Saturday, December 31, 2011

Spending the Last Day

Every year I think about it.  How will I spend the "last day" of the year?  Pastor Andy spent the "last day" with his Grampa this past week, singing hymns and rejoicing over the godly example he set for the next generations.  I have a pastor friend who is holding his Dad's hand in a hospital, encouraging him about the many lives he has touched in his decades of ministry.  Its funny how those who have done the most feel like they have done the least.  It shows the humble spirit of Jesus in them.  "When did we do that, Lord?" 
   But today as a last day is different.  This isn't the "last day" kinda last day.  Or is it?  Could be.  So how would I live it differently if it were?  2011 is done.  Can't change what was but I can review and change how I will use the time allotted me in 2012. 
   So for me, I want to spend more time seeking Jesus.  I want to live like I believe that five loaves and two fish fed nearly ten thousand people with more left over than there was in the beginning.  I want to strategize and plan like I believe that if God asks me to march around rather than fight that the walls of my Jericho will come down.  I want to pray with and encourage people like I believe that God can restore double back to those who have lost everything yet remain faithful to Him, just like Job.  I want to lead like I believe that the church can look more like Acts rather than the American church I know. 
   More Bible and less babble.  Fasting and praying rather than feasting and playing.  Sitting in silence and listening rather than speaking and revealing my ignorance.  Facetime on the floor rather than the computer. 
   A little bit of lofty goal submitted to Jesus will transform me in 2012.  That is my greatest desire.

What are you thinking about today?  Last days are good for us.  A new day starts tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Theme Continued

   "Do Good" is not just a campaign.  It is a way of life.  I was reading in Titus 3 this morning.  Three times in this short chapter it is mentioned.  First, people should be submissive to authorities, obedient to leaders and ready to do good.  Paul then says that because God has saved us by His mercy, and in light of what He has done in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit we are to be careful to devote ourselves to doing good.  He then warns against getting involved with controversial arguments or divisive people and learn to devote ourselves to doing good in order to provide urgent needs and avoid unproductive lives.
   Interestingly enough, it says that a divisive person is warped, sinful and self-condemned.  Once again I was reminded that we can so easily get side-tracked seeking to correct the wrong thinking of warped people that we lose time, energy, and effort in doing good.  There are times when we "kick against" authority or being obedient to those over us about matters that are unimportant, and we lose time, energy and effort in doing good.  God has transformed us, not because of our goodness but because of His mercy, and freed us to "do good."  We are saved for a purpose so we are not unproductive in life.  We are always looking to do good for the benefit of others.  It moves us (and keeps us) away from the selfishness that is the core of our former sinful lives. 
   I am blessed by the good things being done by so many at our church.  Generosity, serving, encouraging, providing, and supporting are quietly abundant.  No show, just doing good.  And as the story of Gail Fechter I told last weekend, it is contagious.
   My goal for 2012 is to spend less time on the distractions and more time in doing good.  How about you?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Peace on Earth

I wrote my friend and brother Steven Khoury this morning. He pastors in Bethlehem and East Jerusalem. It is Christmas Eve evening there and I'm sure a large group of pilgrims are crowding Manger Square.  At the same time there are protests over the wall Israel built to make it more difficult for terrorists to bomb them.  Peace.  Baghdad was rocked with numerous explosions yesterday following the US withdrawal.  Peace on Earth.  Fights break out in shopping centers over Air Jordan shoes.  Peace on Earth, Good will toward Men.  Seems the message of the angels got lost somewhere along the way.
   But we ought not lose hope.  On my Facebook page you can connect to a Christmas eve account from a POW camp.  It shows that when all is stripped away, and others may even be trying to strip away your humanity, the hope of the Christ child is still alive.  We Christians ought not be surprised by the events of the world.  We've been told this is what will happen as we progress toward the end.  We live as lights in the growing darkness, glowing as bright as the star that led the Wise Men, pointing to the only source of hope for the world.
   And the promises of God stand firm, the firm foundation for our hope.  And Israel's.  Listen to God's word through Ezekiel while he was in a POW camp:
I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’” 

Since 1948 God has been bringing the Jews back from amongst the nations.  He has caused them to stand against all odds.  There is a day coming when His sanctuary will be established once again in Jerusalem.  Then all the nations will see the hand of the Lord has fulfilled His promises and secured the peace on earth.  Until that day, we proclaim a message of peace on the earth.  Not a political or military peace, but a holistic peace in the hearts of men and women, fueled by a hope that no one can take away.

It is my prayer that all who read these words have experienced that peace personally.  Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Having Fun

Over two hundred times in the Bible the word joy is used.  A significant number of those times it is associated with eating and drinking, celebration and dancing.  There were times of great achievement when shouts of joy went up.  Jesus smiled at the quick-witted comment about dogs and crumbs made by the Syro-Phoenician woman.  In other words, times of laughter and fun.  God created us to enjoy life.  And that includes laughter.  It seems that this trait has been hijacked by the enemy, leading to foolishness and raunchiness that is not funny, but sad. 
 So the question of the day, how long has it been since I laughed?  Does our family enjoy times when we are just plain silly, laughing and joking, in all purity?  Is laughter spontaneous in our home or is there a serious, angry tone most of the time?  Do we plan times to play or are we always working, or escaping each other?
  The greatest memories we have as a family are vacations, game nights, family nights, and milestone achievements when we celebrated.  Humor, laughter and joyous interactions when wholesome are healthy.  As a church family, such interactions lift the spirits of the downtrodden, help us not take ourselves too seriously, and help us share our humanity.  It creates the desire to be together even more.  Here at Christmas, it is good to remember that even Ebenezer Scrooge transformed from bah humbug to a spirit of laughter and joy.
   My prayer is that if someone is missing it, that they find the true spirit of joy and laughter that comes from a heart that has been set free this Christmas season.  Remember to take some time for fun.  Its godly.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

What a Quality

I was with some other men recently doing some study and a familiar psalm that I had not read in some time was referred to.  There is a wonderful phrase in the middle of it that jumps off the page to me.  There are so many times when I have experienced disappointment in myself and others for not carrying through with what was promised.  What was promised on Monday isn't done until Friday, or perhaps even forgotten.  A real or implied warranty really has so many stipulations that there is no warranty at all.  I'll call you later to see how you are doing.  Really?  I'm still waiting.  Sometimes we speak quickly and mean well and then realize that to do what we promised will cause some pain or discomfort.  It will be hard to do.  We don't think so when we make the promise.  Thought it would be easy.  I mean,  the way I feel now it will be a breeze.  Where did that marvelous feeling go two days later, or two decades later?  Now what was going to be a breeze is challenging and I'm not sure I want to carry through.
   David, in describing a man who is righteous, a man who comes before the throne of God, a man who has been prepared by the blood of Jesus, says that he "keeps his oath even when it hurts." (Psalm 15:4b) Even when it hurts.  The word means it may injure us or break us to do so.  But in doing so we prove integrity.  We prove righteousness.  We show honor to the Lord who redeemed us.
   The question to ask perhaps is this:  Is the honor of God and my personal integrity worth suffering some pain in order to prove that my "yes" means "yes" and my "no" means "no?"  Will I keep my oath even when it hurts?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I found an interesting word as I was reading and thinking today.  It is the Greek word "pas."  Small little word with a big meaning.  Jesus said in John 17:7 that the disciples now knew that everything the Father had given Jesus had come from Him.  Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. So they knew God was the source of all things.  Pas.  Everything.  
Peter wrote, 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  (2 Peter 1:3)  Pas. Everything.  So the question comes down to this:  If He has given us everything we need and we know that everything comes from Him, why don't we seem to have everything we need and struggle?  It is because we don't continue to grow and remain in relationship with Him.
   We saw the food pantry of a local church recently.  They provide food for hundreds of people on a regular basis.  Now what if a person knew to come there, came close, but rather than engaging the folks who were running the pantry and receive what they need, sat in the room beside where the pantry is and complained about how the church said they would provide food for them but weren't?  Foolish, huh?  Everything they need is right there, and there is an absolute willingness to provide all they need.  The issue is with the recipient.  Because he or she refuses to engage the provider in relationship, what is available to them sits waiting. 
   God has provided "pas," EVERYTHING.  Its there waiting.  Why aren't we receiving?  Today may be a good time to "pause" and think about "pas."

Monday, December 5, 2011

Generational Faith

I had the privilege of speaking at the church of a dear friend yesterday.  The City Church in Batavia is a wonderful reflection of their pastor, Marty Macdonald.  Marty is a genuine, gentle, generous, gregarious, godly man.  He was speaking at another church that morning, but Pam and I got to go to lunch with his wife Patty, one son and daughter-in-law, and several grandchildren.  During the morning and then throughout lunch, the Scripture from Psalm 103 came to mind: 
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
   the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
   and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
   and remember to obey his precepts. 

It is a joy to see generational faith.  Marty and Patty's children's children are walking in the faith at a young age.  They are plain good kids, well-behaved and loving Jesus.  Because their parents love Jesus and their grandparents love Jesus.  They eat as a family, I mean entire family, several times a week.  They understand that generational faith is intentional, forged around mealtimes and daily life, in daily prayer with and for their children, and taking advantage always of teachable moments.  They also have walked in love through difficult moments in faith believing the Lord.

It was a joy to see.  I just pray to see it more in the family of God.  While it feels rare, I know that by the grace of God that can change.  What a testimony.  Thank you for your faithful witness Macdonalds!