Making Room

A couple of years after moving into our current home, we decided it was time to purchase a new sofa and a couple of chairs for our den.  So we began the search and finally agreed on a set.  But then came the hard part – making room.  We found ourselves with the need to get rid of some things so that the new would fit.

In a similar way, we crowd our lives with things that ultimately leave little room for God.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday – the first day of the season of Lent.  While Baptists have not traditionally observed Lent, I think there are some things we need to be thinking about as we move toward Easter.

When we think of Lent, we immediately think about what we are going to give up, and that is certainly a part of the season.  But instead of thinking about Lent in that way, what if we approached Lent with a different question.  Instead of asking ourselves, “what will I give up?” let’s ask ourselves, “where can I make room?”

You see, Lent is really about recognizing all the things we put in our lives to bring ourselves comfort or peace or happiness and realizing that none of those things can ever do what we expect.  Lent is recognizing that we have pushed God out of our lives and we need to make room to allow God back in.

So where will you make room for God over the next forty days?

Be Still . . . And KNOW

I have a standing breakfast with a rotating group of leaders in our church every Thursday. I look forward to this time each week. Quite a brotherhood has formed over the past several years of doing this each week. So my schedule begins a bit earlier on Thursday’s than on other days.

But on this day – I awoke at 4:15 and could not go back to sleep. I would like to say it was because I was so excited to spend time with some guys walking the same path. But the reason I could not return to slumber was all the concerns that began to parade across my mind. As the parade began, I began to pray.

As I thought of each of my children, I prayed for their lives and their walks with Jesus. I prayed for our church. I prayed for several church members who are experiencing struggles. The parade just seemed to go on forever. I tried to look down the street but I couldn’t see the end of it.

I began to sense anxiety from the overwhelming needs. And then something life-giving happened. God brought to my mind a simple phrase from a powerful verse. Psalm 46:10 says, Be still and know that I am God.

As I watched the parade pass by the eye of my mind, I heard these words with each passing “float” of concern – be still and know.

When I thought about the safety and health of my kids I heard, be still and know!

When I thought about the responsibilities of ministry I heard, be still and know!

When I thought about all the people I know personally who are struggling, I heard, be still and know!

Be still!

Take a breath!

Calm down!

Know that I AM!

Know that I AM GOD!

The one true God. The only God!

Whatever you face this day, BE STILL AND KNOW THAT GOD IS GOD. God is bigger than whatever might cause concern!

Be still and know!

I was raised with faith being a major part of my life.  If there was a time the church was open for any reason, we were normally there.  While that sounds like I might be whining, let me just say that I would not trade a minute of it!  I am eternally grateful for parents who felt it important to have their kids in church.

Throughout my life, I have become more and more convinced of something I was told over and over again as a child.  That God has a plan for each of his children.  I was told that I would never be happier than when I am living in the middle of God’s will.

Unfortunately, there was little said about how to find that will.  So began a journey to seek God’s will for my life.  If you grew up involved in a church, most likely, you have experienced what I am talking about.

Yesterday, we wrapped up a series on Micah 6:8 in church.  In that one little verse, the prophet Micah did us a huge favor.  He answered for us what can be a life-long crucible to find God’s will.  He made it very plain.

I believe that God cares more about the person we become than about the things we do.  It is not that our actions are not important but he knows that if we are the people he created us to be on the inside, then the actions will take care of themselves.

So Micah tells us that God’s will for our lives will ALWAYS involve acting justly – doing what is right.  It will ALWAYS involve loving mercy – truly seeing people and showing them compassion.  And it will ALWAYS involve walking humbly with God.

In fact, the first two things are not really possible on a consistent basis if we are not walking humbly with God daily.  Given that fact, I want to leave you with the following challenge:

Begin each day with this prayer:

Father, this is your day and everything I do, I do for you. I want to do what is right in all things. Help me to see you at work around me and help me really see the people you put in my path.  Please give me strength to show them your love.  Be glorified in me this day as we walk together through it.  Amen.

I believe when we start our days with this prayer, we will live more completely in God’s will throughout the day.

I would love to hear how God guides you this day!  Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.

Be blessed today!

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!

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!

The Fulfilled Life

Yesterday, my sermon was built around the idea of passion – specifically the passion to follow Jesus and serve him with our all.  The apostle Paul encouraged each of us in his letter to the Colossian believers to serve Jesus with everything we have – our whole heart.

I was reminded after our first service that the heart was considered, by the Hebrew mindset, as the essence of a person’s being.  When we think of our hearts we should think of the inner-most parts of our being – the seat of our emotions and consciousness.

As we live our lives in worship to Jesus from the very depths of our being – with our hearts – we should do so with the clear understanding that the greatest joy we will experience in this life is the giving of ourselves to our fullest ability to his purposes for our lives.

God created you on purpose for his purpose.  You are no mistake.  One of his greatest desires is for you to experience fulfillment.  This comes through a vibrant relationship with him in which you are all-in, whole-heartedly committed to living your life for him.

You can do this!

Remove the Wrapper

Last night, we went to dinner at a local restaurant.  Our time was blessed by great food and simply being together.  On our way out of the restaurant and to our car in the parking lot, something caught my eye.  As we made our way to our car, we had to walk through a line of other cars.  As I passed by a truck, I noticed something odd hanging from the rearview mirror inside the vehicle.

Tree Air FreshenerIt was an air freshener shaped like a pine tree.  You may be thinking – “where have you been, those things have been around for years!”

It wasn’t the presence of an air freshener shaped like a tree, hanging from the rearview mirror that grabbed my attention.  It was the fact that it was still wrapped in it’s cellophane wrapper!

My first thought was “there is an illustration here.”  The thought that followed immediately on the heels of that thought was, “I need a picture of that!”  However, common sense kicked in and the thought of being arrested for messing around with another person’s vehicle outweighed my desire for photographic evidence.

As I have considered the scene, my mind has continued to ponder the comedy of an air freshener, hanging where often they are seen hanging, yet with no ability to do what it was created to do.

I think this might just be a testimony.  Actually, I believe it is the story of each of our lives from time to time.

God created us with specific gifts and skills and talents.  He has filled us with passion for specific things.  Each of us is completely, and utterly unique – – just like everyone else!

He did this with specific dreams in mind – very real possibilities for each of us to experience a fulfilled life – the life he intended for us from the beginning.

But so often, we never take off the wrapper.  We live our lives going through the motions and possibly looking like we have it all together and that we are where we need to be, but just like that air freshener, we are not using our gifts and talents for their intended purpose – to glorify the king!

Today, I challenge you to remove the wrapper and live into the life God created you to live!

Be a blessing today!