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Do You See

How is your day shaping up?  Are you really busy?  I am sure most are like me and the answer to the second question is “Yes, extremely!”  We tend to fill our time – sometimes with good things and sometimes with less than the best.

While I encourage effectiveness and accomplishment, I am reminded this morning that my busyness must not prevent me from seeing – seeing God at work around me – seeing God at work in me – and especially, seeing the person right in front of me.

So often, our cordial greeting and inquiry about how someone is doing is reduced to a formality.  The question I asked our church family this past Sunday was, “Do we see people?”  Are we aware of the folks around us – truly aware?

Woman and Magnifying Glass

In order to show the love of Christ, we must see people.  And we must see them as God sees them.  There is an old rabbinic tradition that says that when we encounter another person, we should envision a processional of angels going before them shouting, “Make way, make way, make way the image and likeness of God!”

How would our world be different if we saw each and every person we meet as the the image and likeness of God?

Practice seeing today and let me know what you see!

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Divine Mystery

I love this time of year. But as I have aged, the reasons I enjoy this season have changed. From my earliest recollection, I understood the reason for the season as the cliche goes, but the depth of my understanding has grown ever deeper.

My appreciation of God’s love for us in sending Jesus has grown through the years. But with maturity comes the ability to reason and think. Many, like me, want to understand things – to reason them out. So when it comes to the incarnation, the event of deity becoming human, we struggle to understand and it can make us feel uneasy.

We are often uncomfortable with the incomprehensible. When we come face to face with the reality of God becoming flesh, we strive for answers. Mystery can be as unsettling as it is illusive.

A few weeks ago, I was reminded that without mystery, faith is not really necessary. Kristi and I attended Greek Fest, held each year at the Greek Orthodox Church here in Corpus Christi. It is a wonderful celebration of the Greek culture complete with traditional Greek food, bazaar and traditional dances performed by the next generation, striving to hold on to their culture.

One of the things we did this year as part of our attendance of the festival was to enjoy a tour of the church and listen to the history of the local church as well as the history of Orthodoxy. The priest is a friend I have known for over 20 years and so it was a true joy to hear him talk about his faith to a group of folks who had no idea.

One of the things Father John said as part of his presentation was that the Orthodox Church is completely content allowing mysteries to remain mysteries.

What a great reminder! So often we want to explain things away. But when it comes to God, there are so many things we are incapable of understanding.

Instead of trying to explain the divine mystery of incarnation, we are forced to accept and believe.

And I was reminded by Father John that I am OK with that.

Be blessed!

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Yesterday, one of my readings was in Romans 12.  That is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible.  There is extremely practical wisdom dripping from each verse.  I don’t know if I have just never paid attention to verse 11 or perhaps my recent fatigue caused me to see this verse with new eyes, but I have not been able to move past that verse.

Romans 12:11 – Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

I have asked myself several times since yesterday morning if my zeal and spiritual fervor are visible.  I fear that most of the time the answer might be no.  It is easy to get bogged down in the day to day and lose that excitement and energy that comes when we are walking in step with the Father.

In The Message, Eugene Peterson translates this verse this way:  Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.

I think he captures the heart of the verse – don’t burn out but remain cheerfully expectant.  As followers in The Way, we are to walk close enough to the Father that our strength is continually being renewed.  It is when we wander or fall behind or run ahead that we begin to walk or run in our own strength.  Gradually, often imperceptibly, our strength begins to wane.  We might not even notice it initially.

Fatigue sets in and robs us of our zeal.  Before we know it we are going through the motions – no energy, no enthusiasm – no zeal.

So how do we combat this loss?  How do we revive and maintain our zeal?

Here are two steps that will renew your zeal.

  1.  Start with rest.  Physical fatigue is the loss of energy and energy holds hands with zeal.  Take time to get physical rest.  But even more importantly, take time to rest in the Father.  Time with Jesus should never be an item on the To Do List but rather be the foundation and motivation for our To Do Lists.
  2. Set your focus on Jesus.  When we see our lives as a gift from God and we set our eyes on him and commit ourselves to staying close to him, our energy is restored..

Paul challenges us to never be lacking in zeal but rather continue serving the Lord.  Rest in him and stay close today.

Lord Jesus, on those days when we are tired, in those moments when we have no energy or enthusiasm, open our hearts to your goodness and plan for our lives and revive our energy and strength.  May others see the zeal we have for you today.  We rest in you cheerfully – expectant!



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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 marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses being nailed to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany.  As we have reflected on the changes brought about by that act, we have recognized the debt we owe to those early reformers.  Our focus on grace alone through faith alone comes directly from this movement.Wittenburg door

But I have wrestled with something for the past several weeks leading up to this momentous day.

Are we still in need of reform?

It is said that the generation of leaders after Martin Luther held that every generation is in need of reform.  I believe that is true.  The Gospel message does not change.  The fact that all people are sinners in need of saving does not change.  The truth that salvation comes only by God’s radical free gift of grace does not change.  The reality that this grace must be received by each individual through a heartfelt trust and faith does not change.

But what does change is how we live with these truths and how the church seeks to carry out her calling into God’s mission in light of these truths in an ever-changing culture.  We walk a line between being in the world but set apart from it.

I believe we are guilty of gross negligence if we acknowledge the courage and boldness of Martin Luther and other reformers but do not take a serious look at where we may need reform today.  What are the areas we have conformed more to the world than been transformed to God’s kingdom and rule?  Are there areas of life and ministry where we have lost sight of what matters most?

Holy God, show us your ways!

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The Rest We Need

There is a direct link between trust and rest. When I finally decide to lay down on top of my bed at night, I am trusting the structure to hold me. I would not be able to completely relax if, with every turn and movement through the night (which are often and many) I were afraid the bed frame would collapse and I would end up on the floor.

In order to truly rest, we must trust.

Last week in our Bible study time we worked through one of the sermons Peter delivered in Jerusalem in the beginning days of the Christian church. In the third chapter of the book of Acts, we find Peter and John standing in the outer courts of the temple, calling people to repent and turn to God.

Peter offers two very powerful motivations to repentance. The first is that when we repent of our sins and turn to God, our sins are wiped out – blotted out – discarded – covered over! All the poor choices and mistakes, all the willful disobedience – all of it – forgiven.

But the second motivation Peter offers for repentance is that by confessing our sins, repenting and trusting God, we will receive “times of refreshing” from the Lord. The ASV translation clarifies that this “refreshing” comes from “the presence of the Lord.”

I don’t know about you but refreshment and renewal that comes from being in the very presence of God sounds pretty good to me!

What are you trusting God with today? Do you need a little rest and refreshment?

Whatever you are carrying today, God is big enough to handle it! Simply trust and experience his refreshment!

Be blessed with rest today.

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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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Are there things you know you want to accomplish or try today but you are hesitant?  What is holding you back?  Is it the fear of what others might think?  Or maybe the fear of failure?woman-in-fear

Yesterday, we continued our series, Plastic People – Being Real In a Fake World.  The topic of the morning was being real about our fears.  So often, we become crippled by our fears.  Unhealthy fear can render us helpless and ultimately useless to God and his kingdom.

Danger is real – fear is not.  Fear is an emotional response to the potential outcome of a situation.  The key word in that statement is potential.  Fear is a response to something that has not happened – a response to something that may not even come to pass.

I would suggest to you that while danger is always present in our fallen world, fear is an emotional choice – we can choose to be afraid or we can choose to trust.  When it comes to living into the life God intended for you, you must always remember two things:

  1.  God loves you implicitly and completely.
  2. God has your best interest at heart – always!

Given those two foundational truths – why should we have any reason to choose fear?  Romans 8:31 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Live into that promise today.

Attempt great things for God.

Choose trust over fear!

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If you could fast forward to bedtime tonight and then reflect back on the
day – what would make you glad that you were alive today?  What one thing remembered would give you peace to sleep comfortably through the night, thinking-about-a-questionknowing that you made a difference – that you really lived out God’s call on your day?

Think about that this morning.  Begin your day with the end in mind.

Dare to dream about what that might be.

And then go and do it!

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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.


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