Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Friends and Cheers...and belonging

Isn't it everyone's longing and hope in this world to find a place that you belong?  Isn't that the hope of every person living?  We want to find acceptance, understanding and people who will love us for who we are...truly love us regardless of our faults and flaws.  Isn't this why television shows like 'Cheers' and the more contemporary 'Friends' became so popular in the first place?  We find identity within characters who have found this formula don't we?  We, perhaps covet their meaningful relationships because we too crave this type of deep level of fulfillment in others as well.  
Sure the characters are flawed, have issues, aren't perfect and yet these characters had people coming back for more each week to find out how their favorite fictional characters were getting on.  These syndicated comedy shows have been so popular that for Cheers they've aired followup episodes to please its following, and rumors are they are planning this type of event for the cast fan base of 'Friends' as well.  
Perhaps it's loneliness that drives these franchises to popularity, or perhaps they touch on a very familiar topic and emotion in the majority of our world...we want to be loved and find belonging.  
Perhaps a passage of scripture that seems obscure or a book in the bible you don't often read says this to us about God's love and our search for belonging in this life:  Zephaniah 3:17 "The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."
Perhaps some of us feel lonely in this life...know that God is with you!  Perhaps some of us feel unloved or unlovable...know that God 'will quiet you (and your heartache) with his love'!    Perhaps some of us worry about how our bills will be paid, where our next meal will come from or even the relationships (no matter how broken they may appear)...God will rejoice over you!  
Do you need to be cheered up today?  Are you in need of Friends?....I know sorry about that play on words there, but God wants to be involved in your life and to remind you that you aren't alone, you are never alone!  He loves you so much and wants you to find fulfillment in this life through others as well as your relationship to Him.  

Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.” -Hellen Keller

Friday, May 24, 2013

Picking up broken the pieces

The heart ache of this past week is evident in the state of Oklahoma...children were lost, families ripped apart, sorrow and pain have been an un-welcomed, uninvited guest.  How do we pick up the pieces when life seemingly sweeps away any remnants of normality?  
Throughout our world people today are facing this very same situation.  It might not present itself in the form of a mile wide twister but rather a car accident, a bout with cancer, a loss of a loved one.  People find themselves at the brink of total despair and their lives in ruin shattered before their very eyes.  
David knew a thing or two about a shattered life...more than once.  He was in flight for his life, the king wanted him dead, later when he became king he committed adultery, plotted to kill the husband and lost a child in the process... his life was shattered.  In one of his most famous psalms 23 he wrote; "even though I travel through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."  
We at times, as human beings, walk through valleys within the shadows of death on all sides.   And because of these valleys,we find the pieces of our lives scattered in all directions.  
Have you been there?  Are you there right now?  Do you fear the evil that lurks in your life right now?  What was David's hope?  How did he overcome his valleys and collecting the broken pieces of his life?  He knew that he wasn't alone...the Lord was his shepherd and even in the midst of deep despair and trouble he knew One who could sustain, protect and provide. 
Are you picking up the pieces today?  Know that you aren't alone and that the good shepherd will walk beside you and give the the strength to make it through this chapter of your life.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Give us this day our daily bread"

Do you know where your next meal is coming from?  Do you wonder how your next month's rent or car payment or other bill is going to get paid?  Our basic essentials in life obviously come because we can pay for things...right?  What we make at our jobs generally helps to pay for our lifestyles.  Sometimes, though we realize that we have not been living within our means when we run up a credit card or lease/buy a vehicle that we cannot afford the payments on.  Living within our means forces us to realize that we ought to separate our needs from our wants.  

When we pray to our Father in heaven the way Jesus has instructed us in what we call "the Lord's prayer" what we realize is that we are placing our entire being, fully surrendered, at the foot of God himself.  When we pray "give us today our daily bread" we are not praying for tomorrow's supplies or tomorrow's worries, we are strictly and implicitly focusing on what is right before us within this very day.  Who knows what tomorrow holds, but when we focus on God, his might and power and his kingdom, we can't but help realize that He is ultimately in control over our basic needs.  

When we pray this portion of 'the Lord's prayer' we quickly realize that it's not our wants that He will supply but our needs.  What is it that you need today?  What do you struggle with daily?  Have you prayed about it?  Is really a need or is it a want?  "Daily bread" isn't necessarily the food that we eat but every human supply of our needs is included here.  God is supremely over all and through all!  When we come to this conclusion even the little things in life are blessings given to us by God and we ought to thank Him for these daily...even moment by moment.

Do you have needs?  Are you lacking today?  Have you prayed about it?  Are you surrendering it all to your Father in Heaven?  Consider the works of His hands today and consider how blessed we are because He can and will provide for us the things that we need. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Why do bad things happen to good people?"

This is one of the questions many are asking today in the aftermath of yesterday's horrific natural disaster in Oklahoma.  Almost 60 people were killed as a mile wide tornado struck the outskirts of Oklahoma City/Moore area.  It has been reported that nearly 21 children were among the death toll in this awful destructive storm.
So many people are questioning many things today.  Many are considering why God would allow something like this to happen.  Others are questioning why bad things seem to happen to good people.  And there really isn't a good answer is there?  What can you say to a family in mourning when they have just lost a child or a father in the wake of this horrendous disaster?  What soothing words can we offer to grieving people when they've lost their entire homes, pets, and loved ones? 
One of the best things we can do is to just be there.  We have to show up, without any other agenda than to be a shoulder to cry on.  As many of us view this disaster from a far, we may feel powerless to help...but we couldn't be more wrong.  We can two a few very useful things.  
1) Pray.  As I've mentioned in previous articles prayer isn't empty or something we do like rubbing a lamp and making a wish.  When we pray we are going before the Father in Heaven and He actually hears us.  We serve a God who isn't a distant God but One who is active and living and wanting to hear our conversations.  Prayer for others is called intercessory pray...meaning we are before the Father for others, asking Him to intercede for their concerns.  Prayer is a very powerful thing that we do, it isn't or should be construed to be a last resort kinda thing but rather a first resort daily connection to God's infinite power.  
2) Reach out.  How do we reach out to people who are hurting right now in Oklahoma?  There are some very worthy groups on the ground right now that I know and I trust.  The Salvation Army is one of them.  They have been there minutes since this disaster occurred.  They don't just ask for money and only give a small portion, they use what is given for these  events.  Not only will they offer physical needs to survivors and victims like food, clothing, and basic essentials, but they also counsel and offer spiritual support.  
When one has gone through a disaster such as this physical support isn't enough...one needs moral and spiritual support.  This is what I know The Salvation Army does very well.  Here are a couple ways to support The Salvation Army in these matters:  https://donate.salvationarmyusa.org/uss/eds/aok
or text  Donate Via Text:
Salvation Army by texting: STORM to 80888
Each text is a $10 donation and gets billed to your phone line.
3) Get involved. 
There are many place in your community that you serve to give back.  By helping feed people in a soup kitchen to volunteering at a local food shelf/bank.  You can help in little ways to bigger ways by signing up to help out with Emergency Disaster Teams.  But we can help in many ways by just donating our time to an organization and be available.  
So why do bad things happen to good people? and Why does God allow bad things to happen?  
The easy answer is that God doesn't cause these things to happen...it's a natural part of the world around us.  As sad as it is, and it's awful to witness first hand the destructive nature of these types of disasters, God didn't make this happen!  Please know that He loves His people and He weeps with us when we lose loved ones and when bad things happen to good people.  That was never His intent or purpose. 
We live in a fallen world and because of this, bad things do happen.  One might say then why doesn't God deliver all people from these things...who's to say that He didn't?  Yesterday, as heart wrenching as it may be, God delivered 21 children into the loving arms of Christ.  This isn't what any of us want, yet as that tornado bore down on that city, God saw fit to ultimately deliver lives from this world.  I wish there was additional comfort for those that were left behind in the wake of this event...yet they don't mourn alone.  I am convinced that His angels are present and bringing comfort from the Father.  Not only are celestial angels bringing comfort, but the hands of other humans are also doing likewise.  
This world in which we live was created perfectly, yet because of the fall we now live in an imperfect world.  Yet through these tragedies I am convinced we will see the determination and victories of humanity and that should also give us hope.  
Please pray, please support where and when you can, and know that God weeps with us in these moments.  We aren't alone in our sufferings and our pains.  
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
― C.S. LewisThe Problem of Pain

Monday, May 20, 2013

"Teach us to number our days!"

  • 37 years
  • 444 months
  • 1,930 weeks
  • 13,514 days
  • 324,336 hours
  • 19,460,160 minutes
  • 1,167,609,600 seconds
  • You were born on a Friday
  • Age in Dog Years: 161.0
  • Age in Galapagos Turtle Years: 17.6
This is exactly how long I've been alive on this planet.
When I look at the time that has passed me it really has an impact on me.  I think of all of the wasted time, the 'down time', the time that I let slip through my fingers...But I also think of the miles stones in my life too.  The day I proposed to my wife which was
  • 14 years
  • 177 months
  • 772 weeks
  • 5,405 days
  • 129,720 hours
  • 7,783,200 minutes
  • 466,992,000 seconds
I think of the days when my children were born all four of them...I recall the significant friendships that I've forged along the way...the meaningful connections of humanity that I've had the privilege to partake in and these cross roads that intersected with two or more human beings at one very specific time or place.  I have been a blessed man so far!

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 Says;
"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live  and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."
Joshua 24:15 says:
"But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."
We have this one life and my prayer is that we don't waste it!  We have so many distractions in this life, so much wasted opportunities and wasted time...but don't take this life for granted or watch it fly by without taking each and every moment to make a difference in this world and to serve the Lord!  We are called to be Christ's ambassadors in this world don't be ashamed of the gospel and don't forget our calling!
Psalm 39:4 "Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life."
How many days have you been alive?  How many minutes...Galapagos Turtle Years?
Use them or lose them...let's all choose to use them and take each and every moment without regrets!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sermon Podcast: "Walk in the Light"

1 John 2:1-6 (NIV) 
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

Friday, May 17, 2013

RSVP: Reserve Space 4 Victory in Paradise!

"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David... Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near...You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." (Isaiah 55:1-3,6,12) 


What do you do when you are invited to a party?  You send the RSVP or call in your RSVP and you confirm (if schedule allows) that you will attend.  Your response is required so that the party host will know who will attend and how many to plan for.  It's not only polite to return your RSVP, it is an important response and action on your part...in essence you are saying "I will be there!"  
In the above passage of Isaiah, the invitations for forgiveness have been sent out by God.  He wants to make what was broken whole again.  The prophecy of Messiah (Jesus) is evident in two key verses two chapters back: 

 Isaiah 52:13 "See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted." 
 Isaiah 53:12 "Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

Forgiveness is at hand, the RSVP has been hand delivered to all of us, and the Host of this Redemptive party is awaiting our response.  The most telling portion of chapter 55 in Isaiah is verse 6...it says "Seek the Lord while he may be found..." It is a frightening proposition here because He seems to be saying to us, 'make up your minds while you can.'  The implication is that our RSVP has a expiration date and we ought not postpone our response. 

Forgiveness and redemption is ours, the Host of Heaven stands at the front door inviting us in...what will your response be?  Either we enter and accept His love and forgiveness or we don't because soon that door will be closed...soon we will all be standing before Him, and in contrast, probably the most frightening passage in all of scripture is Matthew 25:31-46 when Jesus himself states clear that the day is coming  when the King will separate the sheep from goats and He will say to the goats (those who have not accepted His invitation to forgiveness and redemption)  "'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'" (Matthew 25:41)  

We have this contrast of those who will accept the invitation and those who will not.  Yet there is hope...there is time, but if you haven't accepted the invitation, don't let this time slip away.  Redemption draws near, your RSVP is requested...what will your answer be?