Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"The grass is always greener _____."



It has been a long time since I've shared my thoughts.  These have been my thoughts as of late.  I just returned from my 3rd missions trip to Poland.  I led a group of 9 people this time.  I had each person give me a verse that described what led them to missions.  We later when on to look at each of those verses a little more in depth.  The verses that I chose were Philippians 2:1-7.  The first 4 verses say this:

"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit,if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."


I chewed on these verses for a month.  What they reminded me of was something we had talked about in Sunday School in the first quarter of this year.  If we believe in the grace that has been given to us, why do we not use that grace as a motivator to tell others of the grace that only Christ can provide? That study was based in Ephesians 1.  For the verses above, Paul puts it pretty simply.  If we have been given all of these things through freedom in Christ, why are we sitting around holding on to that which he wants us to share?  This life isn't about how to better ourselves.  That's the trap Satan wants us to fall into.  He wants us to focus on ourselves.  If he can get us focused on that, we will continue to be lukewarm in our walk, and we will be "spit out" and "cut off" as a branch that bears no fruit. The problem is that we don't realize the gravity of the situation.  We tell ourselves that we will do it tomorrow.  It's not a priority in our lives.  It falls behind our jobs, our vacations, soccer practice, and even our Sunday time of fellowship.  We've put so much stock in the schedules that we've set for ourselves because we've spent so much time creating them.  It leaves no room for God and the purpose He has for our lives.  We fit God into the few minutes we can spare for Him.  Maybe that's daily, weekly, or monthly.  Either way, something needs to change.  We sit around listening (like I am now) to Christian songs that call us to make a difference in this world.  We even sing along.  But do we believe that we can live out the words, or are we just listening to Christian music because that's what Christians do?  Heck, it's just music.  What about the call in the Holy Word?
I'm not saying that you have to move around the world to obey the call (although I believe global ministry should be a part of it).  What I am saying is that we all need to shake things up a bit.  What is important in your life?  Are you willing to share about your freedom with your family, those around you, the un-reached around the world?  Does that call reach beyond our jobs, vacations, soccer practice, and fellowship time?
My challenge to myself and those who read this is this.  Stop looking at the Holy Spirit's tug as the greener grass on the other side of the fence.  Get a ladder, grab the bolt cutters, get a truck for all I care.  Climb over, cut, or mow that fence down to get to that greener grass.  Joshua and Caleb saw the greener grass.  They didn't care about the fence between.  It's what God had for them, and they were ready to plow through that fence.  We are God's children, and our purpose is to grow the family.  Get out there and start planting, watering, and harvesting the seeds as He provides the opportunities. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Thought About Those in Need...

For the past few days, most of the posts that have been coming across my facebook feed have been about what our response, as Americans, should be towards Syrian refugees.  After the attacks in Paris, my conservative republican reaction was to keep them out.  Why do we want to even take the chance of bringing a terrorist into the country?  I've read many posts from people that have been proud that their states have signed executive orders blocking Syrian refugees.  Heck, I did the same thing just last night.  When I woke up this morning, I read a blog that reminded me of something that I have been telling others for well over a year now, "We should be living as Christian Americans, not American Christians."  The big difference?  The former teaches to put others before ourselves, and the latter teaches us that making ourselves happy is the ultimate goal.  Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying that to be a Christian, we must live a life without joy.  It's more about where our joy comes from.  As you know, there are many other parallels that can be drawn here, but that's not the reason for this post.
What we have enjoyed in this country, has also made many of us soft in our Christianity.  We have taken freedom of religion, and have turned it into freedom "from" religion.  We pick verses out of the bible to live by that are convenient to the American life that we've built for ourselves, but conveniently skip over the verses that might require something that would infringe on that same cushy life.  You see, as Americans, most of us can't relate to the situation the authors of the New Testament were going through.  Stoning...doesn't happen in America.  Crucifixion...doesn't happen in America.  Flogging...doesn't happen in America.  We have these amazing freedoms from persecution, but what that has meant for many of us, is that we've forgotten how it all started.  The 1st century church faced persecution on a daily basis.  The threat of death was very real for them, and yet, they boldly took a stand to spread the gospel because they knew that an earthly death was of very little meaning, but eternal life meant everything.  
Peter had a lot to say about persecution... 
"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you." -1 Pet. 4:12-14


Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  For
“Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
 let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.
18 For Christ also suffered[b] once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous,that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit," -1 Pet. 3:8-18
Have we forgotten who we are?  Have we forgotten the command that we as Christians were given at the Ascension?  The threat of persecution should have no power over us.  And it should by no means keep us from doing our duty.  Timothy gives us a good reminder of who we should be in 2 Tim. 1:7-9 saying, "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,"
You see, the love and joy that we are charged to share with the lost of this world should not be overridden by the fear of having to face persecution.  The problem is that most of us have never had to, and the threat of having to do so infringes on our cushy American lives.  The rubber is about to meet the road, and we, as Christians, need to be ready to put our money where our mouth is.  Folks, it's time for us to recall who we should be first.  Our sense of entitlement should never override who we are as Christians.  And as Christians, we are to help those in need so they might see Christ through us, and find the freedoms that we so easily share through our Savior.  THAT is our purpose in this world.
Thinking like this is going to bring up a lot of hard questions.  A lot of these questions we have never had to ask because of where we live.  But because of where we live, many times we put Christianity on the back burner.  It's time we wake up and start acting like the Christians we were meant to be.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Flip It Over

I recently found myself reading an article about a picture of an iceberg that had flipped over. Most of us know that only 10% of icebergs are visible above the water. What most of us probably don't know is just how majestically beautiful they are underneath. I also read an article entitled, "An Open Letter to All the People Writing (And Sharing) Open Letters About What’s Wrong with The Church." This article made some great points about what the church is, and who we are as Christians.
Something that I have been thinking about recently is our identity in Christ and the world's perception of us. Very often we, as Christians, let our view of ourselves align with how we perceive that the world views us. We tell ourselves that we have to live a perfect life to be a Christian. At the very least, we try our hardest to portray that our lives are flawless while we stuff our perceived shortcomings in the closet. We think everyone else holds us to a higher standard, and we feel obligated (as good Christians) to meet that standard....all in the name of Christ! Our purpose becomes to portray what we think Christ looks like instead of letting Christ mold our lives into what it should like. So the world gets to see what we have effectively made an idol in our lives instead of an all-forgiving Savior.
Here's the truth....we're all the same. We were created by the same God. Psalm 139:13 says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb." The difference is that, as Christians, we believe that God has paved a way through an endless map of an uncertain future. He's the light at the end of the tunnel. The answer to all of the world's unanswerable questions. But when it comes to living in this world, we are just as fallible as any other person. Why do we try to hide that fact? We WILL fall and fail. It's an inevitability. This doesn't mean that we cease continuing to be as Christ-like as we possibly can be, but in essence, we need to understand that there is very little of that action that we control. We control the decision to strive after this feat, but that's the end of our control...or at least it should be. Once we make that decision to continue to strive to be more like Christ, it is Christ who works in us and through us. But this is a complete surrender of ourselves. Something that many of us are scared to do. And this is where the title of this post comes in. So many times we think that the world can see Christ in us, even though we have covered Him up with all of the junk that we have wrapped ourselves in. What the world tends to see is a person that is saying they are "different," but they surely don't look like it. They see everything that we put on the surface, when what should be seen is the beauty that lies underneath. A beauty that has been molded through the years and through the currents of this life. All of the jagged edges. All of the craters. All of the broken pieces. All of the things that have molded your life. All of these things made majestically beautiful through Christ who remembers them no more. What is left is a person that is just the same as any other person out there with brokenness in their lives, but has been washed and made new.
So the next time you find yourself sliding into the easy path of flawless portrayal, make the decision to flip that iceberg over to let Christ show the world what He has made beautiful. Don't pretend that you somehow figured it all out on your own and continue to cover the beautiful person that you are. The beauty of Christ can, and will shine through you...you just have to make the choice to flip it over.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Path Less Traveled (God and the Boundary Waters)


There has been a tradition in my family that started in the late 80's.  It's a tradition that I was able to join in on in 1995, and have been involved with ever since.  Every year that our schedules align, we make our way up to the Boundary Waters the first week of August.  We spend five days canoeing in what most of us consider the most beautiful country on earth.

While I was working this past week, a song came on the radio by For King & Country called "Fix My Eyes."  It's a song that I have heard many times, but this time a phrase jumped out at me.  Here's a portion of the lyrics:
"I learned the lines and talked the talk (everybody knows that, everybody knows that)
But the road less traveled is hard to walk (everybody knows that, everybody knows)
It takes a soldier
Who knows his orders
To walk the walk I'm supposed to walk"
The part that really jumped out at me was "the road less traveled is hard to walk."  On our canoeing adventures over the years, portages (the carrying of a boat or its cargo between two navigable waters) have been a way of life.  You get used to them.  Some are hundreds of feet, and others are over a mile long.  We have taken two kinds of routes through the years.  We've taken routes that are easy where you see a LOT of people, and there tend to be few portages that are well traveled. And we've taken routes that are harder where you see very few people, and the portages are rocky, hard to navigate, and can be downright miserable.  Any idea which route I like to take? Although those routes that are less traveled can be much harder, the beauty you find in nature, and the peacefulness around you is far greater than taking the more popular routes.  I would much rather carry a canoe up a steep rocky path, be bruised and bloodied, and be able to enjoy the peace without other groups around me, than travel a flat well traveled path, and have to dodge groups throughout the entire trip. 
 The song reminded me of this.  Although there are paths that seem easy and wide, what you find on those paths will pale in comparison to what you will find on those hard and rocky paths.  If you live in America, the easy path is something that we are told we have to strive for.  Who doesn't want to live on easy street, right?  But what needs to be realized is that our relationship with our Savior is what should always be placed first in our lives.  Living the American dream shouldn't even be near the top of our priority list.  The hard part is actually choosing that rocky path.  It takes a lot of faith to choose a path that could potentially bring a lot of pain and hardship over a path that will be easily traveled. 
I am reminded of two passages today:
Matt. 7:13-14
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."


Matt. 11:28-30
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I used to question myself all of the time.  The path before me seemed so daunting, and I would find myself exhausted just thinking about it.  But I was doing the opposite of what Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us, 
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart
            And do not lean on your own understanding.

      In all your ways acknowledge Him,
            And He will make your paths straight."
It is one thing to read, and yet another to put into action.  When I started practicing all of these passages in my life, I found myself on that rocky path that sometimes left me bloodied and bruised.  But I couldn't be happier in knowing that it's not by my strength or power that I know that I will see God throughout the rockier portage path of life, but by the One who provides me with that strength because I've chosen to take the path less traveled.



Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Different Level and Understanding of Trust

     I was thinking about some of the things that hinder our lives and why it is so.  Many of us either don't realize that we do this, or we do realize it, and that is what drives our focus.  Many of us let our lives be run by the fear of sin.  We often fear sin so much that we focus on it rather than focus on getting past it through the ultimate freedom and forgiveness we have through Christ.  Please don't think that I am trying to make light of our sin.  If we allow sin to infiltrate our lives without admission, repentance, and sorrow, then we risk becoming out of touch with our Father, as 1 John 3:7-10 says,


"Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother."


Sin is not to be taken lightly. However, when we focus on it to the point that we neglect accomplishing God's will, then that sin becomes, in and of itself, an idol in our lives. We run the risk of becoming like the Israelites of the Old Testament who became so focused on the letter of the law that God spoke through Isaiah (recorded in 1:11-16) saying,


“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?”
Says the LORD.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of fed cattle;
And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.


“When you come to appear before Me,
Who requires of you this trampling of My courts?


“Bring your worthless offerings no longer,
Incense is an abomination to Me.
New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.


“I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts,
They have become a burden to Me;
I am weary of bearing them.


“So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you multiply prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are covered with blood.


“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.
Cease to do evil,"


What was lacked, and many times lacked within ourselves, was and is a reverence for the One who provided freedom from the bonds of sin. Our Father doesn't want us to simply acknowledge that our sin was taken care of on the cross, but very literally turn from our sin, and trust that He has taken care of it. We will continue to struggle with sin, but we, as Christians, should approach it with an attitude of seriousness that doesn't distract us from trying to fulfill the ultimate will of the Father, but with the understanding that the Father who called us has provided an answer to sin.


Sin is something that should be dealt with daily, but something that does not deserve our reflection. Our reflection should be reserved for one purpose...."How can I better accomplish the will of my Father?"
Trust that God can accomplish this in you. Trust that He will do mighty things through you. Trust that when He says sin has no hold, that it has no hold. When we can work up that kind of courage, our lives will truly change.





Thursday, June 12, 2014

Be Moved

     After a retreat that I attended in January of 2013 (www.encounterthecross.com),  I have come to realize that a radical change was needed in my life.  It has led to some major decisions within myself, my family, my business, and my involvement in my church.  What I have come to understand is that I can go to a retreat, can meet God there, and have Him work on my life that weekend, but unless I make the decision to let Him continue to move in my life, it was all for not.
     I personally tend to get wrapped up in the things that society and culture tells me to be wrapped up in.  I put the things I have learned from the world in front of things I learn through the Word, prayer, and the Holy Spirit.  I find myself asking, "what is truly important in this life?"  The cliche answer is 1. God 2. Family 3. Others 4. Church.  What I have been challenged with is this list: 1. God.........
It's not that all of the others aren't important, but that honestly giving the rest of them to God to take care of can be a true test of who we are.  This doesn't negate my responsibility to any of the rest of this list, but puts it all in perspective.  With this perspective, I am able to slow a busy life down to the point where the will of God becomes evident through prayer, meditation, and reading His word.
     I have had this tendency to do Christianity lip service in the past.  It was a part of my life, but my life was never a part of it.  Things are different now.  I find myself seeking God's counsel more and more.  The human side of me still wants to hold things back, but I feel my spirit urging me to take hold of the all-powerful will of God in my life.  To give Him dominion over all aspects of my life...ALL ASPECTS.  To be moved.
     The more I find myself giving up, the more I realize the intricacies of sin.  The little things that I used to pass off that have become big things in my life.  But since I had always considered them little things, when they became big, I failed to recognize them.  The cool thing about it now is that, since I'm taking hold of living a Christian life, I can very truly find freedom.  I have brothers and sisters to help me fight the spiritual battles within, and I do the same for them.
     As has been pointed out, God only ever used one flawless person on this earth.  Take hold of the will of God in your life.  You are going to make mistakes along the way, but the more faith you show in God along the way, the more He is going to use you to accomplish His will.  What is His will?  To bring the lost back to Him.  To save as many souls from the clutches of death as possible.  We are the warriors, we are the servants, we are workers.  Be still.  Be moved.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Belief

     I was reading through Ezekiel a couple of weeks ago, and I came across chapter 37 where God asks Ezekiel if the dry bones before him can live.  If you haven't read this story in a while, it is worth the read.  The following Sunday at church, we sang a song talking about the dry bones.  And, while we were in Iowa, my in-laws preacher preached about the dry bones.  Even tonight on the way home I was reminded by All Sons and Daughters that it's His breath in our lungs just like the breath that brought life to dry bones that day in the desert.  Needless to say I began to feel that "tap" saying, "I have something for you here."  I've been chewing on it for a week now, and I feel like part of it hit me tonight.
     Many of us have gotten in a rut of looking the part of a Christian.  We do the right things.  We say the right things. We go to church on Sunday.  We pray.  We read our bible.  On the outside, we are striving to look like what we are told a Christian should be, and we wonder why we are frustrated when we don't see God moving in our lives.  What many of us are missing is a true and unquestioning belief that God can do anything.  In essence, we don't believe that God is God.  We look at what is before us, and don't take the time to listen to God when He says, "Just give it to me."  We think it is impossible, and therein lies the problem...WE think.  All God wants is an unquestioning faith.  He wants us to bring him the humanly impossible so He can once again prove to His children that absolutely nothing is impossible for the God who created every last stitch of this earth.  That is what is so awesome and inspiring about the mysteries of our Father.  We so badly want to be "in the know," but it takes putting that aside, and really trusting that God's plan is infinitely better than whatever solution we can come up with.
     After you take that step in faith, don't be an Israelite and fall back into the same rut.  Thank your God, love your God, be humbled, and continue to move boldly in faith.

     I'll update as I think and pray about this more.