deep blessing that comes from being generous is often lost in the pressures of making sure all the bases are covered.  We stress over making sure each family member gets the gifts they want.  We lay in bed at night trying to think through all the lists.  Lists of party guests to invite.  Lists of gifts yet to be purchased.  Lists of people who need to receive a Christmas card.  Lists – endless lists.

At the heart of all this stress is a primal desire of wanting to be generous – to give and make a difference.  But it gets lost in the frantic panic of making sure it all gets done and gets done well.

Our culture has created trends around particular days leading up to the Christmas day event.  Over the years, Black Friday has taken on a life of its own.  As if that was not enough, we now have Cyber Monday and just this morning I received a plethora of emails telling me that “It’s not too late – Cyber Monday continues all week!”

In the midst of the chaos, don’t lose sight of the heart of the matter – the season is about a true, life-forming, world-changing gift.  The most generous gift ever given was laid in a feed trough 2000 years ago.  This gift sparked a movement and it still does.

giving-tuesday

In some ways, this movement is influencing a new trend being formed in our culture.  This new emphasis is striving to bring the idea of pure generosity back to the forefront of our minds.  To combat the materialism that has become associated with this time of year, a new trend is forming – #givingtuesday.  It’s an effort to keep the idea of being generous in our minds as we move through this season.

So this year, as we focus on making sure everything is just right, don’t forget to be generous.  While you take advantage of the extension of Cyber Monday today, consider making one of your favorite charities a recipient of your generosity on this Giving Tuesday.  If you are part of a local body of believers, consider making an additional contribution to your church.  I know our church could make good use of contributions this time of year!

Don’t let the heart of generosity get lost in the heat of the frenzy.  Be generous today – – and every day!

Be a blessing this #givingtuesday!

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Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Several times throughout the Psalms, we find these words.  They serve as a reminder that God’s love will never fail.  God is good and his plan for you is perfect.

Give thanks this day!  Give thanks to God – the one true, good God.  His love lasts – always there, always comforting, always inspiring – always!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Blameless

Have you ever noticed that people don’t like taking responsibility for things?

businessman hiding face not my fault“Don’t look at me!”

“Wasn’t me!”

“Don’t blame me!”

“I have no idea what you are talking about!”

All common responses to questioning.

We all have a tendency to want to transfer blame.  We would like to be the hero in every story and so we don’t want people to see us in any other light.  But the truth is, many times we aren’t blameless.  Saying we are not to blame does not make it so.

If we truly want to be blameless, we need to start taking responsibility for our actions.  There is only one truly blameless person that has ever walked the earth and because of his sacrifice,  our shortcomings can be covered.  But we must own those shortcomings – confess those faults – and ask for forgiveness.

Transferring blame or denying responsibility does not make us blameless.  Only taking responsibility and asking forgiveness can make us whole.

Jesus makes a way for us to be blameless and that is something to be thankful for this week!

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This week I had the joy of attending our Texas Baptist state convention.  It is always like a family reunion.  I get to see colleagues and partners in ministry.  It reminds me that we are all part of a bigger movement than just one church.  On Monday morning, I ran into a friend I had not seen in a while.  He was a professor I worked for as a graduate assistant many, many years ago.  As we talked, he thanked me for an email I had sent him over a year ago.

encourage-othersThe purpose of the email was to tell him how much he means to me and to thank him for the impact he has made in my life.  I remember sending the email but I had to go back and dig up the email to remember what I had said.  In that email I shared with him that I had had lunch with a wonderful man earlier that day who made the statement that he was tired of learning about people at their funerals and we all need to do a better job of appreciating people while they are still with us.  I was so touched by his words that day that I was inspired to reach out to a number of people who have poured into me over the years.

Through reflecting back on all I have just shared, I have renewed a commitment to myself and to the Father to be a better encourager.  I challenge you to do the same today.  Don’t wait until bad health or crisis forces you to share what someone means to you.  Stop what you are doing — right now — and pick up the phone or write an email to someone who needs to hear how you feel.

I have committed to encourage at least 3 people per day.  What would our world look like if we all made the same commitment?

Something to think about.

Be a blessing today!

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I have the distinct privilege of teaching an undergraduate class this semester.  The class is geared for individuals who are either in ministry in the local church or considering the path of ministry.  We have spent the semester discussing calling and discerning God’s leading or “messing” with our lives.  We have also talked about very practical, hands on nuts and bolts of the daily life of a minister.  It has been a great experience for me and I hope the students have gleaned something from our time together as well.

The last third of the semester will deal with Baptist life – polity and doctrines.  Today, we will be discussing several important concepts inherent to Baptists but I am particularly excited to cover one topic in particular – the belief in soul competency.  sitting-on-question-mark

Baptists have been accused of being too individualistic.  I would be naive to ignore the point to be revered in this accusation.  The world does not revolve around me – nor does it turn on its axis for you.  But before we dismiss the idea of individual faith we need to understand one of the most critical and foundational elements of the gospel message – choice.

In Matthew 16 verses 15 and 16, Jesus asked a crucial, turning-point question of the disciples.  He had asked about the chatter.  “Who do people say that I am?”  But then he turned to heart of the matter and asked the only question that matters – for them and for us.  “Who do you say I am?”  Peter voluntarily, without coaching from his pastor or his parent or from the testimony of the church answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

That turning-point question is still the question today.  When it comes to faith – to the entrusting of our eternal soul – we have to answer that question for ourselves.  Attending a particular community of faith regularly or even joining that body does not answer the question.  Living by an honorable moral code does not face the question.  Each of us has to reach a point in our walk that we come face to face with Jesus and answer that question for ourselves.

Who do you say Jesus is?

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Tomorrow is election day.  I am not sure in the course of my lifetime I can remember and election year like this one.  Many I have talked to opted for early voting not so much because they were eager to do their civic duty but rather because they wanted to get it over with so they could stop thinking about it.

Regardless of your political stance, this race has been embarrassing for the American people.  And regardless of you political stance, this race has left us all feeling anxious about the future of our nation and way of life.

But also, regardless of your political stance, this one truth can give us encouragement:  “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.   He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”  (Psalm 62:1-2)

So today, on the eve of election day – find your hope and security in the Father.  That is the only place you will find rest.  But truthfully, that has always been the case.

Be blessed!

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God At Work

Sometimes it is hard to see God at work in our lives – not because he is not at work but because we are not paying attention.

I had breakfast with some men this morning and one of the questions that I was asked was, “how are things going at the church?”  I gave the normal – “Things are really good!” answer, and then conversation eventually moved on to some of the things coming up on our church calendar.

But as I drove away from the restaurant, I was still thinking about that question.  The question, better worded would be, “What is God doing in and through the church these days?”  I fully believe God is at work but I am not sure I do a good job of identifying God’s movement in such a way that I communicate well with others how I see God’s hand moving.

The same is true for each of us I think.  We trust God is at work in our lives, but unless we are very intentional in identifying his movement, we go through our days oblivious to his presence.

Today, look for him.

Pay attention to the rhythms of your day and the people God brings in and out of your life.

God is busy – don’t miss him.

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