It’s Important to be Intentional and Choose Your Situations Wisely

It’s Amazing…He Looks Just Like You

Pastor Lee shared a story this week about a missionary couple that had small children. When the couple left for a short overseas mission trip, they left the children with family. While in this foreign country war broke out and the couple was unable to get home…for eight years. When they came home the oldest son, now a young man, met them at the train station. After the mother hugged her son, she stepped back, looked at him and said, “He looks just like you.”

We’ve all experienced the resemblance of families. This is something much more than just DNA. This includes the habits, actions, expressions, mannerisms, etc. of those we spend the most time with.

You will become what you surround yourself with.

You will become what you read, what you listen to, what you watch. You will speak the language, wear the clothes, develop the habits and live the lifestyle of those you hang out with. If you associate with chickens, you will scratch the ground squabbling over crumbs. If you associate with eagles you will learn to soar to great heights. (2nd Decision I will seek wisdom, from The Travelers Gift by Andy Andrews)

This is why it’s critically important to make your choices wisely.

 A missionary in Africa tells a story about woman that faithfully came to church. Each time she came her dog came with her. She would set at the end of the same row each week and the dog sat beside her in the isle. Then at the end of service the dog followed her to the altar where she knelt and prayed.

This women’s husband was mean and abusive to her. Then in one of his abusive episodes he killed her. Because they lived in a small village there was no repercussions for his actions. He and the dog just continued like nothing had changed.

One day the husband noticed that the dog was leaving and gone for a couple of hours at the same time each week. After a while he became curious and followed the dog.

The dog was going to the church service and setting at the same place it always had and then going to the altar. The people of the church knew what the man had done and even so, they still welcomed him in Christian love.

The man was so moved that he repented of his sins and accepted Jesus into his life.

When we hear the Good News about God saving us and believe in the message of Christ, God puts His special mark on us. This mark being the Holy Spirit. Then we can enjoy the complete freedom that comes from belonging to Him. (Ephesians 1:3-14)

God can do amazing things if we will trust Him and obey His instructions. Just like in the song, Trust and Obey, there’s no other way. This is how we can be happy and enjoy the favor that He gives.

The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we will be like Him.

Having Your Debt Paid, Means You Have to Accept It and Share It

Just Because It Was Paid, Doesn’t Mean It’s Free

There is a lot of debt in the world today and it continues to grow. I’m not talking about only financial debt (even though this is a major issue). I’m talking about the debt of life.

We’ve done nothing to earn this life we’ve been given.

It’s not like we went to the life store and bought it. One day, we just showed up here on this planet. We did nothing to deserve this opportunity. So how do we pay that debt?

The first thing is to be aware. We need to realize what an amazing thing we have.

We’ve been given sight, sound and breath…skills, abilities and knowledge. It’s our responsibility to use these things to pay the debt we owe.

Just like life, our abilities and skills don’t start out being fully developed. As we use them, they improve. These improvements come with bumps and bruises as we learn and grow. Too often we try to hide these scars. We don’t want anyone to know about our failures or mistakes.

It’s okay to show our scars.

When others see those scars, they can see that we have been paying our debt. It makes our message more relatable.

In Luke 24:36-48, Jesus appeared to His disciples. They didn’t believe it was really Him. They had seen Him die and be buried. He showed them His scars. These scars were proof of the price He had paid for their eternal life, but it was still up to them to accept this payment.

Even though He has paid the debt, it’s up to us to accept it and share it.

If we don’t it was paid in vain. Don’t let the price that was paid for our eternal gift to have been wasted.

Fear is Easier to Deal with When You’re Not Alone

We’re All Afraid of Something…What is it That You’re Afraid of?

Fear and anxiety are a part of life. It comes in a variety of places and levels for each of us.

A lady who was afraid of flying was on a plane. This fear was amplified when the plane was delayed a few times before takeoff. While in the air, the cabin lights began to flicker. The lady asked the flight attendant if she could please do something to fix the lights. The attendant went and turned them off. The person across the aisle leaned over and said, “Whatever you do…don’t say anything about the engines.” 😊

I don’t know, but I doubt that turning off the lights did much to help the lady’s fear.

In John 20:19-31 we see how Jesus’ disciples were afraid and hiding from the Romans. Their world had just been turned upside down with Jesus being killed.

Jesus’ followers, except Thomas, were meeting behind locked doors when Jesus shows up. This helps to subside their fear…for a little while. The group kept telling Thomas how Jesus had shown up.

He wasn’t going to believe until he saw for himself.

Then a week later, the followers were meeting again. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus showed Thomas the proof of the holes in His hands and side. Jesus told Thomas, “You believe because you have seen…blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.

Believing without seeing is hard.

Whether it’s flying in a plane, spiders, roller coasters, not having enough money, being stranded in the middle of the ocean, snakes, letting people down, there is something we’re afraid of. For some this fear can be debilitating. For others it’s more of a nuisance. Regardless the fear is real.

A class of seminary students were shown a picture drawn by a boy that was sick and dying. The boy had not been talking since he went to the hospital.

The picture was fairly typical of pictures drawn by children. It was a picture of the boy’s family. It had a house, dad, mom and his siblings standing in the front yard. The part that was different was him standing by himself off to the side facing a tank that was about to run over him.

The class was given copies of the drawings and asked to make changes to the picture that might help the boy cope. There were several changes that were shown to the boy. The one that got the boy to open up and talk was the one that had a picture of a person simply standing beside him in front of the tank.

We all need someone to stand beside us when we’re facing tanks.

Jesus will stand beside us when we’re facing tanks…if we will just ask Him.

It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming

Jesus has Risen, He has Risen Indeed

This past Sunday was a celebration.

It was a celebration because more people are continuing to gather together. We had a large turn out for the Sunrise Service and the largest group at the regular morning service in a while.

It was celebrating Christ’s resurrection from death.

That first Easter started with a lot of sadness. Jesus’s followers had had a rough few days with all that they had gone through. They were feeling lost and alone with no hope…BUT SUNDAY’S COMING.

When in a meeting last Friday, a friend said something that I hadn’t heard for a while, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” It reminded me of a message I had heard from Tony Compolo in which he referred to a sermon by Baptist pastor S. M. Lockridge.

This message reminds us of the crying at the tomb, the giving up of Jesus’ followers. We can’t appreciate the Easter message if we can’t see the risen Jesus.

Easter was not born in the light of the day, it was born in the darkness of the night, we all have periods of darkness, the light comes again in the rising of the Son, our greatest strength is in hope

It’s Friday but Sunday’s coming!

It’s Friday. Jesus is arrested in the garden where He was praying. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The disciples are hiding and Peter’s denying that he knows the Lord. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is standing before the high priest of Israel, silent as a lamb before the slaughter. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is beaten, mocked, and spit upon. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Those Roman soldiers are flogging our Lord with a leather scourge that has bits of bones and glass and metal, tearing at his flesh. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The Son of man stands firm as they press the crown of thorns down into his brow. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. See Him walking to Calvary, the blood dripping from His body. See the cross crashing down on His back as He stumbles beneath the load. It’s Friday; but Sunday’s a coming.

It’s Friday. See those Roman soldiers driving the nails into the feet and hands of my Lord. Hear my Jesus cry, “Father, forgive them.”

It’s Friday; but Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, bloody and dying. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The sky grows dark, the earth begins to tremble, and He who knew no sin became sin for us. Holy God who will not abide with sin pours out His wrath on that perfect sacrificial lamb who cries out, “My God, My God. Why hast thou forsaken me?” What a horrible cry. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. And at the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil of the Temple that separates sinful man from Holy God was torn from the top to the bottom because Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, heaven is weeping and hell is partying. But that’s because it’s Friday, and they don’t know it, but Sunday’s a coming.

And on that horrible day 2000 years ago, Jesus the Christ, the Lord of glory, the only begotten Son of God, the only perfect man died on the cross of Calvary. Satan thought that he had won the victory. Surely he had destroyed the Son of God. Finally he had disproved the prophecy God had uttered in the Garden and the one who was to crush his head had been destroyed. But that was Friday.

Now it’s Sunday. And just about dawn on that first day of the week, there was a great earthquake. But that wasn’t the only thing that was shaking because now it’s Sunday.

And the angel of the Lord is coming down out of heaven and rolling the stone away from the door of the tomb.

Yes, it’s Sunday, and the angel of the Lord is sitting on that stone and the guards posted at the tomb to keep the body from disappearing were shaking in their boots because it’s Sunday, and the lamb that was silent before the slaughter is now the resurrected lion from the tribe of Judah, for He is not here, the angel says. He is risen indeed.

It’s Sunday, and the crucified and resurrected Christ has defeated death, hell, sin and the grave. It’s Sunday. And now everything has changed. It’s the age of grace, God’s grace poured out on all who would look to that crucified lamb of Calvary. Grace freely given to all who would believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross of Calvary was buried and rose again. All because it’s Sunday.

It’s Friiidaaaay! But Sunday’s coming!

Make My Heart a Manger

A place Where Jesus Can Reside

This time of the year the Christmas story is a big part of things. You know the one, the on where Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger. As we reflect on this story here are a few things to think about.

When Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem is was full of people going about their required duties. There were so many people there was no place left for Jesus to come into this world except an animal shelter. He was given the leftovers. Too many times this is what we give Jesus… We give Him our leftover time and attention. We don’t give Him anything but some space out with the animals.

Give Jesus more than your leftovers.

A manger is a trough or box for feeding livestock. Yet this was the place where our Savior was first laid. This was the place where He began to change everything. It was the starting point.

Jesus doesn’t need a palace or a king size bed. He just needs a place to reside.

This story from “1001 Illustrations That Connect” edited by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elsolf about Rose Kennedy, mother of President John Kennedy, explains this well. (Make your heart a manger)

Rose Kennedy’s story:

“I was a spoiled young bride of a strong-willed man, a socialite who attended every function possible,” she began. “We were expecting a child and elated at the prospect. The day came when our child was born. She was a beautiful child.

“But it wasn’t long until we realized that there was something terribly wrong with her. We took her to the doctor, who confirmed our fears. She was [mentally handicapped], and nothing could be done.”

“Anger grew in my heart,” Rose said. “How could God do such a thing to this child — to me? I turned my back on God, my husband, my closest friends — and became a recluse.

“One evening, a major event was happening in the city. I wanted to go, but I was so filled with wrath that I thought I might create a scene. My husband feared it, too, so we decided to stay home. A lovely woman, who was one of our maids, gently said to me, ‘Please excuse me, Mrs. Kennedy, but I’ve been watching you the last few weeks. I love you very much, and I hate to see this destroy your life. Mrs. Kennedy, you’ll never be happy until you make your heart a manger where the Christ Child may be born.’

“I fired her on the spot! Yet later that night, my mind ruminated relentlessly, keeping me awake. I could not forget that lovely face, the sweetness of the maid, the joy in her spirit, and especially her words.

I have loved Christ my whole life, and tried to be a good Catholic, but now I knelt beside my bed and prayed, ‘Dear God, make my heart a manger where the Christ Child may be born.’ I felt a fresh, new, divine entry into my life, and there was born in me a love for [mentally handicapped] children.”

“Oh, by the way, I rehired the lovely maid,” Rose added. “She was with us until her death.”

Make your heart a manger where the Christ Child may be born.

It’s Up to You to Figure Out What Your Purpose Is

Once You’ve Determined That…Live It to The Fullest

We have all been given a specific purpose. A unique thing that only we have. The hard part can be figuring that what it is.

I don’t know that we will ever figure it out fully, this side of heaven.

The important thing is to be vigilantly looking every day. To focus on uncovering the “thing” God has put us here for. The Architect of the world has given us a “Blueprint” for building the life He designed for us. It is up to us to study that print and build our lives accordingly.

In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus tells about a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son. The king sent his servants to tell those who had been invited that the feast was ready. The people who had been invited were too busy and went on about their lives.

So, the king invited other less admirable people, as per the world’s standards. When the king came to greet the guests, one was not dressed for the wedding. The king asked the man why. The man said nothing. The king had him thrown out.

This seems a little harsh. 

The custom of the day was that when people came to a wedding, they were given wedding clothes. So, it wasn’t like the man didn’t have everything he needed. He just chose not to use them. On top of that, he ignored the king.

This man wanted to enjoy all the benefits of the wedding feast with out putting on the clothes. Too many of us approach life in this same way. We’ve been invited to the feast and given everything we need to come and enjoy it. But we ignore the King and the wedding clothes that He’s given us.

We want the benefits without doing the work.

Take time to read and study Life’s Blueprint. Discuss the plans with the Architect. Determine what your purpose is and build the life God has designed for you.

A Cornerstone Is the Foundation of the Foundation

What Is the Cornerstone You’re Building Your Life On?

Getting distracted and losing our focus is easier now than ever before. We are flooded with information that can wash away our foundation if we aren’t careful.

This even happened when Jesus was alive. In Matthew 21:33-46 Jesus points out to the priests and church leaders that their foundation was eroding and going to collapse if they didn’t get them aligned with the Cornerstone.

The cornerstone is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation. All other stones will be set in reference to this stone.

The Cornerstone determines the outcome of the entire structure.

The foundation is the most critical part of building. If the foundation isn’t square and straight the building won’t be either. It is critical to refer back to the foundation constantly and repeatedly.

The quality of the foundation determines how we make it through the storms of life. A wise man builds on the Rock not the sand. Building on the Rock will allow us to better weather the storms.

The kind of foundation we build on is up to us.

What if we started our building on a poor foundation? It’s not too late. Remove the bad one and put in a new and solid one. Our lives are under construction until we die. The sooner the foundation is corrected and aligned with the Cornerstone the better. Don’t wait…

Build your life on The Cornerstone!

People Are the Foundation of the Church

Jesus Is Building “It” On Believers

In Matthew 16:13-20, Jesus asks those following Him, “Who do people say that I am?” Peter’s answer was “You are the Christ, the Son of God.”

Who do you say that He is?

Jesus tells Peter, “You are the rock on which I will build my church.”. This is the first time that “church” is used in the Bible. Too often, people think of a building when they hear the word church.

Jesus was not talking about a building when He spoke about the church. He was talking about believers. People who believe that He is the Son of God. Too many people think of church as a building.

Jesus was a liar, a lunatic, or Lord.

C. S. Lewis said in his book, Mere Christianity that…

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse….”

Believing that Jesus is the Son of God makes you one of the foundation stones.

There is a responsibility that goes with being part of this foundation. The weight of the church rests on it. The more blocks that are in the foundation the lighter the load is on each block.

The load appears lighter to those who choose not to be a part of the foundation, in reality, the load we carry alone is much heavier. The load is lighter when it’s shared.

If we choose to be a foundation rock, we have a responsibility to the other rocks. To share the load with the other foundation stones while showing those who aren’t yet, how to be one.

We have a responsibility to be the best foundation that we can. It’s our fault if the building falls down.

What Does It Mean to Have Faith?

It Means the Willingness to Step Out of the Boat

Faith is the complete trust or confidence in someone or something. This is much easier to say than to do. Saying it doesn’t require the level of commitment that doing does.

In Matthew 14:22-33 Jesus’ followers are alone in a boat in the middle of the night and there’s a storm. They see something on the water and think it’s a ghost, but it’s Jesus. Peter says, “…if it’s really you, then command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus says, “Come.”, and Peter gets out of the boat and walks to Jesus. Then Peter gets scared and starts to sink. Jesus reaches out and catches Peter and says, “Your faith is small.”

How big is your faith?

I think this story of Peter getting out of the boat is a great example of our humanness. Faith is easier in the beginning when you’re still close to the solid comfort of the known. The real test is when you get out in the middle. The goal still looks far away, and we begin to doubt ourselves and our decision.

It requires faith to step out.

Imagine standing on the edge of a wide and deep canyon. It is scary, standing there you can’t see the bottom or the other side. You know that on the other side is something important. It could be a person, a business, a home, the life of your dreams.

The only way to get there is to go across a swinging rope walkway. Some of the boards on the walk are missing and some are broken. The rope is frayed and looks to be unwinding. You can’t even see the whole bridge, so you have no idea what condition the part you can’t see is in. This fear is what keeps most people stuck in the mediocrity. It’s too scary to step out there on the bridge.

What if the thing on the other side is the thing that God wants for you? To have it you just need to have faith and go get it.

We want to have faith. We start to have faith. Then we quit.

The loss of our faith gradually happens as we mature. As we go through life, we become more and more cynical. We witness discouragement and heartache and we lose our faith. In Matthew 18:3 and Mark 10:15 we are told to enter the Kingdom of God; we need to be more like children.

Andy Andrews talks about a childlike faith in his book The Traveler’s Gift. In the Persistent Decision, one of the seven life principles in the book, he speaks to faith. He says, “How long must a child try to walk before he actually does so? A child would never ask the question, for the answer does not matter. By persisting without exception, my outcome – my success – is assured.” A child would not think twice about running out on that bridge over the canyon.

We need to have the faith of a child.

Faith requires that we put our complete trust and confidence in Someone other than ourselves. If we ask God to walk on the water and He says, “Do it”, we can be sure that it’s safe to step out of the boat.

How Can I Be the Best Witness?

Remember It’s Not About Me

Often the words disciple and apostle are used interchangeably. There isn’t a huge difference and most times these words refer to the twelve direct followers of Jesus. A disciple is a follower or student of a teacher. An apostle is one who is sent out to convey a message and to teach.

How amazing would it have been, learning from Jesus in person? In Acts 1:1-14 Luke wrote about the experience. He tells us that Jesus gave them instruction to go and witness to people everywhere. After everything they had been through, I don’t think they would have felt much like going out into the unknown and teaching. It would have been much more comfortable to just stay in and keep it to themselves.

Too many people spend their whole life “going to school” and never put what they learned to use.

Ray Edwards used the word “educrastination” in one of his podcasts. He said, “This is the act of spending too much time learning and not enough time doing.” I can identify with this. I love to learn new things and continue to build a better me. It’s much easier to learn than it is to put those lessons into action. If we don’t put what we learn to use, we’re no better off than we were before we learned it.

Not using and sharing what we learn is an act of selfishness.

Jesus couldn’t physically connect with everyone. In the scripture above, Luke tells us this is why God sent the Holy Spirit…because it could. We have access to this same Holy Spirit today. This is God’s way of equipping and impowering us to do the work He has called us to do.

Luke and the other disciples witnessed Jesus’ miracles firsthand. As apostles with the help of the Holy Spirit they taught others. This teaching and witnessing continues today. I can be a witness for Christ or against Him. Our actions are evidence of our witness.

What is my witness?

Cartoon man looking up at large question mark