Thursday, May 29, 2008

What a Night

We had a wonderful night as the new member's class came over to our house for a cookout. About 45 people packed out our house and we had a great time of fellowship and BBQ. (i thought the 30 people we had over at the first of March for the previous New Member's cookout was big) Life can't get much better than BBQ and fellow believers - all in the same room. We took furniture out of the house to set up tables. Its great to know our house has a great ministry purpose. I can't wait till Life Group this Sunday night to fill the house back up with people in the church. Help me Lord to keep my house your house - a place of ministry.

Are you being transformed or conformed?

"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do."
—Romans 12:2

Once, a flock of wild geese was flying south for the winter when one goose looked down and noticed a group of domestic geese by a little pond near a farm. He noticed they had plenty of grain to eat. Life seemed good on the farm and he thought to himself, “Why am I doing all this work when they look like they have it made. I’ll join them and take a much needed break.”

So he flew down and hung out with these geese until spring. He enjoyed the food that was there, all the while getting fat and lazy. He decided that he would rejoin his flight of geese when they went north again. After all, what harm could this bring? The other geese appeared happy and content.

When spring came, he heard the wild geese overhead and flew up to join them, but he had grown a bit fat from all of the seed. Flying was difficult and required work he didn’t like, so he decided to spend one more season on the farm and then rejoin the geese on their next winter migration. After all, life on the farm was good. Putting off getting back to his life’s mission another few months couldn’t be that bad – could it? He couldn’t believe what he had been missing all those years.

When the geese flew south the following fall, the goose flapped his wings a little, looked up, but he just kept eating his grain. He had simply lost interest. His former way of life had been interrupted by his complacency and the cozy, comfortable lifestyle he had come to love. He lost his real purpose and true way of life. Now his only purpose was to be come fattened till the farmer made him into a main course for supper.

That is what happens in the subtle process of the world influencing our lives. A little compromise here and some settling and laziness there and its not long before we are completely away from the life God intends for us. It is not necessarily dramatic, nor does it usually happen overnight. It is gradual, causing erosion in our lives as we begin to lower our standards. Soon, the things of God become less appealing, and the things of this world become more appealing. After a while, we have no interest in the things of God and we are “fat and happy” doing our own thing – even though it will lead to destruction.

I heard a story of a wolf hunter in Alaska that would put blood on the end of a knife and stick it in the ground. The wolf would lick the dried blood on the knife, cutting its tongue in the process. Little by little, the thirst for blood would cause the wolf to lick its own blood caused by the knife, eventually causing so much blood loss that the wolf would either die or become so weak that capture was inevitable.

Are you slowly being pulled away from the things of God to the things of this world? Has sin crept into your life to the point that you are “ok” with what used to appall you? Do your selfish desires outweigh your Godly desires? Evaluate your life. Investigate your choices. What is your motivation for living? Does it match God’s intention for your life? We have a choice: either we will be conformed to this world, or we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds. It is one or the other. Which way will you go?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

To Live is Christ

"For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21)

Everyone has a favorite television show. I like anything that has to do with history, mystery and suspense. I ran across an interesting statistic the other day though about watching TV. It has been determined that the average American spends 15 years of his or her life in front of the television set—15 years. 50% of Americans watch it during dinner with their family. I am not saying we cannot watch TV. Sure, we need to watch things that honor Christ and bring us closer to Him, but we can sure waste a lot of time in front of it. I sure have.

I am a channel surfer. My wife likes to watch HGTV and anything to do with weddings and babies. Some of that is ok, but to me is not fun. Therefore, I try to gain possession of the remote so I can start clicking. I like to watch about eight things at once. Yet I have been amazed at how I will sit down and say, "I am going to watch TV for thirty minutes," but when I look at my watch, hours have gone by. I have wasted all that time and feel half brain-dead as a result. Someone once said, “Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you would not have in your home.”

Is the purpose of this article to be against television? Certainly not. My purpose is to ask “What are we living for and spending our lives on?” We can squander time watching television, but we can squander time doing other things as well. So let's not throw our lives away. Let's wisely use the precious moments God gives to us each day, each month, and each year, and let's use them for Him. We will stand before Him on that final day. We should be able to sum up our lives like the apostle Paul and say, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). Only the person who can say, "To live is Christ" can then say, "To die is gain."

Some people might say, "To me, to live is sports," or "To me, to live is music." Everyone lives for something. It’s important to know that what you spend time, effort, money and resources on is what you live for. Now, everyone has hobbies and interests. That’s not what I’m speaking of. I’m speaking about what drives you. What is it that motivates your life? Is it the next reality TV show? Is it a particular sport? Is it your kids? Or is it Christ?

Christ lived for us. He also died for us. Shouldn’t we live for Him in return? Shouldn’t His love for us and our love for Him be our motivation for life? I challenge you to inspect your lifestyle and allow Jesus to be your motivation for living. What do you live for? How great it is to be able to say, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Pass on your Past

I was reading the other day in Romans 8:1 and it says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." Everyone has a past. Some of that past is good and some is bad. Some you are proud of and some you hope no one finds out about. When people make statements like "I've got a past" or "If you only knew my past" they are usually not talking about a good past. There are just a few options you have when dealing with a bad past. 1 - learn from it, 2 - repent from it and 3 - move on from it.

If you constantly dwell on your bad past, whether it was sin, mistakes, unfortunate circumstances, etc. it starts to determine your present and future. A bad past can literally rob you of a good present and future life. Sometimes it leads to a victim mentality and that's all you can focus on. One or two bad things in the past can determine your huge future - what a shame!

The Bible says we do not have to live in the condemnation or guilt of the past but live in Christ. What does it mean to be "in Christ". The words "in Christ" are the same words used in the Old Testament to describe Noah being "in" the ark. How safe was the ark? How water-tight was it? Was he in danger of being swallowed up by what surrounded him in the ark? No. He was protected and safe. He was safe "in the ark" because he obeyed the Lord and put pitch on the exterior of the ark to seal it.

That word "pitch" is the same word used for "in Christ" or propitiation or a covering. Noah was saved from the raging floods by the water-tight ark he was in. We are saved from a raging world and a bad past life by being in Christ. There is no condemnation or guilt over a past life for those in Christ. We are protected from the destructiveness of a past that wants to drown us and destroy our present and future by being in the safety and protection of a relationship in Christ. The blood of Christ is the "pitch" that covers and protects our lives today. It provides access for forgiveness, repentance, second chances, and new beginnings.

Are you struggling with past? Are you in Christ? The freedom from a bad past and being in relationship with Christ go hand-in-hand. The bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" Do you need a new beginning? It's found "in Christ".

Paul said this about past in Philippians 3:11-14: "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

It's time to press on (move beyond your past) and take hold of what Jesus has for you. To do that, you need to forget the past, learn from it, repent from it, and move on. We used to say - Admit it, quit it, and forget it! You have to press in to do that. Press is a term that requires energy, effort and action. It can be tough. But somtimes you have to go through fire to be refined. After all, steel is made by fire. Gold is refined in fire. The fire hurts, but the result is worth it. God has reward and a great prize ahead of you. Stop living in your bad past - move in what God has for you now and the future!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

My Girl

Read Psalm 127:3
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.

If you know me, you know I can’t dance. Not even a little bit. When I was in the High School band, we were not just a marching band - we were a dancing band. That is, everyone except me. I kept getting the solos for some reason. I dreaded dancing in the band, especially parades.
My oldest daughter is in dance class and I found out that we are doing a “Daddy-Daughter Dance” in the recital. At first I wasn’t too thrilled but thought I could hide in the back. Then I thought, “There are a couple of my friends there I know can’t dance. Maybe they will steal all the attention.” I was relieved as I went to practice and learned the dance with probably 60 other dads. There is strength in numbers. We’re dancing to the song “My Girl.” It wasn’t so bad. A twist here and a hug and kiss with my daughter and my 1 minute and 15 seconds of fame is complete.
As we drove home from the last practice, my daughter said, “Daddy, you’re the best daddy-dancer ever.” She has the gift of embellishment. I said, “Thanks, you’re the best daughter-dancer ever.” I’m looking forward to the Daddy-Daughter Dance.
I heard a song on the radio by Steven Curtis Chapman recently entitled “Cinderella”. Its about his daughter and how fast she grew up and his struggle to not miss any moment of it. It made me think - I’ll gladly embarrass myself dancing if I don’t have to miss out on a moment with my daughter.
That short dance made me realize I had to work hard if I didn’t want to miss out on the moments that are fleeting with my kids. Silly tea parties, saving her from the pretend sharks in the backyard, waking up early in the morning for chocolate milk and jelly toast - all those moments will fade one day. Will I have missed them? Will I have found “more important” things to do? What memories will we have together?
The Bible says in Psalm 127:3, “Children are a blessing from the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward.” Am I basking in the reward or busy in the rat race? Am I counting my blessings each moment with my children or am I loosing opportunities to grow closer with them?
How about you? Are you cherishing every moment with your children? Do you see them as a blessing or a distraction? Are they a reward from God or a burden? I want to bring my girls up in the Lord and I can only do that as I grow in Him.
No matter what age your children are, it’s never too late to start spending quality time with them. After all, “love” to them is spelled “t-i-m-e”. Quality time with your family only comes through quantity time. Look for ways to teach Godly principles to them through everyday living. Enjoy your time. Laugh. Have fun. Relax. Don’t give up.
Lord, teach me to be like you because my daughters want to be like me. Help them see the great Father and Husband you are through my relationship with my wife and them. Orchestrate and choreograph my life as I dance on the stage of life with my wife and girls.