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Archive for March, 2017

What motivates gratitude?

I’ve been thinking about the idea for a while.  The more I have thought about the concept of gratitude, the more I am convinced that the ability to be grateful comes from a healthy understanding of who we are and what we deserve.

One of my biggest frustrations is to see a sense of entitlement in others.  This entitlement plays out in all areas of life – from cutting in line in traffic to expecting better service at a restaurant to how we act in church.  I get frustrated when I see someone hold up traffic so that they can cut across three lanes to go a different direction – their poor driving skills cause the rest of creation to be placed on hold while they get their way.  Well, alright, maybe that is a little exaggerated – but you get the point.

We all struggle with a sense that we are due – it is our right.

But is it . . . our right?

The truth is, if we were to actually get what we deserve, most of us would not like the results.  What our poor decisions and selfishness deserve would be eternal separation from God.  That does not sound too appealing to me.

But thanks be to God for his grace and provision of salvation.

Last night I shared a brief devotion with our deacon body from the Gospel of Luke.  The story came from Luke 17 – the healing of the ten lepers.  Out of the ten, only one returned to say thank you.  Where were the other nine.  Could it have been that they lived with an expectation that they were due the healing that they received?

We think about that and look down on their unappreciative attitude but let me ask – do we ever take God’s blessings for granted?

Gratitude comes from the realization that what we deserve is death and separation from God but what God offers is an eternal relationship with him.

That is something for which we can all be thankful!

Be blessed today.

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Two Miles Till Empty

On Monday, several of our staff and a couple of lay leaders piled into a van and made a short seven hour drive to Dallas.  We headed there for a workshop to learn more about a family ministry emphasis we will be implementing in the fall.

It was a great trip complete with wonderful conversation, informative meetings and a bit of dreaming of how things could and should be in our church.

The conference wrapped up on Tuesday about 3:30 and we again piled into the van for the quick commute back home.  There were many things that happened along the way that may become the source of a post in the future but what I am reflecting on this day is what happened in the final few miles of the trip.

As we drew near to home, the gas gauge was nearing “Empty.”  When we were over 100 miles from home, the low fuel system informed me that we could travel 150 miles before running out of gas.  That was fine because we only had 120 miles to go – leaving 30 miles to spare.  (Some of you are already nervous about how this story will end.)

As we got closer to Corpus Christi, that gap got closer and closer.  The miles traveled were moving slower than the fuel range estimate.  By the time we turned onto the street that leads to the church, we were 1.6 miles from the parking lot of the church and the system was telling me we could travel 2 miles before being out of gas.2 Miles To Go

Honestly, it became a  quest.  Unfortunately, not all passengers were equally passionate about this quest.  So I gave in and pulled into a gas station to fill up.

As I have reflected on the experience, my thoughts have turned to our spiritual well-being.  So often we push ourselves to the point we are running on fumes.  But while there are signs that we might be running low on spiritual sustenance, there is no light that comes on to warn us and certainly no message we receive that reminds us that we are about to run completely out.

It is so important to keep our spiritual tanks filled.  We need the fuel that comes from time with the Father.  We can only go so long on our own strength – and we never make it as far on our own strength as we think we will.

Make sure to slow down today and refill.  God is always ready to spend time with you.

Will you make time for him?

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This morning, I arrived early for my regular Thursday breakfast meeting at the historic Town and Country Cafe.  I try to arrive early each week to have time to sip some coffee and read a bit before the guys I am meeting show up.

Today, part of my morning reading came from Luke 10 and the story of the disagreement between Mary and Martha over who was dong the majority of the work in preparation for hosting guests.  I read the story of Martha’s complaint and Jesus’ response.  It is a familiar story in which Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus, learning from him.  Martha was busy trying to get things ready to serve the guests.  Martha, frustrated that she was doing all the work, finally approached Jesus to complain.

Jesus used the opportunity as a teaching moment in which he illustrated the importance of priorities.  He pointed out that what was more important was the relationship and not the preparations. Busy Waitress The word that caught my attention in the story is “distracted.”  The Greek word translated here can be understood as covered over or consumed with worry.

As I sat and pondered the idea of Mary’s frustration, I watched the waitresses in the restaurant serve the patrons.  I noticed the light hearted back and forth exchanges between the frequent customers and their familiar server.  I thought about what the picture might be if the waitress was consumed to the point of being overwhelmed with the task of serving.  The result of a situation like that often leaves the customer feeling like they are more of a burden and nuisance than a patron.

How often are we consumed with our schedules and tasks to the point that those we serve feel they are a burden to us – just one more responsibility?

Jesus reminded Martha that she shouldn’t be so concerned about all the peripheral distractions when there is really only one real need.

When it comes to service, there is always a job to do, but when the “job” takes precedent over the relationship, then we have missed the point.  So today, as you go through your busy schedule – don’t forget to love the person in front of you.  Take time to see the people not just the task.

Be a blessing today!

 

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I catch myself often speaking negatively about the culture in which we live.  It is easy to become frustrated by the lack of recognition and acknowledgement of objective truth within our culture.  We are bombarded by media and news reports that tell us that the greatest good in our world today is tolerance.  If tolerance is the only thing that matters, then it wins out when it comes to disagreement as to what is true – being tolerant of another view takes precedence over what is inherently true.truth1

While I hold diligently to the reality of objective truth, I also know that if we are to fulfill our mission to make disciples in this generation, then we must adjust our strategy.  Notice I did not say adjust the truth – but rather, adjust our strategy.  If we are to reach and influence our culture, we must do so with love and humility.  This shouldn’t be earth-shattering news – it is the method Jesus used.

Yesterday, I received a book from a dear friend.  The book is one of Dallas Willard’s many works entitled, The Allure of Gentleness:  Defending the Faith In the Manner of Jesus.  One of the things Willard says in this book is “the call to ‘give an account’ is, first, not a call to beat unwilling people into intellectual submission, but to be the servant of those in need, often indeed the servant of those who are in the grip of their own intellectual self-righteousness and pride, usually reinforced by their social surroundings.”

We are called to make disciples.  We are also called to be the servant of all.  I would suggest that while this call to be a servant is especially true within the family of God, it is also true when it comes to relating to our world.

So today, instead of sitting back and passing judgement on a culture that frustrates us, perhaps we make time to simply sit and listen.  To engage someone in an honest, spiritual conversation that is free of contempt.

The truth that the world will know we are his disciples by our love is as relevant today as it was the day Jesus said it.

Hold fast to his truth today – but do so with humility and love.

Be a blessing!

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Last week I finished a little book entitled, The Greatest Salesman In the World.  It is an interesting read and one that causes the reader to think about what is important in life.

About mid-way through the book, one of the chapters begins with these words: “I will live this day as if it is my last.”  The same chapter ends with these words:  “I will live this day as if it is my last.  And if it is not, I shall fall to my knees and give thanks.”

I have continued to ponder those words.  I wish I could say with integrity and a straight face that I make the most of each moment.  But sadly, I fear there are more minutes in the day that go wasted than I would care to count.  Perhaps that is your confession too.

But what if, today, I truly lived this day as if I knew it would be my last?  What if I gave every ounce of effort possible to make sure that this would turn out to be the greatest day of my life?  Would this day look differently?

I am not referring to productivity only.  Relationships could be enriched.  Experiences could be life forming.  Words could carry deeper meaning.  Lives could be changed.

And then, at the end of the day, I could lay my head down in gratitude for the time God has given me.  And tomorrow, if God so chooses, if I wake, I should fall to my knees and thank God for another day to do the same.

God, may it be so!

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At the beginning of this week, I made another trek to west Texas for a meeting.  And what started out as a simple fly to west Texas, have my meeting, get some work done and fly back turned into an adventurous journey.

I will spare you all the details but due to bad weather in Houston, my plane was delayed just long enough leaving Corpus Christi that I missed the last plane out of Houston.  Of course, when I got to Houston and worked with a helpful gate attendant to re-route my travels for the next day, all stores and restaurants were closed in the airport and there were no rooms in the local inns either due to all the things going on in town.

So there I stood in the middle of Houston Hobby airport with nothing to eat and no place to lay my head for the night.  I will say, I got very acquainted with the layout of the airport and I also got some work done.Sleeping In Airport

But finally at 1:30 am, I had walked and sat all I could.  I found a semi-dark area behind a gate counter and stretched out on the floor.  I am not sure I slept much the hour and a half I lay there.  It was hard to rest on commercial grade carpet laid down directly over concrete.  But the discomfort of the floor was not the biggest thing on my mind.  I kept wondering where all the shoes had been before they walked across this particular 15 square feet of carpet.

As I have thought about my adventure, I have thought about how spoiled I have become.  I have grown very accustomed to the comforts of my life.  I take for granted that I have a warm house with a comfortable bed.  I don’t lack much of anything really.

But sometimes, it is when those amenities are gone that we realize what we miss.  It can also be very revelatory in seeing those things we have that we can do without.

The season of Lent is designed to help us realize that we put many things in our lives that we don’t need.  When we take the time to do a mental inventory and simplify our lives, we might just realize we need very little beyond our relationship with the father.

I was reminded, through my adventure, that God is good – even when things don’t go according to my plans.

I also learned that occasionally we may need a good chiropractor.

Be blessed today!

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Yesterday marked the beginning of Lent. As I was out in the community yesterday, I noticed those who had taken the ash as a symbol of grief. Seeing those who chose to participate in the discipline of Ash Wednesday has had me thinking.ash-wednesday

For those of us outside the tradition that practices this discipline, I think we would do well to think about its meaning. When we think of Lent, we typically think of giving something up. But the season has such a deeper significance – beginning with Ash Wednesday. By receiving the ash, the participant acknowledges the sin in his or her life. The act should be based on reflection of all the ways we have strayed from God’s path as well as reflection on our desperate need for God to be God in our lives.

We have a tendency to try and replace God in our lives with distractions. We place importance on things – often good things – that can dilute our commitment to follow God with our whole heart. Our hearts have a limited capacity. When we fill our hearts with desires for things other than God then our desire for God decreases – it is similar to the law of displacement in physics. When a container is at capacity and something else is introduced, something has to give. If I fill a five-gallon bucket with water and then drop a bowing ball in I am going to make a mess.

Lent is a season in which we reflect on the mess we have made with our lives by allowing things other than our desire for God to take up space in our hearts. And we ask forgiveness and repent. It is a season when we focus on our desperate need for God and we seek him more intently. It is a season when our commitment is renewed to live our lives for God daily.

As we make our way through the next forty days – leading up to Resurrection Day – take some time to reflect. There is only so much room in your life. Make sure God is the biggest part of it.

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