Thursday, October 28, 2010

You Are More

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." Romans 8:35,37

Have you ever been told "you are useless. You are no good. You will never amount to anything?" Sometimes we believe them, and feel like we have no hope left. No matter how hard we try, we cannot find peace in life. We wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, and with a pounding heart. Anxiety has stirred us from another night of restless sleep. We ask ourselves how we got to where we are, not recognizing ourselves anymore.

God does not want us to feel this way. Before you were born, God has much bigger plans for you (Psalms 139:13). Paul says in Romans 8:35-37 that we have been remade into something far removed from these feelings, i.e., we are more than conquerors. This means we sometimes have to conquer ourselves, demanding a surrender not unto ourselves, but unto God.

It was never Gods plan for man to suffer like this. Today, God wants to remove us from the grips of such hopelessness. The steps to relief are mapped out in God's word. We have to hear His word (Romans 10:17), and believe in it (Hebrews 11:6). Repentance of our past sins that were hurtful to God must be present in us (Acts 3:19), and we are baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38) that we may be made new again, free from our previous bonds of misery. When we follow these steps we find peace, living faithfully according to His word.

Remember that life is not made up of the grand total or our past failures, or the consequences of our choices in life. We are not a slave to the problems of the world, but rather the conquerors of them through Christ who strengthens us (Phil 4:13).

Let us get to know God's word, and let it replace that hopelessness with hope. After all, no matter how far down you get, it is never too far down to be out of God's reach (Acts 17:27).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Are You a Tree of Life?

"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; And he that is wise winneth souls."- Proverbs 11:30 (ASV)

One day a father was visiting his daughter at her new home when she began to complain about life, saying how hard it was and how she was just about ready to give up completely. The father, who was a chef, took his daughter by the hand and led her into the kitchen where he got out three items-carrots, eggs, and coffee. The father, without saying a word, took all three and put them in seperate pots which themselves sat over the burners on high heat. The father never said a word and only smiled while his daughter grew more and more impatient by the minute. Finally, after about twenty minutes, he took the carrots out of the water and put them on a plate. He then did the same with the eggs, after removing their shells. He then poured the coffee through a filter and into a mug. He asked his daughter what she saw.

"I don't see anything but carrots, eggs, and coffee." She responded, exasperated. The father then instructed her to feel the carrots. They were soft. Then the eggs, they were hard. Finally, he asked her to taste the coffee. She smiled as she enjoyed it's rich flavor. "But what's the point?" She asked.

The father began to explain, "Each one of these items went through the same adversity; boiling water. But the carrots that went in strong and firm, are now soft and mushy. The eggs that went in so fragile are now hard. But the coffee responded differently. It went through the same adversity, but rather than change itself, it changed the environment around it."

Wouldn't it be great if we could go through adversity and rather than be changed by it, we change the environment for the better? People are naturally drawn to an upbeat, positive person. They flock around the wise. People follow leaders most naturally because of the wisdom they own, and the charisma they exude. We have the ability to be able to be those leaders. God gave us the wisdom in the book of Proverbs. Many of life's challenges and hardships are addressed within it's pages. The task for us is learning and applying those lessons to our daily lives.

Everyone knows that an apple tree produces apples which is food for our body. Proverbs 11:30 tells us that if we can learn to become righteous (like Christ), people will be drawn to us for the nourishment our examples provide them spiritually. Simply put, they will follow us if we are wise.

But this doesn't come easy. We first have to be able to produce the fruit. People cannot benefit from the example we don't provide. We have to be able to change the environment around us despite the adversity that we face. That comes from gaining wisdom in life.

A wise man once said, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the most bitter.” This is the sole purpose of the Book of Proverbs. We reflect on it to learn from it, imitate it's wisdom to be wise ourselves, and try to avoid learning through the bitter method of learning the hard way. When we are able to keep true to that simple equation, we are able to move out of the role of the carrot or the egg, which is changed by it's surroundings, and we can become the coffee. Something that changes it's surroundings in difficult times. When we do this we will truly be like the Tree of Life, growing our influence that we can continue to win souls for Christ.

So the question is, are you the carrots, the eggs, or the coffee? Are you going to let life's difficulties change you, or are you willing to meet the challenge of becoming the "Tree of Life" for those around you, so that they may one day know Christ through your example in difficult times?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Determine to Be Different

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Romans 12:2 (NKJV)

"You're wierd." "You're strange." "There's something different about you."

When we were school children, these words would have killed us. The idea of being ridiculed by our classmates would have been enough to make us beg our parents to pack up and move four states away. Sometimes words can hurt worse than any physical pain, even as adults. By the time we're adults, though, we care a little less about what someone thinks about us. However, that doesn't mean we have stopped caring all together. Why is it then that we, as christians, have set ourselves up to intentionally be considered different, wierd, or strange from the rest of the world?

Merriam-Webster's online dictionary gives the following definitions;

Strange- "not before known, heard, or seen : unfamiliar b : exciting wonder or awe"

Wierd- "of strange or extraordinary character."

Different- " 1. Partly or totally unlike in nature, form, or quality 2. not the same as 3. unusual; special."

When we understand the true definitions of these words, it doesn't seem like they're an insult at all! In fact, it sounds like quite the complement. God tells us that he doesn't want us to be conformed to this world, because it's not our home. It's just a rest stop. A proving ground, if you will. God wants to know if you can follow a simple set of instructions (the Bible) in order to earn the prize at the end (eternity with Him).

Jesus was not of this world, but came into this world to set the example. When we follow his example we are destined to be wierd, different, or strange from this world because Jesus himself was wierd, different, and strange by definition.

So the next time someone tells you you're wierd, different, or strange because of your faith, just remember you're in good company and accept the compliment.

Stay strange. Be wierd. Determine to be different.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Facing Your Past

"And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok." Gen 32:22

Have you ever met someone who was just so much trouble that whenever they were around you kept one hand on your wallet, and the other on your car keys? Afraid that they might feel free to help themselves to whatever belonged to you, without concern or concience? You never let them alone in any room of your house, afraid that they'll leave with everything but the kitchen sink?

Well, Jacob was "that guy". Nobody was safe from his deceit and dishonesty. Not his brother, his father, or his father-in-law. No one was off limits when it came to Jacob getting what he wanted. By hook or crook, he took what he wanted.

The thing about time is that sometimes it has an unforgiving memory, just like the peole we harm. Jacob had to find this out the hard way.

Several years had passed since Jacob had tricked his brother Esau out of his inheritance, and took his birthrite. He was now an old man with several wives, eleven sons, and a household all his own. However, this didn't change Esau's feelings about the wrongs Jacob did to him, and he was out for revenge.

Jacob was camped along the River Jabbok when his brother Esau sent word that he was coming for him. This had to have struck fear into Jacob's heart. After all, he thought he had put plenty of distance and time between the two of them. And now he's coming up behind him? With his bigger, stronger brother Esau on one side, the riverbank on the other and his mind racing 100MPH, Jacob did the only thing he could do...

The 'ford Jabbok' that verse 22 speaks of is translated as ford=overwhelming, Jabbok=wrestle. In other words, it was Jacobs 'overwhelming wrestle'. What an appropriate name for a place where Jacob was forced to confront his past.

You see, no matter how much you change you must pay the consequences for your actions. Whether it's immediate, ten years, or a lifetime down the road a price must be paid in order to right a wrong. For every action there's a reaction. It just may not always be immediate.

The good news for Christians though is that we don't have to face the consequences of our past. We don't have to pay a price. It's already been paid for us. We have a mediator in Christ. Because of his intercession, we don't have to fear the sins of our past that are sneaking up on us.

There's a saying that says that people either smile everywhere you go, or they only smile whenever you go. The choice is going to be yours. Are you like Jacob and be filled with deceit, lies, and trickery or are you going to be like Christ, who is love, respect, and worthy of admiration?

The choice is yours. Will we smile when you come, or when you go?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gods Umbrella

"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." James 5:16

Have you ever laid back in the grass on a lazy Spring afternoon and looked up at the big white fluffy clouds in the sky, and daydreamed about how inviting they appear to be? They truly are amazing to look at. After all, they appear to stretch into the sky for what appears to be eternity. We sometimes lay back and think about how it would feel to climb into one of them, lay back and be enveloped up in the softness.

As awe-inspiring as the Cumulonimbus cloud (that’s the scientific name for them) may be during a beautiful day, the real awe-inspiring work of these clouds comes during a torrential storm. It’s when these clouds are a dark gray, so heavy with the weight of rains that they almost look black, still keeping their ominous shape and size, only this time adding an almost debilitating presence of a thunderstorm with it.

Sometimes life mimics the cycles of the clouds. We have days where everything is beautiful, and it’s not difficult to find a silver lining in the clouds. The days are inviting, and we sometimes just sit back and think about the future, anxious almost to a fault for what lays ahead for us. Other times, our lives are filled with the heavy burdens of the violent storms that loom above our heads, threatening to dump a flood of troubles on us. But there is one big difference between our lives and the stormy cumulonimbus clouds.

Sometimes, the stormy cumulonimbus cloud prays better than we do. That's sad to say, considering they don't pray at all. But sometimes, neither do we.

You see, when the storm clouds roll in, and the rains really begin to fall, it’s usually then that we hear the clouds begin to truly speak with a loud audible presence.

Think about a thunderstorm for a moment. Unless you’re in a coma, it’s almost impossible to ignore the fact that a thunderstorm is raging. And this is an amazing thing when you consider that the cumulonimbus cloud that produces these storms can be as high as 12 miles into the sky! It’s as if we humans are hardwired to have a certain reaction when a thunderclap pierces the sky suddenly. We stop what we’re doing, look toward the direction we heard it, and evaluate the sky for the potential of danger. The amazing thing about thunder is that it gets our attention, whether we hear it or not.

When thunder strikes the windows rattle, the Earth shutters, and our chests feel the vibrations. Sometimes even from 12 miles high into the sky! Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could pray with the same amount of power? This of course, would be dependant upon us being willing to open our hearts and minds to God in prayer in the first place.

Sometimes we’re like Moses’ people in that we can be labeled ‘stiff-necked’ about prayer, and this is unfortunate. We know that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16). We read the verses dealing with prayer, and even quote them. But we’re slow, and sometimes completely absent from applying it. Don’t you remember that Moses was able to sway God’s anger away from destroying an entire nation who had turned their back on Him just by prayer alone (Ex. 32:7-14)? It was because of the effectual fervent prayer of a single righteous man that saved literally an entire nation of people from utter destruction. This is the amazing power of prayer we can harness ourselves.

We have the promise that whatever we ask for, it will be given to us (1 John 3:22) as long as we ask for it with a righteous mind, seeking to do His will (1 Peter 3:11). God also tells us that we need to pray with a conviction in what we’re asking for, not wavering (James 1:6). Prayer to God is not wasted. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It affirms to God that you have your priorities in line, that you are focused on the ultimate goal and that you recognize the importance of Him in your life. This is why He rewards the righteous among us who converse with Him. It is impossible to say that you put God above all else when you won’t even talk to Him.

God gave us the amazing power of prayer, which is by far the most valuable tool we have in order to help ease the load we carry to do His will. Prayer is God’s umbrella for us. It keeps us safe and dry away from the rains that seek to drown us. If you have an umbrella available to you, aren’t you going to use it? Then why neglect the umbrella God provides to you? Pray like the cumulonimbus cloud. Pray with such voracious conviction that you shake the windows, your chest thumps, and the Earth vibrates. Because after all, sometimes the answers to prayer are best felt.

Are You Taking Refuge?

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah." Psalm 46:1

I remember the day I bought my favorite pair of boots. I bought them for work, and I remember how excited I was to get them. Not only was I excited because it's always nice to get something, but because these weren't just any 'ole boots, these were top of the line. I was a little nervous to order them at first because of the price tag. So much so that my wife Jennifer and I had to discuss whether we could even afford them or not. They cost more than the average boots in the catalog I ordered them from. And when you're just married and starting out in new careers, money doesn't seem to be around as much as you'd like. But after all, they came highly recommended by other guys I worked with. They ended up convincing me by promising I wouldn't be disappointed, that I'd get several years of service out of them.

The day I got them in the mail, I remember opening the box and looking at them. Man, they looked sharp! They were by far the best looking boots I had seen, and were beyond comfortable! I once worked a 22 hour shift straight in them without any problems, they were that comfortable. I used to polish those boots everyday. In fact, I would polish them so much that all the guys at work that convinced me to get them would tease me about them. They had the same boots on their feet, but mine looked different. You know why? Because even after 3 years of service wearing them on patrol daily, they still held a shine.

I found those boots the other day shoved into the back of my closet, and I took a look at them. Even though they had a little bit of dust on them, after dusting them of, there was still a good foundation of the leather to be polished. So, I broke out my black parade boot polish and put a coat on. The leather was back to it's lustery state in no time.

But just as I was thinking to myself just how well these boots had held up, I flipped them over and looked at the soles of them..

They were worn completely flat. I was naive to the their true state.

You see, even though I had taken great care of the part of the boot I saw every day, I had completely neglected the part I never looked at- the sole. I'm not the biggest guy in the world, but I'm not the smallest guy, either. Not including the gear I wore, I weighed 215lbs. Everyday, for three years, those soles were literally pinned between the weight I put on them, and the abrasive concrete. This eventually took it's toll on the rubber bottoms of my boot. They were in desperate need of a trip to the shoe repair shop.

I forgot that the part of a shoe that is going to break down the fastest is the sole. Thats because it's the sole of the shoe that takes the most damage. It supports all the weight of the wearer, and on the other side is an unforgiving surface like concrete.

But you know what? Sometimes we christians are like my pair of boots. We spend all of our time polishing the outside so as to be aesthetically pleasing to those who look at us, all the while neglecting our souls. And our souls are no different from a boots soles. Our souls are the parts that usually carry the brunt of the weight we carry in our lives, all the while being pinned between us and an unforgiving surface, like the world. Things like sales deadlines, over-booked work schedules, double-booked kid's activities and trying to somehow squeeze in family time. These are the every day realities for a lot of us, and it takes it's toll on us; both physically and emotionally.

We need to take the time to mend our spiritual well being a little more often. We spend enough time polishing the outside. Find refuge in God's peace. Focus on your soul for a change. Make sure that it's up to the challenge of another week. Make time in your busy week for God and His people. They are your soul shop, let them mend your soul. After all, it could be wearing thin without you even knowing it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Christ Did His Part...

"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23

Christ wore a crown of thorns so that one day you could wear a crown of righteousness (Mt. 27:29).

His back was pressed against the cross so that you'd have somewhere to turn when your back is against the wall (Heb. 12:2).

His hand opened to accept the nails so that one day your heart would accept Him (John 20:25).

His blood covered the ground so that it would also cover your sins (Col. 1:20).

He rose from the dead in order to prove that there is no seperating the righteous from the love of God. If we are followers of Christ, not even something as permenant as death could seperate us from our Savior (Mt 25:46).

..But it comes at a price.

Jesus tells us in Luke 9:23 you must be willing to deny yourself daily in order to follow Him. Just as Jesus had took up His cross, we're supposed to follow His example and take up ours (Mt. 10:38). After all, faith without works is dead (James 2:20-26).

Jesus did His part perfectly. Are you willing to do yours?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dig a Little Deeper

"And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Mat 27:46

For as long as I've been a christian, this verse has haunted me. I was familiar with Christ's crucifixion, but never liked reading these verses. I know why, it was because I've always looked at Christ as some sort of superhuman. Simply put, Christ was unbreakable to me. So for him to cry out these words of doubt in a moment of weakness? It shook me.

Have you ever sat back and thought about Christ's crucifixion? Sure, you've read it before, probably in Bible study or heard a preacher do a sermon on it before. But, have you, yourself ever considered the full extent of the agony that he went through? Many of us would have to admit that we haven't. We merely take the Bible at face value, muster up a grain of gratitude until church is over, and then we move on with our lives. Simply put, we're disconnected..

Modern medicine has conducted several examinations of the effects of crucifixion on the human body. The obvious we read about in Bible; the piercing of his hands, and feet. The scourging done to most crucifixion victims, the breaking of bones to hasten death. What isn't well known is the exhaustion that comes from trying to hold yourself up during a crucifixion. You see, when your arms are stretched out and you're forced to hold your self up by them, this hyper-extends your chest muscles and lungs. This makes breathing, much less speech very difficult and exhausting.

Yet, we know that when Christ was hanging on the cross, throughout the entire duration he would lift himself up and speak. Jesus's last seven statements while on the cross before death, according to the Bible are as follows;

1."Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."-Lk. 23:34

2. "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."-Lk. 23:43

3."Woman, behold, your son!.. Behold thy Mother!"-Jn. 19:26-27 (Jesus is telling two people that he loved deeply to take care of one another as if they were truly mother and son. Despite his physical suffering, he wants to make sure these two are taken care of after he has passed.)

4."E′li, E′li, la′ma sa‧bach‧tha′ni?"-Mk. 15:34 (Aramaic for "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?". It is also a quotation of the first line of Psalm 22.)

5."I thirst."-Jn. 19:28 (This is in order to bring about a fulfillment of his Father's word. This was prophesied years earlier. Jesus was cognizant of this even in his agony.)

6."It is finished."-Jn. 19:30 (Jesus declares he's done God's will.)

7."Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!"-Lk. 23:46 (Jesus tells God he's giving full faith to Him.)

Notice that none of the seven statements made by Christ are meant to comfort himself, but rather those around him. He was being truly selfless during his darkest hour. This is amazing when we remember that he was the one being put to death!

And remember that verse I had such a hard time with at the beginning of this article? Read Psalms 22, it's the opening of the first verse. If Jesus would have been able to breath he would've finished and we would've recognized that he was praising God, even while hanging on the cross! It took me several years of studying to realize what I had thought was a moment of weakness was so much more. Perhaps he was reciting this Psalm to remind those whom he loved below him that God is righteous and delivers His people? Nevertheless, when I thought he was showing weakness, he was showing me another example of strength and courage.

Christ was thirty, physically exhausted, and asphyxiated. Yet he found the strength to comfort those around him. Jesus set the example of praising God and serving others, all the way up to his death. Sometimes we just have to dig a little deeper into ourselves in order to find the story of our own strength. It's so difficult to do, put I promise it's no more difficult than being crucified on the cross.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Are You Contagious?

"In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I remember growing up, I had what seemed like an impenetrable immune system. This definitely worked to my disadvantage when test days came around in school. No matter what was floating around, I couldn't seem to catch a break by catching it.

Now, here I am years later, married to my wife, Jennifer, who is a middle school teacher. Like all teachers, she's like a magnet for all the wonderful germs and superbugs that the petri dishes we call classrooms are able to churn out at what could only be described as an alarming rate. Those of you who are parents or teachers know exactly what I'm talking about.

Being married to a teacher has given me the rights and privileges to share in these fantastically unnatural germs. It's definitely not something I prefer to do, but I don't have a choice in it. When she's sick, I'm sick.

We've all heard stories before of husbands who share odd cravings with their pregnant wives, or perhaps even feel their labor pains. Now, even as the latter is a bit extreme, I still don't doubt that it's possible. I know that my wife, Jennifer, and I are connected in this regard. If one of us is suffering from a headache, it's almost a guarantee that the other is as well. When she's sick, I'm sick. After 8 years of a committed relationship to each other, we've gained this blessing/curse. Without speaking all day, it's not unusual for one of us to send the other a text message asking how they're feeling before we know they're suffering too. We've become so close, that we're almost as one.

After you've been in a relationship with someone for a long period of time, you eventually get to the point where you know what each other is thinking and can communicate across a crowded room without speaking a word. It's a skill that grows with time, and is tangible proof of your growth together as a couple. God says that when we are married, we become one flesh. Isn't it amazing how we also become of one mind? God truly is amazing.

Shouldn't we be this way in our relationship with God? Not that He gets sick, but that we should be so close to Him that His thoughts are our thoughts. We as christians are told to present ourselves as a living sacrifice to Him, both in body and in mind (Romans 12:1,2). We're told to renew our minds to Him so that we aren't conformed to this world.

We know that if our focus is not on God the puzzle pieces of life are harder to fit together. We're moody. We're cranky. We can become depressed. We lose track of our sense of purpose. We become restless. When our focus stays on God, our lives make sense. That's because we're living for Him who created us. It's natural. Even the most bizarre puzzle pieces have their place. We're at peace.

When we're one with God, our attitude is contagious. In a world that is chaotic, and filled with people who don't know Him, we stand out. We're at peace with ourselves and the world around us, even 'worst case scenarios'. You lose your job? No problem. He takes care of the birds, and you're much more valuble to Him than they are. Child is sick? There's never been a case too tough for The Great Physician. On your last leg and have nowhere to turn? He hears the prayers of the righteous. He loves you and wants to take care of you. This in turn produces the right attitude in us. One that can be contagious to others.

We need to be living proof of our living God. We need to renew our minds on God daily, so that we can be one with Him. This, after all, is Gods will for you.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Love Never Fails

"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails..." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

By my count, the word 'love' appears in one form or another 497 times in the King James Verson of the Bible. The breakdown goes something like this;

the word - love - appears 311 times
the word - love's - appears 1 time
the word - loved - appears 98 times
the word - lovely - appears 4 times
the word - loves - appears 2 times
the word - lovest - appears 12 times
the word - loveth - appears 65 times
the word - loving - appears 3 times
497 times total

The Bible makes it clear that our God is a God of love (1 Jn 4:8). It's not surprising though, that He should choose to describe Himself in such a way. His actions surely show it. His determination and steadfastness for us expresses it. His instruction and guidance for us point us in the direction of love. Why then, do we have such a hard time with it?

By nature, we humans are selfish. This is perhaps the very antithesis of love itself. We are all guilty at one point or another of being the very things the Bible says love isn't. We're rude, we can be jealous on occasion, we brag and can be known to be arrogant. We think only about ourselves, especially when irritated. If you cross us, we can't let it go. Sometimes, we even smile on the inside if something bad happens to someone who's done us wrong, justifying our feelings by saying they deserve it. God tells us that we are to have no part in any of this.

But to truly understand love and be in harmony with God, we have to grow into it. The Apostle Paul tells us that when he was a child, he spoke and understood as a child. But as he became a man, he understood as a man. We are no different. With age comes wisdom, with wisdom comes a better understanding of what love is. When we better understand love, we can better understand our God.

Are you doing everything you can to better understand love in your daily life? Are you really working on self improvement the way God would want you to? This would require you to love more, and hate less.

Forgive your coworkers' annoyances more often-there's just a few more hours in the day. Don't lose your cool in rush hour traffic-you're almost home. Don't brag on yourself-let someone else do it for you. Don't be so jealous-appreciate what God has given you! Only then when we look at things from this mindset can we really know what our loving God is all about.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Don't Jump Just Yet!

"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." 1 Cor. 1:10

I've got several friends who are in the United States Navy, and they all have a varying degree of service under their belt. Some have been in for over 10 years, others have been in for two or so. I'm proud to call them all my friends, and even prouder of the service they provide to our country. It's pretty interesting to talk to these guys when they get back from a sea deployment, because you get to hear all the amazing stories they have. One buddy of mine is a navy rescue swimmer, who has helped capture Somali pirates, and two others have been named sailer of the quarter multiple times over for their heroic actions in the line of duty.

Even with all the stories these guys have, the one that I've yet to hear is the one about the big green pasture out in the middle of the ocean. That's probably because it doesn't exist. What surprises me though, is the number of stories you can hear about boats sinking in the middle of nowhere, far from help.

When your boat starts sinking, you only have two options; start baling water, or start baling overboard. Those are your only two options. The one option you don't have is the option of heading for greener pastures. That's because in the middle of the ocean, they don't exist. If you choose the first option, your chances of surviving is much better. If you and your other boat mates all work together, your chances of survival increase dramatically. Bale water faster, while the rowers row harder- that's the key to success.

One thing you don't do is jump overboard at the first sight of a leak. The first thing you try to do is plug it. Repair your ship! If it continues to flood, then you bale the water. Abandoning ship is the unthinkable. This is because you know that if you go overboard, that puts you out by yourself against the elements-against the world.

Our faith is no different. If there's a problem, we identify it and fix it together. What you don't do is jump overboard at the first sign of trouble. That's because your spiritual security is far better off when your inside, with those who have an interest in your safety. When you're inside the boat, you're out of the elements of the storm. Our church is the tools we use to patch holes and stop leaks. If you start sinking, lets work together. You bale, and I'll row. Together, we'll reach safety once again. We know that if we keep God as our compass, we'll surely reach the safety of the shore.

Christ gave us a perfect church, in which he serves as the head. It is the only truly unsinkable ship. Is your faith rocking? Are you beginning to see leaks in your resolve? Is it time to start baling and rowing? If so, let's work to get to safety together.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Work Out Your Own Salvation

"Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" John 6:28

It seems like every time you turn around there's a new diet plan or workout machine that's being touted as the lost key to weight loss. In fact, the diet industry is expected to bring in $68.7 billion dollars. That's $10 billion dollars more than every US auto maker combined. That's quite an amazing statistic! But what is it behind people's mentality that drives them to spend so much? I believe that we are driven to spend so much because simply put, it's easier to spend great amounts of money than it is to spend a great amount of energy. Money has become a less valuable product than energy.

To a point, I can even understand this. The mother of three who comes home from work, has to get everyone fed, make sure homework is done, take kids to soccer and ballet, then home for a bath, and into bed. Whew! What a day! Where is the time for mom or dad? It doesn't exist, let alone time for workouts!

Doctors and other leading workout experts suggest that a cardio workout for the average person should last between 30-60 minutes, at least three times a week. That's at the most, 3 solid hours of working out per week. A week has 168 hours in it. This means that in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you only have to spend 1.7% of your week exercising. Yet, millions upon millions of Americans each year opt to spend billions upon billions each year to try to avoid even doing this much.

The sad part is that we've allowed this mentality to infiltrate into our spiritual lives. Many of us have allowed ourselves to become convinced that by simply giving 1 hour a week (generally on Sunday mornings) to God, that that'll be enough to keep us spiritually healthy. 1 hour a week is only .5% of our entire week, yet some of us act like this is enough. Unfortunately, this usually leaves us in the same place as the diet pills- unhealthy, unwise and depressed.

Jesus demands us to go out and work every day as his disciples. And not just a 30 minute per day type work ethic. At the end of Luke chapter 9, Jesus tells us that the work that lies ahead of us will not be easy work. But it's our responsibility to make sure we're doing God's work, just as Jesus did.

You have a choice though, are you going to try to operate your spiritual life on the same principles that guide your wallet and waist line? If so, you know all too well where this will lead you. Just don't say you weren't expecting it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Are You a Paperclip?

When was the last time you actually thought about what a paperclip really does? Think about it, it performs a very important function. It holds several independant pieces of paper together. Why is this important? I know it's stating the obvious, but each individual piece of paper holds a key piece of the entire story, whether the story is a work document, a manuscript, or a sales contract. Either way, if one sheet of paper goes missing, we're in big trouble.

The congregation you attend (or should be attending) is like the manuscript, and all the individual members together make up the whole story. But we still need members who are willing to step up and say, "I can be a paperclip."

But be warned, the job of a paperclip is not an easy one. It becomes your responsibility to try to keep the peace among the sheets of paper. It's your responsibility to keep papers from flying away in the winds that come along. To be certain, this job is not for the intolerant or weak.

A paperclip must not pass judgment, it's not their job to decide which sheet of paper has the best personaility, therefore allowed to stay in the story. Their personality may just be what the story needed. My point is not that we should be tolerant of any and all that walk through the door, but rather that we shouldn't create divisions where the scripture doesn't. That's not the job of a paperclip.

So the question stands? Are you a paperclip? If not, can you be? Are you willing?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Power of a Selfless Prayer

I never want to pray about me because when I do, I lose sight of you. You see, in order to look at myself, I have to take my eyes off of you. This was Peter's problem when crossing the water to Jesus. His mind lost focus of Christ, and instead turned inward, focusing on the dangers all around him. Rather than staying focused on Christ, Peter focused on Peter. If Peter would have focused on Christ, would he have still begun to sink? Of course not! Because rather than a selfish worry, he would have continued to trust in Jesus and His power to save him.

You see, if you're busy asking God to help you, then by necessity you have to stop focusing on those in need around you- even if it's just for a moment. And we know that disasterous things can happen in only moments. The average tornado is on the ground for less than 10 minutes, yet when they happen, they are utterly devastating. If you're praying for yourself, while everyone else is praying for you, then who is praying for them? It leaves a void.

God would much rather hear a prayer on behalf of someone else rather than a prayer for yourself. That's because a prayer for someone else comes from such an unselfish place, and this truly pleases God.