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Special Welcome

A friend posted this and I thought it was worth passing on. 

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.

We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.

If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!

http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2012/07/how-to-welcome-people-to-your-church/

Here Comes the Son

Mourn. It’s an interesting word. It sounds weird and requires complex muscle movement in the mouth to pronounce it. In the simplest of terms it means to grieve a loss of someone or something. It’s a word which describes the human condition in fullness. It’s something we cannot escape and all experience within our lifetime.  So whether we mourn over the loss of a job, a home, or even the occasional Twinkie, chances are our Mourning has left us feeling empty.

When we mourn we often feel like the clouds have moved in and we will never see the Sun again. Lord knows this is where I’ve been over the last several months. This season has been filled with loss of loved ones and family members, a loss of a church family and home, a loss of freedoms and personal losses. Through each event, I’ve mourned. The dark clouds of life moved in and there seemed to be no hope. Gratefully, mourning often presents itself only as a season.

 
A song has been playing in the forefront of my mind lately, helping me move through this season of mourning. The great theologians known simply as The Beatles penned a song called, “Here Comes the Sun”. The words of the chorus go, “Here comes the Sun. Here comes the Sun, I say, it’s all right”.  How refreshing and hopeful to be reminded that though we may be experiencing mourning, the dark of winter, and the gloom of pain may envelop us, the Sun will still shine.

Jesus, the true Son, put it this way, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4 NIV). King David beautifully put it this way, “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!” (Psalm 30:11, 12 NLT.)

If you’re like me, you may be in a season of Mourning. You may be deep in the darkness and hope seems so far away. Please hold to this Promise: God can take your mourning and turn it into something beautiful for His Glory. You can be comforted. You can find Joy. Mourning will cease. Trust in God’s promises. Look out now…Here Comes the Son!

 

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That Darn Cat

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV)

This morning lady, my dog, and I are sitting out on the porch enjoying the early morning air. While I read from the bible, something caught Lady’s attention. It’s wasn’t the occasional jogger or squirrel. Usually I can avert her attentions away from such happenings. No, this morning’s distraction came from another source, a cat. Our landlord has an outside cat who drives Lady crazy. And in our moment of peace, the cat became the sole point of her focus. 
 
I tried to comfort and encourage her, yet her eyes stayed focused on the cat. At one point I thought of letting her loose to chase down the cat. But I knew such action would result in a devastating outcome. I thought about chasing down the cat myself, but the landlord was parked outside. Besides, how silly would it be to see a grown man chasing down a domesticated cat? So instead, I took her head in my hands, lifted it towards mine, and held her close. She fought me, pulling away, trying to loosen my grasp, but I stayed firm. Lady’s eyes desired me to let go. She wanted to see the cat and she was determined to move her focus towards the beast. 
 
Ever notice we have a similar reaction to temptation. There will be something in our sight that looks appealing but will cause us to fall. We become hyper focused on it, noticing nothing else around us. God trys to get our attention and directs us towards focusing on him, but the allure of temptation draws our eyes away.
 
Some would say God is mean and uncaring, trying to hold us back. Truth is he could let us go, allowing us to chase down whatever is keeping our focus. But he knows full well the end results would be devastating. He could chase down the sin himself but that would be out of his character and we would learn nothing. Instead he holds our head and lifts it towards him, turning our focus on him. We can fight him or concede to his authority. We can see him as God or we can continue to be enticed by the allure of temptation. The choice is ours. 

Yet….

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. http://bible.us/Ps42.11.NIV

Interesting word isn’t it? “Yet”. Here in this scripture, the writer is vulnerable as he looks into his very soul. He asks a troubling question….why am I so downcast? Why do I feel like my life is falling apart? Why, why, why? 

Don’t we often approach life the same way, asking the “why’s” of life? Why is this happening? Why can’t I seem to get a break? Why does God hate me? There is a real danger when we stay at this point with no resolution. With no resolution there is no harmony and we are left feeling incomplete. 

But thankfully the psalmist brings this self-realization into harmony. Rather than staying at the point of simply asking the “whys” he resolves to see the WHO. “Put your hope in God. I will YET praise him, my savior and my God.” With his heart broken, his life in turmoil, he sees where to put his HOPE. But notice its not a definition of a better life. There is no promise of resolution. YET, in the mist of life, he places his hope in God.

Maybe you’re facing a life filled with uncertainty, a life filled with unanswered “whys”, a life in disharmony. Be honest and ask yourself, “What would happen if I lived in the YET; changing my focus from the ‘whys’ to the ‘who’?” When we stop for a moment and realize God is God and that all things work to bring HIM GLORY, we begin to focus less on the “whys” and more on the “who”. Life is be different when you live in the YET; no matter what’s happening or happened, you Praise the Lord for who he is. You rejoice in the difficulties, the pain, and the turmoil. To live in the YET allows God to bring Harmony from dissonance. Live in the Yet. Let Him bring harmony to your life today.

Tender Moments

Being a Parent is a blessing. As Charissa grows, she is starting to make sounds resembling words. As a proud daddy, I am pleased to say her first word was “dada”. MaryEllen says she only said that word first because of my constant teasing. Either way, I can celebrate her achievement. But it’s been a long time since Charissa called out to me in her sweet, tender voice. Instead of saying “dada” she’s moved onto other words like “mama” and “brabra”. She is growing up so quickly.

A few days ago, I had a tender moment with my daughter. As MaryEllen was getting ready for the day, I knelt next to the bed, looking fondly on Charissa. In the midst of her playing, she looked up at me and with a smile on her face she spoke softly but purposefully my name, “Dada”. My heart softened and a huge smile crossed my face. I was thankful my daughter recognized my face and enjoyed my presence. I relished her calling out to me, not in a moment of pain, fear, or demand, but in a moment of love, pleasure, and appreciation.

As I treasured this tender moment, I wondered how God feels when we call out to Him; not in a moment of pain, fear, or demand, but in a moment of love, pleasure, and appreciation for who he is. We reflect on the Awesomeness and Majesty of God. We appreciate the Power and Might of our Lord. But how often do we focus on the tender thought that God is our Father? “God sent him [Jesus] to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.  And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”  Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” (Galatians 4:5-7 NLT)

God hears us no matter how we call out to Him. When we cry out in our pain, fear, or demand we can rest assured that our cries will reach his ears. But have you considered the tender moments; the moments where we simply express our love, pleasure and appreciation for who God is to us? Have you considered the times where you simply call out his name because you rejoice in being his son or daughter? When was the last time you stopped for a moment and gave God the gift of your time and appreciation for adopting you into his family and calling you one of His own? If it’s been a while, why not take some time now? Take a minute, clear your heart and mind and call out to your Heavenly Father, not in a minute of distress, but in a tender moment He’d treasure.

Pillow Man

One of the greatest privileges of being both a Dad and a “Big Guy” is the fact all my children have found me to be a comfortable pillow to rest on. No matter how upset they were, I was able to lull them to a point of security where they would find rest and peace. Now with four children, finding rest and peace never happened the same way. When I was handed Daniel for his nap times, I would simply hold him for a minute and he would be out. Patrick and Micah would require a firm grasp and a soothing song, but in the end rest and peace would overwhelm them.

Now with Charissa, I am learning to yet again change my approach. I have learned that she also desires the firm hand but is submissive to my authority. She knows that when she comes to Daddy, she is going to find rest and fights to allow it in her life. She searches for anything to distract her, whether that means clawing at my face, grasping my nose, or searching for her brothers or mother. Charissa has associated her time with me as a time to rest. But, like my influence over the boys, I am able to endure longer than she and provide a safe and secure environment for her to find rest and peace.

I often wonder if God approaches us in a similar manner. He knows we live in a burdensome world which consumes the best out of us and offers little in return. He is aware of our hurts and pains, our struggles and temptations, our desires and plans. He watches and waits for us to turn away from the distractions and focus on him. And when that happens, He holds us close, tight, and firm. He sings to us softly, reminding us of his unconditional love and promises for our lives. He never gives up. He never gives in. He is resolute, steady, and unchanging. And as we start to truly realize we are in the presence of God Almighty, we start to let go of ourselves and give into him. And when we do, we find rest and peace in our lives.

Psalms 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God”. In this crazy world, how often do we follow that advice from our heavenly Father? How often do we simply lay on his chest and intentionally Be Still? Are you missing rest in your life? Looking for a little peace among the chaos? Why not try to Be Still for once and discover that God is God. He is the Father who endures, holding us firmly, refusing to let go until we find ourselves at rest in Him. 

Adversity

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

 

I’ve had an interesting month. Over the last few weeks I experienced a weakness like never before in my life. At the beginning of the month I twisted my back severely enough I needed medical attention and time away from the church to rest and heal. When my body was finally heading down the path of healing, my body yet again was leveled by severe illness, leading to the need for more rest and time away from the church.

 

As a man I felt this was an insult. I felt useless. How could my body turn against me? My desire was to find any strength to accomplish my responsibilities for the church and youth group, yet over and over my body reminded me about how weak I really was.

 

Then last night during the Christian Life and Witness Course, the speaker said something which put my last few weeks into perspective: Adversity has Purpose. The pain and weaknesses of life we face have purpose. The sorrow and grief we encounter, the trials and temptations we face are points within our lives to strengthen our resolve and relationship with God.

 

James 1:4 says, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. …” It doesn’t seem logical by human standards but we gain from the adversity we encounter. The purpose of Adversity is to build character and dependence on God. And when we face adversity, our faith strengthens and our reliance on God increases.

 

As I pondered these thoughts, my mind went to the bible character Joseph (Genesis 37-50). Joseph was a man whose life was filled with adversity. He had a great dream from God to be used in a mighty way, yet the path to greatness lead through adversity. He was hated by his brothers, thrown into a hole, sold as a slave, propositioned by his master’s wife, wrongly accused and thrown into prison, and forgotten for two long years. Finally, he was released from prison, and used by God to bring salvation to Egypt and the surrounding world. What kept Joseph going? Perseverance. And as his perseverance grew so did his character and trust in God. Joseph allowed life’s adversities to be a stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks.

 

So here are the nuts and bolts of the issue: when we are approached by adversity, whatever form it may take, do we see it as a stepping stone with purpose or a stumbling block of frustration? I’ll be transparent. When my back was out and I was told by many wise people to rest and heal, I saw my adversity as a stumbling block to my life. I hated the thought of sitting still and taking time to rest. I literally felt useless. But when my body became ill,  weakened, and forced to rest, I started to see my adversity for what it could be; an opportunity for growth and maturity. It was a humbling moment to admit my weakness. But the more I humbled myself, the more dependent I became on God

 

When you face trials and tribulations within your life, when adversity comes knocking on your door, how will you respond? Will it be met with gratitude for opportunity to grow and mature or will it hold you back? Adversity has purpose. The question is will you allow life’s adversities to mature your character in Christ and strengthen your faith in Him?