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Archive for the ‘Hope’ Category

Life Is Good

One of the most popular brands these days is LG.  You find the brand name on televisions, sound equipment and appliances.  Many may not realize that the letters LG stand for Life Is Good.  The brand name speaks to their mission to make life better – to help us see that life is, indeed, good.

Life Is GoodWe often forget that fact, do we not.  It is only a few steps from the top of the world to the lowest valley.  Life is good but it can become a grind if we are not careful.  Without proper perspective, the busyness of life becomes one big obligation and instead of living in the realization of the joy life can bring, we see only responsibilities and feel only pressure.

I have found, over the course of my journey, that the pressures of life are the most stifling when I let the tasks of my day take precedence over my time with the creator.  Something we need to foster within our hearts is a desperate longing for God’s presence.  When we yearn to be present with God we make time to make ourselves available.  As believers, when we are available to God we realize God is always with us.  And if God is with us, what on earth can overcome us?

At the most base level, what we need is love.  If we love God, we will make time to be with him.  And as we spend time with him, we realize that our capacity to love God is monumentally insufficient.  With that realization, our desire should become to learn to love him more.  It is in loving God that we live in the reality that life is good.  It is good because God offers it as a gift.  It is good because God is good!

So here is a simple prayer for us this day:

Holy, and loving Father.  I do love you.  At least I think I do.  At least I try.  Please help me to love you more.  Amen and amen!

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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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As I have been thinking about our call to dream – the invitation God extends to each of us to be part of the on-going creative process that is our lives – I have looked to Jesus for insight.  How did Jesus carry out his mission?  How did he dream of what could be but wasn’t.

Of course, the most obvious difference between Jesus’ experience and mine (and yours) is that Jesus is fully God.  BUT, Jesus was fully man as well.  He experienced life with all its joys, hardships and challenges just as we do today.  So what inspired Jesus?  What prompted his dreams?

This Sunday, I will challenge our family to get out of the comfort zone, look to God and dream.

One of my readings this morning came from Matthew 14.  The chapter begins with the account of John the Baptist’s beheading and then moves to the story of the feeding of the 5000 and then the chapter wraps up with the Peter’s failed attempt to walk on water.

But something that caught my attention in this chapter was Jesus’ resolve to get away and spend time with the Father.  When he first heard of John’s death, he got in a boat and headed to a “solitary place.”  He wanted to get away and be alone with God to sort things out – to imagine and dream about what should happen next.

Jesus Looking at StarsHowever, along the way he encountered an interruption – over 5000 of them to be exact.  He had compassion on the masses, he healed the sick and then he fed all of them before sending them home.  Once the crowds were handled, he sent his disciples boating and he resumed his quest to find some solitude on a mountainside where he could pray.

As we consider what could be but isn’t for 2018, we need to have the same kind of resolve to get out and away from the distractions of life – out of our comfort zone – and be willing to seek God and dream.

Interruptions will come our way.  But we must be committed to spending time with the Father in order to dream God-sized dreams.

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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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