Archive for the ‘Formation’ Category

Clear Vision

I have been told by more than one person around this great state of Texas that I am blessed with THE best view of any pastors’ office in the state.  I tend to agree.  For a west Texas boy who grew up on a beach with no water, being able to sit at my desk and see water and watch ships coming and going is like nothing I could have ever imagined.  I am blessed!

Clear Office View

Some days, the view is clear and I can see to the other side of the bay.  The sky is blue and the water is beautiful.  The gulls float and hover and an occasional sail boat glides in and out of my view.  It truly is a picturesque scene!

Then other days, like this morning, the skies are overcast and the haze prevents seeing more than a quarter mile into the bay.  There are ships coming and going but I can’t see them.  There is activity happening on the other side of the bay, but without having those clear days, there would be no concept of life beyond the mist.Overcast Office View

Our lives are like this in many ways.  God blesses us with vision when we are paying attention and we have moments of clarity.  We can see what God has for us and we can set steps in place to help us carry out his call on our lives.

It is that clarity that motivates us on those days when the vision is not as vivid.  There are days in our lives when we reach a point of wondering why we are doing the things we do.  On those days, remember the vision he has given you to be the best Jesus follower you can be.  Hold to the passion that comes from clarity.

God does have a plan for each of us.  He has created you completely and utterly unique – –  just like everyone else!  You are the only you on earth and God has special plans for you.  Pray for profound clarity of his calling for you.

As I finish this post, I turn to the window – – it looks like things are clearing!

Be blessed!

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Yesterday, we began a new series on Sunday mornings titled, Lord Teach Us To Pray.  For the next several weeks we will be looking at the Model Prayer found in Matthew 6.  I am excited to see what God will do through this series as we take a concentrated look at this beautiful, well known form of prayer.

We opened the series with a look at the words, Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.

The depth and breadth of theology in this one sentence is staggering.  We are to begin our prayers with an understanding and attitude that we have the opportunity of having a conversation with the great I Am.  He is, at the same time, intimate Father and completely holy, sacred and other.  What a mystery!prayer over scripture

A.W. Tozier said, What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.  I think he is on to something.  We must have a healthy understanding – as best we can – of who it is with whom we have the privilege of an audience when we address God.

Often, we tend to think of God as an infinitely better version of ourselves.  But that is faulty thinking.  While we are created in his image, God is completely outside creation and not like anything we know.  He is to be hallowed in our minds – consecrated, set apart and holy.  This is the God we serve – this is the God who invites us to converse.

This completely other, holy and sacred God is also personal and intimately engaged in our lives.  Adrian Rogers made the statement years ago that God doesn’t love us all, he loves us each.  God knows you and loves you.  He knows your name, he knows your needs, he knows your dreams – he knows you!

What a mystery!

What a blessing!

What a Father!

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We find ourselves today living in the wake of Easter.  It is easy for us to celebrate the empty tomb and then get back to our daily lives – our schedules and commitments and all that life brings.  But I want to remind us that the resurrection changed everything.  In one wonderfully cosmic event, life as we know it changed.  Jesus overcame death securing for us the assurance of our own eternal life.

Jesus taught that if we will be first we must become last and if we are to truly live we must die to ourselves.  When we surrender our desires and plans to him, we are, in a very real sense, dying to ourselves and being resurrected to live for Jesus.

Easter should be a reminder for us to live resurrected lives each and every day.  We must seek to encounter Jesus each day not just at Easter.

One of my favorite accounts in scripture is the Emmaus Road encounter.  Two of Jesus’ followers were reeling from the events of his passion.  They had heard of the women who had gone to the tomb earlier that day and found it empty.  They were talking to each other trying to make sense of it all as they walked the road.  As they walked, Jesus joined them on the journey but they did not recognize him.

He spent time with them, instructing them on how the scriptures had foretold what would happen to the messiah but even through his teaching, they did not recognize him – at least not yet.  It wasn’t until they sat down to eat together that their eyes were finally focused on who was sitting there with them.  When they realized this stranger at the table was Jesus, he vanished from their sight.

As the two of them discussed all they had just experienced, they asked each other, “were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened scripture to us?”

There is so much power packed into that simple question!

When we encounter Jesus, our hearts burn within us.

When is the last time you experienced an encounter with Jesus that rekindled your inner flame.  Jesus is in the business of igniting passions within us to make a difference for him.

That is what it means to live a resurrected life.  It is to live a life of passion for the King!

May our hearts burn within us today because we have encountered Jesus!

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We Remember

We remember.

We stand at the foot of the cross, or kneel.

The draw of the exuberance of the empty tomb pulls at us but your words to your disciples to stay – to remain awake – to stay near compel us to pause.

We remember your words, even as the wafer touches our lips – “This is my body, given for you.”

Lord Jesus, we remember.

Cross in Communion Cup

As the cup is raised to our mouths we look to the cross and we remember.  This is your blood that was spilled out for us.

We remember.

Lord Jesus we remember!

We are not worthy of your sacrifice.  We do not deserve the gift of eternal life you made possible on that cross.  But we do remember.

And we say thank you!

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Pause At the Cross

Here we are in the middle of the holiest of weeks.  I make it a habit each year to remind our church family (and myself) to take time to pause at the cross before moving to the empty tomb.  We set aside Easter Sunday each year to celebrate the resurrection of the savior and we should do just that!

Jesus, over two centuries ago, began a movement that has changed the world.  But his movement has had far more of a crucial impact than on social reform alone.  In fact, the social implications are minor compared to the eternal spiritual difference he has made.  Jesus rose from the dead, defeating death and conquering sin.  Without the resurrection, there would be no hope for us.  We are given the opportunity to live resurrected lives when we choose to die to our own desires – to humble ourselves and submit to Jesus’ leadership.  That is good news and only possible through the resurrection.

Looking Up at Cross

So it is right to celebrate an empty tomb!

But let us not rush past the cross on the way to the empty tomb.  There would have been no empty tomb had there not been a horrific cross.  Jesus paid a debt we could not pay – our debt!

On this Silent Wednesday (silent because scripture does not record any activity of Jesus on this day of that final week), reflect on the cross.  Meditate on the weight of the sin of the world coming to rest at one point in time on one man.

Pause at the cross and remember.

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In one of my readings this morning, I ran across a reminder that should inform and shape each day of our existence here on Earth.  In Luke 10, Jesus sent out 72 of his followers in pairs to prepare the way for him in the towns he would visit.  He gave each of them authority to heal and cast out demons.

When they returned they were exuberant with excitement over being able to cast out demons.  While Jesus rejoiced with them, he cautioned them and reminded them to keep a proper perspective.  He said to them in verse 20, “do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

His words remind us that what happens here on Earth does not matter nearly as much as our eternal destiny.  We can have great “success” here but it will not matter much if our eternity with the Father is not secure.

As I have reflected on this thought I realized that the opposite is also just as important – even when things go terribly wrong here and we experience struggles and tragedy, we need to remember that our eternal destiny far outweighs what we endure here.

We tend to live with blinders on but we need to expand our perspective.

My reflection moved me to write this note to myself and I share it with you in hopes that it can serve as a reminder for you as well:

We must strive to gaze at the eternal panorama and not allow ourselves to stare at the temporal snapshot.

Remember that today!

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Over the past few weeks I have talked with so many people who are carrying such heavy loads – more than normal.  I have been more sensitive in our weekly worship gathering to see hollow looks and stressed-out faces.

The reality of life is that we all pass through moments or days or even seasons of difficulty as we journey along the Way.  It is a mis-conception to think that by giving our lives to Christ and living for him as best we can, we are no longer going to experience struggles.  In fact, most often, the struggles are amplified in some ways because we live in a world in which those of us who strive to honor Jesus with our lives are looked on with condescension or even condemnation.

But I want to encourage you fellow travelers in two ways this morning.

The first is that you are not alone!  You are part of a huge family made up of all kinds of people from all walks of life and all parts of the world that are on the same journey and are experiencing the same struggles you face.  Sometimes it is helpful to know you are not alone.

But even more important to remember today is that no matter how bleak things may seem today . . . Easter is coming!Easter Poster 2018

Jesus walked this Way 2000 years ago and he was treated with condescension and condemnation.  He was pushed to the outskirts of acceptable culture and when he would not go silently into the obscurity, the leaders of his day killed him.

But that was not the end.  He rose from the dead and when he did, he conquered death and defeated sin to show us once and for all that we are more than conquerors when we live our lives for him.  His triumph gives us hope that he is bigger than any temporary struggle we face.

So today, if you are feeling like there is little in your life that offers hope remember that you are not alone and Easter is coming!

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