Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Make the World a Better Place

There is a longing for the world to be a better place, one that has existed throughout the ages. There is a crying for things to be better, for someone to make it all right. The human heart cries out to God - we hear it in the words of the prophet Isaiah

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
    that the mountains might quake at your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
    and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
    and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
    you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From of old no one has heard
    or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
    who acts for those who wait for him.
You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
   those who remember you in your ways. ISAIAH 64:1-5a

Today, we can wait with hope. Knowing the troubles and heartache we would continue to experience in this world, Jesus encourages us with these words: 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
JOHN 16:33

So we wait... with anticipation of something better. In this season of Advent, we wait... not with despair, but with hope.  The hope in knowing that Jesus has overcome the world and all of its brokenness.

And while we wait, we seek to be healers, through the love that comes from the Lord. 

We love because He first loved us. 1 JOHN 4:19

Michael Jackson wrote a song titled "Make the World a Better Place." 

Heal the world
Make it a better place
For you and for me
And the entire human race
There are people dying
If you care enough for the living
Make it a better placeFor you and for me

Be encouraged by these incredible children who invite us to care enough for the living to put our love out into world and each do our part to make the world a better place.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Joyful News

In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, 
The gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him,
We're sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.  EPHESIANS 1:13

I say it here again, once and for all, that you should understand the Gospel as nothing other than the divine promise of His grace and the forgiveness of sins.  For that is why it happened that previously Paul's Epistles were not understood and could not be understood, because they did not know what the Law and the Gospel really mean.  For they regarded Christ to be a lawmaker, and the Gospel a mere doctrine of the new laws.  That is nothing else than locking up the Gospel and concealing all things.  

The word "Gospel" [Evangelium] is Greek and signifies "joyous news," because it proclaims the wholesome doctrine of life by divine promise and offers grace and forgiveness of sin.  Therefore, works do not belong to the Gospel, for it is not Law; rather, only faith [belongs to the Gospel], for it is altogether a promise and an offer of divine grace. 

Whoever now believes the Gospel received grace and the Holy Spirit. This causes the heart to rejoice and find delight in God, and [the heart] then keeps the Law voluntarily, gratuitously, without fear of punishment, without seeking reward since the heart is perfectly satisfied with God's grace, by which the Law has been fulfilled.  

Excerpt from 365 Day Devotional Readings from Martin Luther Day by Day, August 9

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Wake Up and Be Awesome!

Wake up and be awesome!

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.  JAMES 4:17

Just do the right thing!  I used to say to my kids:
"If you knew is was wrong, why did you do it?"
To this question, there was never a satisfactory answer.

Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
by those who make peace.  
JAMES 3:18

How often are we tempted to want our own way and do what we need to do in order to get it.  We see it in toddlers, who whine and cry and sometimes throw tantrums in order to get their own way.  We see it in adults who manipulate, cheat or bully in order to get their own way.  Neither of these scenarios are pleasant to experience and certainly don't promote peace.   

We have an expectation for what we want, or how we want something to be, and will do whatever it takes to be fulfilled.  When focusing on ourselves, and only our desires, it is almost impossible to focus on the good for all concerned.  

We live in a battle every day...  a battle between good and evil, between our desires and God's desires.  In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul calls us to wake up and be awesome every day!

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.  ROMANS 12:2

If we want to wake up and be awesome
we choose to be wise, do good, to care for all around us, 
and seek the LORD's wisdom to guide our day:

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.  JAMES 4:17

When we take in the Word of God every day, 
it becomes easier to wake up and be awesome!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

That It May Be Well With You

Hearing the voice of the LORD is one thing;
obeying the voice of the LORD is another.  

I've been reading Jeremiah and there is a clear message that the Lord is speaking and the people aren't listening.  He's longing for them to listen.  

The LORD isn't a tyrant of a master, He is a caring shepherd and loving Father who always desires the best for his children.  He wants people to have healthy relationships, meaningful work, abundance in provision, healthy bodies, and to care about their communities and the people in them.  

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat met.  For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices.  But this is what I commanded them, saying 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people.  And walk in all the ways I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.'  JEREMIAH 7:21-23

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, he replied:
“The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”  MARK 12:29-31

It was the same command that the LORD had give to the Israelites as they were entering the promised land:
These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. 

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. DEUTERONOMY 6:1-9

The LORD knows that we have temptations and distractions all around. 

He calls us back to focus on His good things, SO THAT it may be well with us

Take time to listen, and obey, so that it may be well with you!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Abundant Resources

When we think we don't have sufficient resources to do what God is calling us to do, we can be courageous and look to Jesus as our example.

First, Jesus notices... 
he always notices what's happening.  
Jesus beckons us to notice
and to have compassion.

... Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.  JOHN 6:1-6

One of the disciples responded with and excuse...

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

How often do we respond in the same way?  Jesus notices and speaks, we hear and fail to notice, or find excuses to not have compassion enough to act.  We think we don't have the resources, when in fact, God has all the resources we need!  We may not have them in our hand, and yet, when we take a look around, there they are!

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

The resources are all around us.
When we take what may seem like a meager amount to Jesus,
he has the ability to bless and multiply them into enough!

Do we fail to look or take those meager provisions to Jesus because we don't really believe he can multiply them?  Jesus never panics, he never worries, and he is never in a hurry.  

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

Jesus orchestrates the distribution of food
with complete confidence that there will be enough

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

It is only after the crowds see the miracle that they truly believe Jesus is the Prophet, the promised Messiah, who was to come into the world. By choosing to not notice and act upon what Jesus may be prompting for us, we are prohibiting those watching from the blessing of seeing evidence that Jesus truly is the promised one of God. 

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

Jesus notices.
He has compassion.
He asks his followers to seek a solution.

My friends at FiveTwo say it this way:  The five thousand plus were fed by five loaves and two fish belonging to one of the five thousand plus.  The disciples were blind to the resources in front of them and blind to Jesus’ power to multiply them.  

Jesus notices.
He has compassion.
He asks his followers to seek a solution.
And... everything the we need to serve the community is already in the community.  It just needs to be brought to Jesus for blessing. 

I challenge you to notice what may be all around you, not only what you have in your hand!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

All Access Pass

Often in people's prayers I hear: "Lord, send more of your Holy Spirit" or "fill me with more of your Holy Spirit.  

Could it be that we have this backward? 

After Jesus rose from the grave and ascended into heaven, He released the Holy Spirit that now lives within the people who believe 

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.  

Thinking back to Isaiah's vision:  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  ISAIAH 6:1

If the train of God's robe filled the temple, we can know that God's Holy Spirit fills us in the same way.  The issue isn't that we need God to give us more - rather, we need to loosen the secured places and private spaces that we protect and give God more access to our lives.  

God wants an 

Jesus said that we are to love the Lord our God with ALL our hearts, ALL our minds, ALL our strength and ALL our soul.  We are to give God access to our WHOLE BEING!

So, the next time you desire God to give you more of the Holy Spirit and more answers to your prayers, also consider how much more of YOU God may need to access in order to accomplish what you desire. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Rhythm of Work and Rest

Do you rest from work, or work from rest?

I had always thought about rest as a necessary part of recouping from work, but I hadn't really thought about what working from a place of rest might be...

Rest from Work
Work from Rest

God's way is to have a rhythm of Work and Rest. Rest is not merely intended to be solely a means of regenerating from the activity of work; the rest God desires for people is twofold:
1) a time to enjoy the fruit of our labors, and
2) a time set aside to be intentional about enjoying our
    relationship with the creator.

To extend grace, enjoy this day, be present, breathe deeply, show gratitude, live with intention, be fearless and try new things - requires some space... first to be present with God in preparation to be present for others.  

When living in a state of busyness or hurry,
these things are difficult, if not impossible. 

God had liberated his people from slavery in Egypt, and he is tying sabbath rest as freedom from slavery.  
“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.  DEUTERONOMY 5:12-15

I can hear God saying "Come, spend time with me, I rescued you and I love you."  And more than that, by spending time with me, you'll approach your work being mindful of my goodness, regardless of the circumstances.  

Someone once asked, "what is your satisfaction level with God?"  Really???  How satisfied am I with God?  The question really impacted me and continues to years later!  

When we are running from activity to activity, work is pressing, family is pressing, the routines of daily living are pressing, where do we have margin?  What space is available to just be?  To breathe?  To enjoy?  To truly rest!

Sabbath rest isn't another task,
it's an invitation to enjoy!

Our Lord invites us to rest.  We don't have to be slaves to work.  God may be reminding us that anyone who cannot rest from their work is really a slave... that's a new and hard thought!  God rested and demonstrates for us that there is time to enjoy the fruit of our labors.  

Tim Keller writes about three types of rest: 

  • Contemplative rest - Prayer and worship are a critical part of Sabbath rest, from any perspective. Regular time for devotion, reading the Scripture, and listening to God forms the basis for inner rest and provides time away from the more exhausting exertions of life.
  • Recreational rest - Re-Creation... Find recreation that doesn't exhaust and really refreshes.
  • Aesthetic rest - Expose yourself to works of God’s creation that refresh and energize you, and that you find beautiful. This may mean outdoor things. It may mean art—music, drama, and visual art. God looked around at the world he made and said it was good, so aesthetic rest is necessary for participating in God’s Sabbath fully.
My prayer for you is that you find enjoyment in your Sabbath rest that flows into your work!

Let me know how it's going for you...