Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Presents to Presence

When I was a child I had the most difficult time preparing for Christmas morning. I couldn’t fall asleep and once I did I would wake up every hour or so in anticipation of what was to come. My parents had to have had a love/hate relationship with it. They knew that somewhere around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. I would be making enough noise so as to let them know… “It’s time!!!”

We, the children, of course, were prisoners in our own room. We had strict orders not to leave until our parents would open our doors. Finally that moment would come and I would rush out the door and always stand in awe of what was before my eyes. It was a very exciting time for me. It was a feeling I loved to experience for years.

This was the day we had been waiting for all year. Those hours spent on the floor in front of the JCPenney Catalog were finally going to pay off. The presents were here… Christmas had arrived!!!

The day after Thanksgiving this year I experienced something I had never experienced before… no not a turkey blowout… BLACK FRIDAY!!! (If you lower your voice it really does sound scary) the day after we celebrate all that we are thankful for has become the day of consumeristic overindulgence where we push and shove to get more stuff. I guess so we can be more thankful [insert sarcasm meter].

In this advent season we, who call ourselves followers of Jesus, celebrate His birth. His coming to our world! As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that all of this consumer craziness has become the biggest deterrent to a true celebration. We have become focused on the presents instead of His presence.

There is great awe in Christmas. God became flesh. He came to save us from sin and death, and make us whole and yet we still can’t wait to wake up and see all the stuff at the tree in the morning. It’s interesting… when Jesus showed up as a baby it wasn’t an event that captured the attention of the entire world. Only a few were even aware that it had happened. Everyone was still going about their usual routine. However, it was at that moment that the story of our lives was beginning to be rewritten. From one of sorrow and defeat to one of joy and victory… and yet nobody was paying attention.

Has much really changed? We have something to celebrate. Something great. May this season be one where we place our focus on Immanuel, Christ with us. His presence is here… Jesus has arrived!!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Come Let Us Return

"Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth." Hosea 6:1-3

As I have learned all to well this week, sometimes God will tear in order to heal. He will injure to restore.

Last night I got called to play softball as a fill in for a bunch of college students who were M.I.A. on a fishing trip. First, I stopped playing softball several years ago... make that 8 to be exact. Second, I haven't run more than 30 steps in several years... make that 4...

I had no business going out and playing softball... a girly game anyway (no offense to the girly softball players). But they weren't going to have enough so I said "Yes..." Surprising myself I went 3 for 3 with 2 doubles and a single. This proves that you don't have to be athletic to be successful in softball. Anyway, after my last at bat, a stand-up double the guy after me hit a slow grounder to third... the third baseman threw the ball to first and I took off for third... the third base coach told me to get down as though there was going to be a play made on me at third so I slide... BIG MISTAKE!!! I was wearing shorts and upon this realization I tried to stop myself from sliding... BIGGER MISTAKE!!! I slid into third anyway and at the same time I dropped all my weight back on my hand/wrist. I stood up and looked down at the wonderful road rash on my ankle and shin... "Lovely!" I thought.

Then my hand started hurting... I kind of ignored it thinking I just sprained it a little bit. I went in the outfield and even managed to make a good throw with my hurting hand. Game over!!! 17-5 us!!! YES, I'm a winner again!

Heading home to the fear of the shower that would await my burning legs I pondered the idiocy of this old guy trying to play sports again after such a hiatus from them. Waking up at 5:30 this morning I noticed my hand was really hurting. I reached down to it and noticed some swelling above my hand and severe stiffness in my wrist. I squeezed the part of my hand just above my wrist and felt some Rice Krispies in there... or at least I heard them. "That's not good." I thought, but proceeded on with my day.

Now several hours into the day I know my hand is broken... but I think I have managed to place the bones back in their correct place. At least I can make a good fist right now.

As I sit here and think about the stupidity of the injury... I am led to think of other ways in which I have felt injury filled over the last few weeks. Sometimes it has felt as though God were distant. Some days I have asked myself if God would maybe not bring me back this time... but then... Hosea spoke!!! That Scripture came to me and God began to speak.

That I might press on to know Him in spite of where I was spiritually. And that I would know that as surely as the coming of the dawn... a new day... He would appear and respond in healing and restoration.

Where in our lives? In our student ministry? In our church might we need to return to the Lord? Maybe it is that all this time God has been waiting for us to return to Him in all that we are. Maybe we will experience deeper, sustained spiritual growth when we press on to know Him and press hard into Him and believe in the promis that He will respond.

Maybe we are experiencing a time of restoration and God is simply waiting for us to seek Him and then we will begin to see amazing things happen in our lives, our student ministry and our church.

Now, I think I'm gonna go see a doctor...

p.s. Don't tell my wife, she's gonna kill me. Even she knows I'm too old to be doing this stuff...


Thursday, December 11, 2008

That We Might Know

"No one has ever seen or heard anything like this, never so much as imagined anything quite like it--- what God has arranged for those who love Him." 1 Corinthians 2:9 (Message)

I'm a self-confessed wonderer. I often find myself sitting back wondering what God has in store for my life. I wonder if I often am overly inclined to just sit back in arrogance and think that God is actually satisfied with where I am. Then... I sometimes find myself sitting back going, "Geez... I'm nowhere near where I need to be." I'm glad God has something more for me. After all, He is the same God who, "Is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ever ask or think." When I dig into that verse I know that there is absolutely no way I can ask God for too much. My mind can't even fathom what He can do. He can do far greater things than my tiny little mind could ever begin to think about.

Along those same lines... How much AM I asking Him for? Not useless, worldly stuff... but how much am I asking Him to accomplish through my life? I mean if my God is without limits... (in case you’re wondering… check out the definition of God... He is without limits)... and I am just drudging through life... people are going to start to wonder if I really believe what I say I believe. GOD WANTS TO DO MORE!!!

Have I been settling for too little? Am I content to live with less than what He has for me? Or maybe I've allowed myself to become numb to the possibilities of a life that is completely surrendered and sold-out to God. Maybe I have become so fat off the pleasures of this world that I have lost any appetite I ever had for faith. At least the kind of faith... that moves mountains and brings a huge smile to the face of God.

I pray that God will rain down with power and increase my faith. That I might decrease so that Christ might increase. I need to have my faith increased so that I might see a mighty demonstration of God's power. For as you will read in the context of the Corinthians verse found at the beginning, all that God has arranged for us can be found in the person of Jesus Christ. The same Christ who lives in us. Paul goes on to write, "Now we have not received the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God."


God awaken us to the reality of who we are in Christ... and who Christ is in us! Disturb our slumber and scream into our sleep. Cause us to know what is possible in our lives and in our church because of your Son... Jesus Christ... AMEN


Friday, October 31, 2008

God is [insert a-word here]

Who is like You o'Lord among the gods, who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders? Exodus 15:11

A well known youth communicator stated that "...one of the tragedies of modern culture is that we have lost the true meaning of the word awesome! If ever there were a word for God... that would be it. But awesome has become the word for anything better than good... everything is awesome!"

I've been trying to commit to using that word only in reference to God. What an incredibly awesome idea (dang, already blew it). Think about it. How hard would it be for us to limit the use of the word awesome to references to God? Just go ahead and try it for a few days. I mean, there is no law against using the a-word with reference to a great steak you just ate, but the simple misuse of this word on things that are not really awesome has caused us to insult God by saying that He is awesome (proper usage) too. It's like saying to Him, "God, You are pretty incredible... kinda like that awesome (improper usage) burrito I just had at Rosa's."

Now, obviously we can't stop using words when we strive to give description to God and give praise and adoration to His name. And aren't all words used for less valuable things than God? Yes, but couldn't we reserve just one descriptive word for Him alone? Now, I don't know if I can break myself of the overuse of the a-word. But it does make me think... How great is our God? And maybe not just how great is our God... but how great is your God? How great is God to you?

Why? Because if we fail to live with the stamp of His infinite greatness on our lives, then our worlds will shrink down to that which is only standing beside or around us. In time, we, and what is important to us will become the center of our universe.

When I was in school I often stared into space and thought about things bigger than life itself. I'd sit at the picnic table outside in Colorado that Summer I worked there and look up into the night sky and wonder where I fit into all of this mess and how small I was in comparison to everything in the universe. Today it makes me realize how big and awesome (proper usage) God really is. I mean this earth is an awesome (oops) playground. But it is only a tiny dot in the master plan of the universe.

The thing is... is that our God, this God that we say we know, love, and walk with each day, made it all with just one word. Psalm 33:6 says, "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, He breathed and all the stars were born." It's encouraging to know that this great universe that boggles the minds of the smartest of scientists and theorists was created with a simple breath from my God!

And yet we have such little faith in Him. We pray such small prayers... dream such little dreams... cast our tiny visions... worry over the most minute issues... love such trivial things. May we awaken to in God's mercy to our infinite God. And may we be astounded that He who sustains it all knows us and loves us personally! Psalm 33 goes on to say, "The Lord looks from heaven... on the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who understands all their works." David says in Psalm 8:3, "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your hands... what is man that You think of Him?" Read on after that and you will find that this great and awesome (proper) God values you and longs for a relationship with you. Not only that, but He offers to bring His infinite power and might to bear on your life.
Is your school too much for God? Is your family too big a problem for Him? Is your workplace too difficult a spot for God? Is the situation there too hopeless for God to awaken the people to who He is? Is the darkness so dark that His overpowering light could never shine? It depends... how big and awesome (proper) is your God?


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Well that was kinda cool...

I guess it took me in the neighborhood of 5 to 6 hours to read and blog about what I had been reading... or at least my thoughts post-chapter(s). Anyway, not that anyone is interested, but to me its good to put it down in some form for me to look back and for reflection purposes and maybe see what God has taught me.

Maybe that was a waste of a day. Maybe it was the best thing I could have done with my time... Maybe God gave me a free day for me to read and relax and contemplate the things concerning Him.

Chapters 10 & 11- Meaningless--- A life that matters--- What about today?

Seriously… we were meant to live lives that matter. We were meant to live lives that have meaning. God didn’t create us as some sick science experiment where he throws us up in the air and hopes we land on our feet. He created us for His pleasure and He finds pleasure in us being satisfied in Him. How does that happen? We must first know Christ… it is not enough to simply put our trust in Him in a salvation experience… we must walk with Him through the salvation process. In being sanctified (becoming like Christ) we find something that nothing else gives. We find ourselves being filled daily by the things of God. We find things that brought temporary satisfaction falling to the wayside as things of eternity take on more importance.

God is not some abstract—far off guy- who is unconcerned with His creation. He longs for a real relationship with His creation. He longs for us to live lives that are pleased by Him. That ultimately gives Him pleasure and in that we are fulfilling our purpose as His children.

When all is said and done, I want to have lived a life that matters. It is doable. It is not some far-fetched thought of man… We can know Christ… and make Him known. We can live lives that matter. We can live lives that make a difference… not only for us… but others. We can live lives that bring a smile to the face of God. IT CAN BE DONE!!! WE CAN START TODAY… not waiting for tomorrow to begin to live for God’s pleasure. We can live today for Him... We can serve Him this day… We can find accomplishment in a life well lived…

I want to end up at the end of a long, dusty, winding road where sits my Savior who will say, “Well done my good and faithful servant… Your life mattered… it mattered to Me!!!” yeah that’s my Scripture rant…

Chapter 9- Meaningless- Time will tell

Things are always changing. That's one fact that will never change. It's right around the corner and it might be a change for the better or possibly a change for the worse. Solomon states in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that,

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Notice that many of those "events" are beyond our control.

As a side note I love that Mark pointed out that in verse 5 when it says, "a time to embrace and a time to refrain," the reference is to sex. Therefore... if you are not married... don't have sex... but if you are... Get it on all you want!!!

The truth is God's infinite in everything... time included. He doesn't live by the minute or by the day. The word eternity itself means outside of time and that is where God dwells. And though He is not bound by time... He does control it.

Part of our role is to live each day as though it had meaning. To live each day in the present and not faltering in the past or skipping past it to the future. Make the most of every day... be it at work, at home, in worship, or at play.

scripture rant- "The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that you might have life and have it to the full." John 10:10