Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Turkey quesadilla anyone?

Turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, turkey quesadillas, turkey pot pie…

Now that we are all turkey-ed out I want to talk about Thanksgiving. Not as a holiday but as a lifestyle. I love that we set aside a day to remind ourselves to be thankful for all that we have. In general it is short lived and I’m not just talking about our homage to consumerism and the foolishness of Black Friday.

What I mean is this - for the vast majority of us it is easier to see the negative rather than the positive, to focus on what’s wrong rather than on what’s going right. I’ve heard it takes 18 positive comments to cancel out 1 negative one. Or was it 16? Who knows what the real number is. But does it really matter because Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘87% of statistics on the internet are made up anyway.’? What we do know is that that criticism often outweighs compliments and that we don’t lie awake at night losing sleep over all the wonderful things that are or might happen to us. My college psychology class taught me that this negative bias is human nature. But we have another nature.

Every day of the year should be Thanksgiving for a Christian!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” - Psalm 118:1 NIV

An attitude of gratitude is the hallmark of a man or woman of faith who trusts God in all situations. Thanksgiving LITERALLY ushers us into his presence.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” - Psalm 100:4-5 NIV

I’ve recently been convicted in my personal prayer life as to how much time I spend praying for protection,  provision, power, people, problems, etc. versus how much time I spend simply saying, “Thank you!” I mean to change that. I choose to see the good in the people and the situations I encounter today. I determine to live my life in such a way that I demonstrate my appreciation for all that Jesus has done for me.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” - Philippians 4:4-9 NIV

Read it again. We not only have the peace of God, we have the God of peace!!! That's reason for Thanksgiving.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Great steaks and a clear conscience.

I really enjoy a great steak. Everyone has their own opinion on how to prepare a great steak but most people agree that the first step in cooking a great steak is to SEAR the meat. Heat that grill or griddle up, slap it on and listen to it sizzle. It’s beautiful music to the ears of every carnivore!

Merriam-Websters Dictionary defines SEAR as to cook the surface of quickly with intense heat. But it also defines it as to burn, scorch, mark, or injure with or as if with sudden application of intense heat or to make withered and dry. Good for a nice ribeye but not great for your conscience.

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” - 1 Timothy 4:1-2 NIV

I want to point out of few things in these two verses -
  1. It is talking about people who once had a vibrant relationship with God. It seems to me that you have to have something before you can abandon it.
  2. It refers to them as hypocritical liars. A hypocrite is someone who says one thing and does something else. It actually says that someone who once served God has now become a hindrance to Him and a help to the enemy!
  3. It says that their consciences have been seared or burned, scorched, marked, or injured with a sudden application of intense heat rending it withered and dry. This is what I would like to focus on.
First let me clarify that in context this verse is discussing the freedom we have in Christ and not campaigning for more rules/regulations/religion. However we need to understand that Jesus has set us free from sin. He has not set us free to sin. There is a line! Now I’m not going to give you a list of do’s and don’ts because it is truly the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to guide us into righteousness. But here is the kicker… the more we ignore Him the easier it becomes. A seared conscience is one that has spent too much time too close to the fire. A little compromise here and there and before we know it we find ourselves in a place we never thought possible. Sin is a slippery slope and the question is how much is too much?

If you are reading this and you feel ‘a little heat’ (pun intended) don’t despair. That is proof positive that the Holy Spirit is still working in your life. Start by asking God to define the lines for you. Sometimes you have to take some radical steps to break free. I know a young man who was struggling with a pornography addiction that took a hammer to his laptop. By the way he is in full time ministry today. We often know what to do we just lack the conviction to walk it out. We need our behavior to match our beliefs. Are we willing to not see the latest movie, engage in gossip around the water cooler and refuse to cheat on our taxes? Other than going to church on Sundays (or at least most of them) are we really any different from people who don’t know Jesus? WE ABSOLUTELY ARE AND OUR LIVES SHOULD REFLECT IT!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Let Freedom Reign

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, a day when the United States of America celebrates their independence. We will fill up the coolers, fire up the grills and set off countless fireworks in the name FREEDOM - a concept near and dear to our hearts. FREEDOM was an idea also precious to the Apostle Paul.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” - Galatians 5:1 NIV

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines FREEDOM as -

     1.  the quality or state of being free: as
          a.  the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action
          b.  liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another : independence
          c.  the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous 

The Greek word used is Eleutheria and it means -

     1.  liberty to do or to omit things having no relationship to salvation
     2.  true liberty is living as we should not as we please

Paul understood the price that Christ had paid to purchase our FREEDOM. He also recognized that the promise without the proper application is wasted. See the church in Galatia was trading their FREEDOM for empty religious tradition. On the other side of the spectrum the church in Corinth used their FREEDOM as a license to sin. Both missed the point and more importantly the power of God operating in their lives. See Jesus calls us into a relationship with him, founded on faith rather than rules, regulations and rituals. At the same time that relationship calls us (and empowers us) to live the life we were created to live, not to settle for something less - aka SIN.

The truth is that most people know very little about true FREEDOM. They may consider themselves free but in truth are slaves to debt, slaves to dysfunction in their relationships, slaves to sickness, slaves to empty religious exercises and slaves to sin. Paul said the promise is there but the key is in our hands - “…do not let…” As we pass the burgers and watch the night sky light up with colorful displays let’s remember that we are FREE. Not just in theory but in practice. Not just in the sweet by and by but right here, right now. God has greater things in store for us!

So I leave you with this question - In what area of your life has Jesus given you FREEDOM that you are currently not experiencing and what do you plan to do about it?

DREAM ON! (Acts 2:17-18) 

Friday, June 12, 2015

I love a good bumper sticker.

Some bumper stickers amuse me, some aggravate me, and every once in a while I come across one that really makes me think... or perhaps not.

If we acted on every whim of emotion or every fleeting thought we had our lives would be a train wreck. Let’s be honest - all kinds of crazy ideas and feelings run through our heads and our hearts. We are emotional beings because God created us that way. However we must realize that we are not supposed to be controlled by our emotions. That’s a whole lot easier to type that to walk out!

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” - Jeremiah 17:9 NIV

Here are a few things we can do to climb off of the emotional roller coaster -
  1. First figure out what you are feeling/thinking and why. Without this piece of information you are at the mercy of your emotions and thoughts.
  2. Second recognize that there is a difference between thought and action. Just because you are justified in feeling or believing a certain way (i.e. hurt, scared, angry, etc.) doesn’t mean that you are justified to act on them. It also doesn’t mean that they are constructive or even grounded in reality (i.e. I was treated badly by one man therefore all men are bad and I cannot trust any man).
  3. Finally respond appropriately rather than react emotionally. As Christians we need to submit our thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, emotions and actions to the Scriptures. If truth lies within us then it is subjective and relative to the individual and the individual situation. But if Truth lies somewhere outside of us then right and wrong are constant and unchanging regardless of what we believe or how we feel in a given moment. We may have every ‘right’ to be angry with someone but the ‘righteous’ response is to forgive. It is also what is in YOUR best interest!

The world will tell you that God is trying to constrain you when in reality He is trying to set you free. Free to be in control of your thoughts and emotions. Let’s read on -

“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” - Jeremiah 17:10 NIV

God cares and He knows what’s going on inside our hearts. Don’t forget that. When we rise above our own thoughts and emotions to treat others with the same love and grace God showed us it is in that moment we are living our faith. That is the love of Jesus and a life God can’t wait to reward!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Holy Saturday.

Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday lies what is known as Holy Saturday, the day where Jesus lie dead in the grave. It was a day of great celebration for the kingdom of darkness and a day of great sadness for the faithful. I can only begin to imagine the sense of loss and despair the disciples of Christ must have felt. Their leader, their friend and their hope was gone. Everything they had believed in, all that they had sacrificed for was lost. Or so it seemed…

Little did they know that in the midst of death there was life, in the midst of tragedy there was triumph. Behind the scenes God was working out His masterful plan as He has all along. That day must have seemed like an eternity but in reality it lasted just 24 hours. Little did they realize that early the next morning they would encounter an empty grave and a Risen Savior.

In the trials and disappointment we face let us not forget that the same power that raised Christ from the grace now lives inside of us. His victory over sin, death and the devil was won for you and me. If you are walking through a difficult season and it appears as though all hope is lost, if the pain and confusion have caused time to come to a standstill remember this - after every Saturday there comes a Sunday. He is still the God who breathes life into dead place, brings light into darkness spaces and moves mountains for His beloved sons and daughters.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” - Galatians 6:9 NKJV

His is to battle, ours is to believe.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Little things matter too.

Most people recognize when God does something BIG in there lives - perhaps a supernatural healing, the salvation of a loved one, divine protection in a situation where you 'should have died', etc. But how often do we overlook the 'little' things that He does each and every day? 

Let me put it in another perspective... My wife and I just recently celebrated our 20th anniversary. I cannot even begin to calculate the number of meals that she has prepared, the mountains of laundry that she has washed or the countless other 'small' things she does all the time for our family. Now to be honest I have come to expect to come home to a warm meal and wake up to clean socks just like she expects the grass to be mowed, the cars to be maintained, the gutters to be cleaned... you get the point.

Here is the deal - just because something is mundane doesn't mean it's meaningless.

Ponder that point for a moment. My wife is a GREAT cook for which I am very grateful and I make sure to let her know it. I think that the very least I can do when she takes the time to prepare a meal for our family is to say 'Thank you' and express my appreciation. I think it is my responsibility to make sure that our kids show the same gratitude. And I mean every time. To me the routine doesn't take away from the value but rather adds to it. 'Wow, you cooked another amazing meal?!' FYI 'Please' and 'Thank you' go a long way both with God and with man. 

So back to my first paragraph. I believe that God does big things and little things all the time. Our part is simply to ask and then to give Him the credit (read glory) when He answers.

     "You do not have because you do not ask God." - James 4:2b NIV

See I believe that prayer should be our first response, not our last resort. When it comes to big things we are willing to ask but what about the simple things? I ask Him for grace and favor all the time and guess what - I get it! You may think it's silly but I pray for great parking spaces and get them (front and center at Walmart on Christmas Eve baby!). On the same note when God does something huge we often give Him the credit but what about the 'little' stuff (not that anything is little when God is involved)?

Let's make sure our expectations don't devalue our appreciation!

So I want to wrap this up by giving God credit for a little thing. My wife and I and two friends were recently snorkeling in the Caribbean when she lost her snorkel. She headed back to shore and when I got there she told me what happened. I asked here where she lost it and she pointed toward the ocean and said, 'somewhere out there.' We had probably covered the area of 3-4 football fields so the likelihood of finding it was pretty small. Nevertheless I simply asked God to return it to us. My friend and I headed back out to continue snorkeling and after ten more minutes of enjoying the coral and fish we decided to head in. We turned around, swam about 20 feet and right below us was her snorkel sitting on the ocean floor. I might add in a location that was shallow even to dive down to. Good luck? I don't believe that for a second. God's love? Absolutely!

God's Promises.

Earlier this week I was working on a log cabin I have for sale. As I was driving over to crawl back under the house for the 3rd day this is ...