April 30, 2009

Welcome Back

I thought I would share this from an email I received earlier this week. (I have permission from the sender to post this.)

"My question/concern is regarding "coming back" to the faith, if that's the way you would word it. I've had my skepticism about Christianity, and I've definitely been living in a way that does not exemplify a "Christian life," AND I know I need to change a lot of things, but I don't really understand the whole thing about not being able to come back. Is that just if you completely reject a belief in God? And maybe I'm not doing the right things to "come back." I don't know."

The passage I think you are referring to in talking about "not being able to come back" is found in Hebrews 6:4-6 which reads:

"4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace." (NIV)

The writer of Hebrews is talking about someone that has completely rejected God, like you mentioned. This would be someone who knows what it means to walk with and toward Jesus and has made a deliberate decision to turn and head in the opposite direction. The impossibility comes in on our part, not God's. He will not force Himself upon me so it becomes impossible for me to come back to repentance (which literally means to do a 180 and head in the opposite direction) if my heart is not willing.

This also brings to mind the story of the Prodigal Son. It would have been impossible for him to come back if he had not had a change of heart and decided to repent, or travel in the opposite direction he was heading, which brought him back home. I would guess that you are more like the Prodigal Son, as that is the case for the majority of us at times in our relationship with Christ.

I'm not sure if there is a list of the "right" things to do to come back but I can say it requires a change of heart, which it sounds like you are experiencing simply because you were willing to send this email. Confess. Repent. Find a church community and get plugged-in, find a small group to get connected to, make it a priority in your day to spend time in the Word, set aside your desires/wants/needs and love other people and I'm guessing that as you begin to do these things you will find that you haven't strayed as far as you think. Continue to pursue this change in direction and allow Christ to welcome you back!

April 29, 2009

A Litany of Humility

This litany composed by Rafael Cardinal Merry de Val (1865-1930) was shared in our staff devotions yesterday and I found it to be pretty powerful.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus. (repeat after each line)
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. (repeat after each line)
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,

April 28, 2009

Just Say 'NO'

At what point does it become too much? Even if they are "good" things? It seems as though it is becoming more obvious that so many of us are doing way too much. We have become so over committed that we have forgotten what we're actually committed to. Going non-stop has caused us to get stressed out, exhausted, and even cranky. We are doing so many things that we have a hard time focusing on one thing which makes it really hard to do anything really well. So many of us have fallen into the trap of thinking that our doing defines our being.

Do you ever just rest? I mean really rest. Is your schedule dictating your priorities when in reality it should be the other way around? It would be impossible to read about the ministry of Jesus and not see the point He made to rest. Even Jesus scheduled time for rest.

Follow this line of logic with me and let's see where we end up...

...God created everything in 6 days, took a Sabbath rest on the 7th...

...God created you and I in His image...

...God created the Sabbath for man, not the other way around...

...Jesus is God and was intentional about finding rest...

...you and I need to practice Sabbath rest.

Maybe you need to start saying 'NO' to things, I know I do. Maybe even to good things that might help other people? If I get so caught up in serving for Christ that I forget about Christ, I'm missing the point. If the noise of my busyness drowns out the voice of the One I am busy for, I'm missing the point.

Many persons, ordained or not, live in a fairly constant state of noise, with their unresolved past and the uncertain present breaking in on them. They lack a still center and it is only for such a quiet point that we can listen attentively.

-From Spirituality for Ministry by Urban T. Holmes III

April 26, 2009

Do Something About It

I wonder how many of us have things we say we are going to change about ourselves. This could be anything...a relationship, a habit, a phrase you are trying to quit saying (like "your mom"), a diet, the way you treat people, the way you treat yourself, the way you treat God, etc. I also wonder how long you have been talking about a particular change but find it very unchanged.

If you are lucky, more than likely you have people in your life that are telling you this change needs to happen in order for you to be happy and healthy or maybe the situation is so dire that you need to change in order to stay alive. And still you are finding yourself not changing.

My question to you is, "What are you waiting for?" At some point you will have to do something to bring about the change you talk so much about. Change is not static, it requires action and yet so often we come across people that are frustrated with the lack of desired change in their particular situation and they can't seem to figure out why. When I ask them what they are doing to bring about this change they give some sort of excuse as to why they are waiting for it to happen or there isn't anything they can do about it. The person in that unhealthy relationship with you is not going to tell you to leave him/her for your own good. God is not going to force Himself on you to make you pay attention to Him or love Him. There comes a point when you have to do something about it. Regardless of how many times a friend, pastor, coach, neighbor, co-worker, stranger tells you that you need to change but if you don't do something about it, they are simply wasting their breath. Their words become pointless.

The time is now to make the change happen you have been talking about for so long. Surround yourself with people that recognize the change that needs to be made in your life and empower them to help you do something about it. If you really want to see change take place in your life, then you must be ready and willing to act.

April 23, 2009

A New Mission Statement

After months of discussion, conversations, reading and study our church officially adopted a new mission statement earlier this week. I like it because it's simple, easy to remember and to the point but I guess you can be the judge of that...

"...to make disciples of Jesus Christ who love God, love one another and serve the world."

It seems to go well with Jesus' commands to, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." and "Love your neighbor as yourself."

April 21, 2009

The People In Your Neighborhood

Remember that song? Definitely one of my favorites from back in the day. Remember when Jesus told us to love our neighbors? Definitely hard to do. A couple reasons why I think this is so hard...

1. when Jesus said "neighbor" He meant anyone and everyone we come in contact with
2. the love that Jesus is telling us to show is a love that puts the receiver of this love ahead of or above the giver
3. Jesus is telling us to do this, He's not so much giving us an option or choice in the matter because He knows that if you and I really want to follow, then we'll obey
4. people can be hard to love because they can be rude, cold, annoying, ignorant, selfish, etc which makes neighbors hard to love because they are people
5. I am a person, which means sometimes I am rude, cold, annoying, ignorant, selfish, etc and not good at loving my neighbors as a result

My challenge to you and I is to really try to "love your neighbor as yourself" for 1 entire day. From morning until night, striving to put everyone else before ourselves and then to post on this blog your experiences. Leave your name or don't, whatever, just share the stories of our little experiment so we can see how it goes. The good, the bad and the ugly. Try to live a whole day being completely selfless and let's see what happens. Could be pretty interesting.

April 16, 2009

Everything Happens for a Reason?

We had a pastors' meeting yesterday morning and the phrase "Everything happens for a reason." was discussed because we are hearing it more and more. Usually it is preceded or followed by a form of, "Well, I guess everything..." or "...for a reason I guess." The discussion that followed amongst ourselves was interesting. We talked about reason vs. plan/purpose. We talked about how this statement relates to events like 9/11, natural disasters or the loss of a loved one. We also talked about how often this phrase comes in the form of a question.

My take on it is this: God provides the reason.

Things happen that don't make sense and we don't understand and God brings reason out of them. Does He desire for things like 9/11 to happen, of course not, but He can, and does fit them into His plan. A plan that includes purpose, hope and reason. Sure everything happens for a reason because there is something known as cause and effect. Things happen as the consequence of other things happening or not happening, that's the reason they happen. If we are looking or searching for a deeper meaning when we say "Everything happens for a reason" then we must go beyond the cause and effect relationship and look to another relationship, the one between God and His creation.

April 15, 2009


As I'm sure you've noticed, I've started Twitter-ing and was wondering what you thought of Twitter in general.

What do you think of it?

Do you like it? Why or why not?

Do you Twitter?

April 14, 2009

On the Road to Emmaus

Lent has come and gone, Easter is passed and now what?!? It started with the mountaintop experience of the Triumphant Entry Jesus had coming into Jerusalem and was followed by the ups and downs of clearing the temple courts, public teachings and miracles, only to be plunged into the valley of despair as Jesus is taken away and eventually nailed to a tree. The ride doesn't stop there because 3 days later the disciples find an empty tomb but no Jesus in sight. Try to imagine their confusion along with trying to contain themselves and their imaginations as to what might have happened or be happening. What a rollercoaster ride of emotion that week must have been.

I can't help but think about the two disciples that were walking on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) talking about the events of the past week trying to make sense of it all when along comes a stranger that seems utterly clueless. You can almost hear them asking him if he lives under a rock because that might have been the only way not to have heard about the events that had taken place in the city just days earlier. They went on to explain to him what had taken place concerning the guy named Jesus and still couldn't figure out that it was Jesus himself they were talking to. It wasn't until later, as they were having dinner together, that they realized it was him that had been with them on the road the whole time.

Two things I find really interesting about this story:

1. Initally we are told that the two disciples "were kept from recognizing him" (vs. 16). I started thinking about this and wondered if it wasn't so much that God was keeping them from seeing Jesus but rather that they had gotten so caught-up in everything else they failed to recognize Jesus walking right beside them. I wonder how often we do the same thing; our heads down focusing on something that has happened to us or something we did and fail to see Jesus in our situation or circumstance? It's not Christ that keeps us from recognizing him but rather ourselves.

2. The two disciples didn't actually realize it was Jesus until they witnessed him do something they had seen him do before, break bread with them (vs. 30-31). I started thinking about all of the times when I have failed to recognize Jesus because he was doing something I would have never expected him to do. It almost seems like these two disciples had pigeon holed Jesus into certain words or actions and because they would have never expected him to show up on the road with them, they never even gave it a second thought that maybe it was him all along. It wasn't until later that they realized what had happened. Seriously, isn't that you and me almost on a daily basis? We would never expect Jesus to show up at work, school, home...and don't realize that he had been there the whole time until after the fact. I hope that we haven't come to expect to see Jesus on Sunday mornings (or whenever you go to church) and nowhere else. Just think about how different the conversation, attitudes and emotions could have been had those two disciples realized it was Jesus much sooner in their journey.

April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday

The Resurrection of Jesus is the event on which the doors of eternity are hinged. It is the one thing that makes Christianity different than any other faith and the reason for Jesus' power and authority today.

If you call yourself a Christian, have you ever taken a second to think about what would have happened if Christ had not risen from the dead? Christianity would be pointless and we would all be really, really lame. Paul even says as much in I Corinthians 15:14, "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." and again in verse 17, "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile." He goes on to say that if our hope in Christ is only for this life, then we are to be pitied more than anyone else (vs 19).

Today is the day in which we celebrate Christ's victory over death and if you are found in Him, then that victory is yours as well. This is our hope for new and better things to come. If the Resurrection didn't happen, then Jesus is nothing more than a crazy guy who was martyred for nothing (and happened to be really nice and say some nice things) and the people who claim to follow Him are equally as crazy. But if it did happen, then it would be wise for us to start living as if now really does matter in the scope of eternity. Later in the same chapter Paul says, "Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God - I say this to your shame."

If you are not living as a Christian with an eternal perspective and hope, what's the point? Do not miss the event that has radically changed the course of eternity and has the power to change your life.

April 10, 2009

Good Friday

From His early morning encounter with the guards in Gethsemane, His trial before the high priest and Pilate, the beating and mockery at the hands of the Roman soldiers, to being nailed to a tree and left to hang naked for 6 hours...never once did Jesus complain.

I cannot fathom the pain and the loneliness that He must have felt this day a long time ago and yet when I realize that He did it all for you and I find myself humbled and grateful. The only man in the history of the human race that could withstand the weight of the world's sins and not be crushed. That is what makes this Good Friday. A burden that would crush any of us in an instant was taken off our shoulders and our hearts that day.

It is there at the foot of the cross where we must come to terms with who we are and who He is. Where we come to the harsh realization that it should have been you and I hanging up there bloody, bruised and naked. It is at the foot of the cross where we hear Jesus' words, "It is finished" not as a cry of agony but as one of accomplishment.

It was the deliberate utterance of a clear consciousness on the part of God's appointed Revealer that now all had been done that could be done to make God known to men and to identify him with men.

Footsteps in the Path of Life by Marcus Dods

April 9, 2009

Maundy Thursday

The word maundy comes from the same Latin word that gives us our word mandate which is the same as command. We recognize this day of Holy Week as the day when, while celebrating the Passover meal ( we also know it as the Last Supper) with His disciples just hours before He was crucified, Jesus gave them a command: "As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 12:34).

What did Jesus mean when He said, "As I have loved you..."? If you'll notice, prior to saying this He had just gotten up off the floor from washing the disciples feet. This act of humility took the whole notion of greatness, authority and leadership and turned them on their heads. Jesus makes a point to agree with the titles the disciples have given Him as 'Teacher' and 'Lord'. These are two titles of authority, one of earthly authority and the other spiritual. Jesus goes further than simply agreeing with this authority, He gets down on His hands and knees to practice one of the most menial, humbling acts of a servant known at that time. Then He says, "Love each other like that" [my paraphrase of John 12:14-15]. That's what He meant when He said, "As I have loved you..."

And if we remember, this is a mandate, a command. We don't have a choice to love this way if we are truly going to follow Christ and love as He loved.

April 7, 2009

Outward Determined by the Inward

Something that has been coming up a lot for me lately is this idea that our outward lives (the way we interact with others through our words and actions) are a direct result of our inward lives (the things we value or set as priorities which provide us with a sense of purpose). I mean if you stop to think about it, it really does make sense that the things which you and I value impact the way we live. So if we get the inward stuff figured out, the outward stuff will fall into place?

As I've been thinking about this lately it has brought a new weight to the idea of "guarding one's heart" because it seems like whatever might be going on inside is eventually going to make its way out. Doesn't it make sense that if there is greed inside then the way we treat others will be seasoned with greed? Could it be the same for...lust? pride? jealousy? humility? generosity? mercy?

April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday

I remember growing up and going to church on Palm Sunday and never really thinking much about it other than maybe getting a palm tree leaf and knowing that it was the Sunday before Easter.

We are told of a large crowd of people that had gathered to welcome and celebrate Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. This group was laying down their cloaks, waving palm branches and shouting out of excitement and anticipation. The crowd had gathered to celebrate a man they were ready to make their king and believed could set them free from the occupying forces of Rome and in a matter of days had changed their feelings and shouts toward him as he was sentenced to die. When I stop to think about the event that Palm Sunday symbolizes I quickly realize that this change in attitude toward Jesus can be a daily struggle for you and I.

The crowd was trying to make Jesus something he wasn't, they were trying to change who he was and what he stood for. When they realized they didn't like the things he had to say or the ways he challenged them to live in a different, better way they decided they would rather have nothing to do with him.

I can't help but wonder if we get all excited about Jesus when his words support our point of view or don't support those of someone else and we are quick to point that out to them BUT IN THE SAME DAY decide that his words don't fit into what we think would be best or what we deserve and so we would rather have nothing to do with him. Our fickle, selfish attitudes are no different than that of the crowd that shouted Hosanna! one day and Crucify! the next.

Palm Sunday reminds me that I need to celebrate who and what Christ is and quit making him something he's not to suit me.

Siding Project Continues

Unlike today, yesterday was a beautiful day and gave us a chance to just about finish up getting all the siding off the house. We moved to the front of the house and were pretty excited to uncover some detail in the woodwork towards the top of the house as well as start taking down the "stone" wall on the front.

April 2, 2009

Siding Project Claims a Victim

As you've probably noticed, our current house project is removing the extremely ugly aluminum siding from our house that was built in 1920 in order to refinish and paint the existing wood siding. So, as I was working on the West side of the house trying to get the last pieces of siding off I came across a "little friend" (as my sister would call it) that I had apparently smashed under the siding at some point with either my crowbar or ladder and as I pulled the piece of siding off the house he fell out.

Unfortunately, he did not make it. I'm guessing the internal damage he took as a result of my crowbar and/or ladder not knowing he was there was just too much. The plus side is that I think I heard his friend today as I was working on the other side of the house, though I never did find him. Hopefully I didn't accidentally squish him without knowing it.

April 1, 2009

Fool's Gold II

I was sitting in the waiting room of the local Jiffy Lube getting the oil in my car changed (well, really filled because there wasn't much left to actually change) a couple days ago and spewing from the TV were the words of a guy that would not stop talking. The more he kept talking the more it became obvious that he was nothing more than a fool. It's interesting to me the relationship the Bible draws between being a fool and the words we use.

"A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly." Proverbs 12:23

"A fool's lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating." Proverbs 18:6

"A fool's mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul." Proverbs 18:7

Have you ever come across someone that doesn't stop talking but never really says anything? Or maybe you have been that person at times? It becomes frustrating just hearing their voice and even more frustrating when people actually pay attention to what is being said. There are so many fools running around and if we're honest, we do some pretty foolish things from time to time.

I close with a great quote from Mark Twain...

"This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four."

Fool's Gold I

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