Category Archives: Journey

Preach the Gospel …

There is an old saying that counsels us as believers to preach the gospel and if necessary to Image result for Word of Goduse words. Christ advised that the two great commandments were (1) that we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and (2) that we are to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. Christ later challenged us to love our neighbors in the same way that He loved us. So what are we to do with these commands? How then, should we preach the gospel?

First of all, we need to have the word of God hidden in our hearts so that we would not sin against God (Ps 119:11). With God’s word as a foundation and guide for our lives, we have a body of truth on which we can conduct lives and interactions with others. Following God’s word we will do such things as leaving the judging of the world to God. We will do everything in our power to point people to Jesus in such a way as to not be a hindrance to God’s desire to draw all men to Himself (Jn 12:32). I’ve told this story before, but there was a time when I carried the burden of being God’s salesman. One day He showed me that no one comes to the Father unless the Father draws him (Jn 6:44). This changed my entire approach. This gave me the freedom to set aside my agenda and focus on being a friend and pray earnestly that God would use our interactions to draw my friends. It really is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that opens the eyes of our hearts to the truth of the gospel and the battle that we are waging against evil.

Secondly, when Christ was dealing with the world, he knew their hearts and knew how to address their heart needs. In the same way, we need to know our audience. We need to learn to speak God’s word in such a way that will shed light rather than confuse. Remember we are to be salt and light in this world. Our job is to facilitate the seeing of God’s truth and through our love to help others see God. The Bible calls this speaking the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Recent history is filled with stories where well-intentioned Christians simply point hurting people to scripture, without loving them first and guiding them to the truth of scripture later. Yes, we know what the Bible says, but the writer of the book of Hebrews penned these words, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.” (Heb 5:12-13). And the Peter wrote in his letter to the church, “Like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2)

So we see that we are all on a journey. Some of us are ready for the meat of the word  but others who are just beginning, are needing the milk to nurture their growth into salvation. Children, grandchildren and friends, let us be men and women who, under the power of the Holy Spirit, are able to discern the needs of those with whom we come in contact and communicate Gods’ word (truth) in love. Jesus said in his prayer recorded in John 17, “Your word is truth.” Communicating the truth in love does not mean hiding the truth. It means speaking God’s word like we believe that it is living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword penetrating to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Allow God’s word to flow through you by your actions and allow it to flow in love.

Hopefully this will help encourage us to rightly handle the word of Truth.

Let us consider …

This week I saw a post from a friend asking for others to share stories of what God was doing in their lives. I thought it was a good entry and one that we should see more of. I sent her some of our story going back to the time we left Atlanta. She thanked me for the encouragement. But this raises a fundamental question in relation to the Hebrews 10:24 passage calling us to consider how to stir one another up to love and good works. How should we, as Christians go about encouraging one another? Is there a set of rules that guides such behavior? Ephesians 5:19 tells us to be filled with the Spirit, talking and singing with one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.

We are to consider how to spur one another on. I am in a Bible study with a group of men whose stories and journeys are becoming well known among the group. When we talk of God’s goodness and faithfulness we have our own set of stories that are sort of a library of battle wins that we can use to encourage one another. When we see the instruction of scripture, we have case studies and examples that we can use to create the picture. Some of these are stories that we share with others, and some we keep within the walls of that room.

This is not the kind of thing that we quote Bible verses to each other whenever we see each other. We know the stories and draw strength from how God has worked in our lives and our faith is built up. There is real value in knowing and being known. I just had a friend go through a very difficult illness, one that threatened her life on at least two occasions. We praise God together now, because he has brought her through the valley of the shadow of death. The stories are endless and in the process of knowing and being known, we remind each other of God’s faithfulness. We can say, “Remember when things were not going well, and we prayed and God answered our prayers?”

Some of this encouragement comes from the Ephesians 5 passage, because we have seen God’s faithfulness in our own lives and sharing an appropriate verse has greater meaning because it is shared in the context of our shared experience and in the remembering of God’s faithfulness. Suddenly you have the living and active word of God (Hebrews 4:12) intersecting with real life and the word comes to life! This becomes part of your testimony.

You know, I’m sure I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but our testimony ought not to be about the single event or moment in time when we invited Christ into our hearts. Our testimonies ought to be on-going developing stories of God’s faithfulness and how he is bringing growth to our spiritual lives.

How can we live in encouraging community? Who are those whom you would invite to be your guides and encouragers when the wheels seem to be coming off? Think ahead to upcoming interactions. Think about how you can be an encourager to get someone to use their gifts. I love how the New Living Translation says it: Encourage someone to outbursts of love and good deeds!

Have a blessed day!

Reflections on Family

One day a friend asked how it was that we had experienced success as a family. He has interacted with our family and wanted me to write down those things that we felt were foundational to our family situation.

I think it should be said here that any positive family dynamics are the result of people who desire and are willing to work hard at making the family successful. Is there an occasional stink bomb? Sure, but we are committed to working through these things. The list that follows is the beginning of telling the story.

While the list is not comprehensive, nor is it a guarantee for tranquility, I thought it might be of interest to some to reflect on some of the concepts that have influenced our family relationships. It must also be said here that those facing family challenges today should not throw in the towel. It is never too late to start to bring God into your family. It starts with you and prayer; just you and God. Earnest prayers are heard by God and God answers prayer. My prayer is that you will be encouraged by these reflections created over coffee and “donuts” one Wednesday morning in Breckenridge, CO.

Family
A Journey in Progress

Breakfast conversation with the six adults at Daylight Donuts, Breckenridge, CO
Reflection on a 50th Anniversary and what makes a family successful

  • Preceding prayers for the children and spouses of children and grandchildren by previous generations – Dad’s parents began praying for our daughter’s husbands from the day they learned we were expecting each child.
  • Dad invited Christ into his heart at the age of seven, and as a teenager re-committed his life to follow the Lord – Train up a child in the way he should go – raised in an environment filled with exposure to discussions of God
  • After reflecting on the story of Solomon, Dad asked God for two things, wisdom, because God was pleased with Solomon’s request, and a wife who would be strong in the faith when his faith was weak – Solomon’s wives led him away from God.
  • God answers Dad’s prayers by providing a wife of character, strong in the faith to compliment my weaknesses – a woman committed to God first, then to her husband
  • The family celebrates milestones birthdays, anniversaries, graduations
  • Modeling home leadership that demonstrates real faith by living out a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – lives that diligently try to exemplify the two great commandments of loving God and loving our neighbors
  • Mimi and Papa respect God’s model of the home by honoring sons-in-law leadership of their homes by communicating home leadership concepts through them
  • Overlooking, yet challenging, comments not well thought out – overlooking each others’ faults – not being easily offended by sins of commission or omission, slight or oversight – forgiveness (both asking and giving) is a key word
  • Abundant gift of hospitality, keeps us getting together at special occasions and random times
  • Sons-in-law knit together as they are great friends and cover for each other – part of God’s answer to the prayers of previous generations
  • Common commitment to faith and faithfulness – a conviction that a personal relationship with Christ is a top priority so the table is set for each family member to recognize the choice before them – prayer without ceasing for the faith and growth of each family member
  • Choosing church relationships and engagement are a priority and important part of family values and extended “family of believers” relationships
  • Trust – freedom, empowerment, and encouragement to succeed in being your own person – all that God made you to be
  • Being for each other – thinking the best of each other – presuming the best intentions
  • Sons-in-law still break bread with “Dad” – one SIL estimates over 1,000 hours of coffee in early morning hours – another mentored in the faith for over a year – investing in the heads of our homes
  • Higher mission and purpose – life is bigger than our family, e.g., FCA, Father Daughter, Father Son Retreats, Entertaining events like CEO roundtable, College and Career Group at church, involvement in church at all levels – lives focused on helping and praying for others keeps self in perspective
  • We all support the mission and purpose calling of each family
  • Investment in posterity – when girls were dating – invested in dating choice decisions
  • Humility that comes from study of and understanding of the scriptures
  • Marriages built on the biblical model; man is the head of the house, husband and wife are to love and respect each other
  • Play together. Family vacation to the beach or the mountains. Hiking and biking with ice cream treats afterwards. Movie nights, bowling, and playing games. A joyful heart is good medicine.
  • Focus on what unites us not divides.
  • We have very strong personalities in our family. All are leaders. The diversity of personalities can divide in a spirit competition or even playing favorites. Yet, a common commitment to a belief bring unity built on love and faith. Some families break under such differences. In love, it unites making us stronger.
  • Mentorship and pursuit of wisdom. Always seeking to learn from friends in the faith, family, and work who may impart insight especially during challenging seasons.
  • There is a glass cabinet in the foyer of our home containing the Bibles of parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. This is our way of honoring our fathers and mothers, and thanking God for their faithfulness and prayerful impact in our lives and the lives of our respective family members. There is a rich history of godly people who prayed for their successor generations.

 

We then gathered the input of the grandkids (ages 11 – 20)

  • Laughter
  • Loyalty to each other
  • Joyful
  • Mimi’s capability to destroy our will to live in card games – we love to play games together
  • Thorough discussion – talk about real stuff – communication
  • We play a lot
  • Eat together
  • Own their own faith
  • Church is not a chore
  • Grateful – attitude of thankfulness

 

The 5 Worst Beliefs a Christian Parent Can Have in an Imploding Society

Important read. This is from a blogging Christian mom that I follow and I thought worth referring to all of you. I thank God for giving Natasha Crain clarity of thought on this and many other basic parenting issues.

America is changing fast, and not in the direction we’d like. Our beliefs at a time like this matter. Here are 5 of the WORST beliefs we can have.

Source: The 5 Worst Beliefs a Christian Parent Can Have in an Imploding Society

On Worship

How we connect with God is a very personal matter for all of us. It is also a topic that carries with it a great deal of emotional energy. There is so much wrapped up in this activity (yes, worship is a verb) that many people try to find that church and worship experience that provides the mysterious connection with God. Yes, it is a mystery when we are able to hear the Creator, God of the universe, Father Son and Holy Spirit, speak to us and know that He is telling us that He cares for us, wants to hear our heart’s cry and our praise.

The concept of worship is expressed in the Old Testament in the Hebrew language as the word shaha pronounced shaw-khaw’. This word is translated as “worship” 99 times in our English Bibles, 31 times as “bow,” and 18 times as “bow down.” The Webster Unabridged Dictionary provides this definition: “The act of paying divine honors to the Supreme Being; religious reverence and homage; adoration, or acts of reverence, paid to God, or a being viewed as God.” We get from these usages and definitions that worship is an act of humbling ourselves, bowing down to a being, in our case, God, to give him the honor and to revere Him as our Source. 1 Peter 5:6 advises, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

In today’s settings, we gather on Sunday mornings for gatherings labeled as “Worship Services.” Millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of Christians gather each week for worship. Many, if not most, have a firm grasp on the process and purpose of worship, but an increasing number of people can be found church hopping trying to find a worship style that suits them. There are multiple variables in this space, including but not limited to: relevant teaching, deep teaching, expository teaching, the hymns written since the reformation, contemporary songs with a faster beat, music of choruses with repetitive expressions of awe, communion every Sunday, communion periodically to keep it special, taking an offering as part of worship, letting my giving be done in secret either online or placed in boxes around the sanctuary before or after the services, and the list goes on. Still others look to the style of church leadership to be comfortable that the governance is focused on maintaining spiritual growth of the body.

Speaking as a worshiper, I am often convicted that I focus more on my own preferences rather than truly engaging in worship of a holy and righteous God. It would seem that at some point we must set aside the color of the carpet and the dress code of the pastor and focus on the One whom we are there to worship. I have to confess that I too fall victim to my own preferences in worship from time to time. Thankfully, my church provides some options from which to choose so that we are able to worship as a larger community with our preferred expressions, particularly in the area of music. The teaching is consistent and biblical, but the style of music, so influential in aiding our conversation with God and expressing our love and adoration, is varied in different services.

I have become convinced in my own mind that God is musically agnostic. What He loves and wants to hear is the expression of our hearts toward Him. We must focus on the object of our worship first and foremost, while making sure that we are hearing the truth of scripture being rightly divided. We must take the responsibility for validating what we are hearing by searching the scriptures to see whether the things we are hearing from the pulpit are correct.

Family, brothers and sisters, worshiping and bowing down involves humbling ourselves and honoring the One to whom honor is due. Worship is not a time to serve ourselves, let’s cast off the things that so easily beset us and put on the armor of light and give to God the glory, honor, and reverence that is due to Him alone.

“Come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker!” Psalm 95:6

Note to self: Come back to read this periodically for a reminder and attitude adjustment!

Life Priorities

In John 12:25, Jesus says this about our priorities, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” This is an important principle that tells us how we prioritize our lives in this life will determine how we will spend eternity.

Whoever loves his life will lose it – wow, that is a caution for us … in the book of Mark 8:38 in another setting, Jesus says, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” So we can value our lives with our pride and put other relationships, careers, and toys before God now, but know that when it comes time for the final judgement, Jesus will be ashamed, or separate these folks out with the goats in the final judgment. We talked about this over the past few weeks in the context of Psalm 1. This is not new teaching that Jesus brings. This is the truth that God has had from the beginning of time. The first commandment says, we should value no god above the Lord our God. To the extent that we’re ashamed of or deny our relationship with God before men, Christ will deny knowing when we stand before the Father.

Yet, whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone of us serves him, we must follow him and where Christ (God) is there will Christ’s servants be also. Those of us who serve Christ, will be honored by the Father. More powerful and strong words. So why do we have a Bible study? So that we can learn what it is to follow him and serve him.

We need to think about giving up our pride and our personal preferences for what it takes to follow Christ. Now here’s the frequent objection to this line of thinking … this is a one-sided deal, this sounds like I am not allowed to have any fun or have any good or nice things. I don’t think this is what he’s saying. Go back to the beginning of chapter 12 where Mary got out a pound of very expensive ointment, expensive enough that at least one disciple said that she should have sold it for the poor. Jesus didn’t chastise her. Instead he complimented her. Why? Because everything she had belonged to God. She did not hesitate to spend extravagantly to show her love for Jesus. This all becomes a question of who owns our stuff. Are we willing to give what we have to help someone in need? What if God permitted a stock market crash comparable to 1929? How would we navigate those waters? How important are those things to us? In the normal course of life, we depend on those resources, but would our lives end should the banks go out of business? What if the housing market crashed? Many of us are fairly heavily invested in our homes. What happens to our hearts if those values turn to dust?

The questions Christ is asking here, is about our priorities, our values, our confidence, our faith. What is the foundation of our confidence in this life? Is Christ all we need? What about those students at Columbine who were asked whether they were believers, knowing that if they answered affirmative they were dead, and if not, they would live. These are not hypothetical questions. What if our friends began to drift away because of our faith? What if some in our neighborhood, began to distance themselves because of our participation in a Bible study? Friends, I think these are real questions. Now we need to make sure that we don’t become a stumbling block for others, but the time could very well come when some of our friends and neighbors are going to migrate to others who choose a different system of world values.

Much time is spent on the cost of discipleship. In discussions like these, we also need to spend time on the upside of following Jesus. Looking back at Psalm 1 it tells us that “blessed” is the man whose delight is in the word of God and one who meditates on God’s word day and night. I like what the Holman Christian Study Bible says: “How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners, or join a group of mockers. Instead his delight is in the Lord’s instruction …” This man is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields fruit in its season. In other words, the flip side of losing our lives, should be gaining something. This Psalm tells us that someone who has given his life to Christ is like a strong tree in his community able to bear fruit in season, but also he is one who doesn’t fade at the end of the race (his season), it says his leaf does not wither, but in all that he does he prospers.

This is not some prosperity gospel as is put out by some, this is a man whose desires and joys or delights are in God’s word and the fruit of his strength is bringing wisdom and shade and strength to those around him. The purposes of this man will prosper or bear fruit. Comparing this man to those who choose another path, they are like the chaff that the wind blows away. They may be able to tell you how to make money or how to attain power. Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount, Matt 6:19, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also … No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

In building our homes and our families would we rather not say with the Apostle Paul, “According to the grace of God given to men, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. (our successor generations are building out on the foundations that we have laid) Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver precious stones, wood, hay, straw – each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it(the final judgment that may seem so far away, but take this to the bank, it is coming), because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.”

So then, many of us consider ourselves savvy investors … where would you rather invest your time and your energies? For me and many of my friends, our career working days are pretty much over, but there is lots of opportunity to do work that will count for eternity.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matt 6:33

Tipping Point

In many areas of life we tend to take baby steps. We take small incremental steps when
practicing new skills for even such simple things as taking our first baby steps. We are Image result for tipping pointtentative at first and take halting steps while we regain our balance between each step, and our confidence continues to build until one day reach the tipping point of confidence and we start running around the house or out in the yard. This concept is in play when we enter school, take new jobs, enter the grand world of parenting, and, yes, it also includes our faith.

When considering faith, we are prone to take the view that the decisions and commitments of faith are binary. Either you have it or you don’t. However, scripture doesn’t support this. Even Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Lk 2:52). Paul wrote in his second letter to the church at Corinth these words, “But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged. (2Cor 10:17). The NIV carries it by saying “… as your faith continues to grow …” Christ talked in terms of the size of one’s faith when He said if we would have faith even as small as a grain of a mustard seed, we could move trees and mountains (Matt 17:20, Lk 17:5-6).

When we take our first steps of faith, the reality is that we are groping about trying to find our way in this new euphoric, yet bewildering relationship with Jesus Christ. What does it mean to accept Jesus into one’s heart? In Galatians and Revelation, scriptures talk about our first love. That initial feeling of suddenly knowing that we have a relationship with the God of the universe brings a sense of love and awe; a feeling of excitement that lasts until our first real challenge when Satan brings back the old doubts, and friends scoff at such a foolish decision. How can we move from our first love to having our faith take hold, to learning more about our God, to finding out that prayer really works because we pray to a living God? How can we grow in the faith to reach that tipping point of having the confidence that God is faithful, that God is not defined by our circumstances, that we really do have forgiveness of our sins and can celebrate communion with grateful hearts?

1 Peter 2:2 tells us, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” This is telling us that in order to grow up into salvation, we should long for pure spiritual milk. Pure spiritual milk is that which brings growth in the faith, taking instruction from trusted teachers, pastors, and friends. We need to look into the scriptures to see how they call us to maturity and talk about the faithfulness of God. To read the stories of God’s faithfulness and then pray that God would show His faithfulness in and through us. I have friends who are seeing prayers answered and are seeing opportunities to help others on their journeys. Through conversations and Bible study, together we learn how much God loves us and died for the sins of the whole world. We learn that unexpected successes come as the result of prayer. When we see such things happen, we begin to pray for our own needs and for the needs of others.

Then one day, we reach a tipping point; that point where we’re able to learn from scripture by faith. We reach that point where we are able to put our preexisting condition(s) to the test against the eternal truths of scripture. We come to a point of rest in the salvation of a loving and living God. We rest, knowing that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and that He will guide and protect us just as He did the patriarchs of the Old Testament. We develop a passion for telling others about Jesus as the Son of God and His death and resurrection. We reach a tipping point where faith overshadows questions once unanswerable. Those questions pale in comparison to the hope of spending eternity with the God we loved and embraced when we first opened the door of our hearts to Jesus’ knocking.

I pray that you have reached that tipping point in your life. If not, please let me know how we can encourage you.