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    What Is Your Identity?

    Sunday, April 5, 2015, 12:45 PM [General]

         We let much define us.  For some, it is relationships with friends and family.  What happens if your friends move away, as part of their own life?  What happens if fdamily members die?  We are given no certain number of days.  Does seperation from certain people mean that I am no longer me?
         We can also define ourself by our job.  Some of us are very good and excell at their job.  But what would happen if we lose our job?  We can be fired, laid off or our place of work simply go bankrupt and fold.  If I lose my job, am I no longer me?
         Some define themselves by volunteer activities, but what if we can no longer do these things.  Do we cease to exist?
         Sometimes, the world around us puts these things on us to label who we are.  Sometimes we choose them ourselves.  We label who we are because perhaps it gives us a level of control of who we are.  Often in life though, we can control little more going on in our life than how we choose to react to our circumstances.  And we tend to fear that which we can't control.
         We do have another option.  We have a God who dearly loves us.  He loved us so much that He took on flesh and blood, and then became our sin for us.  He did that so that we could once again be free to have a new identity, and identity that Je desires to give us but won't force on us.  That is the identity of "His child".  It is not and identity that we can earn, so we don't EVER have to worry about screwing up and losing it.  It is one that no one else gave to us, so no one on earth can take it away.  Only God can give it to us, and God will never take it away from you once you accept it.  We have these precious promises like "NEVER will I leave you or forsake you", and Jesus himself said about us "My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand".
         No matter what happens to us in life, no matter what our circumstances may be,no matter how bad we mess up or how alone we may feel, we can be ourself.  We can be God's child.  That identity can never be taken away.

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    Show Through

    Thursday, April 2, 2015, 6:22 PM [General]

         I had a joke pop up in my email inbox today. It was about a little girl asking her mother about the sermon they had just heard. She told her mother that the pastor said that God is bigger than us and asked if this was true. Her mother replied that it was. Then she said that the pastor told them that God lives inside of us and asked if this was true also. Again, her mother said that it was.
    The little girl looked confused and asked, "if God is bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldn't He show through?" You can't help but smile at that kind of inquisitiveness, even though she appears to miss the pastor's point. 
         Then I had to wonder, did she? Shouldn't God "show through" us? Of course He does among my church friends, but is He as visible when I am out in the rest of the world? If He isn't showing through, I need to ask the little girl's two questions.
         First, is God bigger than me? Not simply in size, but is God greater and more important than me? Obviously He is, but do I really believe it with all my heart? Does that truth still fill my heart with a sense of awe and reverence? Or have those become just words to me?
         In several places, the Bible calls us to reverence God. That word reverence is also translated fear, but not like terror that fills us with dread and a desire to flee and hide. It is more an awe that reminds me that He owes me nothing, I owe him all; He is huge and I and a speck; He is the source of all and the purpose for all. 
         Secondly, does Jesus live in me, or more accurately, do I give Him full rights to live through me? If I am truly brought to awe at the immensity of who God really is; if I understand the depths of His love, that he would make a way to live inside of me and in relationship with me, how can i then not surrender to Him the right to live through me any way He desires?
         When we, His children, can rightly answer those two questions, God will certainly "show through".

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    Gossip

    Saturday, February 21, 2015, 5:27 PM [General]

    Verse of the Day
    He who conceals a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends. Proverbs 17:9 NASB

         When I read this, the obvious was the first to stand out.  Real friendship is based on trust.  Betrayal of that trust, especially in the realm of secrets shared, can cause tremendous damage.  
         Because I work in a place where gossip is rampant, another application hit me.  In Romans 1, Paul is talking about unbelievers.  He puts gossips right in the list along with murderers and God-haters.  It can't be more clear how God feels about gossip.
         This proverb speaks of the damage of gossip.  People gossip for any number of reasons, and not always maliciously. Sometimes they are angry over a past slight.  Sometimes they are jealous.  Maybe they are just bored with too much time on their hand.  Whatever the motive, they decide to indulge in gossip.
         Gossip is a tool used to divide and isolate us.  God made us to live in community and harmony, with Him and with each other.  Gossip doesn't simply force a wedge between me and my brother, it seeks to isolate him from everyone else.  Even if not consciously, it is my sinful nature's way of trying to elevate me in "the group" by tearing down someone else.  As such, gossip does not need to be a lie. Truth, half truth or utter lie, it is sin.
         I may feel a sense of elevation for a time.  However, the kinds of groups that trade status with so little regard for people will probably soon grind me up to advance someone else.  

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    Servant Leadership

    Wednesday, February 4, 2015, 5:57 PM [General]

         Jesus told his disciples that who ever would be greatest must be a servant. There is so much wisdom in that statement that it would take hours to fully unpack. Let me unpack it a little.

         We tend to believe that greatness is reserved for those who are masters. Masters lead by force. That is the way of the world. Jesus wants us to see how his way is radically different. 

         Jesus call is to lead as a servant. A servant is lowly and humble. But how can a servant lead? Servants lead with love.  

         The servant first lives the truth out. The world already has plenty of leaders who proclaim "Do as I say, but don't look too closely at what I do". Not that we will be perfect, but we ourselves, being led by truth, are called to give a perfect effort. Then we trust both in the strength and in the grace of God to carry us forward.

         As the servant lives the truth, they remember to be grateful for all that they have. No matter our lot in life, we have something for which to be thankful. Even a crippled beggar has life and is offered the gift of eternal life through God's grace. Most of us have so much more than that. Maybe we need to spend more time with God thanking Him and asking Him to reveal to us just how much we do have. A grateful heart will be a joyful heart. 

         And that is the place from which we lead. With a joyful, loving heart, we serve one another. We do not drive them. The joy and the love living in us draws them. We all hunger for joy in our life. We may choose to try to feed our heart on all manner of things, bad and good. However, it is the joy that we really want, and joy is the only thing that will truly nourish our heart and allow it to grow.  

         As God's Spirit calls them, He will lead them to his servant leaders. Love those He brings you and as opportunities arise, tell them about the one who has brought peace and joy to your life. Be honest that your life isn't perfect. You fail. You struggle. But you are never left alone and He never stops loving you.  

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    Do Not Fear

    Wednesday, February 4, 2015, 5:47 PM [General]

         I was listening to a snippet of a speaker from "Founder's Week" at Moody Bible Institute this morning. He was talking about when Jesus calmed the storm while he and his disciples were crossing the sea. Jesus is calmly sleeping, because he knows that all is safe in His Father's hands. The disciples freak out and wake Him. The problem isn't that they are concerned about the storm. It is that they ask Him "don't you care?" 

         This is a slap in the face to God because it completely doubts His character. Asking for help is an honest and proper response. It addresses the reality that we are dependent on God. But they don't ask for help. They accuse Jesus of not caring.

         We will have to struggle with our fears and worries in this life, but throughout the scriptures God speaks the message "do not fear". He isn't telling us to "suck it up and stop being a baby". He knows our struggle. He is reminding us that the reason we don't need to fear is because HE is with us.

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    Slumber

    Saturday, January 31, 2015, 10:43 AM [General]

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    "Slumber"

    Days they force you
    Back under those covers
    Lazy mornings they multiply
    But glory's waiting
    Outside your window
    So wake on up from your slumber
    Baby, open up your eyes

    Tongues are violent
    Personal and focused
    Tough to beat with
    Your steady mind
    But hearts are stronger after broken
    So, wake on up from your slumber
    Baby, open up your eyes

    All these victims
    Stand in line for
    The crumbs that fall from the table
    Just enough to get by
    All the while
    Your invitation
    Wake on up from your slumber
    Baby, open up your eyes
    Wake on up from your slumber
    Baby, open up your eyes

    Take from vandals
    All you want now
    Please, don't trade it in for life
    Replace the feeble
    With the fable
    Wake on up from your slumber
    Baby, open up your eyes
    Wake on up from your slumber
    Baby, open up your eyes

    All these victims
    Stand in line for
    The crumbs that fall from the table
    Just enough to get by
    All the while
    Your invitation
    Wake on up from your slumber
    Baby, open up your eyes
    Wake on up from your slumber
    Baby, open up your eyes

    Come on
    Sing like we used to
    Dance when you want to
    Taste of the breakthrough
    And open wide

    All these victims
    Stand in line for
    The crumbs that fall from the table
    Just enough to get by
    All the while
    Your invitation
    Wake on up from your slumber
    Baby, open up your eyes
    Wake on up from your slumber
    Baby, open up your eyes
    Wake on up from your slumber
    Baby, open up your eyes

    Come on
    Sing like we used to
    And dance like you want to
    Come on now and open your eyes

    Come on
    Sing it like we used to
    And we'll dance like we want to
    Come on and open up your eyes
         Needtobreathe is one of my favorite bands, musically and lyrically.  This song captures a personal struggle, and a struggle with the larger western church.  We have fallen asleep.  We have grown comfortable in our own lives.  There is little or no room for risk.  Sadly, it reminds me of a favorite phrase of a hockey coach, "safe is death."
         "Days they force you back under those covers."  Comfort becomes like quicksand.  Spend too much time there and you can easily become stuck.  The longer you are there, the harder it becomes to break free.  Even worse, the more you don't want to break free.
         "All these victims stand in line for crumbs that fall from the table, just enough to get by."  We become so addicted to the comforts that the world offers that we forget the riches that Christ has for us.  But the world's offer is a temporary lie at best, evaporating like smoke.  Crumbs.  Wake up and remember all that God offers is true and eternal.  Wake up and help rouse the rest of the church that is content to just slumber while a world is perishing.
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    Half-hearted

    Friday, January 30, 2015, 11:14 PM [General]

         I was talking with a friend tonight about why so many within the church are so half-hearted and not experiencing the full riches of God in their life.  God has been working (Wow - thank You that You are still at work and haven't given up on me) to reveal to me that I am still fall back into trying to bargain with Him.  

    "I will try to be obedient, because I am afraid that You will punish me."

    "I will try to be obedient, because then you will bless me with what I have asked You for."

         How about "I will try to be obedient, because what you ask of me is the right thing to do.  As your child, I desire to please you.  As your child, I do not need to fear your anger.  You love me and have already forgiven all my sins.  There will still be consequences when I fail, but I do not need to fear that you will throw me away when I do. Change my heart so that my desires are transformed into what you desire for me."

         When this truly becomes my prayer (and that of all within the church),  revival WILL happen, the church WILL experience the full riches of God and the world WILL see a God that moves powerfully.

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    Do Not Judge?

    Saturday, January 24, 2015, 1:56 PM [General]

    'Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2

         Many people use these verses to claim that we don't have a right to tell people that what they are doing is wrong.  They want to claim that right and wrong are purely subjective.  They need to understand these verses in context with the next three.

    'Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5

         Jesus is not saying we can't have object values of right and wrong. He is condemning the ignoring of your own sin, and the use of judgmental attitudes designed to lift yourself up by beating down someone else.  I love the phrase "the only level ground is at the foot of the cross".  There we can realize that on our own goodness, we are truly lost.  Yet a loving God has done all the work necessary to save us, if we humbly bow and admit our need for Him.
         Scripture is also to be read in the greater context of the whole book.  Matthew 7:1-5 shows that our true attitude when we see sin in someone's life should first lead us prayerfully inward, asking God to show us our own heart.  The following verse from Galatians shows us how we are to respond to the individual in sin.

    Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2
         First, we see the person as trapped by sin.  Our heart's attitude should be to help them by freeing them from that trap.
         Then, it is to be done gently.  If we found a wounded animal caught in a trap, we would not simply try to yank it's leg out.  We would first try to pull back the jaws of the trap, and then carefully remove the leg. We would apply disinfectant and ointment.  Then we would try to attach a splint if there was a broken bone.  All this is done with a desire to heal, not torture.
         Like the hurt and confused animal, some will resist our help.  And like this case, our help offered may be painful for them.  
         The most important thing to remember here is that only God can actually heal them. Sometimes, all we can do is love them and wait for God to open a way for them to be receptive to us.  When God does, we need to be willing for Him to use us, even if it is inconvenient or messy.  Life is messy and we were certainly a mess when God found us.
         Above all, love them with God's love.  His love will always compel us to carry another's burden.  Carry it with them, and carry it to God.

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    Redeemer

    Sunday, December 21, 2014, 8:52 PM [General]

         As I was listening to the radio this morning, the song "Jesus Messiah" was playing.  It struck me in part because our worship band had just played it at the coffeehouse that our church hosts.  The line that had me thinking was from the chorus, "Blessed Redeemer, Emanuel."
         It took me back to my childhood.  When I was a kid, you were able to make a little extra money by looking for empty soda bottles.  If you found ones that were not broken, you could return them to the store.  The store would "redeem" it and give you ten cents in return.  Eventually, the bottle would end up back at the bottling plant, cleaned and ready to be refilled.  At this point, the previously worthless bottle had value again.  It went back to the store and was ready to be sold again.
         Before they gave us any money though, they were careful to inspect the bottles.  It couldn't have any chips or cracks.  If it was not in good shape, they would not accept it.  I was always very careful not to even pick up ones that looked cracked.  Cracked bottles broke easy and could cut you.
         The bottle, by itself, never really had value.  Its only true value was based on what filled it.  We are a lot like that bottle.  Life in this world has a way of emptying us.  Even worse, it tends to break us.  Like the broken bottle, the world has little or no use for broken people.  And like a broken bottle, a broken person can sometimes hurt others.
         Fortunately, Jesus does not look at us that way.  No one is too dirty or broken for Him.  If we acknowledge our need for Him, He enters into our life, no matter our state.  He works to clean us up, and repairs our broken places.  He fills us up with His Spirit.  He gives us value.
         Unlike the bottle, to Jesus, our value preceded our filling.  Our value is founded in that He made us.  He loves us.  When we really understand the truth of that, we will begin to see others differently.  We won't see them as their dirt or cracks.  We will see someone that was made in God's image, someone He loves and wants to redeem.  We will desire to be a part of God's work.  We can't redeem others ourselves, but we can love them and introduce them to the one who can.

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    Regret

    Thursday, September 25, 2014, 5:08 PM [General]

         Regret is the cousin of false humility. It has the appearance of godliness, but no real substance. It denies both God's power and His nature. It claims that our failures are too great and strong for Him to forgive and to deal with.
         It continues to bring our focus back on us and our performance.
         Instead, we must choose to focus on God, on His grace and mercy. With them, He overcomes our weakness. He helps us to live rightly. He helps us to live in relationship with Him.

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