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Archive for January, 2017

Recently, Kristi and I had the blessing of some time away in Costa Rica.  It is a beautiful country filled with wonderful people.  The countryside where we stayed was mountainous and the roads were passable but only barely in places.  But for the locals, the roads were no big thing – just a part of everyday life.

What grabbed my attention was the number of people riding bicycles.  As I watched these brave souls going up and down and around, I was impressed by the way they had to attack the hills.  Had I been on a bike, I most likely would have had to dismount and walk up the hill, dragging the bike with me.  But they were trained through experience to make it up the steep inclines.

bicycle-hill-climbOf course, when there are ups there have to be downs.  And so it was fun to watch these bikers reach the top and then get to coast.  The only thing they had to worry about then was getting up to speeds that would cause them to lose control.

As I have pondered those scenes, I have thought about the ups and downs of life.  There are always those times in our lives when we have to pedal hard to make the next hill – the next struggle.  There often is little training for such obstacles – it is conditioning on the go.

And throughout life, there are those times when things are good and we can let up a little and coast.  A little coasting is good.  We need to rest and regroup.  But if we get too comfortable, we lose the desire to attack the next obstacle.  It gets easier to simply exist and not try.  Comfort, and the desire for comfort, can overcome us.  Kahlil Gibran, in his little novel, The Prophet, says this about comfort:

have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master?  Ay, and it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your larger desires.  . . . Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.

When we allow ourselves to coast too much, we lose the drive to keep going.  So today, I challenge each of us to attack that next hill.  There will be time to rest on the other side.

Don’t quit.  Don’t give up.

Pedal!

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Have you ever noticed how people’s true colors come out when faced with challenges and changed plans?

This morning, I got up early to head to the airport to catch the first flight out to Dallas in order to be at a meeting.  We boarded the plane and got settled, only to find out that the plane had mechanical difficulties.  After 30 minutes or so, we were asked to exit the plane and we would be scheduled for another flight.

It took seconds for the line to build through the gate area as people waited to see the gate agent in order to be rebooked on another flight.  All of the sudden, all the moderately mild-mannered passengers became frustrated children – cutting in line, complaining and throwing tantrums.

Now I have to admit – I was frustrated.  Why the plane sat all night at the gate but now at 6:30 am, it is just now discovered that major mechanical difficulties must ground the plane seems a mystery to me.  But none the less, the alternative of going ahead with the flight with a plane with mechanical problems would not be a good option.

So the plans for each passenger were altered and some reacted more childishly than others.  As I stood in line, feeling my frustration rise – less and less with the inconvenience but more and more with the people acting silly – I realized, this would be an opportunity to show Jesus.

When you are faced with challenges – most likely today – remember that it is in the midst of a storm that our true colors show.  And don’t think for a second that others will not take notice.

Show the world Jesus today!

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The Eternal Now

This past Sunday, we began a new series to help us think about how we should engage our faith in 2017.  The first sermon in this new series dealt with time – how God sees it and how we should use it.  Time is our most precious commodity because it is non-renewable.  Once time is gone, it is gone – we can’t get it back.

clock-slipping-through-fingers

In developing my thoughts for the sermon, I kept coming back to the importance of living in the moment – being present.  What I have come to believe over my more than a couple of years on this planet is that what matters most is right now.

The past is gone – it is the past.  We can remember it, we can learn from it, we can celebrate it and sometimes we may even mourn it.  But we cannot live in it.

The future is not yet and we cannot live there either.  We can hope for it and we can even plan for it but it is still the coming but not yet.  In fact, the future is not guaranteed.

The only thing we really have is right now.

This moment – – this breath.

Another thing I have come to believe is that each and every moment has eternal significance.  And given the significance of each moment, I look at the present as the eternal now.

Paul Tillich, a theologian of major intellect and importance, used the term eternal now to describe a characteristic of God.  But I am using these words in a different way.  The eternal now is what you have in this second as you read these words.  Are you fully present in this eternal now?

A form of the questions I challenged our church family with on Sunday are the questions I leave with you today:

  1.  What should you do with your eternal now?
  2.  What WILL you do with your eternal now?

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Today, one of my readings came from Mark 3:1-6.  This is a familiar passage that illustrates the opposition Jesus faced throughout his ministry.  In this account, we see Jesus being faced with a dilemma of whether or not to heal a man who had a withered hand.  This encounter happened on the Sabbath.

So if he healed the man who needed his touch, then the religious leaders would accuse him of breaking the Sabbath law.  But Jesus knew their understanding of the Sabbath was flawed.  He also knew the man needed his touch.

Today, as I read this passage, the controversy was not what impressed me with this story.  Today, what hit me was obvious.  There was a man with a withered hand and Jesus healed him.  As Jesus surveyed the situation and ran the scenarios of how this could play out in his head, he simply said, “Stretch out your hand.”

In this moment, you are dealing with areas of your life that are withered and need Jesus’ healing touch.

In this moment, Jesus is saying to you, “Stretch out your hand.”

Turn it over to him today.

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Several months ago, I was approached by a young man who said, “My birthday is in January and all I want for my birthday is to preach.” Having been in ministry more than a few months and working with students in the past, my approach to his request was, “Let’s pray about that for a while and let me think about what that would look like.”

I did give it some thought but in all honesty, I assumed it was an excitement he would soon forget and I would never hear from him again. In late October, he brought the subject up again and at that point, I knew he was serious. So we scheduled a time to meet and discuss what he thought he might speak about.

I instructed him to put his sermon together and then get back with me, which he did in December. So when we met, I told him I had decided that the best place for him to start would be with our Wednesday night group.

Last night was the night – and I have to tell you, two facets of the role of the church were clearly visible in our Bible study time. The first facet visible was proclamation. God’s truth was proclaimed by a passionate young man. God used him to deliver a message that all need to hear. He challenged God’s people to be set apart – a message that is always in season.

The second, maybe less obvious, facet of the role of the church made visible last night was a clear picture of discipleship. The church’s mission is to share the message of God’s hope and to make disciples. Last night I sat back and watched our church pour into this young man by giving him a podium and their attention. They saw the value in allowing this young man an opportunity to follow through with what God had moved him to do.

I saw passion and persistence in the young man and I saw love and support and encouragement in the congregation.

A clear picture wouldn’t you say?

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Stay Strong

No doubt you have already begun to feel the strain of trying to keep some of those resolutions you made to start the new year – sleep more, eat less, lose weight.  Life has been happening and it is starting to become easier and easier to let things go.

Kristi and I have plans to exercise more this year.  We both have devices that tell us how many steps we take each day.  I have to tell you, for the first couple of days it wasn’t that hard to hit our target number of steps.  But then we had a cold spell and who wants to walk outside when its 35 degrees and the wind chill is 20.

Sure we could go somewhere to walk inside – and one evening we did – we went grocery shopping (maybe not the best decision).  But over the last two weeks, it has become easier to just give in and say, “I’ll get my steps tomorrow.”

Our spiritual health is very similar.  We may start out with good intentions of spending time with God in the Bible and in prayer, but life happens.  It gets easier and easier to give in to other things and let our time with God slip.

strength-holding-barbell

My prayer today for you and for me, is that God would give us the strength we need to run the race – to stay fit spiritually.  I pray that God would give us the discipline we need to seek him daily – to hunger and thirst for his truth.  I pray that you and I will stay strong and really grow in our faith this next year.

Stay with it!  The relationship is totally worth it!

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Time For Reflection

2017 is here.  Have you had the need to write out the year on a document only to find you mistakenly wrote 2016?  It is always a challenge for the reality of the passage of time to sink in.  “It seems like only yesterday that . . .” can be our mentality as we reflect on the past 365 days.

This time of year I always look back at the past year and look for ways God moved and how his direction impacted my life (or maybe where I missed his direction all together).  I think about what went well and what didn’t.  I ponder things God said to me.  And I evaluate how well I listened.

stick-figure-reflecting

But this time of year I try to set aside time to be spent dreaming about the next 365 days as well.  What will God do?  How will God direct me?  Will things we different 365 days from now?

What about you?  What are you looking forward to in 2017?  How will that dream come to reality?

May I suggest you start with prayer.  Spend time in prayer today asking God to reveal to you the lessons you need to learn from 2016 and the path you need to take in 2017.  God’s promise is that he will never leave you.  The issue is often that we are simply unaware of his presence.

Start by seeking God first and 2017 will be your best year yet!

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