Sunday, December 13, 2015

Christmas Thoughts



“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a     son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High”  (Luke 1:30-32)

A baby born in an animal stable a to a young teenage girl.  We romanticize this picture but it must of be terrifying for Mary and Joseph.  I remember the birth of our first child. We were just kids really. Watching Margi struggle through a long difficult labor was the most intense and terrifying experience.  Yet as we held or newborn baby our hearts filled with thanksgiving and expectations for the future.  That is the nature of hope, to look to the future with an expectation of good things.  I think Mary and Joseph lived their lives with hope in their hearts. They couldn't not see the whole journey laid out for them, but they had hope.  The  promise of God sustains, it causes us to look to the future with courage, faith and expectations of God's grace working in our lives.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Standing Firm

It is important to remember that as Christians that our citizenship is in another Kingdom.  Our lives are to be spent in allegiance to another King.I have been musing the last few months of how much our culture is changing and I have been some what alarmed to see many Christians cave into the pressure to conform to present culture.  Biblical norms are being abandoned and there is a growing indifference to what the Bible teaches.  Being a Christian is more than being nice people, at its heart is an allegiance to Jesus, to embrace His values and His word.  Many will embrace God's word when it speaks of love and grace, yet when it comes to something that has a requirement of them or a commandment they feel uncomfortable with they discount it.  We can't escape what the Bible says is wrong, it is wrong.  When the Bible is at odds with current culture we must stand firm.  When the Bible points us to being loyal to Him and His Church we must do it.  James in his epsitle writes...

"Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing."   (James 1:21-25  ESV) 

Jim Durkin who led an amazing movement during the Jesus People movement spoke of his own experience when he turned away from accepting the whole counsel of the Bible.  His church in shambles, his marriage broken, alone in a cabin with his life a mess he cried out to God, "why has all this happened to me?"  God spoke to him and said, "you have added three words to My words, you say "the Bible says, 'but we know...',  from now on accept and do what My word says and in the dong of it you will come to understand it.  That encounter changed Jim's life, and as he taught this truth it changed the lives of thousands of young people. Some will say I am being simplistic yet I know of no other way to live.  We are comanded to love our neighbor, lets do it.  We are to care for the broken hearted, lets do it.  We are to call sin for what it is, and offence to God, yet speak of mercy and forgiveness.  Lets walk in the fear of the Lord, and yet be confident in our standing with Him.  Lets be the 
the be ambassadors for Christ that we are called to be.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Love

Serving in Mission of Hope has forced me to examine my own heart. There is a certain fatigue that comes from constantly giving to other people.  Especially when people you serve may not seem to appreciate your efforts.  That is when the rubber hits the road and we can examine our motives for serving. Love has become such a trite concept. It has been reduced to almost a greeting card type of sentimentality. For many it has become a concept that is rooted in warm fuzzy feelings. Love is much deeper. It challenges and confronts the self nature and calls us to a reasoned life given to serving others. I have been reading the Gospels and have been struck on how much Jesus commands us to love others. He even makes loving and serving others a test of our love for Him. Jesus said, "if you love me keep my commandments". Another time He speaking to His followers, "a new command I give you, love as I have loved you!" It is the big idea that Jesus would hammer into His followers. Every writer in the New Testament will repeat or expound on Christ's command. Concepts like obedience, honor, service are all rooted in love and carry the price of self- sacrifice.We need to learn how to love. Does God need our fruitfulness? Is he impressed with our accomplishments? I can only conclude that He is not. He is not pragmatic. How we live and our motivations are as important as what we accomplish. Jesus lays out his agenda for greatness and what the disciples should embrace as a philosophy of ministry. Love one another! Live a life that has been set free from the tyranny of self and see others needs.I want to live like Christ. This is what freedom looks like.

Phil. 2:3-11 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not {merely} look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, {and} being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Lord help me to live like this!!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Necessity of Forgiveness


I posted this a number of years ago but I am seeing so many bound by unforgiveness that I thought some might benefit from it being posted again.  I know that wrestling with pain and offence is difficult.  I originally wrote this while dealing with the pain of what I believed was a betrayal by a close friend.  As I sought insight from Jesus I realized that freedom for me was defined how I would respond. These are the truths that helped me,  I hope hope they can encourage others.

Mark 11:25-26
"And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."

Mark tells the story to lead into profound moral teaching.  The power of faith is linked to having a clean heart in regard to others. So profound was Jesus’ teaching upon His disciples that all would write of the same truth.  Peter like us was perplexed and troubled by the extremeness of Jesus’ remarks.  They required a generosity of spirit that seemed unreasonableIf we forgive, we will be forgiven, if we don’t forgive, we will not be forgiven was more than Peter could fathom.  Peter asks for clarification and receives even a greater challenge.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"  Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.   Matt 18:21-35

Paul would later write  that we should model forgiveness  because of Christ and his work in us.  He would point out in Col 3:12 how we were chosen by the grace and mercy of God and we were to act like Christ.  James in his direct and (some would say harsh way) lays out the importance with no wiggle room whatsoever.  “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”  James 2:13

With all this emphases on the subject of forgiving it begs the question of what does it mean to forgive.  As a verb it means to stop blaming or to absolve from payment.  As an adjective it means inclined to show mercy.  It is a position of moral strength that lives above the circumstances of life.  All relationships has great possibility of offenses.  Yet there is a way to live above the fray.

We gain insight when we look at motivations for not forgiving.
  • Vengeance – We have a secret desire to punish or see people hurt.
  • Self-protection – We build a wall so that the offender no longer has access.
  • Manipulation- Victim status gives opportunity to rally support and pity.
All of these are corrupt and lead to the ensnaring world of bitterness.  Our life becomes consumed by the offence.  Unforgiveness is described as unwilling to be placated or appeased or moved by entreaty, grim determination or harsh and severe.  In our desire for justice or vindication we can hinder the grace of God in our life.

The following is a list of some of the destruction unforgiveness causes.
·        It requires us to desire ill to befall another.
·        It requires us to determine another’s value.
·        It places our life under increased scrutiny.  Places us under judgment.
·        It affects all of our relationships.
·        The future is controlled by past hurts.
·        Bitterness is seeded and grows in our souls.
·        It demands loyalty of others to our point of view.
·        You can’t be in agreement with God’s purpose.
·        Holds us prisoner to circumstance we have no power to change.
·        Causes physical harm to our bodies.  

Do you see any of these attitudes in your thought life?  If so consider the advantages of forgiveness.

·       Sets us free from bitterness.
·        Allows us to identify with Christ and comprehend His love for us.
·        Sets us free from a vindictive spirit.
·       Health for our current relationships.
·       Freedom from past hurts.
·       Frees us to love unconditionally.

How do we identify an unforgiving spirit in ourselves?  First we examine our thought life.  Do we review an offence over and over again?  Do we have fantasies of vengeance?  Are we judgmental?  Second we evaluate our current relationships.  Do we hold people at a distance?  Do we tend to keep score?  Do we justify our actions towards others?  Do we harbor a grudge?  All of these are symptoms of unforgiveness.  Lastly we must ask the Holy Spirit to reveal problem areas of our heart.  If we recognize ourselves any of the above attitudes we must take responsibility and move toward real change.

How does one forgive those who have hurt us or offended us?  It starts with seeing the need and working to bring our hearts and mind in agreement with God.  Meditate on His love and faithfulness toward you.  Realize how much Christ has extended Himself to you.  Think of the result of your sins and the extravagance of grace given to you.  Grace can be described as God’s unmerited favor designed to draw His enemies to Himself.  He sought you even when it was your actions that led Him to the cross.  Seek to understand God’s involvement in your life.  Evaluate your life today in light of God’s faithfulness.  Recognize God looks at the larger picture and he is committed to your development.  Ask for the Holy Spirit's help and repent of bitterness and resentment.  Think of simply canceling the debt that another owes to you.

Learning More
Mark 11:20-26
Matt 6:12-15
Matt 18:21-35
James 2:13
Col 3:12-14
Eph 4:30-32
Rom 8:28

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Looking Past Imperfect People

Looking Past Imperfect People
Many believers have become critical of the Church.  Quick to see the failures of others, to cast their disappointment on the Church at large.  Failures of high profile leaders, conflicts in church networks contribute to wrong conclusions.  The Church by its very nature is made up of imperfect people.  I'm convinced that it is the Lord's heart for us to be part of the solution. It takes no skill or commitment to identify problems, but it takes great faith to love God's people who gather together in what is called the church. It is my conviction that God loves the Church in all its local expressions. It is an overarching theme of the Scripture. I can only hope that many who have become discouraged will find a renewed love for the purposes of God and shed the bonds of personal discouragement.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Maintaining Perspective

I was talking with an amazing group of volunteers who serve the poor a while back.  We had seen tremendous growth in the number of people we were serving.  The preceding distribution day we had planned for 140 families and had 260 families show up for food assistance.  Needless to say we were overrun with the need and our systems broke down creating some pressure for our team as well as our guests.  Some of those we were serving were, shall we say a little less than patient as we struggled to serve the crowd.  In the end everything worked out fine.  More food was brought from the warehouse so everyone received a week’s supply of food and the meals we were serving somehow stretched to feed everyone.

Later we sat down to evaluate the month’s distribution and to celebrate the joy of being able to help so many people.  Our conversation inevitably drifted to those few rude and unthankful people.  I was amazed to watch the joy and satisfaction of a job well done start to bleed from the room.  Now these are some of the most giving, envisioned, caring people I have ever had the opportunity to work with and yet the negative was eating away at the overwhelming positive.    

Life is like that, we have so much to celebrate and yet it is the negative that captures our thought life much of the time.  We can see a bump in the road and that captures our attention and we lose sight of the big picture.  I remember a story a friend shared that on a Christmas morning one of his children opened gift after gift with great joy and anticipation.  Piles of wrappers and toys were mounting up and after while the moment was over and the family settled in to lazy family morning.  A little while later Dad noticed his son looking a little forlorn.  When he asked what was the matter the little boy lamented that he didn’t get the one toy he wanted.  Surrounded by the generosity of family and friends, abundance on every side meant to bless and encourage, this little boy could only see what wasn’t.  

I must admit I can fall into that trap of losing sight of the victories of ministry life and only see the problems. I believe that I have learned some things that help keep me on track.

1.  Evaluate the positive versus the negative.
2.  Ask God for His perspective.
3.  Celebrate!  Take real joy in the victories we have.
4.  Focus on the objective, don’t lose sight of the ball.
5.  Be thankful.


Let me illustrate and go back to our meeting.  We stopped and evaluated the percentage of those guests that were difficult.  Was it 20%, 15%, 10% that were difficult?  We as a group narrowed it down to 5% that were a problem.  All of a sudden a light went on, we served and helped 95 out of a 100 that needed help!!  95% of those who came went away blessed and encouraged!  Everything changed as we saw things from God’s perspective, renewed energy as we got our eyes back on the ball.  We could honestly say that we were making a difference.  Joy in the mission returned.
It has been a while since I have posted as I have been unsure of the direction I wanted this blog to go.  I am now in a new chapter in my life as I am now quite involved with ministry to the poor.  I am the Director of Mission of Hope an outreach of Silver Creek Fellowship in Silverton OR.  It is an amazing church that truly cares for people from all walks of life.  I hope my musings will be an encouragement to pursue Jesus and His mission and to have some fun along the way.