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July 17, 2017, 9:19 AM

Blinded by Hope


I hope tomorrow is better. 

That probably sounds familiar, and has probably graced many lips throughout time. Today can be a struggle, and when we face the challenges and storms of the present we can rely on the hope that tomorrow is going to be better. Our faith is based upon hope that stretches into eternity. Which, when embraced, gives us the perseverance and faith to carry on. 

There are other ways we can look ahead in hope as well: I hope our Church grows; I hope the Kingdom of God (the Church) is revived; I hope things are better for believers globally and that persecution ends.  We can confidently say these things and speak about the faith that God will deliver on his promises of a strong Kingdom here on earth. 

But....... when we only look ahead with hope we place blinders over our eyes to what is around us right now. We, to our detriment, have become blinded by hope. Today is never as good as what we want tomorrow to be. Today is always wrong... because what used to be was better. Tomorrow will prove today a fluke, or just a blip on the radar to greater days. 

What if, by hoping for something great tomorrow we're missing what is great today? Are there opportunities to celebrate and worship and serve missed right now because we're focused too much on what we HOPE will happen tomorrow? Of course I want to see our congregation push the limits of attendance like it used to... but getting caught up in that hope leaves me blind to the powerful congregation of believers, servants, friends, and saints we have right now. We are not powerless because we hope tomorrow is better, because yesterday was better... We are powerful because the God we serve right now believes in us right now. And that gives us hope and faith and confidence that right now is where we need to be. Right now is hopeful, right now is where God needs his Church. Right now has all the needs of a hopeful people, not tomorrow and certainly not yesterday. Those days can worry about themselves. 

Yes, I hope tomorrow and next week are better. Yes, I get caught up in the temptation of hope for more... But I cannot be so blinded by the hope for tomorrow that today is forgotten. Remove the blinders and find hope in who we are right now. We are the Body of Christ, the Church, His Bride. 

And that gives me hope. 




July 10, 2017, 8:34 AM

The List...


Here's an activity that could potentially take up the rest of your day: Make a list of all the things that drive you crazy, make you lose self control, or just get under your skin and on your nerves.  

Ok, please don't do that. 1) if you're like me (which I'm positive you should not be), this list can take way too long to complete; and 2) it is an unhealthy exercise and I'm sorry I started my blog with that. 

What this does point out though is that, if you're normal, there are things that push our limits of self control. The problem is, those things typically don't change one bit whether we're mad or not. Think about this: what good does yelling at someone in your car do to that person who just cut you off? Nothing. It changes nothing but you're blood pressure and outlook on the human race as a whole. (I'm talking to me here). If I get frustrated with someone going slower than I think they should, the problem is not with them... it's ALL on me. 

When I lose self control, I am the one to blame. Which is the heart of much of the human problem. We're quick to blame someone, anyone for what is wrong, exonerating ourselves in the process. 

If you haven't crumpled up your list from above, check it out and see how many of those issues are really ME issues: lack of patience; loss of joy; love that is biased and incomplete; kindness that is either preferential or contingent on a return; the gentleness of a sword vs. the gentleness of our God; faithfulness to God's plan for ALL mankind to know his love; and/or the lack of peace that must be evident in our own bearings no matter the circumstances.  

The Fruit of the Spirit, when evident in our lives makes the List look downright silly. Petty grievances disappear in the light of being transformed into the likeness of Christ. Complaints turn to opportunities for expressions of Joy! And all the storms in the world wont be able to shake our sense of peace because Jesus is in the boat with us.  

The presence of the Holy Spirit within us is far more than just pushing out sinfulness. His presence brings out the very best of God in us, and lays it out for the world to see. 

Galatians 5: 13 - 16  13For you have been called to live in dfreedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your dfreedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.14For the whole elaw can be summed up in this one fcommand: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”15But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.16So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.

 




July 3, 2017, 9:26 AM

Video Games have taught me a thing or two


Full disclosure: I like and play video games. There is an Xbox One in my living room that plays a prominent role in my leisure time. Understandably that turns some people off to whatever I have to write next, but I hope you'll stick with me for just a few more moments. The games I like to play are slower paced, open world, action based games. The two particular series I like have me taking the role of the hero who must stop the bad guy(s) from taking over the city/world. Good times indeed. 

So what have I learned that would apply any spiritual thought worthy of a blog? Easy... I get lost sometimes. Inside the games I like, with an open world, there is a LOT of ground to explore... and very, very often when exploring I find myself turned around and missing an objective, etc... Here's where it connects: I know I'm in the wrong place when the music is soft, there is no one trying to beat me up, and the game is peaceful. Yep, this is not where I'm supposed to be. 

I know I'm on the right track when the game's intensity picks up, the music starts playing an ominous tune, and enemies pop up. I am no longer able to happily explore and toot around... I have to fulfill my objective and win the day. 

So where are you at? Are you in the place in which there is no challenge, the music keeps you soothed and at peace, and no one seems to be pushing against you? If so, you very well may be in the wrong place. Yes, I understand that isnt always true in real life, but lets stick to the premise of video game logic. Games will keep you focused and push you forward by challenging and opposing your progress. Simply put, if there are no challenges, you need to turn around. 

Our faith journey is very, very similar. If we are not being challenged, then we have either hid our belief system and morals so well that no one knows they exist, or we're in the wrong place. There are rare occasions in which we are really challenged in our corporate church settings on Sunday morning. In fact, it may be the safest place we can be to express our faith. That doesnt mean we're in the wrong place, but it certainly means we've got to take the momentary peace we find here and turn right around to the bigger challenges outside our walls. Jesus never told us we'd be comfortable following him... he told us there would be persecution, challenges, and the discomfort of denying ourselves and carrying a cross. 

Take a lesson from video games... if you're not being challenged, you're not on the right path. Be the hero this kingdom needs and find peace in a world of chaos and disorder. 

Matt 5: 11 - 16  11“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.12Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. 
     13“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.14“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.15No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.16In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly kFather.




June 26, 2017, 9:10 AM

What have I Become?


Remember that part in the monster movie where the main bad guy has a moment of clarity and asks himself: "What have I become?"  Now this isn't in EVERY monster movie, but there are times when we get to see some transparency from our fictional bad guys. Most often though, this moment happens when the antagonist in the film was once a GOOD GUY!  <insert dramatic music here> I'm thinking along the lines of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde... 

The moment I just imagined is fictional indeed, with very little bearing on real life. Or is it? <insert dramatic music here> 
Asking ourselves what we've become, or are becoming is a good place to start each day. If we've allowed ourselves to turn away from our Christ-like transformations, we all need a moment of clarity and reassessment. 

No we're not becoming the bad guys... but we do risk letting ourselves slip away from being those that do good in this world. Being Christ-like takes our full attention and effort. 

We spent time with our topic of Joy yesterday (06/25/17), and practically speaking: are we bringing Joy to this world? Or are we a part of the regularly scheduled barrage of bad news this world already has enough of? Does our presence lighten a room, or ramp up the tension? Can we be trusted to see the best in a situation, or add to the worry and woe? If we answer no to any of these, we need to ask: What have I become? <insert dramatic music here>

2 Peter 1: 3 - 7  By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

 




June 19, 2017, 8:58 AM

The Best and Worst of a Rock Concert


This past week I spent some time traveling to see my favorite band perform live. I stood in the sun for hours (we had General Admission tickets) in order to get the best spot possible for seeing them up close. There were some great moments before the music started while visiting with fellow concert-goers and bonding with the security guard stationed right in front of me on the other side of the railing (seriously, we bro-hugged after the show was over). The downside of the experience was literally standing/waiting for 9 hours for the concert to officially begin. Mind you, there were about 1000 other people doing the same thing, with some camping out at the venue for well over 16 hour to get in. 

Feet were tired. Neck and shoulders were sunburnt. But when the music started, that all went away in the bliss of my favorite songs being performed just for me, live in person. So lets talk about the content and theme of the show a bit. Revolution and discontent were the normatives and messages being sent. While we live in a great country, its not quite there yet to be completely satisfied. Therefore: anthems screaming for change, songs railing for better opportunity, and speeches about injustice. All done with magnificent volume, dizzying visuals, and amazing music. 

While the band was on, and while I was surrounded by 50,000 other people I agreed wholeheartedly with what they were saying.  We were charged up and ready to stand strong. I wanted to join in the campaign.........  and then the music stopped and the show ended. Instead of 50,000 people rallying for social justice, we were 50,000 people just wanting to go home and rest (and make it out of the worst parking lot on the planet alive). 

This past week we talked about Love in our service. And I think we were all on the same page that Love needs to be prioritized and modeled by Christ-followers everywhere we go. 

But what happens when the music fades and we're no longer surrounded by a crowd? When we are the only ones who will "know" whether we've obeyed those important commandments in Matthew 22 of Loving God and Loving People.  What happens when we aren't swept in a tidal wave of goodness and service? 

It's what happens in the valleys that will define us (not the mountaintops). Let Love define your lowest moments, and everything else will fall into place. 

Luke 15: 20 - 24 20“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.21His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

22“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.23And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast,24for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

 


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