Archive for the ‘grace’ Category

I was hungry and you formed committees.

I was thirsty and you preached sermons.

I was naked and you said, “That’ not in the budget.”

I was sick and you sang another chorus while internally debating traditional verse contemporary style of worship.

I was lonely and you rushed to the restaurant to get the best booth.

I was in prison an you held another congregational meeting.

I tell you the truth: whatever you did to the least of these, you did unto me.

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It began like any other Sunday. I clocked out at work at 6:00 AM and drove home to try to get some sleep before it was time to leave for worship. We were running late and by the time we checked the kids into their classes, we had missed a couple of songs. A video played discussing mission work in Cyprus, but there was a technical glitch and it kept stopping and starting. When it was decided the video would not play, the band came back up to lead us in a few songs.

In all honesty, my mind was wandering all over the place.  I was thinking about being late and how I hate being late. I was thinking about my day and how I did not have enough sleep. I was wondering what was wrong with the video and why it wasn’t playing.  I was distracted.  I said a silent prayer to God asking Him to let me focus.

Josh (our worship leader) introduced the next song and I was immediately brought back into focus. The song was Chris Tomlin’s Our God. It talks about how great our God is. He is greater, stronger, higher than any other. It then had the words “Our God is healer, awesome in power.” I began to think of healing. My mind first went to my dad, who had been in the hospital for a while and who was not doing well during that stay. He is now improving daily and I thanked God for being his healer. I then thought about my own life and the healing taking place. I had been bitter and guilty for quite some time after losing my last ministry job, I felt like such a failure. Tears were forming in my eyes as I sang about God being my healer. He is healing me more and more each day as I seek His will. He is healing my hurts; my pain; my brokenness.  He is is greater than my pain. He is stronger than my guilt. He is healer of my sorrows. He is Lord. By the time we got to the part of the song that reinforces if our God is for us, what can stand against us, I was so excited to be God’s child.

A little later in the worship time we sang the old hymn My Hope is Built on Nothing Less. The chorus states “on Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.” I began to thank God for being the solid rock I can stand upon. I also wondered why so many times, I try to stand on ground that isn’t solid. I look at the sinking sand around me and think, “I can make it across before I start to sink.” That is not true. Every time I try to stand on anything other than Christ, I sink deep into the quick sand. The more I struggle to get free, the deeper I sink. Why do I keep trying to stand on anything but Jesus? He is the solid rock. He holds me up in a world of sinking sand. He heals my hurts, pains, sorrows, shame, guilt, and regrets.  I am so thankful for the way God answered my prayer Sunday morning. He used the songs to minister to me. He always knows just what I need and He is always ready to point me back to him if I am only willing to listen. I pray we can learn to put aside our distractions and listen to His still quiet voice as He so deeply longs to speak to us.

A man was very much in love with his wife. He longed to show her that he loved her. He told her that he would one day prove his love to her. He decided to show his love to her by swimming the deepest river. He was so proud of his show of love that he set out to walk across the longest desert. After accomplishing that feat, he decided to prove his love by climbing the highest mountain and shouting, “I love you!” As it turned out, his wife divorced him – he was never home.

The story above illustrates something about people. We long to be a success. We want to do things in a big way. We want to be the best at what we do. We want to prove our self worth by doing bigger, better things.   We want to be best at our careers; to be successful. We long to build the biggest companies; to plant the most churches; to grow the biggest program; to be the biggest and the best.

I have to wonder: is bigger really better? Is more really more?

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve have it all. They are in a beautiful garden called Eden. They have have no stress, no job, no pain. They in a total state of paradise. They enjoy total fellowship with God. They have it all. Or did they? The crafty serpent enters the scene and begins to place doubt and desires for more into Adam and Eve. He approaches Eve and asks, “Did God really say ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?'” Eve responds by explaining that they could eat from any tree except the tree in the middle of the garden – if they ate from that tree, they would die. The serpent begins his crafty twist of words, “You will not surely die. God knows if eat from that tree, you will be like Him and know good from evil.”

Did you notice what happened? The serpent, in a subtle way, tells Eve she can have more. The text of Genesis 3:6-10 explains this longing for more, the giving in to the craving, and the result.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. but the Lord god called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”  Genesis 3:6-10 NIV

Adam and Eve had all they needed in the garden. It was a perfect situation; total paradise. Yet the serpent convinced them they could have more. They could have more knowledge, more power, more – so they ate the fruit. They gave into the power of more.

Have you ever noticed how we, the human race, struggle with the desire for more? We want more power, more influence, more money, we want more! We buy a new computer and it has everything we need. We are perfectly content. Our friend buys a computer that is newer and nicer and has more features and all of the sudden we want more. We want more speed, more memory, more software, more features, more compatibility. We were content, but all the sudden a seed was planted in our minds that we needed more.

We have a car that gets us from point A to point B. It has decent gas mileage and is reliable, but it seems to not be enough. We see a commercial or ride in a friend’s car that has more features. Soon we want more power, more features, better gas mileage, we want more. We are no longer content, we want more. the desire and pursuit for more begins to drive us.

We want more – but at what cost? Adam and Eve had great fellowship with God, but their desire for more caused them to be banished from the garden and suffer a disconnect from God. Their desire for more cost them everything. They ended up with more work; more pain; more suffering; more rebellion; and a murdered son. They got more than they bargained for.

I find it interesting that the first thing Adam and Eve do when their eyes are opened to their sin is to cover it up. They try to hide their sin. The fig leaves are symbolic for all of mankind to follow. We feel the need to hide and cover our sins. Their response is not one of realizing they have sinned and seeking to make it right; it is instead to realize their sin and seek to hide it – to cover it up. Our own pursuit for more often makes us want to hide. What are you trying to hide? What are you covering up? What is in your life that you do not want others to know about?

This post is titled Making a Mark. We are all making a mark in some way. Adam and Eve left a mark that has affected all of mankind. When they realized the mark sin would leave in their lives, they tried to hide from God. What will your response be? Sin has left a mark on you – will you go to God and confess your weaknesses; or will you try to hide from Him? The choice is yours – what mark will you decide to make?

Our church recently had a fall festival. It was a lot of fun. The kids were able to play games and get candy – lots of candy! I remember how fun Halloween used to be when I was a kid. I loved dressing up and going door to door saying “Trick or teat” and getting some candy. This year we have three boys. Well, Joshua is only 5 months old, so he does not really know about Halloween and candy. He will still be dressed like a lion and going to get candy for his mommy and daddy. But the two older boys understand that they are able to dress up and get candy. They are excited. I always have mixed feelings about it. Back in 2006, I wrote a post on this blog entitled What Mask Are you Wearing. It got a few comments and made for some interesting conversation. So, I want to once again share that post for all of you. Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts. So without any further babbling, here it is.

Halloween – it is a time where children (and many adults) dress up and pretend to be something they really are not. I am not here to debate whether or not a Christian should celebrate Halloween. Kellie and I took Timothy to four trunk or treats over the weekend. It is probably a good thing since today it is raining. We saw various costumes – power rangers, spider-man, Superman, farmer, vampires, witches, and even two girls dressed as a salt and pepper shaker. It was really quite interesting to see all the various costumes and the creativity of those who made them. Timothy went as Elmo. He did not really understand what was going on but he did enjoy the candy. Kellie and I also enjoy the candy:)
I began to think back to my childhood. I would often wear a towel as a cape and pretend I was Superman as I jumped off the couch onto the pile of pillows that represented my enemy. Life was so much simpler then. I could be anyone I wanted to be. I would pretend to be He-Man and I would stop Skeletor. I would be the hero and the world would be safe because I was there to save the people.

Can you already see where this post is going? How strange that the trunk or treat took place in the parking lot of a church building. How many people put on a mask before entering the doors? The mask that makes us look like something we are not – the mask of a spiritual super-hero. We are often afraid to take off our masks. People will see who we really are – they will see that we do not have it all together, that we are indeed broken. What will they think? So we keep our mask on – we sing “Break My Heart” without taking off the mask and in the process allow our hearts to become even more calloused. My spiritual super-hero mask will not allow you to see my weakness; my sin; my kryptonite.

Why is that? Why do we wear masks? What are we so afraid of? Are we afraid that God might see us? He already knows what we look like inside and out. Are we afraid of what the person across the aisle may think? They are broken too. Why do wear masks?

Why do so many Christians wear masks? Why do ministers wear masks? How do we allow ourselves to get to the point that we feel we need to be spiritual super-heroes out to save the world, as if we can save anyone!? I cannot save anyone from sin; only Jesus can. I cannot save myself; only Jesus can. So why do I get tempted to put on my mask? Could it be that the mask has become comfortable? Could it be that we have tried so hard for so long to live up to the expectations of others that we have forgotten who we are without the mask? God, teach us to take off the mask and fall at your feet.

I was going through some files seeing what I could toss and what I should keep. In the process I came across an article I wrote for Teenage Christian Magazine back in 1999. I was the ministerial intern at Madison Church of Christ working under my friend Jimmy Sites. So here is the article. Enjoy. Tell me what you think.

originally published in “Teenage Christian” March/April 1999 page 13

Recently I was reading the account of Jesus at the home of Mary and Martha in the gospel of Luke (10:38-42). Recall the scene in your mind. Jesus was with his disciples when Martha opened up her home to him. Remember that Mary (Martha’s sister) was sitting at the feet of Jesus, while Martha was busy worrying about the preparations.

Can you imagine? Jesus is in your home! You want everything to be perfect. You begin cleaning and there is nothing out of place. You are slaving all day long over the hot stove baking and cooking and cleaning. You then come to the realization that your sister, Mary, is in the other room just listening and talking with Jesus. You become green with envy! After all, you are the one that invited him over in the first place. You should be the one listening to his words. But no, you’re stuck in here baking while Mary is the one who is being lazy and making you do all the work. You become furious, and finally you just can’t take it anymore. You come stomping into the room where the others are and you say, “Lord! Don’t you care that Mary has left me to do all the work? Tell her to get in here and help me!”

Then Jesus says these words to her, “Martha, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen what is better.”

The only thing that matters is sitting at the feet of our Lord and learning from him and listening to him. Have you ever been guilty of being too busy to get down at the feet of our gracious Lord and learn from him? I pray that you learn what is most important and sit at his feet and not become so busy with other things that you become blind as to what is really important.

The second chapter of Philippians uses words such as encouragement, comfort, fellowship, tenderness, and compassion. Later on in verse ten, the Bible says “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

Encouragement, comfort, fellowship, tenderness, and compassion all come with bowing down at the feet of Christ. Make it your goal to take the time to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from him. Bow down and humble yourself and realize what is most important: Jesus! I challenge you to join Mary and sit down at the feet of grace.

Halloween – it is a time where children (and many adults) dress up and pretend to be something they really are not. I am not here to debate whether or not a Christian should celebrate Halloween. Kellie and I took Timothy to four trunk or treats over the weekend. It is probably a good thing since today it is raining. We saw various costumes – power rangers, spider-man, Superman, farmer, vampires, witches, and even two girls dressed as a salt and pepper shaker. It was really quite interesting to see all the various costumes and the creativity of those who made them. Timothy went as Elmo. He did not really understand what was going on but he did enjoy the candy. Kellie and I also enjoy the candy:)
I began to think back to my childhood. I would often wear a towel as a cape and pretend I was Superman as I jumped off the couch and onto the pile of pillows that represented my enemy. Life was so much simpler then. I could be anyone I wanted to be. I would pretend to be He-Man and I would stop Skeletor. I would be the hero and the world would be safe because I was there to save the people.

Can you already see where this post is going? How strange that the trunk or treat took place in the park lot of a the church building. How many people put on a mask before entering the doors? The mask that makes us look like something we are not – the mask of a spiritual super-hero. We are often afraid to take off our masks. People will see who we really are – they we see that we do not have it all together, that we are indeed broken. What will they think? So we keep our mask on – we sing “Break My Heart” without taking off the mask and in the process allow our hearts to become even more calloused. My spiritual super-hero mask will not allow you to see my weakness; my sin; my kryptonite.

Why is that? Why do we wear masks? What are we so afraid of? Are we afraid that God might see us? He already knows what we look like inside and out. Are we afraid of what the person across the aisle may think? They are broken too. Why do wear masks?

Why do so many Christians wear masks? Why do ministers wear masks? How do we allow ourselves to get to the point that we feel we need to be spiritual super-heroes out to save the world, as if we can save anyone!? I cannot save anyone from sin; only Jesus can. I cannot save myself; only Jesus can. So why do I get tempted to put on my mask? Could it be that the mask has become comfortable? Could it be that we have tried so hard for so long to live up to the expectations of others that we have forgotten who we are without the mask? God, teach us to take off the mask and fall at your feet.

In our world, it is easy to take things for granted. I take it for granted that I will get to eat when I am hungry. I will have place to sleep tonight. I have a roof over my head. I have transportation. I have access to medical care. I have a support network of friends and family.
I take that all for granted some times. I find myself complaining because it is too hot with the air conditioning off and too cool with it on. I complain because the cable goes out and I am not able to use my high speed Internet connection. I get frustrated when I am at a restaurant and my glass of sweet tea is empty. I cannot finish my meal so I get a box to take it home in.
As I type these words, I see that I am spoiled. I am blessed. How was I blessed to live in a country like this? When I start to feel that I don’t have much, I go back and look at the world all around us. Go to http://www.globalrichlist.com/ and see how wealthy you are. Check out http://www.miniature-earth.com/ and see how blessed you are to have opportunities that many do not have.
It helps me realize that I have so much that I take for granted.
I am not trying to preach a sermon on poverty, I just want to share in case you need to be reminded. I know I do.