Friday, August 27, 2010

Let's Get Physical...and Spritual!

My family enjoys an occasional hike at one of North Carolina’s many beautiful state parks that are nearby. On one such trip recently, we either underestimated the incline of the trail we had decided to take or we over estimated our level physical fitness. Either way, the 4 and ½ mile trail (half of which was uphill by the way) was nearly the death of me. I did make it to the top and was rewarded with a beautiful view. However, there were many times on the way up that I found myself wishing that I would have been more committed to my daily exercise in the months leading up to that day. If I had been, surely this hike would not have been such a traumatic experience.

My struggle to climb that mountain is a good reminder of what happens when we haven’t been conditioning our spiritual muscles and we come up against a difficult situation in our lives. When molehills begin to feel like mountains it doesn’t take long for me to realize that I haven’t been spending enough time with God. And, even though He’ll help me get through what ever trial it is that I’m currently facing, it would have been a whole lot easier if I hadn’t waited until I was mid-mountain to pick up my Bible and start praying.

In the fourth chapter of 1st Timothy, Paul writes a lot about the importance of spiritual conditioning, here are a few of those verses…

(8) For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

(13) Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

(15) Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. (16) Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Let’s pray today that God will help us find the time and motivation to spend time daily with Him so that our spiritual muscles will be in good enough shape to handle whatever challenges come our way.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

No Deal!

I have a new title for myself today…”Official Game Show Reject”. You see, I auditioned at this weekend’s open casting call for Deal or No Deal. And, you guessed it...I didn’t make the cut.

Before the audition, I really tried hard not to get my hopes up. I knew in my head that I probably would not be chosen for the show. But, there was a big part of me that was pretty confident that I had a good shot. In fact, I had already decided who I would bring on the show with me and how I’d spend my winnings.

At the audition, I had 20 seconds to “sell” myself to the show’s casting director. And, I gave it everything I had. I tried to be enthusiastic and personable. I even threw in the fact that, if I won big money on the show, I’d buy a bigger house so my poor, widowed mother could move in with us.

But, evidently, what I gave just wasn’t good enough. I knew I was finished when I got the whole, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” routine. And, as much as I hate to admit it, it hurt! The feeling reminded me of my single days when I was interested in a guy who didn’t feel the same way about me.

Thankfully, my dejected state didn’t last too long. I realized that there were thousands of people auditioning that day who wouldn’t make it either...many of whom had camped out overnight and waited for hours in a cold rain for their chance at instant wealth. So, at least I was in good company.

Still, nobody enjoys rejection. Think about the way you felt the last time it happened to you.
Unfortunately, we’ll all probably have plenty of experience with rejection over the course of our lives.

But, I can promise you this. There is One who will never reject you. Your heart is safe with God. Romans 8:38 & 39 confirms it: “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So, be assured….God will never tell you that you are not good enough. His love and acceptance are 100% guaranteed by the blood Jesus shed on the cross.

Monday, August 16, 2010

SHAPED for Minsitry

If you know me you know that I am passionate about adoption and caring for orphans. As an adopted child, it’s an issue that is deeply important to me. I realize how vastly different my life may have turned out had I grown up in an orphanage if not for the two loving parents who raised me and the loving birth mother who did everything she could to ensure that my forever family would be a good one. There by the grace of God go I. And, I figure the least I can do is tell everyone I know about the plight of the 140+ million orphans in our world.

No doubt, we have a biblical mandate to care for orphans. James 1:27 says “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us.”

But, I also have to remember that there are a lot of other people God has called us to care for…widows, aliens, the homeless, the imprisoned. The “least of these” is a pretty broad category! God has taken my experience, history and gifts and turned them into a passion he and I share for orphans. However, maybe your passion lies somewhere else. That’s OK! God wants it that way. If we were all focused on orphans, who would speak out for and take care of everyone else?

1 Peter 4:10 says “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.”

God has a unique ministry calling just for you. Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life” is a great place to start if you are still trying to figure out where you fit into His plans. Rick says we all have a unique and God-given SHAPE for ministry…it’s made up of our Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experience.

Take some time to look inside, praying that God will reveal to you your own shape for ministry how he plans to use you in his kingdom. And, pray that when he answers, you’ll have the discernment, courage, faith and resources to hear and act upon his call.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Foster Parenting

There is a couple at my church named John and Suzanne that have taken on a wonderful new endeavor. They serve as foster parents to newborn babies while the adoptive parents work out all the legal stuff required tobring their baby home.

John and Suzanne go way above and beyond the job requirements of foster parents. They realize that these children’s adoptive parents are missing the first days, weeks or months of their child’s life, and they do everything possible to fill in those blanks. They take tons of pictures every day and write down all of the baby’s firsts. When the babies they foster arrive at their permanent homes, they come with a scrapbook full of pictures and information chronicling their young lives.

This couple treats these little babies as if they were their own, even though they know that their time with them is limited. And, every late night feeding, each cuddle and kiss and even every diaper change makes it harder to say good bye. But, Suzanne says she knows that the babies have a loving mom and dad who long to bring them home, so she is able to let each little one go, knowing they are being sent into the arms of loving parents.

When I think about what John and Suzanne do, I realize that my job as a parent isn’t much different. Listen to these verses from John 1:12-13 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. So, while we tend to think of our children as belonging to us, that’s only partially true. More accurately, we are foster parents, temporarily assigned to care for God’s children. Our duty is to love them, care for them and fully prepare them for the day they will go to their “forever home”. And, when we look at it that way, we can realize what a great honor it is that God has chosen us for the job.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

With Friends Like Those...

Listen to these words from the Old Testament of the Bible…

“He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. He bestows rain on the earth; he sends water upon the countryside. The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.”

"Surely God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of evildoers. He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.”

“if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear. You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by.”

As I mentioned earlier…these are verses found in the Bible and I think we can all agree that they speak the truth about the depth of God’s love for us, his children. These words could certainly be used to offer encouragement and hope to a friend going through a difficult time. However, the people who spoke these words did not speak them in love or with the intention of lifting up a hurting friend. In fact, it was quite the opposite. When Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar said these words to their friend Job, their intention was to convince Job that it was the sin and error in his life that caused God to punish him.

Remember, Job had just lost his home, his children, his wealth and his health. Instead of empathy, these three friends only offered judgment and condemnation. God was not pleased with their advice to Job. In fact, He said to Eliphaz, "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”

I believe the lesson here is that there is a big difference between speaking the truth and speaking the truth in love. It can be tempting when someone comes to us with a problem to point out what got them there in the first place, but when is that helpful?

Will you join me in praying that God will lead us to people who are filled with wisdom and love. And, that we will remember to carefully search our own hearts before we offer advice to others.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Plank in My Eye

One of the stumbling blocks I really struggle with overcoming is my tendency to judge others. This became painfully apparent during a conversation with a close friend a few days ago. He told me that he felt very distant from God, like God had forgotten all about him. I should have been listening to my friend and offering empathy. Instead, I was too busy picking apart his faith in my mind. I wondered silently how often this person read the Bible and prayed and what he was doing to actively serve the Lord. All on my own, I had come to the conclusion that this person was obviously not serious about his faith, or he wouldn’t be having this problem.

Thank GOD I didn’t open my mouth. Because, in the midst of my self-righteous line of thinking, I was gently reminded of the times I had felt the same kind of distance from God that my friend had been experiencing. I also was reminded that I don’t spend nearly enough time in the word and in prayer, so I had no business judging someone else’s spiritual life. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit put me right back in my place before I said anything that would have hurt my friend. He was already feeling bad about his relationship with Jesus. He needed consolation, not condemnation.

There are many verses in the Bible that warn us about the dangers of judging others. Probably the most well known come from Matthew 7:1-5, where Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

So, If you are like me and struggle with judgmentalism, let’s pray that God will remind us of the planks in our eyes and that the sins we focus on correcting will be our own.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Firm Foundation

I had the unique experience of witnessing the demolition of a home being re-built for the show Extreme Makeover Home Edition. I’ve been a big fan of this show since its first season, so being on the set and watching the behind-the-scenes action was so much fun. The demolition phase was very cool. It’s amazing how quickly something that must have taken months to build can be smashed onto oblivion! This step is essential, because without a solid foundation, all of the work the builders are preparing to do to construct this home would be at risk of ruin.

The same thing goes for us when we become Christians. There is a process of ripping away the old attitudes, thoughts and behaviors and allowing the Holy Spirit to create us anew. We also need a new foundation to build our new lives upon, or these new walls could come tumbling down. That foundation is Jesus.

Listen to the way Jesus is described in 1 Peter 2: 4-6, “ You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”

The Bible advises us that Jesus is to be the cornerstone for our lives. In the construction of a masonry foundation, a cornerstone is laid first and the rest of the bricks or stones are set in line with this first stone. If the cornerstone is set incorrectly, the lines and angles of the entire foundation of the building will be off. Likewise, when we allow Jesus to be the cornerstone of our lives, we can be sure that we’re on a straight path with a firm foundation.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Time Management the iPod Way

Last weekend I spent some time adding new music to my mp3 player. My player is pretty small, it’s a 2 gig, which means it will hold about 500 songs. I know that, that sounds like a lot of music, but I have discovered that it doesn’t take long to fill up. So, when I saw yesterday that I was nearing capacity I knew it was time to make some tough choices…time to delete some files.

I have found that each song falls into one of three categories…The first category is songs that I know are keepers…these are my favorites, the ones that always put a smile on my face. The second category is comprised of songs I have no problems deleting, these are the ones that, for whatever reason, I’ve lost interest in. The third category (most of the songs fall into this one) are the songs in between…these are the ones that I like a lot, but not so much that their space in my player is eternally secure.

As I was organizing my tunes…I realized that if I applied the same system to managing my time, my life would probably be a lot more balanced. Think about it…like my mp3 player’s memory, our time is limited. We each get 24 hours a day, that’s it. And, like the thousands and thousands of really good songs that I could choose to add to my playlist, there are countless events, commitments and other worthwhile things vying for our time.

The bible encourages us to plan our time wisely…listen to this verse from Ephesians, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” We cannot do it all, my friend, and sometimes tough decisions have to be made so that we can at least get to the important things. Is your day filled to capacity…and then some? Start by making a list of everything that occupies your time. Then decide which things are so important they hold a permanent position on your calendar, which things are working in your life for the time being, but could be cut if needed. Finally, decide which things add nothing but dead weight to your day. Those are the things that are ready to be deleted from your life.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

This Magic Moment

Our kids got new bikes for Easter this year and we spent much of Easter Weekend teaching them how to ride.

Our son Andrew had a really hard time learning. After the first day of trying to master it with no success, he had given up. That evening, with bitterness in his voice, he said, “you know how, in the movies, when a kid learns to ride his bike, there’s that Magic Moment where the Dad is running beside the bike, holding it steady and then, all of a sudden, the Dad lets go and the kid keeps peddling off into the sunset. We’ll I didn’t have that Magic Moment…I want my Magic Moment!”

Have you ever listened to other’s testimonies about how they came to know Christ and felt like you missed out on your Magic Moment? I’m talking about the kind of person who was living the worst kind of life imaginable until he had this Huge, Life Changing Encounter with Jesus that instantly turned his life around, never returning to his old, sinful ways.

These kinds of transformation are amazing, and Praise God for them. But, if you didn’t have that kind of drastic experience, you may question why your salvation story is less than spectacular. When others had an experience that left them immediately able to turn away from past vices completely: smoking, drinking, sex, drugs…why do you still trip up sometimes? And, what about the very emotional experience that others have? Why don’t your eyes fill with tears when you talk about the day you accepted Jesus? What if you can’t even remember the day clearly, you just know that when you were a kid you asked Jesus into your heart and you’ve been serving him ever since.

Here’s the deal…God knows us each personally well enough to know exactly what it takes to get inside our hearts. And, he approaches each of us differently. Some people are like the Apostle Paul…they need a drastic, physical, supernatural event to open their eyes to Jesus. But, many experience a more subtle, more gradual awakening to the Holy Spirit. When you think about your testimony, don’t worry that you’ve missed out on your “Magic Moment”. Because, In the end, it doesn’t matter how you found Christ…it only matters that you found him.

By the way, the next day Andrew gathered up all the determination left in his scraped up body, he and his dad gave it a try, and he finally got the hang of it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Let's Not Kick 'em While They're Down

So, how’s this for a bad day? A 62 year old man from Boise, Idaho was recently hit by a truck while crossing the street. Fortunately, Ebrahim Balah only suffered minor injuries from the accident and was treated and released from the hospital the same day. Boise police say he was hit by the passenger truck because he was trying to cross a busy one-way street in an area designated as a non crossing area. Which is why they felt it necessary to give him a ticket for jaywalking.

Now, I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that getting hit by a truck may have been consequence enough to keep Ebrahim on crosswalks from that point forward. Did he really ALSO need to be slapped with a ticket?

I know as a parent that sometimes the best consequences for my kids are the ones that come naturally as a result of their actions. For example, I can remind my kids 12 times in one morning to remember to wear their coat to school. I can punish them by taking away privileges when they forget anyway. But, standing outside at the bus stop on a cold morning, or freezing on the playground that afternoon is probably all the punishment they need to remember their coat next time.

Most of us have to learn things the hard way, don’t we? And when we’ve messed up and are feeling bad enough already, why does it seem there are so many people who feel it is their duty to rub salt in the wounds of the consequences we created? And, why am I so tempted to finger point and say “told-you-so” to others when they mess up?

Listen to this verse:

1 John 4:20 – Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.

The way we treat others is a reflection of the depth of our relationship with Jesus. We need to remember that God has given us infinite amounts of Grace and we need to mirror that grace in the way that we deal with others.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I’m a big-time bargain hunter. One of my favorite places to get a good deal is at a clearance sale. The words “75% off the already reduced price” get my shopping spree juices flowing. But, it’s got to be a good deal to catch my attention. I wouldn’t even look twice at a sign marked 10% off. That’s nothing! However, if you turn the tables, 10% feels like an awful lot when it’s coming out of my wallet. Do you know where I’m going with this?

God’s children are commanded to give 10% of our income back05is an ancient one. In the Old Testament we are told, “You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow which comes out of the field each year.” (Deut 14:22) The word tithe literally means tenth.

Why does the same God who owns everything want my money? I’m a firm believer that it’s got little to do with money and lots to do with faith. When we tithe or give sacrificially, especially when money is tight, we are in essence saying, “God, I trust you with everything. I know that you will provide for me.”

God can be trusted! In fact, tithing is the only subject in the Bible that God invites us to test him on. God declares in Malachi 3:10, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

So, this Sunday, when the collection plate is passed to you at church, I encourage you to take God up on His invitation to test Him with your tithe. Give God the opportunity to prove to you his faithfulness!