Sunday, August 28, 2011

Getting Serious With God...

“Humble yourself before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4:10)

Perhaps you’ve heard it said before that “some people have just enough Christianity to inoculate them against the real thing.”  Unfortunately, this all too often accurately describes many of us in church:  we claim to be “real” Christians, but then we pray, read our Bible, and attend worship only when we feel like it and whenever it’s convenient (and we may not regularly participate in a Christian small group at all); we put the “left overs” of our money in the offering plate when it’s passed, giving to God and His church only after we’ve paid all our other “bills”; we only rarely volunteer to serve in the nursery, or help the youth group, or serve in a local mission project;  and we hardly ever share our faith with others outside the church, viewing our faith as a “private thing” meant to be kept to oneself.

Meanwhile, we struggle to keep our marriages and families emotionally alive and healthy, secretly wonder if there is any purpose and meaning to the “rat race” of life in which we seem caught up, and have difficulties coping with the stress and strain of all that we have to do… to the point where we sometimes cope by falling into unhealthy habits and addictions that we know we shouldn’t have, but can’t help ourselves.

If this sounds familiar, then we need to realize that the answer lies in the fact that we need to learn to get serious with God – to quick flirting around on the edge of life (hoping we don’t fall over the cliff), and instead throw ourselves into the grace and love of our God who loves us and wants us to experience a life filled with real meaning and purpose – a life that doesn’t just practice “religious behavior” and “spiritual talk,” but is deeply genuine and real. 

To me, the words of James 4:4-10 from THE MESSAGE translation say it well.  May these words from God’s word inspire, challenge, and bless you as they have me:

“You're cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn't care? The proverb has it that ‘he's a fiercely jealous lover.’  And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you'll find. It's common knowledge that ‘God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.’  So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious.  Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet.”

May it be so in each of our lives, dear Lord!  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Space Between The Logs

“Jesus withdrew to deserted places to pray.” (Luke 5:16)

Last Fall, most of our church staff and myself took time apart for a short retreat in the north Georgia mountains. There, one of things we were challenged to consider was the ways that we in our lives and ministries are often so busy doing good “church” work that we don’t take time to be “fed” spiritually, and consequently find ourselves stressed and burned-out.

In one of our devotionals, a fellow staff member shared this poem by Judy Brown that reminds us all of our constant need to tend to our own spirits if we are to be any good to anyone else. I invite you to let it speak to you in the powerful way it spoke to me and others on our retreat:

“What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.

So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
A fire grows
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.”

[--Poem “Fire,” by Judy Brown in Leading From Within, by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner, eds.]

Remember, God loves you and so do I!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Father's Love Letter Video

Several of you have asked about the "Father's Love Letter" video we experienced in worship today, reminding us of exactly what God thinks of you and me in His own words from the Bible. Here it is in condensed format...

To read a text version, or to view or purchase the original full video version, click HERE.

[--"Father's Love Letter" written by Barry Adams, copyright 1999 Crown Video and Father Heart Communications]

Wonderfully Special

“ O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)

“The Bible says that God is the potter and I am the clay
And I picture myself as a lump of dry clay.
The potter gently picks me up with his warm, strong hands.
He adds drops of water, to make me flexible
and easier to work with.

Then, after I am of the correct texture, the potter lifts me
higher... higher... and then PLOP!
He throws me down hard to remove
all of my air bubbles and flaws.

Next he puts me on the wheel and I turn and turn.
He shapes me exactly as he wants me, pushing and molding me.
Sometimes the pushing hurts, but I know that when he is
finished, I will be a beautiful creation.
All of this pain, this turning in circles, will be worth it!

As the potter pulls and stretches, I start
to take on the shape he wants me to be.
And when the potter has me as he wants me,
he places me in the kiln to be fired...“It’s hot in here!”

Now my time in the kiln is done.
“Hurry potter, take me out of here!
But no, He knows that if I cool too fast I’ll crack.
He knows what he is doing!

Now it’s time... the potter reaches into the kiln
and gently lifts me out. I’m solid, strong and stable.
My walls are perfect and I have no flaws.
The potter uses a glaze to make me beautiful
both inside and out.

All that I have been through - being thrown onto the table,
the monotony of going round and round
on the wheel, the force of his hands, the heat in the kiln -- has been worth it!
The potter has made something wonderfully special!”
[--Author Unknown]

You and I are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14)! May we always remember how special are to God and how much He cares for each and every thing that happens to us! Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Station

“This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24)

“Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long, long trip that almost spans the continent. We're traveling by passenger train, and out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls, of biting winter and blazing summer and cavorting spring and docile fall.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. There will be bands playing and flags waving. And once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true. So many wishes will be fulfilled and so many pieces of our lives finally will be neatly fitted together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damming the minutes for loitering, waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.

However, sooner or later we must realize there is no one station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

‘When we get to the station that will be it’" we cry. Translated, it means, ‘When I'm 18 that will be it! When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz, that will be it! When I put the last kid through college that will be it! When I have paid off the mortgage that will be it! When I win a promotion that will be it! When I reach the age of retirement that will be it! I shall live happily ever after!’

Unfortunately, once we get ‘it,’ then ‘it’ disappears. The station somehow hides itself at the end of an endless track.

‘Relish the moment’ is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: ‘This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.’ It isn't the burdens of today that drive [people] mad. Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.

So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.”

[--by Robert J. Hastings’ website. This poem first appeared in Ann Landers' column May 17, 1981]

My prayer is that you and I will not live life in the shadow of our pasts, or haunted by our regrets. May we all learn to live today to the glory of God, as well as trusting Him with our tomorrows! Remember, God loves you and I do, too!