Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57   Entries 181-185 of 283
May 17, 2017, 5:00 AM

In what ways do you idolize comfort and convenience?

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  Matthew 16:24-26


As I type these words, I’m setting in my living room.  The air conditioning is set at a comfortable 73 degrees – not too hot, not too cold.  Even though I reside in little west Texas town, the world is literally at my fingertips thanks to my iPhone that sits on the side table. It’s filled with numerous apps whose sole purpose is to make my life run efficiently and almost effortlessly. Currently, I’m sitting with my feet propped up, on my rocking recliner love seat. Thanks to my noise cancelling headphones, there are no distractions or interruptions. The only sounds I hear are the tunes coming from my personally crafted Pandora music station. Somehow this radio station knows the exact song I want to hear every single time. 


With my world set just perfectly, I’m now ready to tackle my writing assignment: How do you deny yourself in a culture that says it’s all about you? Ouch, just typing those words causes me to squirm in my seat. Chances are good, it aroused the same reaction in you. We can feel the tension that comes with pondering this weighty question, especially while I’m enjoying Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and a recliner all from my the comfort of my living room.


Let’s be honest, no one likes feeling uncomfortable. Very few of us seek out ways to be inconvenienced. In fact, comfort and convenience are viewed as the highest values in today’s culture. We are living in a convenient world and we are comfort seeking boys and girls. The media bombards us with constant messages attempting to convince us that the entire world revolves around our comfort and convenience. These two qualities are the standard we judge everything else against.


They determine whether we label a day as good or we throw those 24-hours in the bad pile. We base the majority of our decisions, both big and small, around a single question – will this make our life run smoothly with little to no discomfort or disruption? Comfort and convenience influence and impact our daily plans, our checkbook, our families, our friendships, and even our relationship with God. With comfort and convenience serving as the dominant idols in our culture, many of us have unknowingly bowed down to them.


Like many other things God created, comfort and convenience aren’t in themselves bad or evil. The problem arises when our personal comfort trumps everything else and it becomes the thing we worship. As a church community, we want to pause and reflect on the places where we’ve grown comfortable in our faith, our relationships and our thinking. Just like the cozy love seat I’m reclining in, convenience and comfort don’t encourage us to put our faith into action.


Rather than answering the “HOW,” we’ve got to first spend some time exploring the “WHY.” Why should we deny ourselves in a culture that says it’s all about us? Until we can answer this question, the execution of the HOW is irrelevant. This is a scary venture for sure. Our natural reaction will be to hesitate. In our “me” focused world, it makes sense why Christ’s radical call to abandon ourselves would be met with resistance. But, you can’t carry a cross without the willingness to let go of your comfort. In what ways do you idolize comfort and convenience?


This is my Prayer: Father God, in my pursuit of comfort and convenience, I’ve lost sight of the fact that my agenda isn’t the most important. As a believer, You call me to deny myself and pick up my cross. Open my eyes today to the ways I can be used to bring You glory, even if it is uncomfortable or inconvenient. Amen.

May 16, 2017, 5:00 AM

Sin is not a broken rule, but a broken relationship and broken trust.

Sin, we can all point it out; even see it in our own lives. It confronts us anytime we turn on the television or open up the newspaper. Feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment accompany it. Murder, adultery, losing your temper, lying, and cheating on your taxes, the list could go on and on. The truth is that very few of us have a problem coming up with examples or symptoms of sin. Yet, trouble arises when we try to create a definition of it.


Even more danger occurs in the way we handle our sin. Whether we realize it or not, each one of us has created a complicated system in an effort to deal with our sin. Typically, we make our list of what sin is and it is equated with consequences. Each type of sin receives a ranking and is placed on a spectrum. A little sin like telling a white lie isn’t so bad when compared to taking someone’s life. Our perception is that all sins are not equal and some carry more weight than others.  In our mind, the greater the sin, the greater the punishment and distance it creates between God and us.


We all react differently to this perceived distance. The burden of shame is so great for some; they can’t deal with the distance and reason there can’t possibly be a God. Others indulge in all the world has to offer to numb the pain.  Some try to make up for all their mistakes by trying to change their behavior. Others feel the pressure to get in line and follow the rules all the while feeling that no matter how “good” they are, it won’t be enough.  The reactions are all different, but each person finds himself or herself in the same predicament, trapped in their system of dealing with sin.


Simply put, sin is forsaking God’s goodness and trying to find it somewhere else. Sin is not a broken rule, but a broken relationship and broken trust. We completely miss the point of the story about the Garden of Eden if we come to the conclusion that Eve’s sin was only eating a fruit off a tree.  This action served as a byproduct to her lack of trust in the character of God. It didn’t matter that she could roam in the garden or enjoy fruit from any other tree her heart desired.  Eve convinced herself that God was holding out on her so she went on a search to have life on her own terms.


“The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.” Genesis 3:6-7


She forgot about her relationship with God.  She forgot about all that God had given her and focused on the one thing in the entire garden she couldn’t have. In that fruit Eve traded in God’s goodness for the possibility of getting what she thought she wanted and deserved. We are all like Eve in that we place our trust in broken cisterns (money, power, jobs, relationships, and family) hoping we will find fulfillment in life. We go back to them time and time again as if we have amnesia, forgetting that they always leave us empty and thirsty for more. All of these longings point to our longing for God.


We must learn to see this lack of trust as an offense to the very character of God. In essence, we are telling the creator of the universe we have a better grasp than He does on what we truly need. The root of sin is distrusting God and trusting ourselves. This gets to the heart of what pride and control really is all about. The ultimate offense against God is that we do not trust Him.  It becomes crystal clear that the cross stands as the ultimate sign of love and sacrifice. Jesus didn’t come to create a religion; He came to restore a relationship and to show He can be trusted. His death becomes our death and His life becomes our life.


This is my Prayer: Father God, I desire to trust You in everything, but there are times when I doubt Your goodness. Lord help me to not look for other things for fulfillment, but to only look to You. Jesus You are my sustainer, provider, and savior. Thank you for restoring our relationship. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

May 15, 2017, 5:00 AM

If you don’t define your anger, your anger will define you!

 “If you don’t define your anger, your anger will define you”, you may have heard this saying many times.   But ask yourself, have you allowed your anger to shape your identity?  What is taking place within our hearts when we get angry? Why are we so quick to seek vengeance and vindication?


There are numerous reasons our emotions get all amped up: feeling our “rights” have been violated, frustrated over our current circumstances, not having control over a situation, our pride getting hurt, feeling misunderstood, being disrespected or someone blocking what we desire. At the core of all these reasons is the fact that we wanted something and didn’t get it. We spend more effort trying to justify our response than dealing with our anger.


“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?  You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.” James 4:1-2


Wow, “Kill” seems like a pretty harsh word.  You don’t really want to kill want to kill someone do you?  But, in Matthew 5:22, Jesus placed the anger you hold towards someone on the same playing field as the sin of murder. The Bible says we shouldn’t take our anger lightly.  It is no wonder then that Scripture also urges to not let the sun go down on our anger in Ephesians 4:26 and to put all anger away in Colossians 3:8 and Ephesians 4:31.


Selfishness, ungratefulness and impatience often define our anger. Yet, living in this fallen and mad world, sometimes our anger is justified. But, we must be careful not to work to justify our anger and unforgiveness because it places us on shaky ground. We either become a vigilante who takes matters into our own hands in hopes of seeking vengeance or we play the victim card for the rest of our days. Either way, if we don’t master our anger and deal with our unforgiveness, we will walk around with a chip on our shoulder feeling we are owed.


The longer we let this anger fester the more it clouds our judgment. In anger we can spin out of control. Our angry responses get us nowhere. It leaves our heart extremely vulnerable and causes us think unclearly. Proverbs 27:4 compares anger to a flood in its power to destroy and harm. Other parts of Scripture go as far as saying anger kills the foolish man. How?  By consuming our thoughts and dictating our actions which tend to bring with it all kinds of sin.  Your anger will bait you into doing things you regret and destroy the things that are most important to you.


We’ve got to go farther than anger management.  Anger is not to be managed, it’s to be mastered.  In order to learn what is required for mastery, you must start with a question, what did you not get that you wanted?  Then I must figure out if is it as important as I am making it out to be.  Is it worth destroying a relationship over?


This is my Prayer: Father God, instead of trying to justify my anger, help me to spend my energy on mastering it. Lord I know that all too often I take my anger too lightly and I lose sight of the distance it creates in my relationships.  Jesus show me how to not be a display of selfish anger, but to reflect Your heart and Your character.  Lord teach me to become a person who is patient, loving and forgiving. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

May 14, 2017, 5:00 AM

God isn’t asking you (or me) to solve the entire world’s problem!

A few years back, the gym at the church I was pasturing flooded. Water washed down the alley road and off the hill behind the building water filled kitchen, bathrooms, classroom, and gym floor.  It was a complete wreck. It was soaking wet and covered with dark mud, leaves, and debris.  I took one look at it and was overwhelmed.  How do I clean this mess up?  Where do I even start?


The emotion I was feeling when confronted with the work in front of me is very similar to how I respond to encountering the brokenness of this world. Where do I even begin? Everywhere I turn I see a mess: poverty, divorce, political disunity, racism, social injustice, suicide, hunger, loss, etc. All these issues are demanding my attention. I know I SHOULD care about these things (and deep down inside I do), but it seems hopeless.


This leads me to feelings of shame, guilt and discontentment. Because I can’t do it all, I often resort to inactivity and being overwhelmed with the futility of it all. I don’t think I’m alone with this struggle. Deep down inside each one of us has a desire to make a difference, to leave an impact and bring a bit of redemption, hope and change to this mad world.


But, here’s the thing: God isn’t asking you (or me) to solve the entire world’s problems; He is calling us to our part of the puzzle. This is what makes the body of Christ so beautiful. Each part is vital to our overall impact. God has equipped each one of us differently. We all have varied interests and passions.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12:3-8


So, how do we figure out our part? We find it by staying connected to Christ, being others focused and praying for eyes to see the needs around us. We start somewhere, remain curious and pray hard. We do something about one thing rather than nothing about everything. Articulation and insight on how we can influence others comes when we allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. How would you describe the part you playing in bringing Christ’s love to the mad world around you?


This is my Prayer: Father God, it’s easy for me to lose faith when I come face-to-face with the brokenness around me. It paralyzes me. It makes me feel ill equipped and helpless. Lord,help me stop trying to put it all on my shoulders, open my eyes to how and where You want me to respond.  Help me to own my part. Jesus ignite my heart in this area so I can humbly serve You and make a difference for Your Kingdom. In Your name, Amen.

May 13, 2017, 5:00 AM

If God remembers our sins no more, why do we often wallow in our past? 

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”Jeremiah 31:33-34


If God remembers our sins no more, why do we often wallow in our past?  Mistakes of the past have the ability to bring a sense of condemnation or shame. The brokenness we’ve experienced or are currently engaging in has us wondering if there is any hope. The baggage we cling on to has us doubting that redemption is possible.  Clinging on to those past hurts, failures and regrets hinders walking freely with Christ.


Experiencing the full life Jesus promises is impossible when our backs are turned with our eyes fixated on our past. The weight of these mistakes slows down our pursuit of God by diverting our attention from the future. In essence, we are walking into the future facing the wrong direction. The problem is we were designed to move forward, not backwards.  What we are carrying slows us down, wears us out and causes us to stumble.  When a mistake gets in our mind, the scars and wounds influence the way we perceive ourselves, others and even God Himself.  Our baggage distorts what we believe about God as well as the way we think He sees us.


Then there are those who will try to ignore their wounds and pretend like everything is okay. They keep everyone at a distance by wearing a mask and hiding the pain and hurt that rages deep inside of them. All their effort is spent in making sure no one sees through their façade. The baggage prevents us from being transparent in community by obstructing our relationships with others.  Rather than letting them go, we carry these burdens with us.  As a result, our walks with God, as well as our relationships with others, are hindered.  Baggage and shame keeps us from enjoying the fullness of life that God wants us to experience.  In 1 Peter 5:7 we are told to “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” God doesn’t want us to be weighed down by emotional baggage or carrying around burdens that we were not intended to bear.


Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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” Matthew 11:28-30


The offer Jesus made thousands of years ago remains available: I will carry your baggage for you. It doesn’t matter the weight of our bags or the heaviness of our shame, none are too heavy for Jesus. The time has come to let them go and give them to Him. When we surrender our scars, wounds and hurts to Him, He heals us and lifts those burdens. Then we will be able to repeat the words found in Psalm 118, “in my anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free.”


This is my Prayer: Father God, give me freedom to no longer wallow in my mistakes. Lord help me to no longer be shackled to my regrets.  Show me how my past mistakes don’t define my present or determine the future You have for me. Jesus I trust that Your grace is enough. I know You conquered death so I might experience life to the full.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57   Entries 181-185 of 283