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Archive for the ‘Formation’ Category

There is something special – even sacred – about our relationships with fellow believers.

I had the opportunity to have breakfast with some wonderful people this morning – one of which has been a friend for 15 years.  His kids call me Uncle Brian even though there is no familial relationship.  It’s that kind of relationship!  He is like a brother to me in many ways.  He is in town for the day for work and he carved out some time to get together this morning.Having Coffee

One of the things that I noticed as we talked and caught each other up on family news was that it was as if we picked up where we left off the last time we spoke.  There is something powerful about a relationship with another when hearts are aligned.  There is a sacred bond between people of faith.

As I have reflected on our time together, I have had two parallel thoughts.  One is that I am so thankful for my friendship with Lew – he is a blessing in my life.  The other is a conviction that I should see all the relationships to which God draws me as being just as sacred.

We are wired for relationships – that is God’s design.

What relationships do you see in your life today that you would count as sacred?  Do those people know how you feel?

Let them know they matter!

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Unclutter Your Space

Today marks the beginning of Lent.  This is a season on the church calendar but not traditionally a part of the Baptist tradition.  While we are not offering ashes here today, we are placing emphasis on Lent within our church family this year (as we have in previous years).  This past Sunday we began a series on Sunday mornings that will run up to Palm Sunday called Uncluttering Your Space.

We have a tendency to fill space.  If we move from a 2 bedroom home to a 3, the first thing we think we must do is – – fill that space.  We do the same with our schedules.  If we have a day on the calendar that has some extra space, we strive to fill it.  We have bought into the lie that busyness is productivity and that doing things – anything – is better than doing nothing.

The problem is that the things we fill our space with can distract us from what is truly important.  In fact, we have a tendency to grow attached to things – even those things that begin as simple distractions.  As we add more and more to our space, we gain a false sense of worth or importance.  And we begin to grow attached to those things with which we have cluttered our space because of the feelings they often generate.

But with attachment, those things move from being distractions to becoming obstacles.  Even worse, some of the clutter may even take the place of what we truly need – a relationship with the Creator.

Lent is about reflection.  Lent is about having the courage to set things aside that clutter our lives and prevent us from the relationship God wants and we desperately need.

This Lenten season, I challenge you to unclutter your space.  What are those things in your life that you have grown attached to that may prevent you from having space for God?

Unclutter!

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This morning I was up early for a meeting.  I arrived early to have time to reflect on the day and spend a little focused time with God.  One of my readings today took me to the Gospel of Matthew.  In chapter 19, one of the stories we find there concerns a young man who approached Jesus to ask about how he could get to heaven.  In verse 16, the young man asks Jesus a question that at first glance seems like a logical, heartfelt question.

He asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

Based on Jesus’ response, we know that he was able to see through the question to the heart of the individual.  At first, Jesus played along with the train of thought.  He offered several commandments that should be kept.  But the young man was quick to respond that he did a pretty good job of keeping all those requirements.

So Jesus cut straight to the point and said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

We are told that the man went away sad because he had great wealth.money

As I have reflected on this passage, I see myself in that man, and I think, if we are real about it, we can all relate to what the man was after.  We all want a simple formula.  We want to cut to the chase and find the quickest, easiest route to heaven.  But Jesus reminds us, it is not like that at all.  There is no secret formula or insider information.  The way to eternal life is stunningly simple and yet overwhelmingly difficult.

The way to eternal life requires following Jesus with our entire being.  We must not allow anything in our lives to rank higher than our relationship with Jesus and our devotion to him.  That is what Jesus was saying when he instructed the man to sell all he had, give it to the poor and follow him.  Jesus could see that what stood in the man’s way – what was more important to him than eternal life – was what he had gathered here on earth.

What stands in the way of eternal life may be different for you and for me.  But the principle is the same for us that it was for the young man standing before Jesus that day.  We must not allow anything to be more important in our lives than Jesus.

What will you need to “sell” today to follow him?

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Honestly Real

This morning, I had the opportunity to speak at our school chapel.  The subject I had been assigned was honesty and the Biblical character I was asked to use as an example was Thomas.

Most associate doubt with Thomas rather than honesty.  When Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, Thomas was not present.  So later, the disciples were relaying their experience of seeing the risen Jesus but Thomas struggled with trusting what they were telling him.  In fact, John 20 tells us that he went so far as to say, “unless I see him for myself and touch the wounds of his crucifixion, I will not believe.”  Thus he has been dubbed Doubting Thomas.

But I think if we are real with ourselves and God we should ask ourselves how differently would we have responded?  Don’t we have doubts and fears when it comes to circumstances we don’t know how to navigate?

I think we should give Thomas a bit of a break.  He was real and transparent.

In John 14, when Jesus was preparing his disciples for what was to come – his death and resurrection, Jesus made the statement that he would return and take his followers to be with him.  Thomas was the only one to ask a question.  I think he was not the only one with questions and doubts, just the only one willing to be honest about them.  He asked, “Jesus, how can we know how to get to where you are going?  We don’t know the way.”

He was honest.  It was not that he doubted Jesus’ truthfulness, he just wanted to understand and he was willing to show his struggle.  In fact, one of the greatest and concise statements of faith in the New Testament came from the lips of Thomas in John 20:28, “My Lord and my God.”

The reality is that God already knows our thoughts, our fears, our doubts.  Why would we try to hide those from him – – that would just be dishonest!

Today, let Honest Thomas be an example of being real with God – and with each other.

Be blessed today!

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Yesterday, we began a new series – Dreaming God-Sized Dreams.  As we begin a new year, we have the opportunity to think toward what might be different in 2018 – somehow better than last year.  We think toward possibilities.  We get to dream of what could be but isn’t.

In Ephesians 2:10, Paul tells us that we are God’s creation – his workmanship carrying his artistic touch.  And not only are we physical products of God’s creative efforts, as believers we are also being created and transformed through Jesus in order to fulfill the plans God imagined us carrying out.  Just as a father dreams of a future for his children, God dreams of a future in which each of us live into the potential for which we were created.

The exciting, and maybe a bit frightening, aspect of this text is that we are reminded that we were created to carry out good works but we are not told how exactly to do that.  Jesus has shared what it looks like to live as his disciple.  We have been given a mission – to make disciples, but how we actually carry out this mission is left to us.

DaydreamingIn other words, we are invited into this creative process.

Just as God paraded the animals past Adam and told him to name them in Genesis 2, we are invited, and even called, to be imaginative in the ways we carry out our mission.

We are invited to dream!

What God-sized dreams will you dream today?

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The Open Door

The reading guide I am following for some of my devotional reading has me reading through the book of Revelation to end the year.  Today’s reading was Revelation 4.  The opening of verse of this chapter gave me pause this morning.  The verse says, “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.”

As I meditated on this passage, the image that kept coming to my mind was an open door in heaven.  I imagined a door that had been left cracked open just a bit – probably by accident.  I imagined my desire in wanting to sneak a peek inside – to get even a glance of what might be on the other side of the door.

Open-Doors

I began to pray that God would allow me to have a glimpse of him today and experience his nearness – even for just a moment.

And then it dawned on me like the sun that was rising outside my window – God left that door open on purpose – – for me!

God gives each of us the opportunity to experience his presence each and every day.  The question is, do we take the opportunity when it arises.  Or are we so preoccupied with getting things done that we fail to even see the chance when we have it?

God is leaving the door to heaven open for you today.

Take a peek!

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One of my readings this morning was from the book of 1 Peter.  In chapter 1, the author encourages us to remember how important we are to the Father.  In the aftermath of the meaninglessness that happened Sunday – with questions unanswered and unanswerable – many are grasping for anything.  This passage gives us something we can pull up close.

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

The author reminds us that as believers, we are just passing through this world – this is not our home – we are foreigners here.  But he also reminds us that we are of paramount importance to the Father.  YOU were redeemed from an empty way of life at a most extravagant price.  Your eternal security was purchased not with earthly wealth but with something far more precious.  Your redemption and hope was paid for by the very life of God himself in Jesus’ death on the cross.

Let that truth wash over your heart this morning.  God loves you!  You are a prized child.

There will never be answers this side of eternity to some of the questions we ask regarding what happened in Sutherland Springs on Sunday.  But what we hold on to today is that this is all temporary and there is so much more beyond what we can see.  What is truly important is that we are loved by God and redeemed by his grace.

Walk into that grace today!

 

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