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Showing posts from 2011

Peace

It says in Mark chapter five and verse twenty four; “Then He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’" For twelve years, this woman Jesus healed had been in a constant state of suffering. For twelve years, she had been suffering not only physically from her issue of blood, but also financially and socially. She had spent everything she had in a desperate hope that something, anything, might bring relief to the life she knew. Her relationship with others, even her relationship with God, was defined by her physical ailment. Alone. Afraid. Broken.

Twelve years. Then one day she hears about Jesus. “Could he be the one? Could he really be who people whisper him to be? If only I could get close enough to touch the fringe of his garment and I’ll be healed.”

She pushed her way through the crowd, saw Him. She drew near to the man she had heard people speak of, she saw the fringe of his robe. Reaching out, fear mixed with faith, she fe…

The Jesus Season

This time of year a lot of Christmas television specials take the spotlight in prime time. One seasonal special that is a favorite of many according the ratings year after year is A Charlie Brown Christmas. In the cartoon epic, Charlie Brown wrestles with the true meaning of Christmas in a world seemingly teeming with commercialism. This now classic feature first appeared during the Christmas season 1965 (I was just eleven). The subject matter Charlie Brown wrestles with are as valid today as they were over 45 years ago.

During the show, Charlie Brown is so perturbed, he yells, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” The answer comes swiftly from CB’s friend Linus who steps out onto the auditorium stage and recites the Christmas story straight from the Gospel of Luke.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were ter…

BEAT BACK THE NOISE

Some of my friends tease me about my so-called obsession with electronic gadgets. I was reading the other day of a new toy called noise-canceling headphones. This new invention is designed for use whenever a person is traveling by airplane. These headphones actually quiet much of the noise generated by the jet engines. The manufacturer suggests that noise cancellation reduces the stress and fatigue associated with air travel. The science behind the noise cancellation is that the headphones have microphones that monitor outside noise, then process those sound waves and generate into the headphones opposite sound waves, which cancel out or beat back the unwanted noise.

This noise cancellation technology reminds me that in our relationship with Christ and our interaction with the Scriptures, we have a noise cancellation system. When we study and apply God's Word to our lives; when we passionately pursue Jesus' Lordship daily, the noise of the world is quieted and we can hear Him …

SUSTAINABLE GRATITUDE

For the past six weeks the NFL has been in serious debate about the Denver Broncos quarterback, Tim Tebow (Heisman winner for the Florida Gators). Most of the sports talk shows have slammed him for being the least likely Pro quarterback ever. They contend; “He can’t pass. He under throws the ball. No, he overthrows the ball. He can’t even complete a pass in practice.” Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young stated that the way Tebow is allowed to play in the Broncos’ system is not “sustainable.” Young means Tebow won’t be great with his way of playing the game.

Thursday night with some 5 minutes left in the game Tebow the Terrific sustained a 95 yard winning drive of 12 plays to beat the New York Jets 17 to 13. When it mattered the most, he looked pretty great! The NFL Network’s Brad Nessler, among countless others, described him as “magical.”

Most experts are dumbfounded at how he manages to win games in such an unsustainable fashion. No doubt Tebow is a gifted athlete and leader. Why is…

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP

Winston Churchill —the great political statesman of Great Britain during World War II — was once invited to speak to his old alma mater boys school. Churchill, now one of the most famous men in the world and also one of the world's greatest orators, had done very poorly in this school.

He approached the podium. All the boys were sitting up straight, totally quiet, waiting for great words of wisdom. Churchill stood behind the podium looking in the eyes of each boy. Then he quietly said, "Never give up." He stared at them again and shouted "NEVER GIVE UP" Next he pounded the podium and at the top of his voice he screamed, "NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP!!" Winston Churchill then sat down. His speech was made up of just one piece of advice never give up.

In 1491 Christopher Columbus was forty (considered old in those days), homeless and broke. Christopher Columbus was an outstanding sea captain — but nobody took very seriously his idea of sailing west in …

OPEN THE DOOR

It was Billy Graham who once said, "I have searched the world over in my travels for contented and happy men. I have found such men only where Christ has been personally and decisively received. There is only one permanent way to have peace of soul that wells up in joy, contentment, and happiness, and that is by repentance of sin and personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior."

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.—Revelation 3:20

For more than 2,000 years Jesus Christ continues to restore broken hearts and broken spirits. All over the world today He is placing hope into shattered lives and peace into troubled souls. When you let Jesus Christ come into your life as Savior and Lord, one thing is guaranteed: You will never remain the same. There is an old Russian proverb that says "He who has this disease called Jesus Christ will never be cured." Praise the Lord Christ-foll…

FOGGED IN

I read the other day the story of Florence Chadwick, who in July of 1952 waded into the waters on a foggy morning at Catalina Island. Her objective was to swim across the channel to the mainland of Southern California. This swim was not that much of a challenge for Chadwick had been the first woman ever to swim the English Channel in both directions.

Unfortunately, on this day, having lost sight of the land because of the fog, Chadwick decided to give up. As it turned out, she was only half a mile from reaching her goal. She was not exhausted or cold. But, because the fog had obscured her vision from the intended goal she quit. Then, some two months later, on a clear day, Florence Chadwick attempted the same challenge — and this time succeeded, setting a new speed record, because she was able to keep her eye on the goal.

As Christ-followers, we have a goal: to follow Jesus, to become like Him, to love and serve Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. But how often do we enco…

PROPER RESPONSE

Are you a Rangers baseball fan?

If so, you already know about the bad call on Adrian Beltre in game one of the 2011 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Beltre is called out by the Umpire when he fouled off the ball. The cameras clearly showed Beltre hopping about at the moment the ball impacted his toe. Joe Buck and the crew at Fox reviewed the call with some nifty new equipment. It seems that Fox Sports has added this cool infrared camera technology to the series. It pin-points contact of the ball by the heat it emits when it contacts the bat or batter. The Umpire called Beltre out and the IR showed clearly that the ball made contact with his foot which made it a dead ball not an out.

Ron Washington argued with the Umpire—and rightfully he should, it was a bad call. Did you see Beltre? Adrian should be remembered for his response to the injustice. He smiled, but the bat over both shoulders and headed to the dugout. Did you see it? We know how other players might have respond…

TAKE A BIG SWING

During the fifth game of the ALCS while watching Verlander pitch in the eighth inning to the Rangers I thought back to when I played Little League and the count went 3 and 0, our coach always told us to take the next pitch. It made good sense because the pitcher had missed the target three times in a row, so more than likely he'd miss again.

That mindset has carried over into the major leagues. When Verlander—whose strategy is more about placement than it is about aim—has a 3-0 count, even sluggers like Hamilton, Beltre, Napoli, and Cruz typically get the take sign. What happens? Verlander, not wanting to give up a walk, usually delivers a strike down the middle of the plate. The most hittable pitch those major leaguers ever see comes on 3-0, and that's the pitch they are least likely to swing at.

Something makes me wonder if this decision hasn't carried over from the days of Little League, when this decision once made sense because the skill level of the hitter had yet to …

CHOOSY MEMORY

Sometimes I wish I had a better memory. I have a tendency to forget things, like people’s names, or an important phone number, or the exact content of certain conversations. It can be really annoying, both for me and for the victims of my forgetfulness.

I recently read about a woman who has the opposite problem. Her name is Jill Price, and her memory has been the subject of scientific tests for many years, because she never forgets anything. She is able to remember every detail of everyday since 1980: What time she got up, what she did, who she met, and what she ate. You can name a date and within seconds she can tell you what day of the week it was and what took place on that day.

Neuroscientists are intrigued by her "condition", but she considers it a curse. She says, "Some memories are good and give me a warm safe feeling. But I also recall every bad decision, insult, and excruciating embarrassment. Over the years it has eaten me up." She blames her memory for m…

LOVE TRANSFORMS

The apostle Paul wrote to his fellow Christ-followers in Corinth, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"(1 Corinthians 2:9). There is no one in this world who can be in love with God and remain the same. I was given a card a few years back that spoke to me. Here is what it said,
LOVE is the Great Transformer…LOVE transforms: Ambition into aspiration, Greed into gratitude, Selfishness into service, Getting into giving, Demands into dedication, Loneliness into happiness. Love transforms you into becoming a person with more of the qualities of Jesus Christ. Dedicate your life to love. Don't let our culture cheapen the meaning and transformation that takes place with agape love, God's highest form of love. When you seek the higher level of love you can rest assured that your life will never be the same. These three things remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. — 1 Corinthians 13:13

POWER READING

Rome’s Emperor Diocletian, in 303 AD, created a law to destroy all Christian writings and Scripture. Christians in the Roman Empire were commanded to turn over all sacred Scriptures to be burned. If a person kept any of these writings, or proclaimed themselves to be a Christian they could lose civil rights and be dispossessed of liberty. Those who turned over these sacred writings were called traitors. Others who refused were killed and called martyrs.

Even Diocletian, a non-Christian, saw the power of the Scripture and so he aimed to destroy it. He believed that he could end the Christian faith by destroying all holy writings. As Christ-followers it is important for us to be reading the Word of God. It helps us to understand our history, who our Savior is and why He died for us. The Bible teaches us how to live as Christ-followers. The Bible is God inspired from cover to cover with no mixture of error. It is power reading for the soul. It helps us to make good decisions and live a lif…

PICK ME

I remember PE class in middle school when the coach would pick two captains and they would select from the class team members for doge ball. You could tell which kids didn’t have much confidence that they would be chosen in the early rounds by their body language. Some would squirm back and forth unable to peal their eyes from the gym floor below. It was apparent they hated this part of PE class. As those students stood there shifting their weight back and forth listening with their heads down they must have been wishing and praying and saying to themselves, “Pick me…pick me!”

Name after name would be called. Each selected member would quickly hustle over to their respective team. You could cut the tension with a knife as fewer and fewer students remained along the wall uncalled. There were only a few kids left and someone knew they would be the last one picked. It always came down to the one standing alone and when selected they would move over to their team, shoulders drooping knowi…

PUTDOWN PUTDOWNS

When you were a child at school recess did you ever hear someone say this?... “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.” That mantra provided protection, safety, and resistance against the hurtful words of school-yard bullies. Putdowns like, “You’re stupid!” and, “I can’t believe you wore that!” are examples of the way as kids we would hurt each other with our words. As hurtful as these words are when they are spoken from child to child, they exact the most damage when they are spoken from parent to child.

“Hey chubby…how ‘bout another donut?” “Why can’t you be like your sister/brother?” “I can’t stand you…in fact, I can’t believe you’re my son!”

Language like this corrodes the soul of a child like a deadly poison resulting in a slow death of the beautiful spirit within them. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul commands that our words build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. “Do not let any unwholesome talk co…

UP TO SPEED

It’s that time of year again when high school, college, and professional football takes over the American sports scene. In Texas extra caution has been taken for teams facing this horrific heat wave. None the less the game must go on. The football season is underway.

Coaches are putting their players through various drills, run-throughs, and scrimmages to prepare their teams for upcoming games. The pro-football teams have made some rule changes about how they practice this year. Full pads with full contact work-outs have been limited to once a week. Players practice now with limited full-speed scrimmages.

Because the pro lock-out kept the players away from their practice facilities they haven’t been able to get the conditioning necessary to be full-speed ready. It seems that there are more injuries than in a normal pre-season. Either the players are not fully conditioned or the half-speed drills are creating injuries. Either way it doesn’t seem as if they are up to speed.

There seems to…

SHAKY ANSWERS

This spring our church had a yard sale to raise money for VBS. As item after item began to accumulate before the big day I thought I might just rummage through some of the stuff and see if I might find a presale special. It wasn’t long until I came across a familiar item that I had as a child, the Magic 8-Ball. In case you aren’t familiar with this iconic toy, allow me to refresh your memory. The ball itself looks like a large black 8-ball used in billiards, except that this ball is larger and is filled with a dark liquid that gives cover to its contents: A small three-dimensional triangle has phrases on each surface such as “Signs Point to Yes,” “Don’t Count on It,” “You May Rely on It”, “Yes,” or “Definitely.” You’re to hold the 8-ball in your hands while asking a question, shake it and then wait in breathless anticipation for the answer to appear. Of course, if you were like me and the answer wasn’t one you liked, you would shake the ball again until a better answer appeared.

Many C…

24

Fox Television produced the longest-running espionage-themed TV drama called 24. It stared Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, working with a highly functional Counter Terrorist Unit, whose sole job was to protect America from terrorism plots. Each episode followed Bauer along with officials in the U.S. government tracking and intercepting the evil-doers behind the events of the day, often simultaneously. Each weekly episode takes place over the course of one hour, depicting events as they happen, in real time. To emphasize the real-world flow of events, a clock is prominently displayed on-screen during the show, and there is a regular use of a split screens, a technique used to depict multiple scenes occurring at the same time.

Today your clock is running down the 24 hours that God provided for you to live life to its fullest. In real time that's 1440 minutes or 86,400 seconds. Sometimes we get so busy and distracted we miss the fact that each rising, sun brings new opportunities and…

LIFE PRAISE

Hallelujah! Praise God from heaven, praise him from the mountaintops; praise him, all you his angels, praise him, all you his warriors, praise him, sun and moon, praise him, you morning stars; praise him, high heaven, praise him, heavenly rain clouds; praise, oh let them praise the name of God — he spoke the word, and there they were! He set them in place from all time to eternity; He gave his orders, and that's it! (Psalm 148:1-6 THE MESSAGE)

The dictionary defines praise as the “act of expressing approval, admiration, commendation or laudation.” For Christ-followers, praising God is an act of honoring and worshiping, of lifting Him up above all others and glorifying His name. Praise brings us closer to God as it awakens us spiritually and serves as a connection between the Lord and us.

The Bible talks about different ways that people praise and worship the Lord. People sing, dance, clap their hands, play instruments and raise their hands as ways to show reverence to God in an act …

AT EASE

The words of Jesus in Matthew 6 are so potent. They are challenging, confronting, and convicting to my soul. They are full of instruction always pointing to areas of correction.

Recently while reading Jesus’ words in The Message, the following lines jumped out at me starting at verse 25b: “There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.”

Those words literally stopped my reading. Time and again I’m anything but “careless in the care of God.” Could it be that you are too? Jesus lived at ease in His Father’s care. He told the disciples to feed the masses when there was almost no food. He slept peacefully in the boat during a violent storm. He never allowed circumstances to alter His trust in God!

Therefore, I confess anew:

I want to live in God’s constant c…

SCRIPTED

When I watch movies I’m always trying to figure out what is coming next. My wife is not a fan. I am amazed by the techniques that scriptwriters infuse into the story. They throw in symbolism, clues and teasers throughout the course of a movie that give you a deeper glimpse, but at the same time are so subtle, you often have to see the film again before you catch everything.

Every word a writer puts down on paper has purpose. There is no word or event or thought that is not carefully crafted. The writer goes to tremendous lengths to make sure everything is interwoven and perfect before he moves on. What if I was a scriptwriter? What if my life, my story was being taken down with each step I took? Each word and action captured and presented. I know this; I would be a lot more cautious and thoughtful about what I said or did.

It is to this point that our lives should be as thoughtful as scriptwriters making their movies. In every step, I should be running with purpose. In every step, I sho…

MOVE

Have you heard the story about the married couple who were driving down the road? All of the sudden the wife turned to the husband and said, "What's happened with us?"

"What do you mean?" the husband asked.

She said, "We're not like we used to be."

"How did we used to be?" the husband asked.

"We were closer. More connected. We held hands all the time. In fact, here's a perfect example right now. Remember when we'd get in the car, and we'd sit right next to each other, with me there in the middle."

The husband turned to her and said, "Who moved?"

There’s a spiritual application to this story. If you're not as close to God as you used to be, you're the one who moved. Not him. If you want to get back to where you were, you need to move in his direction. And if you want to be closer to God than you've ever been, if you want to achieve a new level in your relationship with him, all you need to do is …

TRAVEL LIGHT

Someone once said that there are two kinds of people in the world. There are those who travel light and those who don’t. Each year my brother-in-law, sister-in-law and three nephews journey from Honduras to Texas for their summer vacation. There’s nothing light for this family of five’s luggage—three huge suitcases, three four foot duffle bags, five backpacks, and two car seats. You should see what they pack in those bags! As you might imagine, carrying those heavy bags can quickly become tiresome, and it’s not easy to lighten the load once their journey has started.

Spiritually speaking, it has been my experinece that people often carry heavy loads. It’s not that anyone actually intends to “travel heavy” spiritually. No one asks to carry burdens that crush the spirit, or weigh down the soul, but it often turns out that way. We end up carrying around unresolved conflict, relational breakdowns, unsettled arguments, bitterness and grudges. Throughout the journey, we keep adding to the lo…

THE SOURCE OF LIFE

I was watching the Discovery Channel the other evening where they were demonstrating with time lapse photography the unique capability of the Starfish. If a starfish should lose a limb, it can re-grow a new one. This is called regeneration. The process can take years, but when it is complete, you would probably not be able to tell that the starfish had ever been damaged.

Many of us have been damaged by circumstances of our lives. We limp around with burdens from the past. The battles of life have torn at our resolve and stolen bits of our joy, leaving us bruised and crippled. It is easy to do the quick fix and “Band-Aid” our pain or mask the hurt. But underneath the fa├žade lies a bleeding wound that over time will continue to fester until it is laid before the Great Healer.

It can take years for the limb of a starfish to regenerate until it is whole again. However, if you take the starfish away from its source of life, the ocean, not only will it never heal, but it will ultimately die. …

JESUS LOOKS

What does Jesus really look like? Artists throughout the centuries have painted various portraits of Jesus, often applying their own ethnic and cultural characteristics to their portrayals. Movies have variously portrayed Jesus from handsome, strong and confident to wimpy and weak. The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah prophesied regarding Jesus’ physical characteristics writing, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2)

In the end, we have no literary or artistic sources that can authoritatively convey what Jesus actually looks like. I would suggest, that more importantly, today in a very practical sense, Jesus looks like His followers.

The Scriptures declare that the church is Christ’s Body and each believer is a part. That was never more evident than this week’s VBS. Forty three adults volunteered as teachers, concessioners, choreographers, videographers. They assisted in areas of music, crafts, recreation, soun…

FAITHFUL - SUCCESSFUL

Success is what most people strive for. Products on TV infommercials promise instant success in everything from weight loss to financial freedom. Schools promise success in producing well-educated students who will succeed in college and the working world. In fact, there is a promise that if you are successful in work, business, education, sports or the arts, you will have lived a successful life. I want some of that! Sign me up!

This idea of success sadly has infiltrated the church in almost all aspects. A successful church is often measured by the number of members, by Sunday morning attendees, by the number of staff members, or by the number of people who prayed at the altar on a given Sunday. I would like to offer the idea that the church is not called to be “successful” in the way success is measured today. Instead, we are called to be faithful.

Jesus told a parable in Matthew 25:14-30 about three servants who have been given responsibility over differing amounts of money or “talen…

LOVE ON THE HIGHER LEVEL

Paul wrote to his fellow Christians in Corinth, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). There is no one in this world who can be in love with God and remain the same. Someone sent me a card that said,

LOVE is the Great Transformer…LOVE transforms:

Ambition into aspiration,

Greed into gratitude,

Selfishness into service,

Getting into giving,

Demands into dedication,

Loneliness into happiness.

Love transforms you into becoming a person with more of the qualities of Jesus Christ. Dedicate your life to love. Don't let our culture cheapen the meaning and transformation that takes place with agape love, God's highest form of love. When you seek the higher level of love you can rest assured that your life will never be the same. “These three things remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” — 1 Corinthians 13:13

BLIND SPOTS

The other day I was coming out of a parking space at the hospital, a driver in the space behind me flashed his lights then pulled up next to me and motioned for me to roll down my window. My thoughts raced. I didn't think I had cut him off, or interfered with his right of way. What had I done? With apprehension, I rolled down my window without any indication of the problem. The driver, friendlier than expected, informed me that my backup light on the right rear side was out.

As I drove away, I became aware that I would never have known my backup light was out without that person making the effort to tell me. I needed someone with a different viewpoint and angle to see what I couldn't. I would have continued to drive unaware of any problem. The failed light was in a spot I could not see.

You and I both have blind spots in our lives, don’t we? Just like the driver who helped me that day, the Lord uses other people in our lives to give us wisdom and correction. It is easy to get so…

ENDURANCE

There is no doubt that you will experience trials in your Christian life. Some new Christians mistakenly believe that being a Christ-follower means living a life free of hassles and struggles. God never promised us freedom from trials; He promised us that He would walk with us through the trials and help us to endure our hardships. No one looks forward to trials, but trials can produce a stronger faith. You can withstand anything that comes if you remember that every trial is actually a test. Before gold is pure it must be tested in the fire. The trials which come your way will test your faith, and out of your struggles your faith can emerge stronger than it ever was before.

The apostle Peter said; “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor w…

WHEN COWS FLY

I read a story some time back about a cattle truck traveling on I20 in West Texas that experienced trouble when the back of the trailer came open. For lack of a better way to put it, cows flew out. Of course, cows can’t fly, which in this occasion, is not good news for the cows involved.

Neither was it good news for the traffic following the cattle carrier. The flying cows led to a chain reaction of negative events. Several cars hit some of the cows. State Highway Patrol officers scrambled to the scene. While working to control the accident scene, another truck approached on the interstate. It raced by, nearly hitting a patrol officer. Two Highway Patrol vehicles immediately began pursuit of the speeding truck. The truck quickly pulled off to the side of the interstate and two men jumped out and began running. The Patrol vehicles also pulled over, whereby the officers gave chase on foot. Eventually, the suspects were caught. Unfortunately, the officers had stopped their vehicles in tal…

THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT?

If you’re reading this it means the predictions from a small American religious sect’s leader Harold Camping have proven once again to be inaccurate. There have been billboards on major highways around the country that announce, “The Bible Guarantees It.”

Camping a former civil engineer based in California has made the claim that May 21, 2011 will be when the world will face “Judgement Day” signaled by a “worldwide earthquake” that will begin in each time zone around the world at 6 PM incasing the world in hellish destruction then five months later the end of the world by which God destroys the planet in October 2011.

The idea of the end of the world has been the topic of much discussion for over 2,000 years. Ever since Jesus Christ announced He would return to earth opinions about how that happens have been plentiful. If people would read just basic verses they would never worry about May 21, 2011.

Let me offer up some scripture verses that speak to the issue. Check out; Matthew 24:3-4;…

Fence Walking

As a kid you may have at one time or another tried to keep your balance while walking on a fence. Sometimes you made it and sometimes you fall. When it comes to obedience, far too many Christ-followers try to "walk the fence." They keep one foot in the Spirit while one foot flirts with the world. These are some of the unhappiest people in the world.

Charles Spurgeon once said, "I never saw anybody try to walk on both sides of the street but a drunken man; he tried it, and it was awkward work indeed; but I have seen many people in a moral point of view try to walk on both sides of the street, and I thought there was some kind of intoxication in them."

If God is God and Christ is our Savior, let us give our undivided attention and whole hearts to God. “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm- neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”—Revelation 3:15, 16

A lukewarm C…

SEEING PAST THE DOTS

Nobel Prize winner Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, is now retired after more than 40 years service in the UN system.

He was asked about the success he experienced in his career, he relates some of it to this story from his early teenage years in a Methodist boarding school in Ghana.
One day our headmaster walked into the classroom and put up a broad sheet of paper with a small black dot in one corner.

"Boys," he asked, "what do you see?"

All of us shouted in unison, "A black dot!"

Then he said, "So not a single one of you saw the large white sheet of paper? Don't go through life with that attitude."

On any given day we see these dots everywhere — in the system, in society, in the people we work with and the projects we’re trying to complete. If we’re not careful, we can become completely focused on the dots to the extent that we fail to see the big picture.

Red tape. Bureaucracy. Opposition. Criticism. Leaders who lack vision.…

STOP THE CAR!

When driving on the freeway, I usually make it a point to casually glance at the drivers who are in the lanes around me. Frequently when I do that, I get the overwhelming sense that life is passing us by. The hustle and bustle of living in a fast-paced world is gradually taking its toll.

Tension, anger, frustration and depression are the realities that many people face when living at too fast of a pace. Having life pass you by at 70 miles per hour is not a model for healthy and happy living. If lived too fast, much of life will be lived with a feeling of loneliness and isolation. In our culture today, what we really need is for someone to stop the car! We need a friend. We need relationships. We need community. God designed us for relationships. His greatest desire is not only to draw close to us, but also to see us draw close to each other. “So now I am giving you a new commandment: love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will p…

IT IS JUST BEGINNING

When Jesus died on the cross late afternoon, Good Friday, he cried out one final phrase, three famous last words: It is finished. There were probably some within hearing distance who thought his words were a cry of despair, as if he were saying, "It's over. The dream has ended." The truth is, however, it was a cry of victory. "It is finished." This phrase can also be translated "Paid in full."

So, when Jesus said, "It is finished," he was saying, "My work is complete...I have paid the price for the salvation of humankind." The writer of Hebrews said, "Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people." (Hebrews 9:28) Paul summed it up this way: "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." (Ephesians 1:7)

This is the message of the cross — "It is finished." There is nothing you can do to earn more of God's love …

ASKLESSNESS

“If you never ask, the answer is always no.”

The person who made this statement recently was talking to marketers about closing the sale. It got my attention because it also applies to our prayer life.

James said, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2)

More and more I see asklessness as the root of our problems. James also said that we don’t receive sometimes because we ask with the wrong motives … but I’m convinced that the first part of the equation is a bigger problem for a good many of us.

The best way to solve this problem is with a pen, a paper, and some time spent in solitude.

Write down the things in your life that you have been dealing with on your own, that you have curiously neglected to pray about, and make a decision to bring these matters before the throne once a day until they’re resolved.

You and I both know from history that it works. Why then we go through seasons of asklessness is a mystery for the ages.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE

During his first visit to the local prison a newly commissioned chaplain was, speaking to an inmate when another inmate interrupted him, asking: "Are you one of those religious types here to preach to us?"

The chaplain explained that he was there to talk about spirituality, not religion. The inmate grumbled, "Religion, spirituality — what's the difference?"

Before he could answer, the first inmate spoke up. "I'll tell you the difference," he said. "Religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those of us who've already been there."

The inmate was right. It can be said that religion is for those primarily interested in self-preservation, those looking for fire insurance. For those who have already been through the fire, Jesus offers what religion cannot: restoration, peace, and fulfillment.

Jesus calls us out of the religious life into the spiritual life... a life with him, not mere rules and regulations, at…

WAIT FOR THE PROMISE

I loved going places with my grandfather. One place that was always an exciting time was the annual trip in early summer with some men from his company and my cousin James to fish the Red River. At the time James and I weren’t too much into fishing but we sure looked forward to getting stuck in the river’s quick sand to see how far we could sink. Grandad knew when the river trip was a few days away; he would begin talking with increased anticipation about the event. One year I remember him calling and saying, “I’ll be by to pick you up after lunch, be ready.” As soon as I finished lunch which I think was around 12:05 (after all it doesn’t take long to finish a PB&J), I was on the edge of the drive way sitting on the bumper of my mom’s car looking down the street both ways waiting for his lime green Chevy Corvair to appear. I waited, and I waited and waited some more. I was so hyped and all that anticipation he built up during the week only frustrated me. I wanted to go NOW! But he…

ALWAYS WORTH IT

Have you thought to yourself; “How could I ever be used of God? I’ve got so many failures and flaws. I have a bad family life. My family has a bad reputation. I don’t have a nice house. I’m poor. I’ve been rejected by my own family.” Well consider this: When the angel announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God, he didn't conclude with the words, "Therefore, we'll put you in a mansion with a team of servants at your beck and call." One could argue that she deserved it, but that's not the life God calls us to. He calls us to a life with a price tag—a life of sacrifice.

Mary was the greatest of all women, but instead of being given luxury, she was given simplicity. Her husband was a poor carpenter. They lived in a poor community in Galilee, kind of like living in the Appalachia hills of east Tennessee. When she was 8 months pregnant, she was required to take a long journey to a distant city. It was there she gave birth to her child — not in a comfo…

QUICK TO FORGET

After 400 years of oppression and severe slavery God used Moses to free the Israelites from Pharaoh in the land of Egypt. All along the way during Israel’s journey into freedom God supernaturally provided them with manna — a special food — and water. No one went hungry. But, a year into the journey on the way to the Promised Land, folks began complaining about the food.

Numbers 11:4-6 reports that: Some troublemakers among them wanted better food, and soon all the Israelites began complaining. They said, "We want meat! We remember the fish we ate for free in Egypt. We also had cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!"

The children of God wanted meat. They remembered the good old days of the free fish and veggies from the land of Egypt and longed for them. But, in reality, those days were anything but good. They were difficult days of slavery. They were days the Israelites cried out to God for deli…

SACRIFICE OF THANKS-GIVING

Fulton J. Sheen possibly the first television preacher said, "An interesting phenomenon in children is that gratitude or thankfulness comes relatively late in their young lives. They almost have to be taught it; if not, they grow up thinking that the world owes them a living."

A mother once told me that she didn't want to force her son to say "Thank you" unless he really felt like it saying it. She said, "If I teach him to say 'thank you' when he doesn't feel thankful, I'm teaching him that it's OK to be a hypocrite."

That's not even close to what gratitude is. Our feelings have nothing to do with why we express it. Gratitude is not an emotion, it's an action. The act of saying "thank you" is for the benefit of the other person. It's about their feelings, not yours.

The same is true when it comes to saying "Thank you" to God. Thankfulness is the proper response to the goodness of God. We say "than…