Archive | November 2011

Personal Faith is the Victory

What does your faith mean to you?  Do you have faith?  Where is your faith?

These are critical questions that make the difference between real victory and pretend hope.  There are several stories of people encountering Jesus in the Gospels that illustrate significant change in their lives.  One such story is that of the “wee little man,” Zacchaeus.

Luke 19:1-10 (HCSB)
1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 There was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but he was not able because of the crowd, since he was a short man. 4 So running ahead, he climbed up a sycamore tree to see Jesus, since He was about to pass that way.
5 When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, because today I must stay at your house.” 6 So he quickly came down and welcomed Him joyfully.
7 All who saw it began to complain, “He’s gone to lodge with a sinful man!”
8 But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord! And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much!”
9 “Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus told him, “because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

What a faith story.  In just these short verses we see how encountering Christ changes a life.  Zacchaeus faith is profound and personal.  Salvation coming into a persons life should lead to change and should remind us of why Jesus came: “to seek and to save the lost.”

It occurs to me in reading about this encounter that the faith that I have experienced and hold is different then Zacchaeus’ faith.  While our faith is found in the same place—THE LIVING SON OF GOD—it manifests itself different in my life compared to his.  This is why we talk about a “PERSONAL” relationship with God through Christ.  It isn’t going to be identical to anyone else.  My faith became real for me at a moment of total surrender when I met the love of God head on in the cross of Christ.  I was assured that God loved me and showed that love for me in that while I was still lost in sin Christ died for me.

Your story will differ from mine, as will anyone you encounter have a different story.  The differences of our personal faith in Christ are the source of our victory.  We have a common “object of faith” – Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.  It is the details—the story—that is the personal aspect for us.  How did you meet Jesus?  What does it mean for you personally?  This is the “personal relationship” that is discovered in our “personal faith.”

So meet Jesus and come to faith in Him.  Recognize that your faith and your relationship with Christ are personal – they belong to you…it’s your story.  Share your story with others so that they might come to their own relationship and faith in Christ.  That’s the wonder of faith and salvation…and this is the victory!

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Preparing for Thanksgiving–Don’t Miss what Matters

It’s About More than the Bird

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I love this time of year, and I especially love the Thanksgiving time.  It has nothing to do with the fact that my birthday is just two days after Thanksgiving.  (you’ll find my address for your cards and gifts is below.) 

I love Thanksgiving because it give us an opportunity as a population to give thanks to the creator and sustainer of all things.  It offers us a chance to worship, and to praise together. 

I think, however, that we sometimes miss what matters because there is so much attention paid to the details and the festivity that we neglect the mandate of giving thanks.  Let me borrow something from comedian Jeff Foxworthy and alter it slightly to make my point:

If you find yourself spending a couple of hours at the table scanning the advertising fliers and plotting your attack plan for the sales on Friday morning and throwing out a quick prayer at the dinner table on Thursday night, you might have missed what really matters. 

If you spend more time getting on your favorite team’s jersey and preparing snacks and beverages for the big game then you do giving thanks to the God of heaven, you might be missing what matters.

If you spend hours traveling to gather together with family, some of whom you only see once or twice a year, and you spend several hours gathered in a home together for the celebration, but you don’t stop to offer thanks to the Lord for His many blessings in your life and share that with your family, you might be missing what really matters.

If you spend hundreds of dollars at the grocery store, and hours if not days preparing a meal for your family and friends, but you skip church on Sunday because you are too tired or too busy, you might have missed what matters.

Fact is, Thanksgiving is not exclusively a Christian observance, but it certainly should be observed by believers in all that it is intended to be, because if anyone has reason to be thankful on November 24th (and always) it is the follower of Christ.  So, don’t miss what matters.  All the rest of the things are ok, but in your preparations remember the most important thing is not the food, festivities, or even the family.  The most important thing is the Thanksgiving for God’s provision and blessing in your life.

A Psalm of Thanksgiving!

Psalm 100:1-5
1 Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.
3 Acknowledge that the Lord is God. He made us, and we are His — His people, the sheep of His pasture.
4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name.
5 For the Lord is good, and His love is eternal; His faithfulness endures through all generations.

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Doing Thanksgiving Right

Blowing It! Getting Back on Track When You Mess Up

YOU AREN’T THE ONLY ONE!

Have you ever found yourself in a place and time in your life where you sat with your head in your hands wishing you could disappear?  Your mind replayed recent actions and you knew that you had really “Blown It.”  You are not the only one.  Man, have I “Blown It” in my life a few times.  I will spare you the details, although I’m sure some might have some entertainment value.  Let me just say that I have blown it…

  • As a husband
  • As a parent
  • As a pastor
  • As a worker
  • As a Christian
  • As a man

…and all of those and more have multiple times of “blowing it” in one way or another.  I have sat with my head in my hands, weighed down by the shame and failure, a multitude of times.  As I am sure you know as well, it’s not a pleasant place to be.  Sometimes it can feel like a very lonely place.  Well, let me assure you that you are not alone in the “blew it again” department. 

In fact, not only are you not alone, but you have a huge number of fellow “blown it” brothers in the fraternity.  Think about this list of ancient men who blew it, and some repeatedly:

  • Adam – he has the dubious distinction of being the first man to “blow it.”
  • The Whole Population of the World in the days of Noah
  • The Whole Population of Babel – pride is often the first step to “blowing it” for me too.
  • Abraham – even he made mistakes that were pretty significant
  • Moses – this “Deliverer” disobeyed God and wasn’t able to enter the promised land
  • David – major bad choices, yet still referred to as a “man after God’s own heart.”
  • Solomon – the apple didn’t fall far from the Davidic tree
  • The disciple Peter – one of my heroes, yet he was known well for “blowing it.”

Overcome

So, chances are you have blown it.  I can readily admit that I’ve blown it.  People all around us have, are, and will be blowing it in life.  So, what do we do once we have blown it?  That’s what really makes the difference.

Step One is Pretty Simple – Admit You Blew It

One of the things that frustrates my wife is when I blow it, but I refuse to admit I blew it.  This is especially evident when it comes to things like traveling and directions.  If I miss a turn I will often drive further than I need to hoping to get out from under a blunder before surrendering and turning around.  Pride and stubbornness can become a real problem when it comes to admitting you blew it, but there can’t be any restoration until this first step is taken. 

Be Willing to Make a Change – Get Back on Track

First you have to admit that you blew it.  Then, especially if you are in the process still of blowing it then stop and change what you are doing.  How silly it would be if a painter put his brush to a wall and realized that he didn’t have the color the customer requested, but decided to go ahead and use it anyway on the whole house.  We have to make changes, and sometimes those are difficult changes.  Making a U-Turn when I missed my turn is only difficult because it’s a blow to my pride.  Making changes in our relationships or lifestyles can be far more difficult.  Changing how we are doing things may mean changing in significant ways.  Be willing to make those changes.

Be Understanding when Others Blow It – Be Helpful not Hurtful

All around us are people just like us.  Flesh, muscle, intellect, and failures just like us.  We make a serious mistake when we try to hold people to some unreachable standard and judge them when they blow it.  We have to be willing to put our arms around those who have blown it and accept and receive them and help them when they need it.  I have blown it in a lot of ways, and one of the things that has been a real help for me has been the people who have been able to look past my failure to my heart and hurts. 

Years ago I blew it in a big way.  I had embarrassed myself by “jumping the gun” with something.  I had written an article and submitted it to the local paper about a position I had received.  It was published in thousands of papers.  Problem was that I was premature and didn’t actually have the position.  I felt like a clod, and the feeling of failure was incredibly strong.  The leader of the organization, who I had put in a really awkward position, could have very easily and understandably cast me aside and had nothing more to do with me.  However, and why this experience is so vividly still etched in my mind and life-experience, he instead accepted me and loved me.  To this day I remember the conversation and the amazement I felt at his forgiveness.  To this day this leader is one of my best friends, a real mentor and teacher from afar.  He had demonstrated this concept for me in life.

Making a Career out of Blowing It – It’s Living Life

I wish that I could say that I have some miracle key to NEVER BLOWING IT AGAIN.  Unfortunately, as long as we are alive we will find new and not so new ways to blow it.  It’s part of daily living, so this process needs to become part of daily life for us as well.\

  • When you Blow It — Admit It
  • When you are Off Course – Change Direction
  • When Others Blow It – Be Accepting and Understanding